#48: Hogtown Vegan

Hogtown French Toast

Hogtown French Toast

#48 on blogTO’s Best Brunches: Hogtown Vegan

The Location: Hogtown Vegan (Their new location is WEST of Ossington, not east)

The Time: Early August

The Company: Husband Chris and Cousin Natalie

Veggie Menu: As a vegan establishment, everything on the menu is vegan, but lots of items pretend to be carnivorous. Options are the Rancheros, the omelet, BLT, PB & Banana French Toast (with tofu bacon), Unchicken and Waffles, Tortilla Salad, and Greek Salad.  They have soy and wheat-based proteins, among others.

We braved the heat of construction-laddened Bloor street to find the new location of Hogtown Vegan. We nearly missed the chalkboard sign.

Hogtown Vegan's New Location

Hogtown Vegan’s New Location

When we found it, we decided on the French Toast for Natalie, the Huevos for Chris, and the Unchicken and Waffles for me.

A very merry unchicken for you!

A very merry unchicken for you!

Chicken and waffles was a dish I was unfamiliar with, even before becoming a vegetarian. However, I greatly enjoyed Hogtown Vegan’s interpretation. Their unchicken does a good job of pretending to be the real thing, much better than meat substitutes found at the grocery store. I didn’t know how much I had missed fried chicken until I had their battered grain and vegetable protein. Really, the batter is all that matters.

Natalie’s french toast was also battered and looked like fish to me. Her meal was so heavy that between the three of us, we couldn’t finish it. We all agreed the dish would have been better without the tofu bacon, and it overall felt like a very unhealthy choice.

Scrambled Tofu Huevos

Scrambled Tofu Huevos

Chris’ Huevos was fine, but as I still eat eggs, I can’t come to terms with a tofu substitute. The sunflower sour cream was nice, but again, I missed the real thing.

Don’t go to Hogtown expecting a healthy, light vegan meal. These dishes are just as fried as carnivorous brunches can be, and are just as likely to induce a mid-day food coma. If you’re going to go, just do the unchicken and waffles. If you’re going to have a food coma, it might as well be worth while.

The Hogtown Vegan on Urbanspoon

veggie.brunch.toronto: Bivy

Bivy Coffee and Quiche

Bivy Coffee and Quiche

The Location: Bivy (go get your haircut at The Proudest Pony, then come for brunch/lunch here!)

The Time: Early August

The Company: Husband Christopher

Veggie Menu: Baked French Toast, 3 cheese quiche, Energy Salad (ask for it without the mushrooms, yuck), Vegetarian spinach pancakes (ask for it without the mushrooms, yuck), Eastern Sandwich (open face with sun dried tomato hummus, roasted red pepper, goat cheese and baby spinach, served with a side of mixed greens and potato salad), and Vegetarian Omelette (ask for it without the mushrooms, yuck)

Eastern Sandwich

Eastern Sandwich

I’ve been coming to Bivy for years, ever since The Proudest Pony took up residence in the neighbourhood. It is the perfect combination of coffee shop and restaurant. I fell in love with the Eastern Sandwich and have never ordered anything else. It is not so much a sandwich as slices of bread topped with the aforementioned toppings. It is messy, cold, and delicious. Also, I love their potato salad.

Chris also usually has a sandwich, but this time he had the quiche. I couldn’t remember how he felt about it, so I asked him:

Bivy

Enough said. Here is Chris and his Proudest Pony haircut, with his beautiful Bivy quiche.

Bivy

Beautiful Bivy

Bivy on Urbanspoon

#29: Lazy Daisy’s Cafe

Lazy Shari's Breakfast Sandwich

Lazy Shari’s Breakfast Sandwich

#29 on blogTO’s Best Brunches: Lazy Daisy’s Cafe

The Location: Lazy Daisy’s Cafe (Drive, bike, or run east of the Don Valley)

The Time: Late July

The Company: Anjali, Sam, Michael, and Chris, who all took interesting modes of transportation to get here!

Sam is anything but lazy; she RAN her way to this breakfast!

Sam is anything but lazy; she RAN her way to this breakfast!

Veggie Menu: The Big Breakfast with eggs, tomatoes and mushrooms (yuck), and baked beans (ask for it without the meat), Chocolate chip buttermilk pancakes, Cinnamon french toast with peach compote, Omelette with asparagus and goat’s cheese, Granola and yogurt, Bagel topped with eggs, cheese and mushrooms (yuck), and a Breakfast Sandwich with eggs, cheddar, avocado and tomatoes on a biscuit

Even though this place is out of the way for all of us, I convinced people to go because it is on blogTO’s list. This is not a standard Toronto brunching place – it is truly a cafe, where you place your order at the counter.

Chris had the omelette and did not enjoy it, as the asparagus was overcooked. Anjali and I opted for the Breakfast Sandwiches. They were better than the Breakfast Sandwiches from Tim Horton’s! But those sandwiches I can find locally; this Breakfast Sandwich wasn’t worth the 20-minute drive.

