The County General is on our way home so we passed it on multiple occasions. Even on the busy Queen St. East, the restaurant never failed to attract our attention with its curious design and lots of folks inside.
It was a corner place with a red and black rooster weather vane graphic right above the door, and a prominent dimensional red star. The side patio along the small residential street was always popular in the summer, with metal bins at different levels creating neat planters on the side. Black framed oversized windows made the otherwise rustic appearance surprisingly modern not causing a feeling of design disconnect.
We noted that County General was not that big on the inside actually, only a handful of tables and some bar seating available. At the same time, there were a lot of interesting elements to capture and sustain our attention - a rough brick wall, a large illustration of the Toronto map over the bar, suspended intertwined wooden structures with incandescent bulbs hanging off the ceiling.
As we settled at our black wooden table with red chairs, a large list of liqueurs to choose from - somewhat overwhelmed us at first. Bobby, our knowledgeable waiter, was there to help us promptly. After deciding on having a Schnitzel and Beet & Chevre Sandwich dishes from a decisively shorter food menu, we settled on Goosebuster ale and Brickworks Batch 1904 cider. Considering how packed County General got, the fact that Bobby was the only waiter (and bartender) plus that the kitchen did not appear to be too big – we were expecting the food to take a bit of time.
Gosebuster ale from the Liberty Village Brewing was murky gold in appearance, with light floral and zesty tastes, it was light and simple - just like the friendly ghost on the label. An interesting way to brand the can was to simply put a sticker on a generic aluminum can. Very fitting for a small brewery and the seasonal beer Gosebuster is. The Brickworks Cider, on the other hand, came in it's own branded mason jar, however it was not too memorable. Low in carbonation with very subtle hints of spice, it was refreshing and likely best enjoyed on a patio during the warmer months. It took fifteen minutes for food to arrive – within our expectations – and we dove right into it.
A large, thin Schnitzel piece was resting on top of a plentiful bed of pickled veggies. The pickled cabbage reminded us of kimchi in appearance and texture, however it was sweet and slightly sour. There were two sides of mustard - a spicy ground Dijon one as well as a home-made maple marinated one with whole mustard seeds. The schnitzel meat was quality, with no unpleasant interruptions and a lovely crust. We enjoyed this dish a lot. Our second plate appeared buried in greens, as we had picked a side of salad over their fries. Eyeing the adjacent table, their fries seemed worthwhile to try as a side next time. Our green salad included plenty of arugula leaves, with some thin pink radishes and a zesty dressing. Throughout it's life, this dish transformed into an explosion of colours as beets gave an intense purple colour, while the medium-easy fried egg swirled it's yellow yolk surrounding the voluminous amount of spinach and creamy chevre. The bun was an ideal absorbing partner in consuming this dish. Not bad at all, especially as a vegetarian choice. None-the-less, the Schnitzel was definitely more wholesome for this chilly winter day.
County General is definitely a spot to visit. It's artistic interior and openness create a social, trendy vibe, without being tacky. We enjoyed our visit a lot, and now we just need to come back in the summer to get a taste of it's vibe.
PS: the restaurant also has a west end location which we will need to check out some time soon.