Follow beer writer, Troy Burtch, as he explores the wonderful world of craft beer and the pubs that serve it. Great Canadian Beer is a place to come to catch up on beer news, read tasting notes, check out event listings, and for pub previews and reviews.


Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Magic Oven: Queen St. East: Toronto,ON

Pizza and beer. Is there any other combination that goes together as well as pizza and beer? Especially great, locally produced, independently owned, all natural pizza full of wonderful colour and mega flavour?

Magic Oven is a Toronto based franchise that was founded by husband and wife team, Tony and Abby Sabherwal back in 1997. Due to their tremendous success, the Sabherwal’s have since opened up five more locations throughout the city and also offer catering services. Magic Oven focuses on making outstanding pizza's with all natural, local and organic ingredients as well as providing those with dietary restrictions the option of choosing between a gluten free, whole wheat or organic spelt crusts and even vegan or lactose-free cheese. Picture Pizza Hut on steroids, without the grease, cheap and fatty ingredients and better value. It's a place that caters to the most basic pizza eater - the carnivore with a meaty pizza, to the most sophisticated with their signature pizza consisting of an organic spelt crust topped with a 24 karat gold leaf.

For over a month I took great interest in the sign displayed in the window of 360 Queen St East, just east of Parliament street, notifying the general public that a new Magic Oven restaurant would soon occupy the once run down location (formerly Only In Paradise Café). What really caught my attention though was the fact that it would be a pizza and 'pint' restaurant, something Toronto is sadly lacking. Magic Oven locations are primarily walk in's and take out counters, with the exception of the smaller bar at the Danforth location, but this one promised to be different, complete with a large sit down dining area and back patio. Everyday on my streetcar ride home from work I would anxiously peer out the window to see if there was life inside the building and just two weeks ago, June 16th to be exact, the newest member of the Magic Oven family opened their doors.

Monday night my fiancée and I headed down Queen St to indulge in one of the great pizza pies and indulge we did. The first thing I looked for upon entering was the bar to see what was offered on tap. Much to my pleasure, the draught handles were all from reputable large and small craft breweries and no multi-national mainstream lagers were present. Creemore Springs Traditional Lager, Okanagan Springs Pale Ale, Blanche De Chambly, Mill St. Tankhouse, Belgian Wit and Organic Lager, Steam Whistle, and Nickel Brook Green Apple Pilsner were all standing to attention, waiting to be consumed. Don’t let the Moosehead draught tower surprise you though, it’s not on tap. So why these beers? Tony proclaimed that these are the beers he currently enjoys drinking in the comfort of his home, or out at another restaurant, and wanted to introduce them to his loyal customers. It is a solid line-up and a great start for the new direction of this Magic Oven location. Based on the diversity of the draught line-up, one could easily match their pint with their pizza selection.

Walking in through the front doors you'd think you just stepped into a new pub; that is if you didn't pay attention to the large Magic Oven Pizza sign hanging above the two large bay windows that overlook Queen St. It has that pub feel and appearance without the smell of stale beer. There is wood everywhere. Not in the sense of a faux pas Irish pub. Rustic wooden support beams, a nicely polished cherry hardwood floor throughout the dining area and a beautiful large wooden bar located to the right upon entering. The bar comes lined with 6 wooden bar back chairs and vases full of flowers sit atop. The left brick wall has been left exposed providing more character and a small water fountain ornament provides the gentle soothing sound fountains are known for. The high ceiling is covered with rusty gold coloured dimpled tin which reflects that of an English pub and the absence of televisions make for a perfect spot for socializing without made man distractions. The music varies from old classics to new age rock and I didn’t hear one Jessica Simpson song. Although new, there is a lot personality in this place.

There is a great patio located in the back of the restaurant that features a retracting roof, much like the Skydome…..I mean Rogers Centre (sorry Teddy, it will always be the Skydome to me). There are two trees poking up through the roof on each side of the brick laden patio which provides just enough shade to keep patrons cool in the long hot days of summer. The dining area and patio allow for 65 customers and another 10 or so can fit at the bar, bringing the capacity to around 75. So, what about the pizza?

The pizza is simply fantastic. I could go on and on about the hundreds of different local ingredients used in their creations, but I would rather you try it for yourself. We ordered the BBQ Magic pizza: Tangy bbq sauce, grilled chicken, portabello mushrooms, bacon and asiago cheese. I hadn’t had a Steam Whistle on draught for quite some time and I thought it would match well with the grilled chicken and asiago cheese and it turned out to be a spot on pairing. The earthiness of the pilsner complimented the fresh ingredients and let the tangy bbq sauce come through and shine on its own. Visit Magic Oven’s website to view more of their award winning pies, like their Tropical Magic, a pizza covered with pineapple and coconut that would work well with Blanche de Chambly, or their Meaty Magic that a Mill St. Tankhouse would be incredible with. The prices are terrific for the quality your getting, ranging anywhere from $13 for a basic pie to over $100 for that aforementioned gold leaf pizza.

Our server Drew was fantastic. Efficient, friendly and speedy were his main attributes, which made us feel comfortable immediately. While the dining area wasn’t bursting with customers, he provided us with exceptional service and took the time to provide some information about his newest employer. Spero Kalis, general manager of the full service location is thrilled about the possibilities of doing some craft beer and pizza pairings and plans are in the works for their first one. “We have a pizza for everyone and a beer that will work wonders beside it,” stated Kalis. Tony is also excited about having beer dinners at the new location as he exclaimed during a recent telephone conversation.

This new Magic Oven is really magic and will no doubt see a steady flow of customers in the coming months….pardon me, coming years. A rustic comfortable setting with great food and the right beer to go with it makes for a winning recipe.

Magic Oven
360 Queen Street East
Toronto, ON
Just east of Parliament St.

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