Utopia Cafe and Grill

586 College
(416) 534-7751

A whole mish mash of food awaits you at Utopia, a small cafe and bistro with a funky name, located right in the heart of Little Italy. They serve a variety of dishes from Grilled Angus Sirloin to Half Roast Chicken to Veggie Burritos to a Hamburger served with goat, swiss, and cheese and eggplant, zucchini, and roasted red peppers.

Wine is served by the glass and there is a large variety to choose from. Staff are very friendly and there is an exposed kitchen so you can see the cook prepare most dishes.

It seems most of the menu consists of quesadilas and burritos with interesting fillings. Some of those fillings are inspired from Mexican, Italian, and Indian cuisine. I enjoyed the quesadilla with pesto, cheddar & monterey jack cheese, salsa, and sauteed portobello mushrooms. It came with a side order of coleslaw or field mix salad and rice & black beans (I chose coleslaw and field mix salad) .

They are very considerate and accomodating to vegetarians. The waiter told me straight out that they are considerate and accomodating to vegetarians since the owner is vegetarian and they could always make substitutions. I was relieved. The waiter asked me what I wanted to avoid and I told him. He gave me the various options of vegetarian dishes on the menu and there were many.

They serve many burritos and quesadillas with soy protein or tofu and they told me that they could make anything vegetarian. I was also happy that when I asked for a diet Coke, they asked me if I wanted a regular size or a large. Most places like to charge more so they assume you want large, thus charging you more. Some burritos and quesadilas include the Grilled Lamb Burrito (that’s what Daniel ordered), Steak Burrito , Grilled Chicken Burrito ,Grilled Sausage Burrito, Curried Chickpea & Potato Burrito ,Grilled Vegetable Burrito ,Chicken Goat Cheese Burrito. Some quesadilas included the White Bean & Tofu Quesadilla ,Grilled Eggplant Quesadilla ,Mushroom & Pesto Quesadilla , Chicken Quesadilla , and the Steak Quesadilla.

They also serve a variety of hamburgers like the Utopia Burger (a burger with the works plus goat, swiss and cheddar cheeses, grilled eggplant, zucchini, roasted red peppers and sauteed mushrooms), Swiss and Mushroom ,Mediterranean Burger (lettuce, tomato, Bermuda onion, tzatziki and feta cheese ), Grilled Bison Burger , Homemade Chicken Burger , Homemade Charbroiled Burger , and of course the Veggie burger.

Sandwiches include the Vegetarian Souvlaki (with soy protein!), Chicken Breast Sandwich , N.Y. Sirloin Sandwich , Grilled Chicken Club , Baked Chicken & Pesto , Grilled Veggie Sandwich , Spicy Italian Sausage Sandwich , Grilled Tuna Sandwich , Smoked Salmon Sandwich , Tandoori Chicken Sandwich , and the Pesto, Mushroom and Asiago Cheese sandwich. All dishes are served with field mix salad with balsamic vinaigrette. Sandwiches range from $8.00-$9.00

Service was very slow but the ambiance was great. Covered in beautiful abstract artwork that is for sale, exposed brick, dim lighting, exposed kitchen, tables spread out throughout the cafe in front, and a beautiful back terrace that is half enclosed, half exposed, this place is definitely on my “A” list of places to come back and eat. They also serve a weekend brunch from 12pm-4pm. Some brunch dishes include the Chicken Pesto & Cheddar Cheese Omelette , Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto & Goat Cheese Omelette , Smoked Salmon & Swiss Omelette , Utopia Scramble (three scrambled eggs served with sausage and home fried potatoes), the traditional Steak & Eggs, Daily Quiche served with a field mix salad and a balsamic vinaigrette, and other dishes like the breakfast burrito with bacon or sausage.

Even though most dishes are beef, chicken, lamb, or sausage, there are many vegetarian options for the fussiest and strictest of vegetarians like myself. Prices are between $8.95-$15.95 for dinner and $6.00-$9.00 for weekend brunch. The only drawback to Utopia was the long long long long wait. I would definitely go back, though. They accept Interac and VISA.

Joy Bistro

884 Queen E
(416) 465-8855

 

Walking into this little bistro right in the middle of South Riverdale at Queen East and Empire, we could not see inside since all of the windows were foggy. Upon entering, we noticed that it was small and the decor looked very much like a Pottery Barn furniture store. Very cosy and comfortable, we were seated in a small table right by the entrance. We noticed that tables were small and fairly close together.

The brunch menu is extensive but unfortunately does not have many vegetarian options except the famous Dutch blueberry pancake, which looked fabulous. I ordered an egg white omelete for $8.99 and it came with two free toppings, from a list of about twenty (I chose mushrooms and spinach) It came with toast and home fries and I replaced with salad in a yummy balsamic viniagrette “pudding-type” dressing

I am VERY happy to report that there was a bottle of ketchup on the table so there was no need to ask for tiny portions of ketchup. I was disappointed, though, as I expected it to be cool, unique, and hip, but instead it was very “cookie cutter”—looked like we stopped by Calvin Klein’s living room.

