Get Real !

135 Ossington, at Argyle
416-532-4564

 

One Sunday afternoon after my crazy 32 km run, i met up with Aaron for brunch. We met up at LIVE, a recently upgraded “4 seater cafe to 30 seat restaurant” but found out that it was closed for brunch during the month of August. SHITE. We met up at Dupont and Spadina and we were hungry. Luckily, Aaron had his car so we drove down Ossington since Aaron knew that there would be great brunch opportunities along that street.

He suggested Sweaty Betty’s, a cool sounding name for a brunch place, but we could not find it. We actually stumbled upon “Get Real!”- a cool, hip, and small cafe tucked away in the Dundas and Ossington neighbourhood. Upon walking inside, we found out that it was in fact a vegetarian cafe that served brunch. PERFECT.

Get Real! just opened last January 2005 and it is still in the “baby stages” of development. The fact that it was 2pm made us one of the only patrons in this cafe so we had top choice of seats in the small and quiet back terrace. Get Real! is a calm and peaceful cafe with a simple one-page summer brunch menu and I suspect they also serve a simple dinner and lunch as well. I guess the paper menu allows them to experiment with food and change items often, not being held down to commit to the same food every week.

We started with a coffee for Aaron ($1.50) and a latte for me, double shot of Espresso, extra hot, and soy milk ($3.00). Get Real!’s actual cafe is pretty small, with about 3 tables at front, 2 tables in the middle area, and about 6-8 tables in the back terrace/patio area. The decor is very simple and earthy, in a light green motif that resembles the colour scheme of garden plants. Very bright, cheerful, and airy. Staff are very pleasant, friendly, accomodating, and helpful. No pretentiousness here. They serve their water with a slice of cucumber, maybe a little eccentric but not pretentious.

For our meals, I ordered the Spanish tofu scramble- crushed tofu with tumeric with red pepper, chives, and spices with multi-grain toast, roasted bombay potatoes, and a side salad. I replaced the potatoes and multi-grain toast with more salad ($8.50). Aaron ordered the Mayan omelete ($10) – with eggs, a side salad of organic greens, bombay potatoes. His omelete came with Mayan chipotle salsa with pine nuts and peptitas, avocado and cheddar with scallions and fresh cilantro. He really enjoyed his meal and he said he could really taste the fresh herbs. We both agreed that our meals were light and refreshing and very fresh. My scramble in particular had quite the zesty flavour. For a side Aaron ordered multi-grain toast with fresh basil and diced tomato cheddar melt with a balsamic drizzle ($4.00).

Other toast combinations include a choice of multi-grain toast or bagel with organic peanut butter ($1.50), Molly B’ organic jam ($1.50), Mendel’s cream cheese with fresh dill, cranberry, and cucumber ($4.00), and apricot and mango salsa with melted brie and fresh mint with vanilla extract ($4.50).

Some summer brunch dishes include: Vegan Organic granola with wild blueberries, milk/soy milk, or yogourt ($5.00), Jamaican Fruit Salad ($6.00) with fresh pineapple, mango, kiwi, and jicama, in an avocado, lime, cilanto, and mint and cumin dressing, the English breakfast (baked beans in an herbed tomato sauce on multi-grain toast, with roasted bombay potatoes, worchestershire marinated in tofu strips and a side of organic greens), an omelete with Asian sesame, baby bok choy, and mixed mushrooms with sliced ginger, marinated daikon radish, and black sesame seeds and lime ($10.00) . Savoury crepes include a Mediterranean crepe with spinach and feta with roasted red peppers and nutmeg ($9.00) and a Provincial crepe with asparagus, and lemon tarragon tofu with pea seedlings in a black pepper and soy drizzle ($9.00). For the sweet tooth, try the fruity explosion of spelt flour Belgian waffles ($7.00)- blueberry and cinnamon waffles with maple glazed plaintain compote, fresh blackberries, strawberries, peaches, and shaved chocolate.

Open Monday to Friday 10 am to 7 pm. Brunch Saturday and Sunday 10 am to 4 pm. Serves fair-trade coffee. Beautiful back terrace. Quiet, calm, and serene ambiance. No political, pretentious bullshit like “we’re a vegetarian restaurant so we’re better than anything else”. Not overpriced like typical Toronto brunch places. Wait staff are humble and nice. Many ingrediants on the menu are organic. Average mains are $7-$10. In addition to brunch, they also sell healthy, vegetarian “grocery-type” products, beverages, prepared meals, and snack-type items. Accepts all cards.

