Avenue Diner

 222 Davenport Road 
(416) 924-5191

Having biked passed Avenue Diner many times, I have always been curious to know what the food and ambiance is like. Centrally located at Davenport and Avenue Road on the cusp of Yorkville and the edge of the Annex, this place has been in operation since 1944 and still going strong. Similar to Beauties, Bagels Etc, Cosmo’s in Montreal, Avenue Diner serves up a small menu of burgers, fries, old fashioned chicken sandwiches flooded with gravy, weekend breakfast (mostly egg dishes) with classy home fries and old fashioned milkshakes in an authentic diner setting.

Avenue Diner feels very homey with only 2-3 wait staff and a team of about 4 cooks. One middle aged woman calls out the dishes to the cooks who whip up the dishes in a matter of minutes before your eyes. There are about 6 stools and expect to sit there if the tables are occupied. The grill is right in front of you so you can see them create dishes in front of your eyes.

Like Yasi’s place (Lansdowne near Bloor) , the decor looks like an old 1950’s diner or soda shop with old Coca Cola paraphernalia and other nostalgic things like old fashioned milkshakes, napkin holders, and little details that give this place charm.

Since it’s in the Yorkville district, there are a slew of photographs of celebrities who frequent the neighbourhood. It reminds me of “Bruce’s Restaurant and Bakery”, a Long Island “Jewish style” diner on 34 Middle Neck Road (in Great Neck, NY) with many celebrity photographs. Christina’s on the Danforth also attracts a celebrity clientele.

When we went for breakfast that Sunday morning, we noticed that service is very quick and efficient (high turnover). I ordered the cheddar egg white omelete ($6.95 + $1.50 extra for egg whites) with home fries. The dish came with toast but instead, i ordered a side of sliced tomatoes and lettuce. Zam ordered the veggie omelete with home fries (we ordered an extra side order of fries for $4) and whole wheat toast (you can choose white, whole wheat, or rye). They emphasize that they serve eggs any way you like them. They also serve high protein cereals, oatmeal, and pancakes. For lunch expect diner-dishes like hot sandwiches with gravy, burgers and fries.

Avenue diner also sells merchandise like T shirts that are displayed above the grill (must smell of eggs and cooking oil. All deep fried items are cooked in 100% vegetable oil.

Lineups occur after 12pm noon, but high turnover of customers, very fast service, people do not stay a long time. Small, kind of cramped, only 10 stools and 6 tables.

Advertisements

Sunrise Grill and Crepe

417 Roncesvalles Ave
416.516.5766

Only opened since October 2005, this place has become a hit with local folk. At 11:30am, we walked in to a completely packed place. Among all of the other trendier brunch spots in Ronscy Village, all others were empty while this one was clearly the packed place. Within 20 minutes of sitting down and getting comfy, there was a lineup of 6 people.

Roncesvalles village is becoming trendy these past few years with cafes, 2 new loft complexes (High Park lofts and Roncesvalles lofts), and the additions of high end restaurants and shops, this traditional Polish neighbourhood is becoming the next Bloor West village.

Sunrise Grill and Crepe was packed with locals, completely non-pretentious, unlike some places in Roncesvalles Village. Specializes in all day breakfast from 7am onwards. Close to Dundas West subway and in the heart of Roncesvalles village.

Only crappy thing was the surprise price increases not advertised on the menu. My fruit crepe which came with strawberries and custard was replaced with yogourt and they hiked the replacement of custard with healthier yogourt $2. The owner informed the waitress to tell me that the yogourt was organic (who gives a shit!) and that they will hike up the price an additional $4. The owner, clearly on organic crack needs to understand that indicating this price increase on the menu is essential. This happens rarely (invisible price increases on the bill when wait staff faily to warn you in advance) but when it does, it pisses me off.

Decor is cheerful in yellows and gold tones, comfortable non trendy tables and chairs and there will be a back dining hall (in development). I would definitely go back to this place, considering it serves breakfast all day without the trendy bullshit prices. All meals are cheap (under $8) and portions are large. I was quite pleased with my dish even though crepes are not something you eat if you are truly hungry. Wendy was quite happy with her dish (german apple cinnamon pancakes) and we will definitely come back when they are more settled in their pricing. Big portions, very cheap prices, and nice presentation (non trendy but very cosy “neighbourhood” ambiance. A definite place to come back. Accepts all cards.

Dr. Generosity

2197 Bloor St. W.
416.604.0704 

Aaron and I ran 10km and we decided to brunch in the west end for a change. Aaron has heard from Chowhound about Dr. Generosity and he had mentioned it for months but we did not get a chance to schlep to the west end. I nagged him and finally made an outing of running then driving to Bloor West Village to see what this place has to offer.

