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good brunch with a friendly, down-to-earth vibe

Anyone have any suggestions for a brunch place with a down-to-earth vibe?

Looking for places where the service is friendly, as well as places where the customers generally come across as down-to-earth and friendly.

I'm also looking for the kind of place where you could eat brunch at the bar solo, and end up talking to someone eating brunch next to you. Or where you might end up talking to the table of guests seated next to you. I realize some Chowhounds don't like talking to strangers at other tables, but I wouldn't mind hearing about places where strangers do talk to one another at brunch.

Any part of the city, restaurants and pubs would work.

I find the servers at Lola's Kitchen and Stockyards very friendly. Pizzeria Libretto Danforth and Pizzeria Libretto on Ossington have had a friendly, down-to-earth vibe whenever I've been there for brunch.

I haven't been for a while, but I used to find the Rebel House had a down-to-earth vibe during brunch.

Has anyone tried the brunch at Cowbell?

Thanks for any ideas.

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  1. White Brick Kitchen. I have had several brunches there with my sunday paper. Phenomenal scottish eggs, great coffee, cheerful staff, and it's not busy.

    Fanny Chadwick. Very delicious hash. Great vibe and the clientele is really laid back and fun. I often see people doing brunch at the bar solo.

    31 Replies
    1. re: happycamper

      Thanks happycamper.

      I had brunch at White Brick Kitchen last week. Our server was cheerful. I liked the cutie pies (hand pies). The restaurant was full last Saturday at 1 pm. A few people arriving closer to 1:45 had to wait a short amount of time for a table. I guess the trick is to brunch earlier, as is the case with most of the more popular brunch spots south of St. Clair.

      Will have to try Fanny Chadwick's. Thanks also for recommending the dishes you've liked!

      1. re: happycamper

        +1 White Brick Kitchen. You must try the cinnamon bun waffles. They just added them to the menu. I was there @ 9:30 on a Sunday, and it was fairly empty.

        Haven't been yet, but Rose and Sons might be to your liking as well.

        1. re: kwass

          Hope to try the cinnamon bun waffles on another visit. The banana bread French toast is only available Sundays.

          1. re: prima

            Tried the banana bread french toast today. Wow...was it ever delicious! It's more like a dessert than breakfast, but it was soooo good!! I highly recommend it to anyone looking for really good (and different) french toast. And if you're not looking for something super sweet, ask for the caramel sauce on the side. The banana bread french toast is truly wonderful on its own.

            1. re: kwass

              Good to hear it was worthwhile!

              1. re: prima

                It definitely was :)

                Next on my list is The Saint on Ossington. Not sure if it has a down-to-earth vibe, but the food is supposed to be really good!

                1. re: kwass

                  I wish The Saint still served the cinammon buns because they were truly outstanding. Server said they were too big so people didn't order them on return visits. They had great donuts though! I stopped going only because of the terribly random mix of music they play.

                  1. re: justsayn

                    What a shame that they stopped serving cinnamon buns. I can't imagine not ordering something because it's too big. That's what doggie bags are for (lol).

                    1. re: kwass

                      HA! I always started off by saying I will eat "some" of it. But by the end of the meal, I was licking the plate. They were unreal. Buttery. Crisp Edges. White icing that wasn't just nasty sugar. Flaky cakey and then the cinammon. They really should reduce the size if thats the problem. But who knows...maybe they lost their pastry chef?

                      1. re: justsayn

                        After hearing your description, I'm sad that I never got to try them. And you're right...why not just reduce the size!

                        1. re: kwass

                          And honestly....they could make them available for take out in 4s or whatever. They were really that special. The only criticism could be about how rich, sweet and buttery because they were truly sinful.

                          1. re: justsayn

                            I would definitely get a box of 4 for take out. As for your criticism, I think I could live with that :)

                    2. re: justsayn

                      The Saint is serving the pecan cinnamon buns (2 personal-sized buns for $6), but the server let us know they sell out fast. We were lucky to order the last pair available today, around noon. Nice version.

                      1. re: prima

                        Are the pecans just on top or all the way through? I ask only because I'm not a giant fan of nuts in baked goods.

                        1. re: kwass

                          All the way through, but these buns were not especially pecan-heavy. They were ground up, and rolled into the dough with the cinnamon sugar.

                          1. re: prima

                            I don't mind them if they're ground up. That's very good news. Now I can put them back on my list of things to try :)

                2. re: kwass

                  Glad you loved it : ) Sounded like it would be right up your alley!

                      1. re: kwass

                        Do you ever to go The Sister (formerly Mitzis)? They have great french toast and pancakes and the toppings change every weekend. Some are very dessert oriented and delicious!

