Brunch: My Top 10 Picks for Toronto

Brunch is my favourite meal to eat out. I like arriving before the crowds and enjoying a nice, leisurely meal and good conversation. I like ordering something ridiculous and massive off the menu and feeling satisfied until dinner. I like getting my caffeine fix for the week in the matter of an hour or two as I down four or five cups of coffee. I like restaurants that have a comfortable and homey décor and feel to them but with an interesting menu. I don’t want to eat a “big breakfast” with eggs, toast and three types of breakfast meat. I want something I can’t make at home or something that I can’t be bothered to make at home because it will dirty about 27 different dishes. I want a restaurant that is in an interesting neighbourhood, somewhere I want to wander in and out of shops for the rest of the afternoon looking at furniture, records and prints.

On this list you won’t find anything east of Yonge Street. The west is my Toronto. I know that is terrible and very limiting but its brunch. I don’t want to waste an hour or more of my time trying to get to the East End to have brunch at Lady Marmalade only to wait another hour or more in line. I will acknowledge that Lady Marmalade is delicious, unique and cozy. But it’s not my favourite. If I ever move east of Yonge Street this list will dramatically change but for now, west is best.

10. Smith

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Ok, I lied. Smith is east of Yonge. I have only been to Smith once for brunch but I was completely enamoured by it when we visited. It was a quiet fall afternoon, just a few weeks before our wedding and we were seated on one of the most romantic and cozy patios in the city. The patio has taken over a back alley and looks out onto a side street just off Church Street. We were alone on the patio which allowed us to take in everything: the exposed brick walls, the various textures and patterns on the cushions, the lights strung up in a zigzag pattern over head, the single piece of lavender in a antique porcelain cabinet knob turned vase on the rustic wooden table. The whole atmosphere was so simple but so well thought out and put together. This attention to detail and capturing of comfort in décor would translate into the capturing of comfort and warmth into the food.

The Eggs Benedict manages to turn an already adult breakfast item into an even more sophisticated and decadent meal. Instead of traditional hollandaise sauce, the Benedict is drenched in a parmesan leek fondue. Any restaurant that is going to allow me to justify eating fondue at 10 am on a weekend morning is a place that warrants another visit.
I also consider this restaurant worthy of a top-ten spot because Smith is one of the preferred brunch spots of Al and I trust her opinion on most everything.

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George St. Diner

THE F WORD

A diner in Toronto that Daniel Radcliffe has been to? Yes, case please! Ok, click I shouldn’t act like I have an undying love for Dan Rad because I don’t, drugs but I do try and consciously follow his career and support his films so he doesn’t tragically become they guy who played Harry Potter and did nothing else. And I didn’t go to the George St. Diner because it is featured in The F Word, but because it serves up great brunch.

My experience at George St. Diner was everything Ok Ok wasn’t. It was why I should go to the East end of Toronto. It is why I should go for brunch. It was why I should order huevos rancheros any time it’s on a menu.

The day we went to the George St. Diner, it wasn’t our first choice. We had tried to go to Le Petit Dejeuner but it had an insane line-up and it was January. I don’t wait in line for brunch ever, let alone when it is cold outside. We wandered over to the George St. Diner and were quickly seated at the bar on stools overlooking the open kitchen. This restaurant had a very similar vibe to Ok Ok but for some reason, it seemed more classic and less dated.

There is no menu, just ordering off the ever changing sandwich board which does feature the diner’s staples and favourites like the Irish soda bread. GC ordered the Breakfast Hash on Irish soda bread.

IMG_2998I ordered the Huevos Rancheros.

IMG_2996 IMG_2997YES. Now this is what I am talking about. The eggs were scrambled fluffy and light. The cheese melted over top of the eggs nicely. The chorizo was a house made sausage and it was easily one of the best sausages I have ever eaten. It was spicy and the meat was well-ground. There were no hard or crunchy pieces of meat or fat that can completely ruin a sausage. The guacamole was smooth and had the right kick of cilantro and was not overpowered with a soapy flavour. The beans added a nutty, smoky flavour to the dish. I loved that everything was spread on the plate making it more so a platter style of huevos rancheros and you could vary each bite with the provided pita.

I loved my breakfast at George St. Diner and would definitely go back if I was in the area but I wouldn’t make the trek just for its huevos.

After our brunch, we headed over to do some axe throwing for my friend Ashley’s birthday. It was a great afternoon of beer, pulled pork and axes, followed by some homemade butter tarts for the birthday girl!

IMG_299410906137_10153093160222074_7211436091395471900_nHappy munching!

