Willow, The

 

The Willow is a Tex Mex Bar & Grill on the South side of Danforth near Broadview, & has become the spot of choice for post-show gatherings at the Bad Dog Theatre www.baddogtheatre.com. The place to sit is the back rooms, or failing that, wherever Jose is serving � he is an awesome waiter that knows his audience. I no longer have to order, he knows what beer I want & brings it. The menu is a mix of Tex Mex & pub regulars like burgers & chicken fingers. Do yourself a favour & stick with the Tex Mex, as it is what they are known for. The menu features items such as nachos, quesadillas, tostada & other Mexican delights. The last few times I�ve been here I had the Supremo Nachos � corn chips, melted Jack cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, chicken with salsa, sour cream & guacamole. It was really filling � I had to get help to finish, which is great considering the price of $9.95. Another time I had the vegetarian Tostada, which is an open faced crispy corn tortilla topped with vegetables, refried beans & melted cheese, also served with a side of refried beans & rice. This was a steal at $9.95 � I had to take some home to eat later! I�ve also had their salads & Mexican mice & things like that, all very tasty. Skip the fries.

The beer selection has changed recently & so they no longer have Guiness or Smithwicks or the other standard British/Irish brews on tap, but they have recently acquired Dos Equis on tap. I switch between that one & Carlsberg.

Now I know some people who have had negative drink experiences there, (obviously Jose was not working that day, he�d never let anything bad happen) & I do know some who are not fond of the food, but you can�t please everyone all the time.

The bar features a big screen projector system for sports & special event viewing if you are into that kind of thing. They are also very amenable to seating large crowds & let you move the tables around as you need. The patio is bright, colourful & heated! Perfect for the crisp autumn weather! Check out their website at www.thewillow.ca It�s cute & colourful & features pretty pictures of the food & tells you more about the history of the establishment.

 

 

Cafe Diplomatico

 594 College Street,
416-534-4637

Located right in the heart of Little Italy at College , this place is a large coffee house, casual and unpretentious. Throughout the day tables fill with locals hanging out while having a coffee or traditional Italian dessert or meal. The walls are covered with kitschy art and in the summer, expect lineups as the outdoor terrace is quite popular

With traditional Italian pastry, ice cream, and ,meals, this place is a haven for University students and people who appreciate more affordable cuisine. I went with my parents (who appreciate fine cuisine at a decent price) for lunch on the weekend and they really enjoyed the fact that it was one of the only places in Little Italy that was affordable and unpretentious.

As it was quite chilly that fall afternoon, we opted to sit down in the large open-concept dining area by the window.

Serving traditional Italian dishes like pasta, thin crust pizza, Italian soups, Italian salads, traditional Italian desserts like canoli (which my mum ordered) , and appetizers (antipasto), the menu also includes Greek salads, as well as burgers, Mexican quesadilas, onion rings, and French fries.

My dad ordered the hamburger and French fries and he said it was great (he said it was juicy and delicious). My mum ordered the traditional Italian minestrone soup with noodles, beans, and vegetables in a tomato broth. I ordered the HUGE vegetarian antipasto dish (a HUGE platter of artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes, spicy olives, three slices of a mild Italian cheese, and spicy eggplant, for $7.95). The dish was very filling and excellent. They have a medley of other vegetarian dishes like gnocchi, penne, rigatoni, pizza, and a variety of salads. Each pasta dish is served and you can choose from a variety of 20 different types of sauces.

Accepts all cards, open very late, can be very crowded on Thurs/Fri/Sat and even Sunday nights. Expect lineups on the weekend. Can be loud and noisy so students should not come to study there (even though the food is affordable). Excellent, attentive service, good prices, open 7 days per week 8:00am-2:00am.

Fire on the East Side

6 Gloucester St.
(416) 960-3473

Wendy and I and some friends went for brunch at Fire On The East Side right before the Pride Parade last Sunday. Fire on the East Side is conveniently located right at Gloucester and Yonge, right in the heart of downtown Toronto. Brunch is served Sat, Sun and Holidays until 4pm

The decor is really great with very colourful dishes, comfortable seating, bright colours in the food, excellent presentation. Food that we saw before ordering had had life, texture, looked fresh and colourful. While we waited for everyone to arrive (~15 people) we were served banana bread instead of your typical bread and butter. It was fresh and yummy.

I ordered my typical brunch favourite: yogourt with granola and fruit for $8. My order resembled an extra large soup bowl with banana-honey yogourt but only a sprinkle of granola and very little fruit. In other words, it resembled yogourt soup. I was slighlty disappointed. Aaron ordered the Fritatta Tower” which he thought was quite good… light and fluffy with smoked salmon and some other vegetables. He thought it was nice that it was served with a side of fruit. He thought that the brunch potatoes were like little frozen hashbrowns that they warmed up in a microwave so he was not impressed with that.

Aaron’s friend Robin had the spinach fritata which he found delicious. He thought that food was a cut about the usual for the neighbourhood. He thought the service was excellent but WAY TOO SLOW.

Wendy ordered the chicken and bacon pesto sandwich on ciabatta bread
At least 5 people ordered the Huevos Burrito $9 (eggs, refried beans and Monterey Jack cheese and topped
with warmed salsa. ). Someone else ordered the Crab Cake Benedict $10 (eggs benedict with crab cakes). Another brunch attendee ordered a nice salad with walnut-crusted goat cheese. Lastly two people ordered the banana bread French toast with loads of fruit ($7). It looked really good, hold the French toast.

Other interesting brunch items included the cinnamon apple crepe ($9) served with raspberry crème fraiche and fresh fruit. They also serve typical brunch fare like eggs and bacon, sausage, steak and eggs, and pancakes. Try the “east side” omeletes that are served with home fries and ratatouille (Wendy says they home fries are not that spectacular, though)

The decor is warm and inviting, perfect for that late-night cocktail. With white-painted brick, retro bar stools, hardwood floors, postmodern industrial metal-topped tables, and a large outdoor front terrace this place has definite ambiance for brunch or late night drinks, but expect long waits. They charge an additional $3.00 if you want your egg whites only for your omelete. They accept every card. Prices are a bit high for what you get but presentation and food is fresh, artistic, colourful, full of texture and flavourful.

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
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.

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.