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Brunch Suggestions To Impress New York Guests

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We are meeting some friends, in from New York, tomorrow for brunch and wonder what places right now might impress them in Toronto.

Thanks,

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  1. Gallery Grill at Hart House. The setting will feel really special and the food is excellent.

    Or if you're going for the blow-your-arteries factor, I'd take them to The Stockyards for chicken and waffles or Beast for the McBeastwich.

    14 Replies
    1. re: TorontoJo

      Thanks - I was looking at Beast but unfortunately they only Brunch on Sundays.

      I had no idea Hart House had a brunch spot - it may be a great idea.

      1. re: glickjor

        Second Hart House.

        1. re: glickjor

          Yep: http://www.dine.to/sites/gallerygrill...

          It's beautiful, and the food really is delicious.

          1. re: TorontoJo

            It's a no-go - not open for brunch Saturdays (neither is stockyards)

            I will have to check Hart House out though -

            1. re: glickjor

              Marben does Saturday Brunch if I'm not mistaken. You could also do Dim Sum at Lai Wah Heen.

              1. re: Matt H

                I've heard the brunch at Marben is delicious (haven't been for brunch). Does anyone know if the quality is on the same level as it was before Carl left? I haven't been since the change over in the kitchen.

                1. re: Splendid Wine Snob

                  I've only been for dinner as well, but have heard the same about the Brunch. I am not familiar with the history behind the restaurant, did the original chef leave recently?

                  1. re: Splendid Wine Snob

                    I had an underwhelming brunch at Marben last summer. My burger was decent, but my friends' bacon & eggs were cold, and the service was spotty. Maybe it was an off day. I don't know if it's improved since then.

                    Has anyone brunched at the Drake recently? I've usually liked my brunches at the Drake. http://www.thedrakehotel.ca/dining/me...

                    Le Select serves brunch on Saturday. It opens at 11 am. http://www.leselect.com/

                    1. re: prima

                      I like brunch at the Drake as well. I've only eaten in the cafe, but the fried chicken and waffles there was kind of awesome.

                    2. re: Splendid Wine Snob

                      There hasn't been a degradation in the quality of the food as yet... Keeping my fingers crossed. Brunch is there best service - although, the service can be spotty at times. Staff turnover there is dizzying.

                  2. re: glickjor

                    Ugh, sorry! In my head, they were open Saturday and not Sunday. Dang.

                    Stockyards does offer a limited brunch menu on Saturdays -- chicken and waffles, biscuits and gravy, the Stockyards sandwich, and couple of other things maybe. But it's not a fancy place at ALL, so it may not be the type of place you're looking for.

                    1. re: TorontoJo

                      I think Marben and Lola's Kitchen might be at the top of my list right now - thoughts?

                      1. re: glickjor

                        I love Lola's Kitchen, so that's always a good bet -- and you can make reservations, which you'll need unless you get there when the open at 10.

                        I love Marben, but haven't had brunch there. And like SWS, I haven't heard what the quality is like since Carl left.

                        1. re: TorontoJo

                          I've been to Marben for brunch a few times and loved it - after Hoof Cafe closed, I pretty much went there or Beast. But no idea what things are like now that Carl left. Dim sum might be a fun alternative?

            2. My choices would be
              1. Lai Wah Heen
              2. Holt's Cafe

              I was at Marben (last month for dinner not brunch) and I am still wondering why people rave about it. Have no plans to return.

              2 Replies
              1. re: estufarian

                Funny that's how I feel about Yours Truly!

                1. re: estufarian

                  Based on my brunch at Marben, I also couldn't figure out the raves. I figured dinner must be much better than brunch, or I hit an off day at Marben.

                2. School Bakery in Liberty Village does brunch 7 days a week now. It's not mind blowing, but it's solid and in an interesting neighborhood.

                  9 Replies
                  1. re: GoodGravy

                    My brunch main at School was tiny. The portions reminded me of Lean Cuisine. Afterwards, I wished I'd gone to Lola's or Easy.

                    1. re: prima

                      I agree with GG - not mind blowing, but very decent! I don't know when you went there, Prima, but the portions are now humongous! I'm stuffed leaving there each time. Oh, and I would argue that they have the best cheddar biscuits in the city.

                      1. re: justxpete

                        Glad they increased their portions. Sounds like they've pulled up their socks since I went.