Brunch at Fabbrica

It’s official: the Italians need to come up with a word for brunch. Some might say that Italians don’t actually eat breakfast, they just have an espresso and a cigarette. And this is definitely the impression that my Italian relatives who visited for our wedding gave me. But Italian restaurants in Toronto are changing this idea of what Italian breakfast can and should mean. A few weeks ago, we enjoyed brunch at Fabbrica.FullSizeRender

This is my third visit to Fabbrica and it has always consistently delivered. The interior is modern and simple with classic Italian touches like marble tabletops and a cantina with large windows so guests can view the hanging salamis and prosciuttos. When the beautiful latte pictured above arrived I know that my brunch would deliver.

I ordered the Fabbrica Benny.

IMG_3591The Fabbrica Benny with poached eggs, guanciale and fontina crumpet, prosciutto and hollandaise.

Yum, yum, yum. The hollandaise is incredibly thick. The eggs are runny and gooey. The prosciutto is tender, fatty and the right amount of salt. The crumpet is a nice touch – it is a heftier alternative to your typical light and airy English muffin. It is salty and adds a sharp, nutty undertone throughout the crumpet with the fontina. I would have liked if the portion was slightly bigger but to be fair, I will always want more Benny.

The side of tomatoes is a light and slightly citrus way to clean your palate when you are finished with the richness of the Benny. The balsamic vinegar is sweet and thick and a natural compliment to the tomatoes. This is the Italian spin on the traditional British grilled tomatoes.

GC ordered the Shortrib hash.IMG_3594The short rib hash with poached egg, caramelized onion, braised short rib and potato served with toasted ciabatta.

Oh.mi.gawd. It is an inevitability that when two people dine together, one meal is going to be better than the other. But lucky for GC, that did not happen at our Fabbrica brunch. This is the best hash I have ever eaten. The short rib is incredibly tender, the meat just delicately flakes with every slight pierce of the fork. The veg is tender but retains it’s crunchiness. The onion adds a subtle sweetness and helps cut the richness of the short rib. The egg justifies this dish as a breakfast item and acts like a glue, cementing all the aspects of the hash in each bite.

I know no one wants to go to North York – I get it. I live in North York and don’t even want to travel to Fabbrica, but you should. Everything about Fabbrica is spot on – the service, the decor, the coffee and the food. It is a meal you will not regret traveling for. I will be fantasizing about this brunch until I can it again.

Happy munching!

Hadley’s

The great thing about Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives is that all that delicious food which is most likely to induce heart attack is in America and far from my reach. The unfortunate thing (although it is incredibly awesome) is that FN’s You Gotta Eat Here features similar types of restaurants but in Canada… Of course, there are exceptions and sometimes incredibly healthy, hearty restaurants are featured on both of these shows but those aren’t usually the ones that leave me drooling all over myself and the couch. A few weeks ago GC and I were watching an episode that featured Hadley’s in Toronto and that following Saturday we decided to check it out.

Hadley’s is a cute, quintessential neighbourhood diner – tucked away and unassuming from the street but full of regulars that the staff can call by name. We went at a slightly bizarre time, between brunch/lunch and dinner and the diner was about half full when we walked in. The restaurant can seat about 30 people in booths, at the bar or at high tables. The bar opens onto the small, kitchen.

We ordered what was featured on the episode of You Gotta Eat Here: The Remedy and a side of their Mac ‘n Cheese.

The Remedy – Deep fried poached eggs on hash with pulled pork, smoked cheddar, and hollandaise. Served with coleslaw and baked beans.

This is one of the most ridiculous things I have ever eaten. The deep fried poached eggs are lightly breaded with a little crispiness but still the tender delicateness of poached eggs. They simply exploded all over the hash and the yolks were buttery. The hash was crispy and a great foundation for this excessiveness. The pulled pork added a sweet, maple flavour to the dish. The cheddar was slightly lost in the richness of the hollandaise but I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. I need hollandaise with my poached eggs, not cheese (shocking, I know). The apples on the side were slightly sweet and had a strong maple flavour. I didn’t try the coleslaw but it looked moist and vinegary.

The Mac ‘n Cheese.

Fusilli noodles with 3 cheeses. This was by far the cheesiest mac ‘n cheese I have had in Toronto. It was creamy, smooth and topped with the perfect amount of cracked black pepper. It can be ordered as a main or as a side, which is what we did. This was a foolish idea. I would suggest either splitting a side of mac ‘n cheese or making two trips to Hadley’s. This is on the top of the list of my favourite mac ‘n cheeses in Toronto.

This meal left us in a major food coma/food drunk state therefore Hadley’s is worth checking out.

Happy munching!