Avli

401 Danforth Avenue
416-461-9577

Located in the heart of the Danforth, Avli is known for its world famous Greek dips. I thoroughly enjoyed my three appetizers : Imam Biyaldi, a dish with grilled eggplant with pine nuts, cinnamon, and raisins. In addition I had a yummy appetizer with lentils, walnuts, and some kind of cheese. My last appetizer were oversize white beans in spicy tomato sauce. Many of my friends have enjoyed such Greek dishes like Rabbit pie, Meat Moussaka, and other dishes.

There are two floors with music after 10:00pm each night. Staff are quite friendly and accomodating and the summer terrace seats many. Portions are quite large and the display is quite appealing. Always crowded with people.

Riverdale Perk

633 Logan
Phone: (416) 462-3538

Under recent new ownership, this neighbourhood café has simple, fresh and cheap food.
Only containing six tables, everything they sell they make themselves, including the fresh baked muffins, scones, croissants and the great lunch specials. I always order the same thing: a grilled vegetarian wrap with salad with a raspberry vinegrette. You can sit on the picnic tables outside in the summer, or head west two blocks to “deep” Withrow park where all of the hip Riverdale folk hang out with their kids and dogs. Local artists get wall space alongside the huge windows. With hip, cool, friendly staff, a different medley of fresh coffee, fresh pastries, and a small menu with distinct “neighbourhood cafe” feel, one is sure to always come back to the Riverdale Perk. The only drawback: they only accept cash.

Ghazale

504 Bloor St. W.
416-537-4417

661 College Street
(416) 534-7441

Ghazale is BY FAR, my favourite Middle Eastern restaurant in the city.  The food is “to die for”. Only contains six seats, no tables, but the food is so good, so cheap, and such fast service. Specializing in Middle Eastern dishes, this place is known in Toronto as the place to go for fast, tasty Middle Eastern take out food. They only accept cash (no Interac or VISA/Mastercard) since there are so many customers. It makes things more efficient when cash is the only thing accepted.

Located right in the heart of the Annex near Bloor and Bathurst, this Middle Eastern dive has the best Mediterranean food in Toronto, I swear! The display of food is gorgeous, colourful, always fresh and inviting. Staff are very knowledgable of its contents and vegetarian and non-vegetarian food are separated in two different sections. I always order the same two items: one extra-large vine leaf stuffed with chick peas and rice, quite nutty and flavourful and the vegetarian mousaka, a scrumptious medley of sautéed eggplant, chick peas, onions, peppers, zucchini, stewed tomatoes and spices. Meals are less than $5.00 and there is a wide selection canned soft drinks ($1.00). There are lineups throughout the day. Second location opened recently at College near Grace in Little Italy.

The Annex location is open everyday from 10:00am-4:00am

Urban Bistro

1959 Queen E
(416) 691-2999

*almost identical menu to Urban Thai in Little Italy

Nestled right in the heart of the “Beaches” neighbourhood, this cosy, small restaurant with excellent Thai food. I enjoyed the spicy peanut vegetable stir fry with tofu for $8.95 and my friend had the same type of stir fry but with Chicken. Drinks are large and overpriced so ask for a lot of water instead. Prices are not too high (about $9.95 for an entree) and portions are big. There is a nice back terrace for hot summer afternoons. Cash and all cards accepted.

Pita Break

565 Yonge Street
416- 968-1032

Cheap, fresh, and healthy- this is the theme of this small, bright little fast food joint. Located in the heart of downtown, right near the corner of Yonge and Wellesley, Pita Break is a great spot for a light, healthy, fast, and cheap lunch or dinner. Pita sandwiches come in close to ten varieties and there are many sandwiches one could make. All pitas are grilled and the norm is to graciously accept the corners of the pita to “taste” as a unique appetizer, before accepting this scrumptious pita from the friendly staff.

Portion are generous and the philosophy is simple: healthy, cheap, fast, colourful, and flavourful food. I always have the vegetable sandwich. I select three fillings, (hummus, black bean dip, and grilled eggplant) all the vegetables that can fit into my grilled pita, and one dressing (usually honey mustard or Italian dressing)

Pitas come in a variety of flavours- multigrain, white, whole wheat, pesto, sun dried tomato. I prefer multigrain or whole wheat. Meals are less than $5.00 and I have never had a complaint with whichever friend I’ve gone with in the past. The ambiance is somewhat interesting; kitschy movie posters surround one wall and an eclectic mirror is located on the other wall, giving the illusion of a large space when in fact the restaurant is quite small. The tables are small and kind of close together. There are about 12 tables.

Verveine (closed 2006/2007)

1097 Queen St. E.
416 . 405 . 9906

With the exception of Xacutti, the restaurants I have frequented that specialize in dinner but also serve up brunch invariably cannot compare to the restaurants that specialize in brunch. Brunch is a highly specialized meal that should not be the typical scrambled eggs, homefries and bacon. That is what we call breakfast. And breakfast is boring. It is what you eat when you are at best in a rush or at worst completely hungover and looking for a greasy delight. Even adding a side of smoked salmon does not constitute a brunch-worthy meal. The smoked salmon actually needs to be apart of the eggs for that.

With that rousing introduction, I bring you Verveine. This is a restaurant that specializes in dinner and voila, serves up a plain, mediocore “brunch”. The interior of the restaurant is nice enough, which brings us to the back patio. It is always nice when a restaurant has a patio and Verveine’s is simple enough.

Just as simple as the patio is my breakfast. Scrambled eggs on a bed of spinach and on the side of the plate some plain slices of smoked salmon. Exciting eh? I could have walked a few blocks west on Queen to have a much better smoked salmon fritatta at Hello Toast. Oh, did I mention that I also ordered a side of “Herby Homefries”? They at least sound interesting, but no, they are just pretty standard homefries. They are not Xacutti’s tandoori homefries.

To be fair, my brunch partner had lemon-ricotta stuffed french toast. This looked pretty tasty but judging from the lack of oohs and ahs it doesn’t sound like it tasted all that special. Again, what can beat the cheesy french toast of Xacutti?

I may come back to Verveine for dinner but for brunch I think I will stick to the restaurants that know where it’s at when it comes to creativity with eggs.

Silk Road Cafe

341 Danforth Ave
(416) 463-8660

A small, cosy, and casual restaurant, located at Danforth and Chester. Serves high-end Chinese food, full course meals, appetizers, and traditional Chinese desserts. Don’t be fooled by the name “cafe” as this place is a full functioning restaurant. Quiet, calm, soothing, relaxing ambience. The restaurant only has about ten tables. Dimly lit inside and has an outdoor terrace during the summer (note: the outdoor terrace does not have a liquor license so if you want to drink, go inside). The portions are decent and entrees are between $8.95-$12.95
I’ve gone many times and I highly recommend the place. I always order the vegetable stir fry with tofu and the cold veggie rolls with peanut sauce. Other people I’ve gone have ordered the hot and sour soup, vermicelli noodles, beef and broccoli, and spring rolls (deep fried), chicken or beef satay, a large selection of stir fry dishes, kung po chicken, orange chicken, and deep fried tofu with minced pork. Plenty of veggie options.

Staff are friendly and accomodating to vegetarians and vegans. They are aware of our needs and they are patient and they know what is in their food. Each dish is prepared on order. Nothing is made in advance. Accepts all major credit cards.