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Jan 31, 2004 03:37 PM

best brunch places in Toronto?

  • r

Ever since Curiousity in the Annex closed, my husband and I have been on the prowl for a brunch joint that is as good. (Do I EVER miss their eggs benne!!) Any suggestions? (no greasyspoons, please.)

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  1. There's a thread below on brunch, but I am very partial to Verveine, which has great atmosphere - relaxed but skilled - and fine food.

    Queen E., a few blocks E. of Pape. Sat and Sun from 10 AM. No reservations but get there early.


    3 Replies
    1. re: Richard

      Several places out here in Leslieville:- the aforementioned Verveine, Hello Toast & Edward Levesques' Kitchen. For diner type of breakfast, try The Tulip, (massive egg & peameal bacon plate!).
      All are good & moderately priced, but don't take reservations.

      1. re: ilona

        some of my fave brunches are at goldfish, the peartree on parliament -the back room & patio is very pretty, and la palette in kensington market.. or for something different there's freetimes cafe for a hearty jewish brunch - yummy :)

        1. re: kavita

          I never quite got the appeal of the Peartree. Yeah, the free coffeecake is great, but the rest is only okay.

    2. I highly recommend Insomnia which is also in the Annex. Their eggs benne is super delicious...not to mention those "coated" home fries...yummmm!! Great price, great food and relaxed vibe...can't ask for anything more.

      1 Reply
      1. re: lmc1971
        Rebecca Jane

        I have been to Insomnia and the brunch was quite good. The only thing is that it's a bar at night, and so the smell of old cigarettes was a real turn-off.

        We recently went to the Beaver Cafe on Queen West - really excellent french toast. The grilled croissant with ham and havarti looked delic. also!
        If you're in the area, I reccommend it (the menu could stand to be a wee bit more substantial, however.)

      2. I loved Curiosity too. Now that I have moved out of the area I don't know what restaurants are still around. If you feel like taking a hike out east, I love the breakfast at a place called Joy Bistro on Queen East (Leslieville area), and a place called Sara's cafe on Danforth and Monarch Park. Their dinners suck but the eggs benn is excellent.

        1. It's pricier than your average brunch place, but for what you get, C5 (the restaurant in the ROM) has provided many a relabily well-executed, delicious brunch for me. They used to have this amazing breakfast burger with aged gruyere and a fried egg. (Recenlty I tried their corned beef sandwich which was well done, but too sour for my tastes.) The pastry basket is pretty good and absolutely huge (you get 6 full sized pastries in it!). And they recently changed their menu so that the desserts are amazing...the chocolate/nutella brownie is rich and fantastic!! Appetizers cost around $10-14, mains are around $20 and desserts are about $10, but you can get a 3-course prix fixe for $36. It's a great deal for what it is. And the service has always been very good. Admittedly, it's a bit noisy (cafeteria-like) in there and the views over the future garden are not particularly stunning (it would be more interesting to look out over Bloor St.), but the quality of food and service has made it a splurge-worthy brunch place.

          43 Replies
          1. re: TorontoTastress

            Hi TT - welcome to the board (she says nicely) and thanks for the review on C5. Did you happen to try any of their coffee? That's one of my key criteria for a great brunch place.

            Not sure if you realized but you dug up a 5 year-old thread - I was tipped off by the references to the long since gone Curiosity and Goldfish. Anyhow, if you surf around, you'll see a lot of recent posts on best brunches in the city, one of the favourite topics on this board (and for me).

            1. re: peppermint pate

              Hi PP -- ah, I guess I've outted myself as a novice quite promptly! Thanks for the tip.

              Yes, I did happen to try the coffee...I'm not a big coffee connosieur, but I find it strong and rich enough for my tastes. I like places that add a dash of cinnamon to their coffee though (e.g., Insomnia, By the Way Cafe), but perhaps that wouldn't satisfy coffee purists. I should also mention that I like vanilla lattes, though the coffee was much stronger than that. Interesting cutlery at C5 too!

              Where are your tried and true brunch places?

              1. re: TorontoTastress

                Hi TT - whenever I make brewed coffee, I always add some cinnamon - something I picked up from my mom so that's a happy food association for me. These days, though, I pretty much exclusively drink espresso-based coffees - americanos or lattes.

                In answer to your brunch question, it's a bit of a moving target for me as I'm a newish mom. A couple of years ago, I knew all the brunch spots in the city - these days, I have very different criteria as I'm looking for places we can go to as a family - I still want the great food and coffee but now I need them to open their doors by 9 and that knocks out many of the otherwise great brunch spots.

