401 Danforth Avenue
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.
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.
504 Bloor St. W.
661 College Street
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
1959 Queen E
*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.
565 Yonge Street
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.
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.
341 Danforth Ave
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.
Urban, funky, laid back ambiance, with Asian, Indian, and Arabic cuisine. The place is on two levels: a bar upstairs and a restaurant/lounge for food, drinks, hanging out, or enjoying a simple dessert. There is a back terrace on the main floor and a lounge/bar on the upper floor. Both floors are large and sits about ten tables. The food is flavourful and spicy with large portions and a diverse menu. The restaurant staff are very flexible in making the selections vegetarian friendly. The place is very gay friendly.
There is an interesting mix of people and the tables are close together. There are a lot of people watching and overall ambiance is comfortable. Part of the kitchen is open concept so you can see the chefs prepare some of the food. The entrees are $10.00 and up. Large portions and dim lighting and interesting art work make this place very unique.
I usually order the Vegetarian Moroccan stew with chick peas, red kidney beans, potatoes, mushrooms, green and red peppers, and onions, with cous cous. The meal was bursting with intense flavour. I have also ordered the Malaysian Chicken Stir Fry with peanut sauce and without the chicken. It is more expensive but has a lot of vegetables and is fabulous. Although prices are more expensive, ($10-$15 for an entree) the food is excellent and it is a great place to bring a date.