Located right in the heart of Bloorwest village, Dr. Generosity is a laid back establishment, similar to Brass Taps where they serve pub food (pub food has gotten healthier over the years, so don’t expect typical bar fare of nachos and cheese and fish and chips and burgers and fries) and a weekend brunch. Even pubs have jumped on the Brunch bandwagon in Toronto.

As it was Thanksgiving weekend, Aaron and I checked out the Thanksgiving themed menu with some Thanksgiving inspired items. We started with coffee and Diet cokes and for our meals, I ordered the stuffed French Toast with a berry puree with huge chunks of bananas topped with a raspberry sauce and sugared pecans. I also ordered additional maple syrup to soak my meal. We only ran 10 km but we had to carb load for our marathon the next week.

My dish contained four slices of challah bread stuffed with fruit but due to the soaking of egg and pan frying, the four slices stuck together to form one huge tower. It looked like too much; like a piece of art – colourful, with the texture of the fruit and the drizzling sauce, but it tasted spectacular.

Aaron ordered the turkey and cheese omelete with a side order of home fries (which he liked a lot) and he enjoyed the dish. He found it to be quite good and portions were large! The service was good and friendly but he felt the place lacked ambiance. He thought it felt more “pubby” then a cozy brunch place. He also found it quite far away from the downtown core so he would probably not visit it very often.

Other items on the menu include penne alla vodka ($16), chicken tetrazaini fettucine ($16), lamb and black jack stew ($16), provimi calves liver ($18), grilled fresh salmon ($19), baby back ribs ($22), new york strip steak ($25), chicken breast supreme with spinach, goat cheese, and garlic. ($19), buffalo wings (1 lb is $9, 2 lbs are $17), pan- fried calamari ($10), and mussels in a choice of either a spicy tomato broth, white wine broth, or garlic and parsley broth ($10) .

Some veggie items to note are the popular veggie lasagna ($13), and portobello mushroom melt ($10). Some appetizers worth noting include Dr. G. Grilled vegetable nachos ($12), spinach and artichoke dip (served with sesame flatbread) ($9), hummus and tzattiki platter with sesame flatbread ($9), sweet potato fries ($6), dr. G. home fries ($4).

Also serves an assortment of light fare, including soups and salads (house salad, caesar (both $8), my favourite – grilled vegetable and goat cheese salad -$9), sesame chicken salad- $12, and Dr. G. “chopped” salad (with your choice of tuna salad with walnuts or diced turkey breast) with loads of chopped veggies and hard-boiled egg ($11), and the chopped beef salad with grilled beef slices and roasted red peppers, roasted tomatoes and roasted corn on a bed of spinach- $14.

Open Monday-Tuesday 11:30am-9:30pm, Wednesday-Thursday 11:30-10:30pm, Friday 11:30am-10:30pm, Saturday and Sunday Brunch 10:00am-3:00pm, Saturday Dinner 3:00pm-10:30pm, and Sunday Dinner 3:00pm-9:00pm. Accepts all cards. Dinner prices kind of steep but Bloor West Village folk can afford it. Brunch prices are appropriate.

Offers a party room located on the 2nd floor and can accommodate up to 24 people for a sit-down meal and up to 40 people for a cocktail or hors d’oeuvres reception.

Urban Herbivore

64 Oxford St.
416.927.1231

 

The much younger sister restaurant to Fressen, Urban Herbivore is similar in concept to Fressen but take away the high prices, formal sit down decor, Queen Street pretentiousness, and shi shi poo poo ambiance and you get Urban Herbivore. Located in Kensington Market, Urban Herbivore is a casual “open concept” woodsy kitchen-like cafe with only 3-4 tables.

With a beautiful display of salads and sandwiches, bursting with colour, freshness, and texture, you can tell the veggies are market fresh. Urban Herbivore also sells prepared home made soups. Since there are only about 3-4 tables (only one large table sits about 5) this place is mostly for takeout and quick eating/snacks. There is a large bench outside for great summer brunching or snacking (warning, outdoor bench is just a long bench, no tables or chairs present).

For our meals, I ordered an organic tempeh sandwich with organic multigrain flat bread (was yellow like corn) with a ton of veggies (lettuce, cucumber, alfalfa sprouts, and many other fresh veggies) , a chili corn chowder, and freshly squeezed ginger lemonade. My two friends both ordered the “freshly made before your eyes” avocado sandwich with an assortment of veggies, fresh avocado, tomato, lettuce, cucumber, and all of the fixings.

