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Excellent brunch at School Bakery & Cafe

  • t

Following a less-than-stellar early brunch at Le Gourmand on Yonge St., my friends and I decided to try to make up for it (and ease our unsated souls) by heading down to Liberty Village to give School a try. http://www.sbcto.com/menus.php?menuID=8

Glad we did! The place had a lineup almost out the door, but we decided to wait the 30-40 minutes it took for a table. The service and professionalism were evident the minute we entered and were offered, by chef/owner Brad Moore, a smoothie shooter as a token for waiting.

Chef Moore appears to have trained his chefs, wait staff and hostess extremely well. The service was delightful, and Chef seems to have a good pulse on the goings-on. Aside from offering the shooters, he's doing the expediting for the open kitchen and working the dining room, as well. There's an easy, laid back attitude among the staff -- no one's stressing out or sweating in the least, although they're extremely busy (Corey Mintz wrote a review in yesterday's Star).

We had the 4-cheese omelet souffle, which was fabulous and which came with a great pepper scone and wonderful white-and-sweet potato home fries; the SBC eggs benni, which were served with fabulous double-smoked bacon on biscuits, along with a perfect Hollandaise and the same home fries. The runny-egg-wary friend ordered well-done scrambled eggs, which came with bacon, a biscuit and home fries.

School is only open during daytime hours for now. Their lunch menu looks very appealing, and features all-day breakfast, along with lovely sounding lunch items.

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  1. Thanks Tatai. Moore's been to hell and back to bring us great brunches. Glad he finally has his own thing going on.

    1. Sounds great - thx for the review! Is the restaurant kid-friendly? i.e. accomodating of toddlers and/or infants in car seats

      2 Replies
      1. re: fortheloveoffood

        Although I didn't notice any infants in the restaurant, there were a few tables with families and younger children. And the atmosphere is so laid back (and the tables are not squished together, either) that I don't think you'd be out of place with your young ones.

        1. re: Tatai

          Excellent - will have to check it out soon. Thx again!

      2. Had Lunch there today as well as a few other times...food is great...today was a little hectic as someone had called in sick and they were short...however that still meant a delicious meal in good time...the Bar Tender and Chefs were also helping out at the tables...delivering...bussing ....collecting the bills....it was a complete buzz of team work...took home cupcakes...the Take out line was crazy but moved pretty well...Miranda

        1. SBC is excellent; the brunch is great. I've been quite a few times since it opened, and it has never failed to impress. My favourite brunch spot in the city for sure.

          1 Reply
          1. re: tjr

            Had a nice brunch there and since I work directly behind it decided to go in for a take out lunch to bring back to the office. First of all the whole arrangement for take-out is slightly confusing but really not a big deal. I ordered the special lucky seven which is the sandwich of the day and a choice from the soups of the day. Sandiwch was tuna and good. Nice bun, not too much mayo and some nice fennel and capers as well. The soup was a minestrone type deal. I got back to my office, opened it up and started laughing. It is literally several tablespoons of soup served in a medium sized container. It was barely a quarter full. I thought surely it must be a mistake but some so-workers confirmed that it's the standard serving. At least serve it in a smaller container or something. The special also comes with a cookie. If I go back I'm going to ask if I can tarde my cookie for another few tablespoons of soup.

          2. I tried out School today for breakfast. I was surprised at how dead the place was at 9:30 or so (compared to say, Aunties and Uncles) but I guess it's not as centrally located. My only real complaint with the experience was the food took quite some time to come out when it was so empty. We tried the French toast and eggs/potato/bacon or sausage combo. Everything was very good--and love those home fries with the mix of sweet potatoes and normal potatoes. The coffee (Illy) was also quite good and so was the mocchino they made for me (not on the menu but they have espresso and hot chocolate).

            The part that I really loved though was the baked goods part of the experience. I tried a banana chocolate chip espresso "muffin" (it was definitely more in the cupcake category) and it was so gooey and soft and tasty with just the hint of coffee flavour and nice banana. So good! I haven't tried the other chocolaty cakey things yet but root beer chocolate cake sounded too interesting to pass up---esp. with that thick chocolate icing. I did try a chocolate chip cookie (very nice) and a part of the black forest cookie (they are very large) and it was very good--chocolaty, chewy. I may have to drive all the way across town just for the baked goods and just pretend I'm going there for breakfast....

            6 Replies
            1. re: Ediblethoughts

              Since most people work in the area it tends to pick up more for lunch. On weekends it is busy for breakfast and brunch.