                For me, the bar was set by Sugar Cafe on West Queen West - RIP. It remains, for me, the most perfect brunch spot in Toronto - casual and effortlessly cool vibe, mismatched wooden tables and chairs, the best french toast - ever, yummy eggs benny, grilled cheese and fruit with granola, great coffee, great service and little ramekins of Stubbe milk chocolate that accompanied the coffee. It's been closed for more than a year now and I still miss it - deeply.

                I'm thinking of doing a big thread on toddler brunch spots as in recent months, I've been working my way around town - Easy Breakfast, Le Pain Quotidien, The Drake cafe, Three's Company, Ezra's Pound, To Go, etc. Of those, with or without kids, Easy Breakfast is easily on top - fun to go there and then wander up Roncesvalles afterwards.

                Other spots I've enjoyed in the past - Gallery Grill, Mildred Pierce (now gone), Xacutti (also gone - sigh), Bonjour Brioche, Bar Italia and Thuet (in one of its previous incarnations). Places that were so-so for me in the past but others really enjoy - Le Petit Dejeuner, Aunties and Uncles. Top of my "to try" list, and generally getting the most brunch buzz on this board these days, is School - Brad Moore's new spot in Liberty Village. Other spots I plan to hit when I get the chance - Harbord Room, Mitzi's Sister, revisit Morning Glory and Mitzi's, Luna Cafe and now, C5!

                1. re: peppermint pate

                  I know there was a thread on School somewhere here but I can't seem to find it. Anyway we had an awesome brunch there today. Line was out onto the sidewalk, but the wait was about 20 minutes for a table for two and well worth it. My partner got the potato and chiorzo omlet which was excellent.

                  I got the super cheesy french toast that was decadant goodness. French toast with a mix of oozing and crispy fried cheddar, with smoked bacon and a tasty green salad to balance it out. The homefries were a decent but not great..a mix of red and sweet potatos, the sweet were a bit on the mushy side. Everything else was stellar.

                  It's out of the way for us, but we were kind of nearby after running the in the 10k down Yonge St. this morning. Would make the trip across town for this again for sure.

                  1. re: abigllama

                    Abigllama, we also hit School today for brunch. Arrived at 10:00 (opening time) to a line of about 20. We moved in fairly quickly and the 7 of us were very happy with our brunch selections. Especially loved was the breakfast sandwich, a cheesy biscuit with egg, back bacon, chipotle flavours, served with the homefries for $8. I had the potato sausage omelette with melted brie. Very good as well. One other in our party really enjoyed the eggs benny. All in all, a great spot for brunch.

                    1. re: Yongeman

                      Glad to hear it. Those were all things we were thinking of getting too. I was at a toss up over the spicy eggs bene and the super cheesy french toast won. Looks like a trip back over is in order.

                      On a positive note, a guy and his girlfriend didn't like the line and tried to buy their way in like it was a club. They were told to get lost. :)

                      1. re: abigllama

                        That's an interesting story about the line, abl. We had a not-so-pleasant story. As our group of 7 were finishing up our brunch, the maitre d'/seater-guy asked us in a less-than-classy manner to leave and make room for others. We hadn't been lingering all that long, so it ended on a bit of a sour note. Won't stop us from returning for the food, though.

                      2. re: Yongeman

                        i had the biscuit today and it was very bland and boring, no chipotle flavours, the cheese was awol and the biscuit itself kind of bland given all the 'stuff' in it. i will go back and try some other things-given all the positives on the board for this place.

                        1. re: ingloriouseater

                          IE, I have to agree with you...the last time we went, two people in the party ordered the biscuit and it was without chipotle flavour. The biscuit itself was quite delicious, but no chipotle inside.

                      3. re: abigllama

                        I would happily nominate School Bakery for best brunch as well. I haven't even thought about Studio Cafe since it opened.

                        1. re: abigllama

                          Thanks for the reviews, guys. The cheesy french toast was a highlight of the chef's brunch menu at Xacutti. This place is top, top, top of my list of new spots to try.

                          1. re: peppermint pate

                            These are definitely great reviews... they are actually making me consider dragging half a dozen hung-over friend there to wait in line for forty-five minutes (estimated by whoever answered the phone when I called about reservations) for a surprise birthday brunch Saturday.