Staff are friendly staff, accomodating, no lineup. There is a separate dinner and brunch menu. There is an outdoor terrace (patio) that seats 32 in the summer. The place also serves affordable French-influenced continental cusine, cocktails, beer and wine, and gourmet coffee. The terrace overlooks the tennis courts at Jimmie Simpson Park. They accept VISA and Interac.

Regency Restaurant and Catering

1423 Gerrard E
(416) 778-7366

 

In general, I am not fond of buffets and I’ll tell you why. Most of the food is is quite tasty but it just sits all night waiting to be eaten. If you’re not there at supper time (around 6pm) then your dining experience goes to shit. In last night’s case, we all decided to make a trip to Little India to try one of the popular buffets on this strip. I always passed Regency and it always looked clean, and the tables were always spic and span and the staff were always very cheerful and happy. Being the paranoid vegetarian, I always smile with relief when they tell me that there are many vegetarian options on the menu and on the buffet.

Last night’s fiasco was clearly an indication that next time we visit Regency, we’ll order from the menu, not from the buffet. The buffet food consisted of lamb and goat curry with chicken tikka masala and butter chicken. There was fresh naan bread and lots of fresh pappadum. I chose the typical channa masala which was a bit oily and warm, bordering on cold. I opted not to try the daahl as there were red bits which looked like meat. I ate the cabbage and potato curry (hold the potatoes) and the aloo gobi (potato and cauliflower curry) and all dishes were really good. I especially enjoyed the chunky pieces of cauliflower and the shreds of cabbage. My stomach did not enjoy the cabbage later than night. I was a walking time bomb. All the gas I produced from my cabbage and cauliflower experience could have sent me to Sidney, Australia and back, without the plane.

The salad bar area looked quite fresh. There was coriander and tamarind sauces, fresh vegetables (or so I thought), curried raw onions, and pickled mango. Desserts included chocolate, vanilla, mango tango, and pineapple ice creams.

I was disappointed in my visit there. I am happy to report that staff are very friendly and were attentive to our needs and requests. As for the food, it was very tasty. Flavours came through and it was not too spicy but you can only enjoy it so much when it’s cold and clammy. If the food was piping hot, more fresh, and not sitting there for hours, then we would have enjoyed it more. Next time we’ll come earlier, or order from the extensive menu. Supper buffet is $8.95 and lunch buffet is $6.95. Disgusting bathrooms. They accept every card!

PearTree Restaurant

507 Parliament Street
(416) 962 8190

Located right in the heart of Cabbagetown, this place serve a traditional brunch as well as a first-rate Eggs Benedict, all priced under ten dollars. Although a small menu, they also serve a medley of items ranging from fish to stir fry’s to steak. They have a back terrace and next to the patio is a terrific little solarium, which gives a summertime feel 12 months of the year. If you arrive before 2:30pm, you can enjoy their complimentary blueberry coffee cake, which are made that day and are excellent. I ordered the vegetarian stir fry which had a lot of vegetables. The dish was $8.95 and came with cashews (hold the rice) and it was supposed to come with tofu but I could not find it. 😦

My dish was drowning in sweet Schezuan sauce which was kind of slimy and gross. I still loved my stir fry. Other than that, I could not find any other vegetarian dishes. My two friends had a “I want it all breakfast” with sausages, eggs, home fries, a small side order of fruit salad, peameal bacon, pancakes, and toast- all for $12.95. He said he loved it. My other friend had smaller version of this breakfast, called the TTC breakfast. It had much of the same things (eggs, side order of fruit salad, toast, sausage, home fries, peameal bacon) but without the pancakes. My friends claimed that both breakfasts were excellent and they loved the fluffy pancakes and non-greasy sausages.

Desserts are available and they appear lovely. About 15 cakes and pieces to choose from. According to another review of this place, rumour has it that these wonderful decadent desserts are purchased from an outside source.

Decor is cosy and simple with exposed brick on each side of the restaurant, two distinct dining areas, and big spacious tables. There is a lot of great artwork on the walls and the whole ambiance of the place is non-pretentious and prices are normal ($7.95-$9.95) for most dishes.

Kalendar

546 College Street West
(416) 923-4138

Located right in the heart of Little Italy, at College near Grace, this wonderful cafe and bistro can be described as very “Toulouse-Lautrec”. Kalendar resembles a scene from the movie Moulin Rouge or the setting of some of Annie Lennox music videos. When you enter this place, you go back in time to an old 1880’s cafe.

The place is gorgeous with lots of varnished mahogney or oak furniture, an old bar with a large assortment of wines, liquors, and mixed drinks. There are two disinct dining halls separated by this central bar, which acts as the hub of the restaurant. One dining hall is quite small. It contains about 7 tables and the bar resides on this side. The other dining hall looks like an old fashioned restaurant with many more tables. The kitchen is in the basement so you never see them cooking. The menu is very limited and I would describe the cuisine of funky Indian or Fusion or Italian. They mostly have Indian cuisine but they also serve some Italian dishes like pizza and pasta and Belgium fare like mussels.
On this two page menu, I ordered a scroll number two. This scroll was essentially a wrap made of Roti (like Chapati or Poori or Nan bread) with hummus, grilled peppers, grilled artichokes, grilled eggplant, and herbed mayonnaise (hold the Mayonnaise- yuck!)

