Updated: Jan 7, 2019
It’s a weekday night in the beginnings of July, Dundas West is bustling, as usual, and The Black Hoof just turned its closed sign to open. I’m waiting outside with my sister and childhood friend. We’ve been planning this night since owner, Jenn Agg, made the announcement of its closing on Instagram. Standing in front of the restaurant, we reminiscence. We’ve had many nights like this one before, and even more at The Rhum Corner next door.
The Black Hoof first opened their doors in 2008 in a pre-Instagram food scene. It quickly became known for its homemade cured meats, rich bone marrow, and foie desserts. It is unique, decadent, and a place that I credit with the rise of charcuterie driven menus in restaurants across Toronto.
It’s more crowded than usual, but that tends to happen at popular restaurants when a closing date is made public. The three of us are seated at the back of the restaurant at a table that is clearly made for two, but it doesn't really matter because we’re sharing everything.
Our meal starts with a plate of charcuterie, pickles, and bread. It's a smorgasbord of salt, fat, and spice.
Next up is something everyone who claims to be a foodie should experience - bone marrow. The butter-like marrow was rich, and perfect on their charred bread. As I’m slathering it on, I realize I’m actually going to miss this more than the cured meats.
Most restaurants stay clear of desserts, and only offering something sweet at the end of the meal because that’s what is expected of them. This is where The Black Hoof turns expectation on its head. While they do have “Desserts - $10” written on the chalkboard menu, you’ll find some delicious and unique sweet flavours on their dinner menu too. And trust me, this isn’t a white chocolate brownie, it's lemon meringue foie. Pairing foie with a sweet flavour is something that The Black Hoof has perfected over the last 10 years. It has seen different incarnations, like when it was paired with Nutella, but I think this pairing is my favourite. The combination of the tartness of the lemon curd and the richness of the foie, the dish was beautifully balanced. It was the perfect way to end my final meal at The Black Hoof.
I end at the beginning. The first time I went to The Black Hoof was for one of my first food writing assignments. Fresh out of college and I had shamefully never heard of it before. The place was smaller than I expected, and darker. It had an authenticity about it that I had never experienced at a restaurant in Toronto before. The Black Hoof said “fuck the apps section on the menu, charcuterie IS the menu,” and they did it well - amazingly well. That’s when it clicked. The Black Hoof is where I realized Toronto has more to offer than crappy versions of poutine and gourmet burgers. It’s dramatic I know, but I can’t help but feel sad to think that The Black Hoof will be no more.
The truth is The Black Hoof has accomplished what it set out to do. There will always be crappy Toronto poutine, and a multitude of restaurants hawking “gourmet burgers” in the downtown core, yet there is a part of Toronto’s diverse food scene seems to play by its own rules.
While there’s been an uptick of restaurants pandering to the trendy, Instagram-famous bullshit that has become so prevalent in the 21st century restaurant industry, I like to believe that The Black Hoof and Jenn Agg paved the way for Toronto foodies to embrace the unique, and be open to new things. The Black Hoof might be closing, but I think Torontonians will always be in search of an interesting and exciting dining experience that offers more than Instagram likes.
The Black Hoof will be serving their final dinner service on August 20.