Out on Dundas West, just past Dufferin and away from the hustle and bustle of Toronto’s downtown corridor, sits the family-owned Three Hands, a restaurant and bar with personality, warmth and most importantly, good food and drinks. Run by the Wilsons, Taryn, Trimani and Torrie, the establishment is quickly catching on with locals, and earlier this week, we decided to stop by and see what all the fuss was about.
Upon entering we were greeted by Taryn, who was eager to seat us and give us a little taste of what her restaurant’s capable of. Admittedly, when we walked in we weren’t expecting much more than your typical bar food, which would have been totally fine given the type of place this is. As it turns out, however, what Three Hands served us completely surpassed all expectations we had, and in the process, gave us a new spot to frequent on Dundas West.
Where to begin? Well, let’s touch on the decor a bit, as the restaurant definitely feels more like a bar, given that it’s the centrepiece of the building. And that’s ok. It works well, giving Three Hands a casual, chilled vibe, that’s complimented nicely with the wooden panels and exposed brick found throughout. Adding to that is the live flutist playing along to the music that’s pumping out of the speakers.
It all comes together for a spot that, as we said before, has nice sense of personality, which is important for places like Three Hands to have in order to stand out from the crowd.
Speaking of standing out from the crowd, though, it’s really going to be the food here that ultimately sets the Wilsons’ joint apart from their competitors, as what’s on the menu is fairly casual, but is cooked with such passion and infused with so much flavor that it blows almost all other pub/bar food away.
Before we get to the food though, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the two excellent cocktails we were served upon arrival. The first was dubbed Pinky & The Brain, and was made up of fresh watermelon, mint and dark rum. Equal parts refreshing and boozy, it was a unique tasting concoction that had us sipping on it till the very last drop. The second drink was a Mango Whiskey Sour, which, quite frankly, might just be one of the best whiskey sours we’ve ever had.
Once we had settled in with our drinks, it was time to move onto the heavy hitters. We only got to try a few dishes, but let’s take a quick look at how each one went down.
Death Mango Wings (with a mango hot sauce and topped with Thai chili peppers): The Wilsons weren’t kidding around when they put “death” in the title here. Seriously. Spicy food usually isn’t an issue, but these wings absolutely kicked our ass. If you can’t handle the heat, you’re going to want to stay far, far away from these. If you’re alright with hot food, though, then you’re in for a treat.
These aren’t the typical tiny chicken wings that you’d find at most bars. Far from it. Each wing offers up a generous portion of meat with both the drumstick, wing and wing tip in tact, giving you plenty to chew on. Crispy, crunchy and coated in a delicious breading (we could have eaten the wings dry, it was that good), the hot sauce that tops these bad boys off is absolutely deadly but so damn good that you won’t be able to help yourself from taking just one more bite – though you’ll probably regret it once your glass of water is done.
Jerk Octopus Salad (with spinach, cherry tomatoes, red onions, mango and sesame vinaigrette): Unfortunately, this was the only dish we found to be slightly underwhelming. While the octopus itself was very tasty, cooked so that the meat was tender and covered in jerk spices that were popping with flavor, there wasn’t very much of it and once it was gone, the salad wasn’t anything particularly special.
It was a bit plain and unexciting and there either wasn’t enough of the dressing or it just wasn’t tasty enough to make much of an impact. We wouldn’t necessarily advise against ordering it, but we feel that some of the other menu items might be a bit more fulfilling.
Salt and Vinegar Brussels Sprouts (with malt vinegar and salt): This dish will highly depend on how much you like vinegar. Cooked perfectly (slightly burnt and crunchy) and served, like the wings, in a generous sized portion, these may have been some of the best brussels sprouts we’ve ever had.
Fair warning, though, the malt vinegar is a bit over-powering here, as the sprouts were practically drowning in it. We didn’t mind though, and if you enjoy the taste as well, then this dish is a surefire way to satisfy your craving for that one vegetable that never gets enough love.
It’s important to not judge a book by its cover, and that’s a lesson we learnt during our first visit to Three Hands. Everything was prepared wonderfully and was a clear cut above nearly every other bar we’ve been to. With a menu that also boasts items like Watermelon Fried Chicken and Black Bean Pork Ribs, among other appetizing treats, we’re eager to return one day soon to try even more of their scrumptious food.
Being a family owned operation, it’s clear that a lot of love goes into the Wilson’s business venture, and we’re hopeful that their passion for what they do ends up paying off. Three Hands may only be a couple of months old, but already it’s starting to attract a loyal customer base, and after our impressive and tasty meal there, it’s easy to see why.
All photos by Matt Joseph unless otherwise noted.