It seems most of the food here is raw (uncooked) so you will mostly find sandwiches and salads, unlike Hey Good Cooking where everything may be vegetarian or vegan, but it’s all cooked (or should I say overcooked or microwaved). Lunch items cost under $10 but with drinks and salad, the bill came close to $50.00 for three people. Definitely worth the money, no question about it. Very small menu but many sandwich varietys, all healthy and fresh. When you have a meal at Urban Herbivore, you feel healthy, light, and fresh, not bloated or crampy. Accepts all cards

Grapefruit Moon

968 Bathurst Street
(416) 534-9056

After a nightmare makeover in 2004 the once comfortable, homey atmosphere (think Tango Palace at Queen/Jones), exposed brick, ecclectic decor, and activist posters on the wall became ultra modern hip and cool, with a complete bleached effect as the designer of Restaurant Makeover painted the whole restaurant white, even though the owner Sandy Moon specifically requested not to paint the exposed brick. As most of us, painting exposed brick is sacrilegious. I had last visited Grapefruit Moon on my 27th birthday (Sept 2001) for a nice quiet dinner. A great place to bring a date. Intimate, non pretentious, not expensive, and most importantly, many veggie options.

Grapefruit Moon went glam but actually looked like a hospital with that “bleached” effect. What on earth was the designer thinking. What crack were they smoking. I loved the old look and feel of Grapefruit Moon and I was sad to see that the old decor was gone, but I knew that they were still owned by the same people and the menu and food and service was still excellent so I decided to go there on 2 separate occasions for my favourite meal- Sunday brunch.

When I stepped inside, I noticed that the owners definitely put much effort into changing it back to the way it was and it looks like they’re almost there. Mostly, they added colour back into the decor. The painted brick wall is now adorned with colourful paintings and knickknacks that really tone down the “hospital” look and feel of their catastrophic makeover. According to an article in Eye Magazine, Grapefruit Moon’s new theme is citrus (white walls accented with orange, green and yellow). There is one spot that the designer of Restaurant Makeover did not touch, the bathroom. It still has silver stars painted on the cobalt-blue walls and purple ceiling, a reminder of Grapefruit Moon before its disasterous makeover.

Small, quaint, cosy, cafe, veggie friendly, with typical brunch and dinner fare, Grapefruit Moon thankfully offers veggie alternatives (veggie bacon or TLT tempeh lettuce tomato sandwich instead of BLT -bacon lettuce tomato sandwich).

Expect lineups for Sunday brunch but with quick turnover and a vast outdoor patio opened for spring and summer. Some brunch items include grilled cheese, tomato and avocado sandwich, granola, fruit ,and yogourt, grilled hummus wrap, grilled black bean wrap with home fries (salad can be replaced for an additional $2), omeletes, breakfast burritos with the works, excellent espresso drinks, fresh orange juice, and free refills of coffee. Lunch items are light and healthy. I’ve ordered the vegan wrap (black bean dip with hummus and veggies) with a side salad and the hummus wrap is also excellent too. Portion size is decent. Simple one page menu with non pretentious, earthy, friendly folks. Very neighbourhood friendly atmosphere, like stepping into your living room. Same homey feel like Mitzi’s or Three’s Company or The Only Cafe. Complete meals for $10-$12 including coffee. Accepts all cards.

Sugar [Mark Aaron]- [closed Fall 2007]

942 Queen Street West
(416) 532-5088

Aaron and I met for brunch last Sunday after my crazy-ass 35 km run. I had a crappy headache, was starving and Aaron was a bit annoyed since I was late in timing my run (I thought 2 hrs but it turned in 3.5 hrs) so we met for brunch at 2pm (quite late) and Sugar was definitely less busy.

Sugar is a small hip and trendy cafe on Queen and Shaw in the West Queen West district. It looks hip and cool and modern like Salad King but the furniture does not match the decor. Think Salad King with antique furniture and old woodsy church benches and oversized beautiful hardwood tables. Ecclectic and cosy and modern and trendy all in one.

In any case, we were served a one page brunch menu with many egg options but not many vegetarian or fruity alternatives. I did see a muesli (granola) and fruit and oatmeal and fruit but most mains were $9 (kind of weird) and they were out of muesli and oatmeal by the time we arrived (similar to Aunties and Uncles). Definitely not a good sign. They were apologetic, unlike Aunties and Uncles who were more arrogant about it (tough luck on you that you came too late).