                            1. re: markdsgraham

                              Just a tip, if you're not up for waiting try to show up witha a group of two. There were several large groups waiting ahead of us and they got us in before them since we were a party of two. Not sure if I'd want to wait in a line on a sidewalk in the sun with a hangover, but hey that's just me!

                              1. re: abigllama

                                Chef and staff do come around with free nibblies for the queue. It takes the edge off of the waiting.

                                1. re: Googs

                                  And here I thought Googs didn't wait in line for anything. Good to know that nibblies make you more likely to sacrifice your principles. ;)

                                  1. re: Wahooty

                                    I still haven't really lined up there yet beyond a minute or two. One of the many advantages of being an early riser. I've only watched as people line up out the door and across the patio somewhat envious that they received free goodies. Perhaps next time I'll leave it til noon. If they could throw in a Morning Glory I'd be happy to wear flats.

                          2. re: abigllama

                            I have to agree with all those talking about the school bakery. I just love it! It's one of the best breakfasts in the city. I really loved the pancakes! I've gone there twice and can't wait to go back a third time. Their baked good are also really good. The chocolate cupcakes and brownies were yummy!

                          3. re: peppermint pate

                            I tried out Easy again today after not having been there in a year and it was very good---but the place was dead. Recession must be speaking with silent tables. Loved the breakfast burrito and the spelt toast was chewy and dense. Also the huge cappuccino I ordered was very good----and the nice edge doesn't usually "last" when a large size is ordered (i.e. it's milked down). If I lived closer to Easy, I'd be there a lot more often.

                            1. re: Ediblethoughts

                              Hi Ediblethoughts - glad you liked Easy. We haven't been there in a couple of months - too busy trying to enjoy some outdoor chow opportunities in this pseudo-summer we're having. Will definitely return one day soon.

                              1. re: peppermint pate

                                There's so few outdoor patios at places that do brunch! I tried Poor John's but it was a bit too smokey for me... (Or are you talking outdoor as in truly roughing it-----i.e. a picnic?!) (I should add, I have to do early morning brunch/breaky--places that open at 10 or 11am aren't too useful to me, sadly.)

                                1. re: Ediblethoughts

                                  Too true - good brunch + patio + early morning is a bit of a tough combo. We've been hitting up the Brickworks the past few week-ends and then we were out of town a bit. In town, my few suggestions would be Bonjour Brioche, coffee and granola parfait on one of the few front tables at Ezra's Pound, Aunties + Uncles (though it's never been my favourite), maybe Bar Italia. Hmm, I'll see if I can come up with any others. I can't remember if Drake Cafe (the one at street level) has any outside seats.

                                    1. re: peppermint pate

                                      Tried Bonjour Brioche a couple weeks back and it wasn't bad. Ezra's Pound seems kind of limited in selection (though I do read many positive posts on what dishes they do have). Bar Italia does early, huh? I'll keep that in mind...

                                      1. re: Ediblethoughts

                                        Near Bonjour Brioche, Joy Bistro has a large patio. So does Aunties and Uncles. School has a patio too!

                                        1. re: Yum2MyTum

                                          I've passed Joy a bunch of times; we do brunch on weekends less frequently (though soon my week day brunch/breakies will be much less frequent so I'll note Joy---nice menu).

                                        2. re: Ediblethoughts

                                          Ezra's is very limited - granola parfait is good, pastries are decent, coffee is very good. No french toast, pancakes or anything really filling. Bar Italia might not open till 10 - I used to really like sitting on their front patio for a waffle with fruit and honeyed ricotta and one of their very lovely cappuccinos. Like I said, early morning + great brunch + patio = holy grail.

                                          1. re: peppermint pate

                                            And add to that that it's (at least for the next week or two) more convenient to go out on weekdays, yeah, not easy at all!

                                            1. re: Ediblethoughts

                                              If you're willing to "give" on the patio, I can add Saving Grace and Morning Glory to the list for weekday brunch/brekkies. Oh yeah, and what about Mitzi's?

                                              1. re: peppermint pate

                                                Love Saving Grace though I haven't been there in a bit; went to Morning Glory once but we weren't that impressed with what we ordered--maybe in part because they only do the one omelette each day and it wasn't something that appealed to me. Love Mitzi's! Both SG and Mitzi's are pretty far away for me but we still try to get there now and then.

                                                1. re: Ediblethoughts

                                                  There's now a Mitzi's at College & Delaware, not too too far from Bar Italia... well, not as far as Sorauren, anyway.

