Saturday, July 20, 2013

Brunch Blues in North York

BRUNCH BLUES in North York 

I haven't been blogging in a couple of weeks because I have been busy working 2 jobs for the past month.  I just finished a temp job so I will have a bit more time now but I am moving on to working for a Film Festival.

While I was doing my temp job I was working on what is known as Hospital Row on University Ave, north of Dundas.  It's not a great area for a foodie to spend time in.  A lot of mediocre lunch or hospital food in the are.  The bright spot was the weekly farmer's market at Sick Kids Hospital.

I woke up this morning with a free day but after a few weeks of crazy weather / transit and working a couple of jobs I am tired.  I woke up feeling hungry and in the mood for a decent breakfast but not in the mood to spend an hour in the kitchen whipping up a great breakfast and then another hour cleaning it all up.   I felt like having a saturday brunch meal but didn't want to have to go all the way downtown just to get breakfast/brunch but it seems as though North York/ Willowdale isn't big on being creative with their breakfast menus.   I had a copy of the current Issue of Now magazine with their Brunch restaurant list.  Nothing in North York.  After searching online I realized that there really weren't very many great brunch places in this whole area.

This is what we have:

  1. Moxie's Grill
  2. Milestone's
  3. Cafe Mirage (has now closed)
  4. Eggsmart
  5. Wimpy's Diner

Not much for condo land is it?  And they are all either chains or very generic or average.

Since I was tired and hungry I chose Cafe Mirage (now closed) in the mall beside where I live.  As you can see from this photo that I took when I walked in at 10:30am, it's not exactly a happening place on a saturday morning.   As I sat there in the restaurant by myself I thought what would it take to pack this place on a consistent basis.     What I thought immediately is to brighten it up.  It looks like a night club lounge so it's not really a wake up and have some brunch kind of environment.  I don't think it would take a whole lot to convert this place to a place people from north of 7 and south of Bloor might consider coming to.

This is what I would do if I wanted to fill this place:

  1. Change the tables and make them silver so that the light from the chandeliers lights up the room and makes it sparkle.  
  2. Paint the walls in sections of contrasting colors to brighten up some areas.   It's a brown on brown room now....snooze fest..  You immediately want to take a nap after being there.
  3. When I walked in the waitress looked both bored and depressed.  Not a good sign.
  4. Then there is the smell.  Its smells tired and stale.  Some plants, fresh flowers, an open patio, something prepared fresh in the room like flavoured coffees ...cinnamon lattes... anything to wake up the senses.
  5. The food..... It's ok but not great.  It looks like the plates are pre prepared with some lack luster salad greens and some cut fruit.  How about skipping the soggy lettuce and making a bowl of fresh fruit salad.  I had one recently with lemon and poppy seed that tasted great.   Not difficult and would be a lot more creative.    Add some new brunch items and change it up sometimes.  Add things like a grilled corn salsa on the side with caramelized onion scrambled eggs.  Again, not difficult but different from the pack of bland and tired breakfast specials.
  6. Then there is the music.   While I love me some 80's music it doesn't really say "this restaurant is ahead of the curve"  it screams "we are old and tired and like it that way".
  7. Since by the time I left there was only one other older lady so I had prompt although not very friendly or enthusiastic service so I was taken care of but I think the waitress would have preferred that I went to McDonald's across the street where I would get quick and friendly service.

I ordered the Eggs Benedict and for about $13 dollars with tax it was a big portion.  I probably only ate half the plate because I skipped the soggy boring lettuce and didn't eat the fruit.  Fruit and eggs don't really sit well together in my stomach and I doubt that it does in anyone else's either.
The eggs were ok but the ham was a bit on the tough side.  The potatoes were just deep fried with a bit of salt.   What would kick them up a bit would be to add smoked paprika to them.  The potatoes weren't greasy but a simple pinch of spice could have elevated them a little bit more.

I have been to this restaurant many times as it's beside where there used to be a movie theatre which has now moved up to North York Centre with everything else.   The service is never great.  Usually the waitresses disappear or seem like they would rather be someplace else.  Sometimes the food is eh.  Breakfast/Brunch is ok...  but I can honestly say it's not worth dragging your ass out of bed early on a saturday or sunday morning and driving to go there to get some.

That's what's missing in North York and especially the area between Yonge/Lawrence and Yonge/Finch.   A decent breakfast/brunch spot that is a neighbourhood joint that is totally creative and outside the regular box of bland breakfasts.   If you want Asian, Persian or junk food then this area is great for you.   But if you are a foodie like me that likes variety and creativity it's not a destination for you to put on your list unfortunately.