My friend ordered Scroll one which was a chicken variety with some vegetables. Both our scrolls came in two sizes ($8.95 small and $12.95 large) and we ordered the larges sizes with a vegetable salad with a balsamic viniagrette.

I ordered a Diet Coke for a drink and he ordered some dark beer that looked like Coke. Tables are small and people are kind of squashed together in the smaller dining room. I did take a look at the large dining room and it was beautiful. With art on the walls, dim lighting, mahogney or cherry wood furniture and wood panelling, this place was definitely the place to be on a Saturday night.

The only problem was that the menu was so little. It seems that they only have trendy funky Indian cuisine with a couple of Italian dishes (well, this place is in Little Italy, right?)

7 West

7 Charles
416.928.9041

7 West is located on 7 Charles street, on three floors of an old converted Victorian home, with hardwood floors, exposed brick, and a fireplace. It’s just one block south of the Yonge/Bloor intersection. They serve many vegetarian meals and the prices are really affordable for what you get. The drinks are expensive, though. Never go on a Saturday night because this calm, cool, funky, hip cafe becomes a busy, crowded cheesy bar with macho guys with way too much cologne and women who look like whores socialize and drink and the whole ambiance becomes all loud and resembles a bar- YUCK!

Go during a weeknight or during the day on the weekend. I usually order the vegetarian chili or the grilled vegetable sandwich with a lot of chick pea green salad. It’s colourful, fresh, and portions are decent. 🙂 My veggie chili was a bit liquidy, but it’s quite tasty and not expensive.

They also serve excellent salads, and light meals, desserts, and full course dinners. You get good quality food and good service. Just avoid going Friday and Saturday night.

7-West also serves brunch on the weekend. There is small one-pager, in addition to the menu, with traditional brunch fare with affordable prices. Drinks are bit high (Diet Coke for $3.00) but I had the granola with fruit and yogourt for $6.00 and my brunch date had eggs, peameal bacon, with a chick pea green salad and service, presentation, and quality of food was good.

Madras Durbar [closed Aug 2005- owner died]

1435 Gerrard Street East
416-465-4116

Located right in Little India/ India Bazaar, this small restaurant has been reviewed in Now and Eye so Aaron and I thought we should check it out. Although I love Indian food and especially restaurants that say Indian Pure Vegetarian Restaurant, I am usually disappointed with South Indian cuisine.

I am not giving up on it though. I just find most of the dishes too soupy and saucy and not substantial enough for my large appetite. At this South Indian establishment, I chose the Thali dish, since it’s the most popular and largest dish (for the most value). My main meal was served on a metal circular dish with a lentil souo (daal), a coriander soup, a milky rice pudding with nutmeg/ginger/cloves dessert (yummy and spicy), a potato curry dish, a spinach curry dish, an vegetable curry dish, and another spicy soup with vegetables and beans.

My Thali plate was only $6.30 and seemed quite substantial. Instead of Naan bread of Chapati or Roti, it came with rice, pappadum, and poori (Fried roti, quite gross and greasy). Our Mango Lassis were the most enjoyable, thick and creamy. I enjoyed my meal immensely. The thali plate resembles a “tapas” –with little mini dishes. It’s great because you get to try many things all in sitting and it’s not filling like a yucky North Indian buffet. Food was very fresh, spicy ,and flavourful. Wait time was not too long. Waiter provided lots of fresh water.

Menu is 3 pages in length, first page has a list of about 10 entrees, all range in price from $2.75 – $7.00 and second page has a list of “savourys” which are appetizers that are not sweet. They are all around $2.00-$4.00. Sweets are at the back of the menu and there are the typical ones (Barfi, Kulfi, Ice Cream, Rice pudding) all reasonably priced between $2.75-$5.00.

To conclude, I thought my dish was very tasty but not filling enough. I am used to dining at North Indian establishments. I can appreciate the healthy 100% vegetarian selections and the smaller portions are much healthier than overloading at a buffet. I think the this place is one of the best places in Little India (Sidartha and Udupi Palace are runners up- New Haandhi, Famous Indian Cuisine, and Regency are yucky. )

It is small and cosy, warm and inviting, and not tacky or sterile like other restaurants on Gerrard street. I was also happy to see the 100% vegetarian menu. Those dishes are more filling and substantial and I was a little disappointed that my Thali plate came with 7 or 8 small portions of these dishes, most of them soups or dips or sauces for the rice or poori. The food is very different as the names of the curries are different too, but both North and South Indian cuisine are spicy, flavourful, and tasty, but I prefer North Indian. Cash and Interac and credit card accepted. Bathrooms are fair. I do not understand why each and every bathroom in these restaurants (I’ve been to most) are smelly and disgusting. Excellent prices, a no bullshit vegetarian establishment.