Sneaky Dees

When I first received an email suggesting going to Sneaky Dees for half priced fajita night, my initial reaction was? that shithole?!?!? My only previous experiences at this bar cum music venue cum restaurant were relegated to very distantly separate but excellent concerts and some sporadic binge drinking nights. With the dark atmosphere and graffiti covering everything from the walls to the tables, this place defines the term ?watering hole?. I had heard that the brunch was decent here but it never occurred to me that any other meal would be near palatable. However, after conferring with a few Sneaky Dee fanatics I realized I had potentially been missing out on a rarely publicized Toronto tradition.

Tex Mex cuisine is constantly looked down in haute cuisine circles and can regularly end up the butt of many a Hooters reference. The fajitas at Sneaky Dees however are no joke. As servers rush out of the kitchen holding a plate of steaming food the restaurant packed with a downtown crowd who have obviously taken part in this ritual before heaves in anticipation. The decibel level is certainly high causing one to strain to carry on a conversation. When the food arrives all attention is diverted to eating. Choices of chicken, steak, shrimp, vegetable or any combination thereof are available for consumption. The steaming hot plate comes complete with refried beans, a variety of vegetables, fried rice, and topped with the main meat or veggie filling. Bowls of salsa, guacamole, sour cream, and tomatoes are available for toppings to add to the white flour wraps which come in a heat encompassing container. The only regular fajita topping that appears to be missing is the cheese. Is Sneaky Dees subject to the same bylaw not allowing Toronto hot dog vendors to serve cheese in their somewhat crusty environment? Disregarding this minor aberration, the chicken and steak fajita is fantastic and a large order satiates my party of three. At $14.95 on the Tuesday half price night, I come away with a deliciously refreshed perspective on an old establishment and a newly ordained ritual to further integrate myself into the downtown west culture.

7 West

7 Charles

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.

Only Cafe, The

972 Danforth Ave.
phone number: 416-463-7843

I really like the vibe of this palce. The music is good, the walls are filled beyond belief with artwork, the lighting is dim, a nice variety in the beer selection, imported & domestic (bottled )the service is decent, & the food is good too.

I usually go for brunch, that seems to be a specialty of theirs. There is the standard eggs & meat combos, french toast, etc. & you get good portions. They are open to giving substitutions, which is helpful for fussbudgets like me who don’t eat eggs; I get them replaced with baked beans. Excellent! Thankfully, the waitstaff is honest & tells you when something that may seem vegetarian isn’t 100%.

I was pissed off at them for a while & would not go back for nearly a year – they are supposed to serve brunch until I forget what time, but I came in waaay before that I they decided to turn off the grill & stop serving early. I was mighty annoyed!

They only use the grill for brunch, so do not go later in the day hoping gfor a hot meal – you won’t get it. Best to go for brunch or drinks, you’ll be very satisfied.

Only Cafe, The

972 Danforth Ave.

phone number: 416-463-7843

The Only Cafe is a small, cosy, neighbourhood bar/cafe right on Danforth between Donlands and Jones. The place is the epitome of "non-trendy". The tables and plates are mismatched and the place is actually small but sits about fifteen small tables. The place is filled with quirky Van Gogh prints and 60’s and 70’s photos of musical icons like the Beattles, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley, and Joni Mitchell.

I have gone here many times and always enjoy the Sunday brunch. I order the Belgium Waffle with Fruit, whipped cream and salad. It usually comes with bacon or sausage but I skip it for extra salad and fruit. The portions are huge, staff are very accomodating and there is a huge variety of salad dressings like Mango Vinegar, Sundried Tomato Oil, Garlic Oil, and Balsamic Vinegar.

I also have ordered the Bay of Quinte, an open-faced sandwich with your choice of over ten different kinds of bread, melted cheddar cheese, pesto, two large tomatoes, with an organic green salad. Prices are affordable ($5.95-$7.95) and decor is funky, hip, and very non-pretentious. It reminds me of a neighbourhood bar, like the fictional "Cheers," where everyone knows your name…

Unlimited coffee is served and the brunch menu is limited but the dishes are creative (breakfast burrito, cowgirl breakfast, cowboy breakfast, stuffed French toast with cream cheese and fruit, and French toast dipped in banana nut oatmeal.

Overall, The Only Cafe serves fresh, filling food, large portions, and staff are friendly and accomodating. They know their food very well and are able to answer questions about ingrediants and preparation. For example, the owner informed me that the refried beans are made with lard. YUCK!

Decor is funky and unique and although there is a limited vegetarian menu, the staff are accomodating. I would recommend this place for everyone.


7 West

Last night I went to 7 West after a movie. There aren’t a lot of places that are 24 hours & decent, but this is one of them. They haev recently changed their menu, and so though the prices are not as cheap as they once were, there is more variety in the food, and it has been upgraded somewhat. I do think that $3.50 for juice is not quite reasonable. Our server was fabulous, very attentive, quick, and he was very flexible, allowing me to get an extra item on my salad – no problem. I ended up with a sandwich ($10) that contained prociutto, sprouts, tomatoes, cucumber, avocado & buffalo mozzarella. Thankfully, they were generous with their meat portion to the point that I had to take half of my sandwich home. The sandwich was accompanied by a massive salad, containing many types of vegetables & chickpeas . it was gooooood. My friend had the rose ravioli ($13)- her usual dish, and she liked the plate clean!

