It was dragonboat racing – of all things – that led to Toby Wilson running his own cafe at 22. The Wedge Espresso in Glebe was a sliver of a space; when it launched, Toby managed to run the whole place with just a sandwich press and a fridge – “that was all my cooking equipment”. Despite the limitations he had to battle, the cafe got a cult following, particularly for The Henry, “the unofficial hangover sandwich of Glebe”.
So after three years there, Toby ended up opening Ghostboy Cantina – an eatery unlike any seen in Sydney before (although his Sloppies nights at The Wedge Espresso definitely shared some of its DNA).
Ghostboy was a taco joint housed in the otherwise all-Asian Dixon House Food Court. The menu was about embracing the overlap between Mexican and Asian cuisine – so included dishes like a pho-inspired taco and a brilliant “accidentally vegan” fried cauliflower taco with seaweed salt, macadamia cashew cream and kaffir lime salsa verde.
Toby chose to open Ghostboy Cantina on Chinese New Year 2016, which meant he had to contend with lion dancers and epic Chinatown crowds just to get Ghostboy going. He also underwent some jet-setting research for the venue: hitting regions in the US, Japan and Mexico for inspiration. In fact, he actually walked directly across the border of Mexico, demolished 30 tacos in one day and even ate “corn smut” (which he says is actually delicious).
In the podcast, he also talks about the many guest chefs he hosted at Ghostboy Cantina (where a lasagna taco made its debut), its move to Tio’s Cervecería and the future of Ghostboy, now that Toby has wound up its residency at the tequila bar. (Ghostboy Cantina was one of my favourite places to open in 2016 – so I’m glad it may have a second life.)
Also: the unlikely connection between taco joints and renowned pastry chefs, Toby’s intense peak coffee/”I’m dying” moment, what it was like slamming back egg coffees, plus his other recent culinary adventures in Asia and where he loves to eat and drink in Sydney (like Bar Brosé, which has “one of the best things I’ve eaten in a long time” and Neighbourhood, which is known for its home-made vegan oat milk).
You can listen to this episode on iTunes or download it via RSS or directly. And thanks to everyone who has sent me nice comments about this podcast or even written up some mega-kind words in the iTunes store – it really makes the 4am uploading sessions worth it!