In this Table 42 Vignette, Chef and Co-owner of Downtown Toronto’s Richmond Station Carl Heinrich describes how Toronto and Richmond Station have grown as an important part of Canada’s food scene.
Don't Call it a Tavern
Heinrich and his business partner Ryan Donovan wanted a restaurant with a tavern feel – that wasn’t called a tavern. As they sat together one day in a tavern, marveling at the subway tile that surrounded them, an idea dawned. With some word association, the subway tile led them to subway station, which blossomed into the Richmond Station – a nose-to-tail, farm-to-table restaurant.
The concept started, as Heinrich describes it, “between two parking garages next to a crack park. It arguably wasn’t a great area when we found it. It wasn’t very glorious, but it was a good space.”
That it was, with 80 seats, an open kitchen, and a neighborhood that promised busy lunch and dinner rushes.
Since then, the Toronto food scene has grown into something great with Richmond Station as part of the fabric.
Nose to Tail, Farm to Table
“It’s the best food city in Canada. Maybe even one of the best in North America,” Heinrich contends.
He adds, “We are not a meat or meat-heavy restaurant; we love vegetables, too. If we want to put a steak on the menu, we buy a cow. If we want to use bacon, we buy a pig.”
Notably, the partners only buy locally and from people they know, picking up animals directly from the farm.
Heinrich explains, “The way we buy food is a little different. When we want to write the menu, we call a farmer…[we] don’t call ourselves a farm-to-table restaurant, but we are. We buy food directly from people that grow it, and we take a lot of pride in the relationship we have with our suppliers.”
Note that’s suppliers with an “s” – 40 or 50 of them.
“The food we get changes on a weekly basis, because we put a big focus on buying really, really tasty food. I’ll never buy meat…from a farmer unless I’ve visited the farm,” Heinrich stresses, adding “it’s a holistic way of cooking that we’ve become known for.”
“Our food isn’t really cutting edge. It’s not out there. We’re not playing with techniques that nobody’s ever heard of,” Heinrich admits.
However, Richmond Station is cooking food people can relate to and offering the hospitality to go with it.
“We are cooking my Grandmother’s food,” he said. “It’s our ability to go above and beyond…and really push it to make sure you are really well taken care of…and I think that drives people to come back.”