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Barrio Lounge

896 Queen St. E.
416-572-0600

Barrio is a laid back lounge and bar where patrons can have a martini, a glass of wine, or even dine on a tapas-style menu of global delights. For those who do not know what”tapas style”-tapas is spanish for “snack-items”. This means that dishes are snack-size portions so you can try many things at once. The problem lies that these dishes are the prices of mains ($8-$10) when they should be $5-$6.

I looked at the one page paper menu (that changes every 3 months) and I only found three vegetarian items. Since mains are served tapas-style, you basically have to order 2-3 tapas just to be full. Rip-off central. I could understand ordering tapas-style if they were normally priced but Barrio has some nerve to charge those prices for tiny portions. I think it’s because the Queen East/ South Riverdale neighbourhood is becoming more and more chi chi poo poo like Queen West and more trendy, upscale restaurants are popping and morons like me are willing to try it and pay retarded prices. Was I ripped off? Decor is really nice. With pale green walls, calm jazzy, pop music in the background, and large photographs mounted on chunky canvasses, this place looks like a hip and modern bistro that would cater to an artsy crowd, probably journalists and writers, and other Queen east hipsters. Tables are close together and the actual restaurant is quite small. Many of the tables are lined up against a row bench that sits against the wall. Pillows and fluffy seat cushions add warmth to the modern design of this “Verveine-style” restaurant.

For my meal, I ordered a salad of roasted beets (red and pink), with arugula, sunflower seeds, in a very light viniagrette with creme fraiche on top ($8). I told them to hold the creme fraiche. Presentation is artistic, funky, and cool. For my main, i ordered the quesadilas with Alex Farms goat cheese (locally produced cheese store), grilled asparagus, and other funky little vegetables ($10). Both dishes were wonderful in terms of flavours, textures, aromas, and taste, but portion size sucked big time. My friend ordered braised chicken with green lentils ($10). It was served in a small cereal bowl. Quite laughable to say the least. He also ordered the same salad but he had the creme fraiche. I think creme fraiche is like whipped cream but it’s not sweet. Sound gross. Some vegetarian items to note : artichoke hearts in a garlic mayo, safron rice croquettes (rice cakes) in an eggplant caviar, and a selection of breads with Fred’s dips. Other items worth noting include popcorn shrimp with cocktail sauce and creamy dill dip, pork ribs with potato salad ($10), smoked trout with vinegary tapenade ($12), seared scallops with leeks ($12), and grilled strip loin frites ($12).

It is easy to order 4-5 dishes, thus making the dining experience quite expensive. Sunday’s “prix fixe” menu with 3 choices -one complete table d’hote for $19, and two table d’hote options for $23. Sunday “prix fixe” change weekly depending on what is in the market that day. Thank goodness for Sunday dinner where you can a real meal for a normal price. Although staff were very helpful and friendly, service was quite slow, portion size was pathetic and my diet coke was $1.75 and was filled with ice.  Accepts all cards. Open quite late

Bar-Be-Que-Hut [Mark Aaron]

 1455 Gerrard St. E.
416-466-2264

Bar Be Que Hut, despite its name, is not Pizza Hut. It is a not a fast food joint that serves hamburgers and hot dogs. It’s a small cosy restaurant in Little India that is frequented by families and casual diners. Bar Be Que Hut, meaning Pride of India, serves traditional Pakistani cuisine with live music every Friday night. Also contains a small outdoor terrace.

Menu is very small and simple. They have typical Indian fare like tikkas (chicken tikka masala), kebabs, tandoori, pakoras and samosas, chicken curry, butter chicken, mutton, goat, beef, and fish curries, and much more.

Bar-Be-Que Hut house favourites include lamb bara kebab, chicken bara kebab, vegetable pakoras. Vegetarian items include channa massala, palak paneer, daal, curried eggplant, and aloo gobi. I ordered garlic naan (fluffy white pita-like bread) with palak paneer (purreed spinach curry with homemade Indian cheese) . YUMM! In addition, i ordered the Mango Lassi ( a thick drink made with homemade yogourt and fresh mango puree), sweet, thick, and delicious. My friend ordered the tandoor chicken dish with regular naan and he liked both dishes very well. The dish also came a spicey meat sausage thing which he did not favour as much. For his drink, my friend ordered King Fisher, a typical Indian beer.