Despite the price increase, this was overall a positive dining experience, and little surprise, I will be back.


Now Lounge

189 Church Street
(416) 364-1301

The first time I went to the Now Lounge, I was taken there by my employer who was attempting to woo me into accepting a full time position. I was impressed by his apparent insight in treating me to a funky meal at this my favourite local newspaper’s establishment. I also enjoyed the photo exhibit adorning the walls of this lounge cum restaurant which came to realize was a continuously changing feature of the joint. Part and parcel of the company’s culture, I was told, was the tolerant attitude they shared, owing to the store’s location on Church St., down the way from the gay village. I took this bit of news positively, though I don’t know why a company’s location should have anything to do with tolerant values. The delicious grilled vegetable sandwich with goat cheese didn’t hurt matters and by the time I graduated University I firmly secured my place amongst the cogs of corporate machinery.

Now Lounge became somewhat of a lunch staple at my downtown workplace as subsequent visits continued to please………… until suddenly the chef quit and the restaurant closed down for “retooling” for what seemed like forever. When it re-opened months later with little fanfare and a much shortened menu, the tasty grilled veggie sandwich that I had once enjoyed was gone as was my satisfaction level. I reverted to eating a plate of nacho chips with sour cream, salsa and cheese. The service also declined and on more than one visit I was forced to ask my waitress how much longer it would take for my food to arrive.

Despite the decline in general quality, the laid back ambience and the photo exhibits continued. On one occasion during a “twins exhibit”, a co-worker from the same company quipped that Now was the first “gay bar” he had been. Maybe Now’s decline in quality and clientele owes to the fact that I no longer work at the same place.

Court Jester Pub, The

609 Danforth Av
(416) 465-6247

Located right at Danforth and Pape, this non-pretentious pub not only has drinks but has a fabulous menu, very diverse with a great selection of food. The place is vegetarian friendly but not vegan friendly and is open very late. The brunch menu is definitely not cheap, but the portions are HUGE. I could not order anything from the brunch menu since all selections involve eggs or meat/sausage or pancakes. Oh well. There is a great outdoor terrace sits about four tables and accomodated for us (we were seven people). The food is very tasty and the prices are about $8-$10 for brunch and $10-$15 for lunch/dinner. The restaurant looks more like a pub and that’s really what it is afterall. This is a place where you can eat, drink, hang out, and relax for hours.

Hair of the Dog

Hair of the Dog


Hair of the Dog was on my list of restaurants to visit for quite a while. I wasn’t completely sure if it was a lounge, or a bar/restaurant with sub standard food. In any case, I finally visited this establishment at the southern end of the Village on Church St. near Carlton and thoroughly enjoyed my experience.

Initially taking a seat on the main level of the restaurant, I found the room to be excessively loud for the romantic tone the dim light suggested. It was so loud in fact, that we asked our accomodating (not to mention attractive) waiter if we could be moved to a patio table. This was a wise decision as it was much more subdued under the covered patio and I could actually enjoy my conversation without cupping my hands around my ears.

The menu was extensive and had several interesting sounding dishes for what I would consider a typical, non-nationality specific restaurant. I settled on the special, which was a lemongrass curry chicken on a bed of basmati rice and baby bok choy ($13.95). I am a big fan of curry and prefer eating my entire meal covered in the sauce. Unfortunately, this was a bit lacking even if everything else, including the curry, was well prepared and tasty. There was a decent list of martinis, one of which called the Midnight Dream that I enjoyed.

For a restaurant that doesn’t specialize in exotic food, Hair of the Dog makes efforts both in service and in atypical food to keep the customer happy.

Only Cafe, The

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.

Red room

444 Spadina Ave.
(416) 929-9964

Part of the same three restaurants of Green Room, and Java, Red Room was once a tea shop and restaurant that served alcohol, but now it’s a bar that serves food and tea. Inside this gorgeous restaurant at Spadina and College, you will find many tables and booths with gorgeous dim lighting and cherry wood interior, luxurious in design, detailed moldings, and antique woodwork. The whole decor or the Red room distracts the visitor from the low quality food it serves up.

There is a reason the food is so cheap. Although the restaurant appears very high class, it’s actually a bar that serves pub type food. The only different part is that this pub type food is Asian in its influence (the cooks and owners are Asian) and most of the selections are light and healthy Asian dishes from Pad Thai to Singapore Noodles to Vegetable Stir Fry to traditional Hamburger and French Fries to Fish and Chips.

Portions are decent but quality is very low. I’ve gone to Red Room over one hundred times since late 2000 and the tofu is always overfried or stale, the food is bland and lacks any exciting flavours, and you cannot make food requests because the cooks do not understand any English. The atmosphere is funky, with many of
U. of T. students, an array of herbal teas, an impressive bar with a large selection of beers, liquors, wine, and other alcoholic beverages. The key is to only purchase food and avoid alcohol. The waiter may frown at you but four people can eat for $20.00 and that is difficult to achieve in Toronto. Expect a lot of noise and a lot of smoke- afterall it’s a bar. Anyone under 19 is not allowed