              1. re: jamesm

                They were extremely busy for breakfast when I went on a Sunday.

                Service was very good and very sweet. A really fun environment for breakfast and lunch.

                My chipotle breakfast sandwich didn’t really thrill me to be honest. But I’m not a huge fan of cheese and butter and pork when combined like that so maybe it’s more my own tastes than their doing. I felt that it benefitted by a lot of salt+pepper. I also wasn’t thrilled with the homefried potatoes, though most people seem to love them. Again, for me it needed loads and loads salt and pepper and ketchup. They were fine, but I prefer my local greasy food joint’s homefries. My yogurt was really really bad; bland fruit and yogurt in a watery tasteless mess. Although it sure did look pretty.

                My lemon scone was probably the best scone I’ve ever had in my life. It was amazingly awesome. The root beer fudge cake was decent, no root beer flavours to be found anywhere which I’m sure is how it is supposed to taste like anyways. It was fine, but I don’t think I’d get that again. It’s name and concept sounded better than it tasted. Not bad, just not great. Maple scone which I had the next day was pretty good, but not nearly as good as the lemon scone. But it was day-old at that point so not sure if the comparison is entirely fair.

                Although my experience there was mixed I’d like to return and try some other things. Just not sure I’ll be rushing.

                1. re: magic

                  I just tried the root beer chocolate cake and I thought it had a detectable root beer flavour but it helped that I also tried one of the chocolate cup cake thingies also--which is root beerless. The icing on the cake is really good but I wouldn't get the root beer cake again---I just don't think root beer belongs in cake.

                  1. re: Ediblethoughts

                    It's odd, I really didn't get any root beer flavour at all. Just chocolate cake. Hmm.

                    1. re: magic

                      I tried the other part of the CRB cake last night and since I didn't also have the other chocolate cupcake (I think they called it a puff something cupcake) left to provide contrast, it just tasted like chocolate cake to me too. So there you are!

            2. Haven't had a full meal there (as yet) but I've got to chime in with how impressed I am with their baked goods. Chocolate chip oatmeal cookies, chocolate brownies, mini muffins... they've all been great.

              1. this is another post about SBC:


                I went there for breakfast today and the Eggs the Boss (2 eggs, bacon toast homefries) was very run of the mill - the toast wasn't bakery special, the eggs were not as runny as poached eggs should be and the bacon was barely warm.

                I shared a french toast dish as well and that was much much better. For my taste, the more interesting dishes on the brunch menu and the sweet dishes is where they do well.

                I haven't had any of the baked goods from the front of the store since my last visit which i posted about in the above link and at that time I wasn't impressed. Dry and heavy or over sweet...

                I like the space and I have had good meals there so I'll return. It's just unfortunate about the eggs.

                1. I've been to school a total of 3 times now, and obviously I've liked it enough to return, but I do have some quibbles. For one, they bake their own biscuits, cookies, etc. Yet, when you receive a biscuit with your meal it is tasty, but cold and hard. I know they're not baking to order, but I cant' help but think how much better it would be if they just warmed them slightly before serving. It would at least give the appearance of freshness.

                  On the subject of warmth on 2 occasions that I've had the home fries my table received were either luke warm or cold. My eggs benedict was also cold. Clearly the dish had been sitting a while.

                  Another issue can be with the service. One time I was there we arrived at the end of th lunch rush. We were seated quick enough, had our order taken, then waited and waited for our food. We were told several times that it was coming, but alas we waited some more (well over an hour). Turns out the people lining up for take out orders took precedence over us, and our order wasn't cooked until that line died down. WTF? We were told we'd get something from the bakery to make up for the wait, which satisfied me, until I realized we weren't able to choose our freebie. While I really wanted to try the rootbeer cake, instead I had to settle for cookies, which were good, but they were just cookies. I bake better ones IMHO.

                  8 Replies
                  1. re: Delish

                    I find the service to be rushed at lunch and another quibble is with the owner, Brad. Each time I've been in their he's been doing some kind of promo thing in the dining room. Once he had a photo shoot set up, another was sitting at a table doing an interview when there were people lining up and another time was at a table with a group of people with their lap tops open and papers scattered over the table. They weren't eating but kept getting up to go into the kitchen pushing through diners as they went. It's a little off-putting.

                    Plus, the menu has two tuna sandwich options one described as "Pole caught." I ordered it and it was clearly just tinned tuna. A quality tinned tuna, but tinned noentheless.

                    1. re: jamesm


                      Did it truly affect the service you required or did it simply get under your skin?