                        Hadley's also has great french toast and their weekly toppings tend to be very sweet and desserty.

                        1. re: justsayn

                          I did go to the Sister, and I loved their french toast. Unfortunately, haven't tried Hadley's yet .

                          1. re: kwass

                            Sister pancakes too! Not normal pancakes as it is a big baked oatmeal pancake, but soooo good. The edge is so great. I didn't like it the first time but came to love them.

                            1. re: justsayn

                              Mmmm....sound yummy! Never tried the pancakes, only the french toast.

                              1. re: justsayn

                                While I like some of the food there, I can't handle the kids. The last time I went on a weekend I felt like I was in a daycare. For me that's the ultimate deal breaker. I just can't cope.

                                1. re: JennaBean

                                  I guess because I eat brunch out every single weekend, sometimes twice, it is important to have options!

                                  If I am in the mood for their pancakes, spicy eggs, or their PLT, nothing else will do. I find all of those above average in their category. Their granola was once excellent but too inconsistent now IMO. Good french toast but not my favorite in the city so I don't order it there. Never once got sick there so I would don't even think about that.

                                  I agree it can be overrun by kids , but that is maybe 20-25% of the time. If you sit up front, there are never any kids, but you need to ignore what goes on in the back section.

                                  Best brunch spot in the city? Of course not.

                                  Service is always efficient and friendly.

                            2. re: ingloriouseater

                              Why is it that in that one resto people allow their kids to run around screaming and all out of control like? I just don't get it. If I'm ever forced to return, I'm bring duct tape. I may get arrested but it will make it all worthwhile!

                              1. re: JennaBean

                                I think it is a laid back spot so it attracts parents with poor skills who therefore have VERY limited options for brunching with their kids.

                        2. re: kwass

                          The cinnamon bun waffles sound very interesting.

                          The only thing that concerns me is I am not a white chocolate fan and this dish appears like it might possibly be too sweet for me. Would you recommend it for someone who is not a fan of white chocolate?

                          I love Cinnabon (which while sweet still has lots going on to balance it), but white chocolate and cream cheese for brekky.... I dunno.... what do you think??

                          1. re: magic

                            The cinnamon bun waffle was REALLY good!! I'm not a giant fan of white chocolate either, and to be honest with you, I couldn't taste it at all. It just tasted like the cream cheese frosting you would get on a cinnamon bun. The waffle itself isn't particularly sweet, and that helps balance it out. The brown sugar streusel topping, also isn't particularly sweet. It adds a really nice crunch, and it too balances out all of the flavours. Overall, it's a great dish!

                    1. I liked Quinta for brunch - they seemed very neighbourhood-y and like you could definitely strike up a convo with the people around you if that's what you're inclined to do! There have been mixed reviews on it, and I've only been once, but I would definitely return if I were in the area (Little Portugal) more often! Chowhound thread over here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/882475

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: blurion

                        Thanks. Hoping to try Quinta, it's on the list.

                      2. Cowbell brunch is very good. Friendly too. Not usually too busy.
                        Hadley's is a friendly, chatty spot for sure. Saturday for fried chicken and french toast!
                        I think Universal Grill meets that criteria

                        And Marben

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: justsayn

                          Definitely Universal Grill. Also Easy -- both the original in Parkdale and the new outpost on College have a really relaxed atmosphere.

                          And my favourite neighbourhood place, Zocalo. One of the reasons I keep going back -- aside from the good food and the proximity to my house -- is that the staff is really friendly and warm.

                          1. re: piccola

                            I love Easy.

                            Will have to try Zocalo and Universal Grill.

                            Thanks justsayn & piccola.

                        2. My fave for brunch is Saving Grace but lines are always long so I put my name on the list and head a few doors west to Ezra's pound for coffee and to read the NYTimes while I wait. Worth it.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: GRobin

                            Hmmm...good to know. Are there lineups first thing in the morning or do they start later on?

                            1. re: kwass

                              Not the OP but I live in the neighbourhood and walk my dog past almost every Sat/Sun morning and there are always lineups. They start before the place opens. It's a teeny little restaurant.

                              1. re: ramenramen

                                Wow! That's crazy! I can't believe people line up even before they open.

                            2. re: GRobin

                              Happy to hear Saving Grace is still good.

                              1. re: Bobby Wham

                                Really want to try this place! Their bread pudding sounds yummy!

                                1. re: kwass

                                  The bread pudding is insane, like the most decadent french toast you've ever had, i would eat it for breakfast

                                  1. re: Bobby Wham

                                    I was planning on eating it for breakfast. And, with your recommendation, I think I'm going to go this weekend!! Is it a large serving or itty bitty?

