972 Danforth Ave.
phone number: 416-463-7843
Only Cafe is a cozy, neighbourhood bar/cafe just east of Pape on the Danforth. With a completely relaxed, non-trendy yet retro atmosphere, it is a perfect place to get away from the typical chichipoopoo brunch spots of Queen and College west.
On initial impressions, the crowd is mixed with older and younger people from the neighbourhood congregating for some delicious and cheap food. The walls are covered in different paintings most noticeably from Van Gogh and there are all sorts of chuchkas placed around the bar including a Bart Simpson doll and a Louis Armstrong figurine head.
The menu is varied enough if not completely atypical from your regular down home breakfast joint. There is your all-stuffed omellete as well as breakfast burritos and a variety of different waffle dishes. I decided to test out what seemed like the main dish on the menu; the Belgian Waffles smothered in fruit. Although the waffles were a little mushy the amount of fruit, including strawberries, kiwi, grapes, orange, pears, and apples more than satisfied me. And when my entire meal (including a sausage and coffee) came to $10 after tax and tip I was more than happy.
If you are looking for a non-trendy and non-pretentious place with simple, good food and very reasonable prices and are willing to travel a little outside downtown, this is the place to go.
1645 Queen Street West
phone number: 416-537-4893
After catching two movies at the Toronto International Film festival I made my way west (far west!) on Queen to Roncesvalles where Easy is located. It was 3 p.m. and I wasn’t sure brunch was still being served, but fortunately we were in luck.
A medium sized room that characterizes most trendy brunch places in Toronto was still relatively full at this time of the day. The menu was varied, ranging from your traditional eggs, bacon, and toast to the more lavish Spanish named meals. Of course, I couldn’t let something called Huevos Divorciados pass my by (especially having only eaten multigrain toast with low fat peanut butter and sugarless jam that day). This delectable meal came with two sunny-side up eggs served on a corn tortilla, with spicy salsa, guacamole, refried beans, black beans, home fries, and a salad. If that wasn’t enough I ordered a “Power Peanut” smoothie which consisted of cholocate, banana, and peanut butter. Suffice it to say, I was stuffed at the end of this one.
800 Dundas West, at Palmerston
Having moved down to “Little Portugal”, I find myself in the middle of a terrific amount of new brunch spots to sample from. One of those places that I probably would never make it to if not for living downtown is the Palmerston. A small (extremely small) kitchen just north of Dundas on Palmerston (duh). Going in with six, loud, hetereosexual males we find that we take up all the small two person tables at this establishment. A smiling, relaxed lady is behind the counter taking orders off the chalkboard menu, the only one that exists in the restaurant. There is no wait staff and you pour your own coffee into styrofoam cups. Simple, yet efficient and different. I start off with a mango scone which is piping hot and tenderly soft inside. The bits of mango serve as a nice complement to typically delicous scone. The rest of the menu is sparse but my choice of scrambled eggs with coriander and melted brie on a baguette is delicious.
Now called Toast on Queen- Nov 2005
993 Queen Street East
phone number: 416-778-7299
I had feared a long wait to get into Hello Toast at 12:30 on a Saturday, but after 10 minutes we found ourselves a half couch/half seat table in the back room. The decor was quite interesting, with toasters jutting out of the wall above the door leading to the kitchen and artwork placed outside the window on the exterior wall of the adjacent building. Looking around, I noticed many people sipping on Bloody Caesars. My friends were quick to inform me that this is the drink of choice for hangovers.
I, as well as the majority of my crew ordered the omelette of the day. This consisted of caramalized onions, aspagarus, mushrooms, smoked salmon, melted goat cheese, and sweet chili sauce. It also came with potatos and side salad with a raspberry vinagrette. The omelette arrived on my plate oozing at the seams with creamy goat cheese. I was expecting it to be a bit spicy due to the chili sauce but instead it was very sweet from the combiniation of the cheese and chili. Delicious. The potatos were quite standard and it was nice to balance the meal with the salad.
Unfortunately, my brunch cohort’s omelette was missing goat cheese and another member of our party asked the waitress for a plate of goat cheese to compensate! This slightly embarassing situation didn’t mar what was an overall tasty meal (at least for me anyways).
181 Bathurst Street
phone number: 416-703-9360
Azul was my introduction to the Toronto brunch scene, so it must have some good qualities. A trendy little restaurant in the Queen West area, just north of Queen on the east side of Bathurst; Azul serves up a bevy of meals from brunch to dinner. They also have a wide juice selection which to my memory I have yet to sample. One thing I do like about Azul is their coffee. Besides being delicious, it is served in a large thermos-like container so you can re-fill yourself instead of waiting on the staff.
This time around, I had the Eggs La La, which were poached eggs on a crusty bread with avacado and tomatillo salsa. It came with a sparse amount of potatos and a tasty side salad. I like when brunch is served with salad, since it balances out the heaviness of the rest of the meal. The eggs were good, though nothing stood out as a great combination of taste that other brunches have provided. Lawrence had the Eggs Azul which were similar to the La La but was served on corn bread, an interesting and tasty choice. Definitely recommended, though hardly the best that Toronto has to offer.
942 Queen St. W.
Queen West is my favourite part of Toronto, and it seems whenever I am down there I recognize at least a few people on the street. Sure enough, sitting by the window in Sugar Cafe I happened to see several people I knew or at least had noticed before. There was the cute, gay rapper I had once seen on the U8TV cameras and a frequenter of the Vazaleen party, my former math teacher from grade 10, and two other queers I knew back in the day. Quite the melange of people to be sure.
As for brunch, there’s not really much to say. A small, standard menu with the typical Eggs Benedict, Eggs Florentine, and musli yogourt did not impress me much. Neither did the prices, especially considering the size or lack thereof the meal. I settled on the grilled veggie sandwich on foccacia which I have never seen on any brunch menu. Not that it wasn’t tasty, it definitely was, but it was the long wait as well as the petiteness of the sandwhich which really left a sour taste in my mouth. To top it off, we were charged $4 each for the two coffees we each had. If you’re going to skimp out on the meal, at least provide free re-fills.
503 College St.
phone number: 416-323-3957
Xacutti opened up with a lot of fanfare as being the new “Indian Fusion” trendy dinner place on College. I heard that it was only OK for dinner and admittedly have never been. However; based on their brunch I would be more than inclined to try it out. I am a big fan of Indian food (well mostly North Indian food at this point) and to incorporate those flavours into brunch is extremely appetizing for me. Recently, I have been doing that myself by sauteeing onions in a madras curry paste and then including them with chorizo in a fritatta. Xacutti though, is the real deal. With your typical minimalist, trendy decor Xacutti attracts a definite hip College St. style crowd. The prices are definitely NOT on the cheap side but for the quality you receive it is well worth the price. The menu is varied and interesting, but both times I have been there I have stuck with the same meal: the cheesy french toast. I am not usually a fan of french toast or pancakes in restaurants as I get a little sick of the sweetness by the end of my meal but this french toast is all savoury and no sweet. Served on a bed of tandoori-style homefries and a mixed-green side salad, this ranks as one of my favourite brunches in all of Toronto. Hopefully on my next visit I will be able to review another selection from the menu.