                      In Toronto is not all "pole-caught" tuna canned?

                      It's theoretically a better tuna non?

                      Albeit in a can.

                      Many of the better Ital/Cal restaurants use this I think.

                      Correct me if I am wrong please.

                      1. re: Non Doctor

                        No, it was truly disruptful. A photo shoot complete with lights during lunch rush?

                        And occupying a table for an interview while customers wait?

                        Possibly true about the tuna. I plead ignorance. But since it was the only one of the two options labelled as such I assumed there would be a difference between the two and it's a little misleading, but since I know now I won't hold that against them.

                        1. re: jamesm

                          I'm having trouble editing my initial post above and wanted to add that I was one of the first people to post a very positive review, so I'm not just complaining for the sake of complaining. I like the place and pointed out that it was a minor quibble.

                    2. re: Delish

                      I think the food is great and will go back but I find the service slooooooooooow. The two times I've been it's felt understaffed for sure.

                      I'm craving a lemon scone though...


                      1. re: wontonfm

                        Went again with co-workers for lunch. 45 minutes into the meal we were informed that they had run out of some of the items we ordered. We re-ordered and a half hour later were served. One co-worker recieved a raw burger. Not undercooked, raw. Brutal. To their credit they comped us the meal.

                        1. re: jamesm

                          4 of us were over for Sunday brunch a couple of weeks ago. Unbearably stylish and full of vacant ideas (let's serve entrees in lukewarm cast-iron casseroles that add nothing to its contents -- at least it looks good). N.B.: Their home fries are a combo of deep-fried chunks of white potatoes and scorched burnt chunks of deep-fried sweet potato.

                          1. re: tekkamaki

                            I have enjoyed brunch there many times. I have to say that the potatoes you describe are completely different than any I have had there. The potatoes are always one of the best items - never had them deep fried nor scorched. So strange to read that. Their combo of white and sweet potaoes with some onions is always sauteed and divine!

                    3. Hmm. I couldn't find this thread when searching 'School' but it turned up when I searched 'cupcakes.' :S

                      I've copied my post and pasted here.

                      A group of friends and I went for Saturday brunch this weekend at School Cafe and Bakery in Liberty Village (60 Fraser Ave, just west of Dufferin, south of King).

                      Wait time: I'd called ahead trying to make a reservation: no such luck. We were told to arrive before noon when apparently it starts to get crazy. The first of our party arrived at 11 -- and the wait was 48 minutes for a group of 5. We each got a shot of a (watery) berry smoothie during the wait.

                      The space: what a great concept! Thanks to huge windows, the place is flooded with natural light. The 'school' concept really works, and those with an appreciation for detail won't be disappointed (blackboards, clocks all set just before 3:30, bills delivered in report card envelopes). It's small enough to be cosy.

                      Coffee: Illy! Delicious, of course, and with quick refills. Milk and cream came served in sweet looking mini-milk bottles.

                      The food: I had blueberry pancakes on the recommendation of our server. They were perfect: fluffy but still with enough substance, tangy blueberrys in the pancakes, and a nice tart blueberry confit on the side, a cute shotglass of maple syrup and a dollop of fresh whipped cream on top. Friends had cheesy french toast, well reviewed on this board, and well reviewed at brunch as well! Tastes exactly as it sounds -- crispy on the outside, and super cheesy. Both mains served in cute mini cast iron pans. Banana muffin to close, which I felt was the weakest part of the meal, but still yum.

                      The service: quick, super friendly and professional. They won't split between more than two credit cards, so bring cash if you can.

                      In all: We all really enjoyed the food, the service, the place. I would highly recommend checking this place out but show up early and in small groups. : )

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: Yum2MyTum

                        Tried going to School (excuse the pun...if there is one) this past weekend for mothers day. As you did, tried to get a reservation, but no luck. My one lesson from this is the you can't be late for School (will the puns ever stop!?!?!).

                        The opened on Sunday at 10am, and apparently had a line around the building. Showed up with my mom at about 10:20, and was told that it would be a 45-60 minute wait.

                        Shame, cause I really wanted to try their grapefruit brulee.

                        Next time.

                        1. re: Yum2MyTum

                          You should try the biscuits and cookies next time. I found these are much better than the banana muffin. My fave is the black forest cookie.

                          1. re: tree25

                            The black forest cookie is really good! Definitely worth a trip to School to get more. (But the espresso, banana chocolate chip muffin was also extremely gooey and tasty!)