Decor is kind of dated. Place is kind of small and carpets are dark, dingy, and not clean. Staff are very friendly and food is excellent, tasty, and good portions and no bullshit prices. Bar Be Que Hut really needs updating. Food makes up for old, tired decor. There is a television that plays Bollywood movies and musicals, which gives it a cute kitschy feel. As well, the TV also gives the restaurant a very casual, bar-like ambiance. It really needs a renovation like Salad King needed a renovation. Also needs a new name. Bar Be Que Hut does not sound like an authentic Indian restaurant. Open noon to 10 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday; 5-10 p.m. Wednesday; noon to 11:30 p.m. Friday to Sunday. No wheelchair access to washrooms. Accepts all cards

Lahore Tikka House [Mark Aaron]

1365 Gerrard Street
(416) 406-1668

 

I have now been to Lahore Tikka House 3 times and I have left happy each and every time. I think that despite the fact that food is served on styrofoam plates and the whole restaurant sits on two trailers, it is one of the best Halal Pakistani restaurants in Gerrard India bazaar neighbourhood.
Very recognizable by its wall of pressed woodchipped exterior sheets, Lahore Tikka has been under renovation for a long time now and I wonder if they will ever complete building their new home next to its temporary dwelling.

The temporary location is housed under a maze of 2 trailers connected together with 2 large outdoor patios with picnic tables, large multi-coloured umbrellas, and a semi-outdoor open-concept kitchen where you can see all of the items being cooked before your eyes. Although the decor sucks big time, they do try to make it look authentic. The two trailers have colourful saris that grace the walls and ceilings, thus making the trailer look very colourful, authentically South Asian, and traditional. With seriously loud Indian dance music, you cannot help but think that you’ve stepped into a cheesy danceclub. Most waiters are Indian teenage boys who have poor communication skills, but at least they try to be nice and smile. The procedure for getting food is as follows: order from the one-page paper menu at the front cash (from communicatively-challenged cashiers) who are spaced out. According to Shaista, Wendy’s friend, they are not on crack, but really cheap drugs. Once a successful order is placed, they give you a number and you sit whereever you like (either in one of the two trailers or on the back patio under the two large tents) Be careful when trying to access the backyard patio, you may get lost. Lahore Tikka House is one big maze and it can be difficult finding your way around.

Lahore Tikka house is famous for its food and for its quirky customer service. The place is packed and it’s quite popular among the locals in the area. On any given day or night, you will find it packed with teenagers, trendy yuppie folks, young couples with kids, and large families bringing their whole clan for the sensible prices and huge portions.

The menu is very simple. It is divided into appetizers (Samosas are only 99 cents), Sizzling BBQ from the Tandoor oven – minimum 2 pieces (beef, lamb, chicken, chicken tikka breast, chicken leg, sizzling fish)- all between $1.69-$6.99. Hefty rice dishes include a medley of meat with vegetables with a very large portion of rice. Some hefty rice dishes include beef and rice, chicken tikka and rice, two kebab chicken and rice, two kebab lamb and rice, botti tikka, and chicken tikka with rice, all ranging from $8.25-$11.25 for a generous portion the whole family can share.

Tandoori naans (puffy bread made from the Tandoor oven) includes regular flavoured naan, butter naan, whole wheat roti, and till naan ($1.00-$1.50), lahori kids specials include kids beef kebab- $1.69 and chicken tikka for kids – $5.99. The Lahori Karahi includes a variety of different types of Karahi dishes (lamb, chicken, butter chicken, chicken tikka masala, beef, nahari, haleem, fish, palak gosht, and daal gosht, all between $8.00-$8.99. Biryani dishes (rice and meat) include chicken, beef, mixed vegetables, fish, lamb, and boneless chicken tikka ($8.99-$10.99).

Vegetarian dishes include tarka daal, aloo gobi, channa masala, palak (spinach), the combo sizzler ($8.50) (channa masala, palak, and aloo gobi), palak and daal, palak paneer, and muttar panneer, all between $4.99-$8.50.

Wraps are a simple way to get a small portion of curry wrapped up in naan bread for a great price. Some wraps offer small and large sizes. Some wraps include beef kebab, chicken tikka, boti tikka, veggie veggie, lamb kebab, chicken kebab, all between $4.75-$8.95. On my first 2 visits I ordered the veggie combo sizzler, which was a large portion served on a black wrought iron platter containing aloo gobi, palak, and channa masala. It was extremely hot and delicious. The food here is definitely fresh and has BITE. On my 3rd visit, I decided to order the veggie veggie wrap ($4.99) which comprised the same ingrediants, but wrapped up in a small naan “sandwich”. On both occasions, I ordered the Mango Lassi and although it was alittle watery, it was still cool and refreshing.

As with most Indian restaurants, Lahore Tikka House serves a variety of North American and Indian sodas and juices as well as Lassis (Mango, Sweet, and Salty). They also serve Indian sodas like Limca. Lahore Tikka also serves kulfi (a classic Indian ice cream on a stick in flavours of pistachio, mango, chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry). Accepts all cards. Open until 1:00am every night. Owners are Muslim and food is authentically Halal.