                        1. re: prima

                          I left full so either they upped the portion sizes or you have a bottomless pit for a stomach. As for service, it was attentive. No long waits for ordering, drinks or food delivery. It wasn't rushed either, but one thing was like NYC: the wait. We showed up around 2:30 on a Sunday and still waited about 30 minutes. Luckily, it was unseasonably warm for March. Food was solid. Not amazing, not terrible, but I'd put it above average.

                    2. re: GoodGravy

                      Unless they've stepped up their game significantly (and I don't hear any reports to suggest they have) School isn't a place to impress anyone. The brunch I had there was the worst meal I've had in the city in a few years.

                      1. re: bytepusher

                        Really? The very worst meal in years? You may wish to try them again because in no way do they serve the worst food in the city. You had a VERY off day.

                        1. re: justsayn

                          OK to be fair, it was actually probably the second worst meal I've had in a couple years, and the problems were limited to service and quality, it's not like I was served rotten food or bugs or something genuinely dreadful (happened, a long time ago, that place thank god is no longer in business although the "chef" is still banging around town).

                          Initially served a stone cold plate where a skin had formed on the Hollandaise, god knows how long it had been sitting in the pass and it took them 2 more tries to get a hot meal in front of me. There were other issues.

                          I'm prepared to believe it was just a bad day but the problems certainly were more than just a kitchen in the weeds. Thing is for every 2 or three good reviews I hear about this place I hear someone complain about similar issues. I'm not prepared to take the risk.

                          1. re: bytepusher

                            my problem with school is the servers who just don't care or couldn't be bothered. i can understand bad service but this being ignored while i don't have anything else to do service drives me insane. the cutesy report card bill folds don't make up for the junior high level of service. the food is merely meh

                            1. re: ingloriouseater

                              Our service was pretty bad, too. I didn't like the fact there was no sneeze guard protecting the baked goods on display from the line-up of brunch-goers who were lined up near the front. One customer's ponytail came dangerously close to the baked goods when the customer turned her head quickly. The customer was oblivious, and so was the staff, and I stayed away from baked goods that day, ;-) Maybe the set-up has changed since then.

                    3. Keriwa Café does Saturday brunch. Excellent food and nice atmosphere.

                      1. - Frank is a nice space, and I've enjoyed brunch here a few times. Food is solid-to-good
                        - Parts & Labour is trendy/hipster, but good execution on a straight-forward menu. Bottomless coffee to boot.

                        That's all I got right now. I also like Lady Maramalade, but that's not super nice and they have ridiculous line ups.

                        12 Replies
                        1. re: jlunar

                          someone mentioned it in another thread and reminded me of Cafe Belong. Nice space. Food is okay. Can walk Brickworks after.

                          1. re: jlunar

                            Nice to see that Parts & Labour takes reservations through Opentable for their Sun brunch.

                            1. re: prima

                              I went to P&L for Brunch on Sunday, for the first time, and was disappointed, unfortunately. Service was odd, and somewhat sloppy (we were given our utensils always just in time, on a number of occasions), no freshly squeezed juices, and the food was just average, and under-seasoned. I won't be going back any time soon.

                              1. re: justxpete

                                i agree jxp, not on my go to places in my hood.

                                1. re: ingloriouseater

                                  Thanks jxp + ie.

                                  1. re: prima

                                    Every couple months or so we'll give it another try but there is always something wrong at P&L to bring down the experience.

                                    1. re: justsayn

                                      Such as? (just curious). I found a lot of mis-steps that I didn't bother mentioning.

                                      1. re: justxpete

                                        First visit - pancakes which were gluey and not edible. They insisted on remaking them because they "knew the batter looked a bit off" and indeed the second try brought some of the best we've had in the city since Verveine closed. I didn't like that they knew it wasn't right and served it anyway.

                                        Next time we didn't get served while others around us did and instead of an apology we were told that "great things are worth waiting for" - ummm not really. But truth be told the food was very good.

                                        So we try again and to be honest I forget what the problem was - but I think it was the eggs or something.

                                        Then a few months later (last month) we wanted those delicious pancakes. We ordered the blueberry pancakes, not only were there ZERO blueberries in them (save literally 4 sitting on top) they were gluey again. We traded in for steak and eggs which were delicious!

                                        So that's our experience. No real reason to go back.

                                        1. re: justsayn

                                          Sounds like you really tried!