                            1. re: tree25

                              Too bad you didn't make it in Lazar. I do heartily recommend giving it another shot!
                              I will definitely try out the black forest cookie next time. Their baked goods are so delicious looking and beautifully displayed -- it makes standing in line that much more frustrating!

                          2. Went for brunch Sunday and I must say we were disappointed. They have a new brunch menu (different from what is online). Everything looks and sounds wonderful but our picks tasted mostly like... bisquick. The "omelette souffle" looked wonderful but tasted mostly of flour and a little sugar. My friend said, "It was misleading to call that an omelette" - not very eggy at all. The "beni-cakes" turned out to be eggs benedict on pancakes, which were again kinda floury and sweet - needed some salt, at least, but I'm not convinced this concept works at all. This dish was also billed as coming with asparagus, which turned out to be a garnish of MAYBE two thin asparagus spears sliced lengthwise. I bought a nice bunch of local asparagus for $1.29 later that day so I just don't get the small quantity, the plate looked really bare when it arrived too.
                            We also tried a lemon scone and a pepper bisuit came with the omelette. The lemon scone was nice, but the pepper biscuit again lacked salt and savoury flavour to balance the sweetish, bisquick taste.
                            A third friend ordered the cheeseburger, which was found to be raw in the middle. The server did offer another burger or another dish and finally took it off the bill with no fuss at all (we were ready to go).
                            All that said, we felt that other dishes HAD to be better, and if we lived nearby / brunched more often, we'd probably give it another try.

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: julesrules

                              Sad to hear this. I was hoping to try School this weekend, but maybe Atelier Thuet will be a better bet?

                              Do you remember if there are any dairy free and/or egg free dishes on the current brunch menu, since it's different than their online menu?

                              1. re: phoenikia

                                No, I don't remember. The cheeseburger had bacon and guacomole so it would probably be fine without the cheese, but maybe not what your dairy/egg-free friend has in mind :). I wouldn't have been looking for anything like that, but the options I remember definitely involved eggs, cheese, cream, etc.
                                I haven't been to Thuet but our final analysis was that we'd be back to Dessert Trends (our last brunch) before we'd go back to School. Brunch at Hart House also always appeals to me but I haven't tried it yet, and their menu is more limited.

                                1. re: julesrules

                                  Thanks julesrules.

                                  Definitely try the Gallery Grill at Hart House. It's one of my favourite places for lunch downtown. http://dine.to/profile_features.php?f...

                                  I wasn't that happy with my last experience at Dessert Trends, but I think I might have ordered badly. I did have a good experience last time I was at JKWB for brunch. Also was pretty happy with brunch at the Globe.

                                2. re: phoenikia

                                  Tried to go to school this past Sunday but didn't want to wait in line - so we headed over to Atelier Thuet instead. Excellent brunch and it seems like they're making an effort to improve the service. The pastries were top notch. My SO had the Kobe Hache and it was an insane amount of food. It seemed like everything came with a croissant that day. Thuet does one of the best brunches in the city for sure.

                              2. I had been for brunch to School before and loved the food. I find the lineups frustrating, but have attempted to go either early or late when they're less busy. The service has in general been ok, although understandably rushed. On Sunday May 24 I went with 2 friends and was EXTREMELY disappointed with the service. Their website lists brunch hours as follows:

                                Mon - Fri: 8am to 7pm (detention from 3:30 - 7)
                                Saturday: Brunch 10 - 4
                                Sunday School: Brunch 10 - 4

                                We arrived at 2:50, there was no lineup and we were COMPLETELY ignored for 15 minutes. It wasn't that we weren't seen, it was that they looked right past us. When one of my friends finally got frustrated and went to ask what was going on we were told that the kitchen was closing at 3 and they weren't seating any more people. Needless to say, not only did the brunch hours not reflect those listed, but the lack of courtesy in informing us of the adjustment was astounding. I have enjoyed previous brunches at School a great deal, but this experience left me unhappy and unlikely to go again.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: MaryZ

                                  I wholeheartedly agree... The service was atrocious and they should be ashamed. The first time I went we waited a good 10 minutes before they even acknowledged our existence - even though we were clearly waiting to be seated. Not to mention there were barely any customers! The second time we waited about 5-10 minutes again; this time there were servers hurrying past us avoiding eye contact... They were NOT even understaffed so it's inexcusable.

                                  Albeit the service, the food really was wonderful: my boyfriend had the Egg White Frittata with Shrimp while I had the Strawberry Shortcake Buttermilk Pancakes. Both were marvelous. The egg dish was fresh and the flavours blended nicely; the pancakes moist and stuffed with slices of strawberries between the layers, topped with a dollop of whipped cream. I would consider going again but the service is truly THAT horrendous that I hesitate.