I started with an overpriced mochachino (a hot chocolate with a shot of espresso) for $9 (shi shi poo poo hot chocolate and a shot of espressor equals $9, don’t ask) in a big bowl. It was quite delicious. Aaron has a normal coffee but they did not have drip or perculated, only an Americano would do, and no free refills. Aaron was less than impressed.

I ordered an egg white omelete of the day with spinach, roasted red peppers, onions, (omited the cheese) and replaced my home fries with a side of salad. The dish was very yummy and not too small or big on portion size. Aaron had the same dish but he ordered a real omelete. Decor was clean and slick and minimalist like most artsy upscale brunch places on Queen West. I have passed Sugar many times and I was always curious to try their brunch. I must say I liked it but it did not have the character or hominess that Mitzi’s, Ten Feet Tall, or Three’s Company has. I found it similar to Swan, a place to be seen, with really good food, excellent service (Sugar did have very friendly, accomodating, and helpful servers), but there was nothing special about it.

Prices are a bit high for what you get. Expect typical brunch fare. Accepts all cards. Does serve funky mimosas for brunch (orange juice and champagne). Weekend brunch 11am-4:30pm.

Old Nick [Mark Aaron]

123 Danforth Ave,
416-461-5546

Conveniently situated along the Danforth near Broadview, the Old Nick is a pub that serves pub fare and beer but on the weekend they supposedly serve on the best brunches in Toronto with a supplemental menu of organic options. Decor is nothing to cry home about, with that typical “pub” motif, stained varnished wood tables, a large bar, and hardwood floors, The Old Nick does not remind me of a place where I would brunch on the weekend but we figured we would try this place out since we heard from Now Magazine that it was voted one of the best brunch places in Toronto.

Aaron and I met up with his friends Brad and Steven and we all entered the empty place on a quiet Sunday at 1:00pm. We all started with drinks. Brad and Steven ordered fresh orange juice and they commented that it was good but not “freshly squeezed”. I ordered a freshly squeezed Diet Coke and I think Aaron had a coffee. Unfortunately, they DO NOT have espresso drinks, so a minor drawback for the Old Nick, but, afterall, it is a pub, right?

Most of the menu contains egg dishes, hence I felt that this place was slightly egg-centric. I would have prefered other options. I did see on the non-organic menu some non-egg options like pancakes and French toast with fresh fruit, as well as waffles with fresh fruit and whipped cream. I was looking for some healthier options but the rest of the menu contained mostly egg dishes. I was happy to see that egg dishes came with spelt toast and organic homefries.
The organic menu for January 8, 2006 contained items such as Divine Decadence (3 egg omelete stuffed with portobello mushrooms, gorganzola cheese, organic homefries, organic greens, and organic toast $12), Yawn and Stretch (omelete stuffed with organic spinach, roasted red peppers, feta, with organic homefries, organic greens, and organic toast $12),That’s Amore (Eggs benny with parma prosciutto, shaved parmesan cheese, organic greens, organic potatoes, and organic toast $13), and Oh My Goodness (French toast with organic apple walnut bread, with blueberries, raspberries, and cream, served with organic maple syrup $12).
For my meal, I ordered the Mexican egg white omelete ($8.95) with spring greens in a
yummy ginger viniagrette. The egg white omelete came with a 3 cheese blend and spicy
salsa with a lot of cilantro. It was extremely delicious, fresh, not greasy, and flavourful.

Steven ordered the Well Hung (3 eggs any style, organic lamb or organic chorizo spicy 4 pepper sausage, organic toast, organic greens, and organic homefries- $15). He thought that the salad dressing was tasty and it was great to have salad and the organic homefries which were pretty tasty too. He thought that they could have brought the food out a little hotter then it came. He also had the chorizo sausage which was good, but it didn’t blow him away as a great sausage. It wasn’t as spicy as he thought it would be. The spelt toast was very hearty and grainy. Steven liked the idea of a set menu and also the weekly special menu. That way you are not stuck getting the same thing over and over if you are a
returning customer.

Brad and Aaron both ordered the Razzle Dazzle (eggs benny with guacamole and cheddar cheese chunks- $13). He
thought it tasted REALLY good — perhaps a bit greasy, but with all that cheese
it was hard for it not to be (it was definitely a “two-Lactaid pill” breakfast!). He also found that his meal did come out “luke-warm” — he thought it could have been served hotter. The portion was pretty big (he thought there were 3 eggs — most places serving eggs benny only give you two eggs). The “organic potatoes” were pretty good as well. Brad did not recall them
being oily or greasy, which was his main complaint with breakfast potatoes. Accepts all cards. Open for Brunch Saturday and Sunday 11am to 4 pm, bar open daily 11am to 2am. Secluded outdoor patio seats 40