                                          1. re: justxpete

                                            I generally do give chances - but I dont report these things unless it comes up. As with most of my posts, I am not black and white on restos when there is good promise. I enjoy the vibe there and hoped they would get it together. Most places do or they die. The last visit with the non-blueberry blueberry pancakes was the nail in the coffin though.

                                          2. re: justsayn

                                            OMG we used to LOVE Verveine brunch. I was so said when it fell apart. Barrio was a weak second resto for her and Fare, we is just fair at best.

                                            1. re: JennaBean

                                              Big loss - the owners were at odds unfortunately. It was the perfect place in many ways.

                            2. Not sure if Burlington is too far, but Spencer's on the Waterfront offers a good brunch Sunday mornings with a great view.

                              7 Replies
                              1. re: pakmode

                                Thanks for all of the recs - I now have a reservation at Lolas and am looking forward to it. I'm at definitely looking forward to trying some of the other places on this list though.

                                1. re: glickjor

                                  I was going to ask you to give a sense of your friends' preferred vibe. When I think of the best New York brunches, I tend towards places in the Village or Chelsea or LES. If that's what you're looking for, then I'd say The Drake, Beast (not on Saturdays, I know), Lola's and maybe Marben (haven't been yet) are your best bet. All have good food, good coffee, heavy crowds and buzz and lots of breakfasty brunch items to choose from. If your friends prefer a more upscale or quieter spot, or a more lunchy brunch, Frank or Gallery Grill or Studio Cafe might be more their style. Enjoy!

                                  1. re: peppermint pate

                                    Marben benny is pretty darn good! L’Ouvrier is excellent for brunch.

                                    1. re: peppermint pate

                                      I thought the Four Seasons closed for good on Wednesday. Wouldn't that mean the Studio Cafe is closed?

                                    2. re: glickjor

                                      How did your brunch at Lola's go?

                                      1. re: TorontoJo

                                        Thanks for asking!!!

                                        Lola's was a super hit - from the coffee to the cocktails.

                                        serving rice krispie squares up front is a great idea and a new one for my New York guests.

                                        I had the breakfast bowl which perhaps was the only dish that had a flaw as the potatoes came out undercooked and hard. There was so much food and other starches on the table, though, that it didn't bother me.

                                        we also had at the table a 'shrooms benny, croque lola and an order of granola and yogurt.

                                        finally - we shared the stuffed french toast which is legitimately stuffed with lemon cheesecake, not just the cheese part but also the crust.

                                        We also could not have had better service - we were dining with a baby as well and they were easy and accomodating and the brunch just flowed.

                                        I will DEFINITELY be back - thanks to all for the helpful responses.

                                        1. re: glickjor

                                          Glad it was a good brunch!

                                          I like the Eggs Rancheros.

                                  2. The Drake gets my vote, too. Other options: Mildred Temple Kitchen (they also take reservations, which is a bonus); Utopia Grill; maybe Origin?

                                    1. gusto on portland now serves brunch

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: thebutcher

                                        Has anyone tried Gusto's brunch?
                                        Looks good: http://gusto101.squarespace.com/brunch/ , and looks like they sometimes take reservations for Sat and Sun brunch.

                                        1. re: prima

                                          Brunch was VERY good.

                                      2. No one has mentioned my favourite brunch spot - MoRoCo in Yorkville. They do amazing "cheesy french toast" and the eggs benny is great too. Very upscale, girly vibe, service is good, not cheap. More a "ladies who lunch" brunch than a "hipster" brunch, if you know what I mean. They also sell amazing chocolate and you get one on the side of your coffee!

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: JToronto

                                          Funny - I happened to be there for my first time this past weekend (I had no idea this place existed) and while the decor strikes me as a place for ladies to enjoy high tea, the food was quite delicious. Lattes come with a macaron on the side (which was delicious). We had a rather large party and tried a large number of items on the menu. Standouts included all of the baked goods (I recommend getting the pastry basket to share with the table), the truffled eggs, sausage and cheesy french toast. Salmon that came out with one of the meals was also expertly prepared (it wasn't smoked salmon - it was atleast a 6 oz filet). The poached eggs, unfortunately, all came out hard poached initially but, without hesitation, our server suggested that we keep our plates and within minutes, brought out soft poached eggs for everyone whose eggs came hard poached.

                                          Rather decadent experience, I found.