                              2. Found the brunch at the Monk's Table to have a very friendly, down-to-earth vibe. I'll be back. Maybe to try the English breakfast next time. http://www.themonkstable.com/menu/bru...

                                1. I am not a brunch person, typically. My idea of brunch is pho or dim-sum. That said, I really enjoyed Redfish. The service was exemplary, the menu offered lots of tempting options, all food was prepared and plated with great care, and the freshness of everything, from lightly dressed arugula on the side of a plate to oysters with freshly grated horseradish, was evident. Poached farm fresh eggs were perfectly cooked. The owner and chef take great pride in their offerings and are eager to share the provenance of their sustainable fish and seafood offerings. All breads and pastries are made in house, as are the preserves, mustards and other accompaniments to their dishes.

                                  While it was nice to find no lineups or a noisy crowded room, it was eerily quiet. Only one other table appeared to be taken. I had made a reservation, which obviously was not necessary, but I really hope that on future visits that a reservation is essential.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: 1sweetpea

                                    Yeah, it sounds like these guys are going downhill unfortunately.

                                    It's a shame, because the menu really did look like an interesting and fishy alternative to traditional brunch. It actually made our shortlist yesterday!

                                    Maybe next time we will pull the trigger on Redfish.

                                  2. I can't believe no one has mentioned Emma's Country Kitchen yet! I just ate there yesterday and it strikes all the cords you are looking for!

                                    First of all, the food is super super basic but EXCELLENTLY prepared. Everything tastes like it was freshly prepared the day it was served. You could taste all the sausage seasoning, the biscuits were really light and flakey etc.

                                    But in terms of atmosphere this place is exactly what you are looking for. You could definitely strike a conversation with a nearby table (provided it didn't contain a couple that wanted to be left alone) or the person sitting next to you by the window. Even the waitresses were pretty bright and cheery.

                                    This is not a bastion of supreme hipdom like The Federal, Aunties and Uncle or Grand Electric (though the last one is still a good choice)!

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: mnajji

                                      It has been mentioned. Just not on this thread. Love Emma's!

                                    2. Bumping this. Anyone have an amazing brunch over the past 2 weeks? Where are you brunching this weekend?

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: prima

                                        Went to farmhouse tavern in the summer, thought it was nice on the patio. Food was okay, good atmosphere.

                                        Havn't been but heard acadia has an awesome brunch. Going this week :D

                                        Went to chantecler last week and it was awesome! Very good food and friendly staff. They just got a review from now magazine -


                                        1. re: brushfire

                                          Hope you enjoy Acadia! ;)

                                          1. re: prima

                                            Acadia is non longer doing brunch...

                                            They have not updated their website

                                            1. re: brushfire

                                              Thanks for the update. Too bad!

                                              I ended up having brunch at Glas Wine Bar yesterday, which takes reservations through Opentable. There were around a dozen people waiting in line at Lady Marmalade when I arrived at 10:55 on a Sunday, and we still had at least 8 people ahead of us 15 minutes later, so my friend and I had decided to give Glas's brunch a try.

                                              I liked Glas' baked eggs with shortribs, which was a special, but my friend's frittata was very small. No pastries were available. I think the server mentioned the place where they had been sourcing their scones was no longer in business, and they hadn't found a new source yet. Service was very friendly, and they let people brunch and linger (there was no line, but the restaurant was almost full when we left at 12:45 pm.) http://glaswinebar.com/glas-brunch/

                                              Also noticed Le Canard Mort is now Bistro 896. Bistro 896 is one door west of Lady Marmalade, and takes brunch reservations through Opentable (but that didn't appear to sway the line of people at Lady Marmalade standing near the door to Bistro 896). Has anyone been there for brunch? http://www.bistro896.com/Menu.html

                                      2. I'll throw out Hammersmith's at Gerrard and Logan.

                                        4 Replies
                                        1. re: TorontoJo

                                          It's next on my east-of-Yonge brunch list, TorontoJo!

                                          1. re: prima

                                            Skip the omelette, as I think you generally prefer a Greek-style omelette. He makes them French style, and he makes them fairly dry (which my DH loves).

                                            The scones and other baked goods are always lovely and baked fresh that day by Britney.

                                            The duck plate is great, as is the bacon hash (which I always get a side of, regardless of what I order). Specials and sandwiches have always been tasty.

                                              1. re: prima

                                                I love his omelettes too! Esp the mushroom and comte. That along with the simple side salad of greens and radish is a lovely way to start the day.

                                                Mr Millygirl loves the chicken club sandwich and we always get whatever the side salad is. Again, very simple but always a home run. The green beans and watercress combo is addicting.

                                                Love the baked goods and freshly squeezed juices and bonus for the bodum coffee.