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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?