So I am posting this in the hopes that some Food Lover/Deep Pocket people will consider saving this gastro wasteland, condo glut of an area and encourage superstar chefs to consider opening up a little funky dive in the area.   Just remember that there will be a Whole Foods opening up at Yonge/Sheppard in 2014 so there will be good food lovers wandering around in the hood.

Here is the list that I compiled from the Now Magazine list and I added a couple others,  but as you can see Now magazine doesn't consider anything in North York to be worth of being a Best Brunch Spot in Toronto.  So can someone please find a way to make it happen.

BRUNCH SPOTS IN TORONTO (according to Now Magazine)

La Carnita
501 College, at Palmerston, 416-964-1555,, @la_carnita

202 Dovercourt, at Argyle, 416-532-7397,

1120 College, at Dufferin, 647-352-7322

791 Dundas W, at Palmerston, 416-901-9581,, @louvrier

DT Bistro
154 Harbord, at Brunswick, 416-916-8155,

Samuel J. Moore
1087 Queen W, at Dovercourt, 416-897-8348, @TheSamuelJMoore

Cafe Belong
550 Bayview, at Pottery Rd, 416-901-8234,

744 St Clair W, at Arlington, 416-658-0568,, @CATCH_TORONTO

807 Gerrard E, at Logan, 416-792-9043,, @_hammersmiths

Voodoo Child
388 College, at Borden, 647-748-1011,, @VoodooChildCafe

Federal Reserve
1438 Dundas W, at Dufferin, 647-352-9120,, @torontofederal

244 Jane, at Horshaw, 647-346-2267

Café Fiorentina
236 Danforth, at Playter, 416-855-4240,, @cafe_fiorentina

Hawker Bar
164 Ossington, at Foxley, 647-343-4698,, @HawkerBar

Bristol Yard
146 Christie, at Pendrith, 647-716-6583

Red Fish
890 College, at Delaware, 416-733-3474,, @redfishresto

White Brick Kitchen
641 Bloor W, at Euclid, 647-347-9188,, @thewhitebrick

Emma's Country Kitchen
1108 St Clair W, at Northcliffe, 416-652-3662,, @emmacountrykitc

Lisa Marie
638 Queen W, at Palmerston, 647-748-6822,, @fidelgastros

Grand Electric
1330 Queen W, at Elm Grove, 416-627-3459,, @grandelectricTO

169 Niagara, at Wellington W, 416-703-4222,, @EdulisToronto

96 Tecumseth, at Whitaker, 647-352-6000,, @BeastRestaurant

Karelia Kitchen
1194 Bloor W, at Brock, 647-748-1194,, @KareliaKitchen

480 King W, at Brant, 416-367-0505,, @PatriaTO

924 Queen W, at Shaw, 416-536-8963,, @ursarestaurant

325 Bay, at Adelaide, 416-637-5550,, @STOCKToronto

181 Wellington W, at John, 416-585-2500,

Café Boulud
60 Yorkville, at Bay, 416-963-6000,, @CafeBouludTO

88 Harbord, at Spadina, 416-929-7788,, @splendido_TO

Courtyard Cafe
18 St Thomas, at Bloor, 416-971-9666,, @windsorarms

Mildred’s Temple Kitchen
85 Hanna, at Snooker, 416-588-5695,, @mildredstemple

Stockyards Smokehouse & Larder
699 St Clair W, at Christie, 416-658-9666,, @thestockyards

Black Metal Brunch @ Graffiti’s
170 Baldwin, at Kensington, 416-506-6699

Bonjour Brioche
812 Queen E, at Degrassi, 416-406-1250,

70 Fraser, at Liberty, 416-588-0005,, @schoolresto

Saving Grace
907 Dundas W, at Bellwoods, 416-703-7368

Aunties And Uncles
74 Lippincott, at College, 416-324-1375,

Free Times Cafe
320 College, at Robert, 416-967-1078,, @FreeTimesCafe

Le Petit Dejeuner
191 King E, at George, 416-703-1560,, @petidejeuner

972 College at Rusholme 647-341-6769

1301 Queen Street East at Alton 416-406-1301

620 Queen W at Markham 416-855-5601

51 Bathurst at Wellington W 416-601-3533

The Drake
1150 Queen Street West at Beaconsfield M6J 1J3 416-531-5042

Fanny Chadwick's268
Howland at Dupont 416-944-1606

Harlem East Side
67 Richmond St. East at Church 416-368-1920

Rose and Sons
176 dupont street (in the front)

Lady Marmalade
898 Queen St East 647.351.7645  @ladymrestaurant


  1. Hey Fiorentina made the brunch list. We ate there once, remember?

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