                                  PS: The food took 40 minutes to arrive... I think the server forgot about it haha. The tables around us that arrived later, got their food within 10 minutes of ordering. At least our server was nice!! Overall though, a frustrating experience.

                                  1. re: jemmy

                                    hey! that's pretty much my experience too.. it really seems like you have to know everyone there to get service...some other people who arrived later than us got their food way before us..and we ordered pretty much the same things! but as said food good..service not so much

                                2. Looking for a place for breakfast on Sunday morning that opened before 11AM that wasn't a diner, decided to try School. Arrived at 10:30, no lineup, seated right away. A server appeared pretty quickly and took beverage orders, but took off so fast that she had to stop and from two tables away holler back "milk or cream?", back reasonably quickly for food orders and again off again so fast she didn't hear (or pretended to not hear) a request for water. Drinks arrive quickly, another request for water made, which is apparently ignored. Now the wait kicks in, the table next to us who look like they've been there a while, are visited by a server who apologizes for their food taking so long and promises it will be out soon, there is a constant stream of uniformed servers moving through the dining room, all with the practiced ability to not make eye contact with the patrons, one guy even appears periodically with a water picture, fills the glasses at some random table then disappears back to the station. We finanally did manage to get water. After about 20 minutes my lovely companion says "I'm starting to get worried, in the time we've been here have you actually seen any food delivered to anyone" at which point, pretty much on cue, a couple of dishes appear and are served across the room, food starts to trickle out and the party beside us are served.

                                  My wife had ordered the "Gooey 4 cheese omlette souffle" I ordered the eggs benedict, almost immediately after our neighbours are served our food arrives, my food and plate are stone cold, it's obviously been sitting around, a skin is visibly forming on the Hollandaise, flag down a server and ask her to "have the kitchen run this under the broiler, it's cold", she zips off with the dish and is back in a flash with another one "they had another one made up", by this time my wife has tasted her meal and pronounced it good, but she notices that the green salad described on the menu is AWOL. My dish is better, but only slightly, lukewarm at best, and for the trouble the eggs are overdone, solid yolks, I quickly did the calculus on my chances of improving things and decided I might as well make lemonade out of these lemons. It was otherwise OK but not exceptional, I found the whole thing pretty bland.

                                  So I finish my meal and my wife is almost finished hers and a server appears, approaches our table with what is obviously our actual order, complete with the missing salad, then notices we already have entree plates on the table, does a double take then spins and disappears back to the kitchen, so I don't know who's food we got. Given the margins on breakfast whatever profit the could conceivably have made off us was wiped out by making the same orders two or three times. I have to say if I had actually been made to wait that long, begging for water and coffee refills and studying the cobwebs in the corner I would have been pretty pissed.

                                  Too bad because the place has so much potential, the food if it was executed correctly instead of halfassed would be great, the potential for service is there, heck if anything they were overstaffed but I'm going to need to hear a LOT of positive reviews and not a peep about problems before I'm willing to give them another shot.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: bytepusher

                                    i am at a loss to understand the appeal of this place other than location and the fact it is somewhat newish and everyone wants to hop on the latest trend so as not to be out of fashion. but you wait to get in, you wait to get served and you wait for food-they should rename the customer as the waiter. the food is sometimes great, but usually mediocre. there are other places in toronto and even in the neighborhood that are better and more established. mildred's temple kitchen, the liberty are just two within blocks of the place.

                                    1. re: robgm

                                      Their baked goods were really good. Other than that, I'd agree that there are other places that make very good breakies so why torture one's self.

                                    2. re: bytepusher

                                      I was considering going here for breaky next week but you've convinced me I don't want to do that. I love their baked goods but the service needs emergency help.

                                    3. The banana macadamia nut pancakes don't actually contain macadamia nuts - there were just a few nuts crumbled on top. And the maple syrup-brown-sugar-butter paste that they provide on the side is like a scoop of brown sugar and butter, so there's nothing to pour on the pancakes, leaving them dry. I supposed I could have paid extra for maple syrup, but I thought $13 for a plate of pancakes was already a lot.
                                      At $3.50 for a cup of tea, it should be boiling hot and there should be enough tea leaves to make 2 cups of tea. There weren't enough tea leaves for one strong cup of tea. "Hot" water was lukewarm.
                                      Note that prices listed on the website are out of date.