                                                  1. re: kiwiFRUIT

                                                    That's good news - Sorauren can be a bit of a trek sometimes. It's not on their website yet. How far west of Bar Italia is this new location? Near Chiado? East of Dovercourt?

                                                    1. re: peppermint pate

                                                      The new location is very close to Chiado. It's at 890 College St., 1 block east of Dovercourt.

                                                2. re: peppermint pate

                                                  Morning Glory has a small, dingy patio out back.

                                                  1. re: Googs

                                                    Ooh, but if you head down the lane, Gilead has a patio now! I didn't check it out though, so I'm not sure how good/bad it is. However, I assume it's in the parking lot, so...

                                  1. re: peppermint pate

                                    I went to Le Petit Dejeuner this weekend and it was delicious! I got the Eggs Floretine and my dining companion got fresh fruit waffles ... yum! Great hollandaise, excellent eggs, delicious home fries...

                                    Both plates were enjoyed. Service was with a smile, quick and friendly and I loved the vibe of the place.

                                2. re: peppermint pate

                                  I clued in when someone mentioned the smell of cigarettes inside Insomnia. Yay, smoking ban!

                                3. re: TorontoTastress

                                  Hey, TT - thanks for your other post on Dessert Trends, it's been on my list for ever.

                                  Resurrecting ancient posts is a pitfall newcomers often fall into. You've got to check the date. It's more useful for everyone for you to start a new thread than bump up a five-yr-old one.

                                  thanks and welcome to the board (and I mean that sincerely, the rest of you!)

                                  1. re: JamieK

                                    And before you ask TT - no, he's not THAT JamieK(ennedy) - or so he says - another pitfall newcomers often fall into...:)

                                    1. re: JamieK

                                      Hi JK -- actually it's you I have to thank for pointing out my newbie mistake. Thanks. I might just start another post...

                                      I might give DT Bistro another chance to redeem itself on a slower night, since a co-worker had raved about their lunch. Let me know what you think if you try it.

                                      (BTW, I've enjoyed a number of fine dishes and discovered some stellar wine from your namesake's wine bar!)

                                      1. re: TorontoTastress


                                        JamieK has nothing to do with JKWB. He occasionally puts the following after his name: (NOT the chef).


                                        1. re: TorontoTastress

                                          Do try the brunch at DT Bistro. I've never had their dinner, but I love their brunch.

                                      2. The original comment has been removed
                                        1. While I'm somewhat lukewarm on Czehoski, they do make the most delicious roasted fingerling potatoes for breakfast I've ever had. How they get them so crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside I'll never know.

                                          1. Had a great benny at Czehoski's - the brie one. It had a lovely truffled bernaise on it. Good enough to want to go back the next week...! The BLT was merely okay, but Benny made it all worthwhile!

                                            Czehoski set:

                                            1. re: jlunar

                                              So I just checked out the on line brunch menu and it has only the itmes I've copied and pasted below----is the actual menu more extensive for brunch? (I see no brie benny...).

                                              Eggs Benedict with Olive Oil Hollandaise and green salad 12

                                              Scrambled eggs,roasted fingerling potatoes, sausage, green salad 11

                                              Veggie cheese burger 9

                                              Czehoski cheeseburger 10


                                                1. re: Splendid Wine Snob

                                                  I'm guessing instead of / or in addition to the clarified butter as part of the emulsification.

                                                  1. re: DrewStar

                                                    Then I'm sorry, but don't call it Hollandaise ;)

                                                    I'm being a butter snob here...


                                                      1. re: Splendid Wine Snob

                                                        sounds better then the previous title, olive oil bernaise...

                                                    1. re: Ediblethoughts

                                                      I have a menu in my flickr stream and it had options to the Benny.

                                                      reads as: Eggs benedict: poached eggs, choice of smoked salmon, spinach or brie on a croissant with extra virgin olive oil hollandaise.

                                                      Maybe a menu change... shame. The brie one was really good. (more food porn in the stream, fyi).


                                                      1. re: jlunar

                                                        That makes me wonder about what I copied above--since your menu is much longer. Makes me think the one I had is shorter than any you'd ever get there.

                                                    2. re: jlunar

                                                      The scrambled eggs at Czehoski's were cooked to perfection - creamy, not dry. Why can't anyone else do this?

                                                      This alone makes it my fave new brunch find.