Better than Timmy's Breakfast Sandwich!

Better than Timmy’s Breakfast Sandwich!

If I lived in this neighbourhood, I’d probably go to Lazy Daisy’s for a take-out breakfast sandwich every once in awhile. It’s a cute place and definitely better than eating breakfast in a chain restaurant. However, concerning her position in blogTO’s list, Daisy is out of her league.

Lazy Daisy's Cafe on Urbanspoon

#7: Mildred’s Temple Kitchen

Mildred's Temple Kitchen is a happy place to be!

Mildred’s Temple Kitchen is a happy place to be!

#7 on blogTO’s Best Brunches: Mildred’s Temple Kitchen

The Location: Mildred’s Temple Kitchen (south of King in Liberty Village; go here instead of School)

The Time: Late July, in between our sessions of summer camp

The Company: Friends Tony and Rachel, who were very excited to start brunching with us, and of course Chris!

Veggie Menu: House-made crunchy granola, Huevos Monty (their take on the Rancheros), Blueberry Buttermilk pancakes, Grilled Cheese Sandwich, and an array of scones and biscuits

Careful, Shari, your scarf wants some of that delicious Huevos too....

Careful, Shari, your scarf wants some of that delicious Huevos too….

It’s difficult to find a good Huevos in the city. The Ace and Easy had both disappointed me. Mildred’s gave me no choice but to try their version, since I will almost always pick eggs over pancakes or granola for breakfast.

Halleluia, I found the one! Mildred’s Huevos Monty, I can safely say, is the best in the city. It’s a very thin dish, but inside the tortillas is packed all the flavour that the other huevos are missing, combined. The avocado creme fraiche sets it even further apart from its competitors.

Tony had the pancakes, and enjoyed them very much! Our table also shared scones and biscuits, and again, they were the best pastries I’ve had in the city.

Mildred’s is a classy and delicious place to eat. While they were awarded #7 on blogTO’s list, they really deserve to be in the top five. Don’t miss this place!

Best brunch of the summer!!

Best brunch of the summer!!

Mildred's Temple Kitchen on Urbanspoon

veggie.brunch.NYC – Locanda Verde

Locanda Verde

Locanda Verde

The Location: Locanda Verde (in Tribeca, and accessible by taking a subway, realizing it’s bypassing the stop you need, then taking a cab the rest of the way, and showing up 20 minutes late for your reservation. Oh MTA.)

The Time: Late June, Saturday morning

The Company: My mom, who chose this place to feature on my blog.

Veggie Menu: Homemade granola, organic oatmeal, zucchini frittata with roasted tomato and goat’s cheese, crispy whole grain waffle, lemon ricotta pancakes, hazelnut-crusted french toast, uovo al forno (according to my google translate, this means baked eggs), eggplant sandwich, and a fresh fruit salad

For future veggie visitors of Locanda Verde, here are the words on the menu which mean meat: coppa, speck, cotechino, tripe. Escarole, however, is a vegetable!

Locanda Verde forgave us for being 20 minutes late, and gave us amazing service! I opted for the frittata, while my mom had the whole grain waffles. She was a huge fan of them. See?

Whole grain waffles!

Whole grain waffles!

The frittata had a bit of goat’s cheese on it, and bites that didn’t include the goat’s cheese were bland. Bites that did include goat’s cheese were amazing for sure. Next time, Locanda Verde, put enough goat’s cheese for all of my bites!

The food was good, but not good enough to make up for the lack of veggie options. Also, coming from an Italian background, I think I’d rather return to Locanda Verde for dinner next time, and try more of their traditional dishes.

More goat's cheese next time, please!

More goat’s cheese next time, please!

Locanda Verde on Urbanspoon

My blogTO’s Best Brunches List (so far!)

Here are my rankings of blogTO’s best 50 brunches, and how I rank them in terms of their veggie options.

*note: I’ve been at this since October, and I’ve only visited 22 out of the 50? I need to stop working out of town!*

1. Bonjour Brioche (blogTO’s #27) – Many veggie options and they’re all mind-blowing

2. Aunties and Uncles (blogTO’s #1) – A classic, and it’s the same guy who does Choir! Choir! Choir!

3. The Queen and Beaver (blogTO’s #47) – I’ve been twice for the pancakes.

4. Rose and Sons (blogTO’s #4) – Poached pears and avocados. Heaven.

5. The White Brick Kitchen (blogTO’s #39) – Very rich, amazing, vegetarian foods.

6: Mitzi’s Cafe (blogTO’s #11) – Good food, good location

7: The Ace (blogTO’s #33) – I suspect it hosts the best eggs benedict. A revisit will confirm.

8. Easy Restaurant (blogTO’s #2) – Many Mexican-inspired veggie options

9: The Federal Reserve (blogTO’s #24) – Daily veggie omelette!

10: Okay Okay (blogTO’s #17) – McDonald’s Hash Browns meets OK2′s Benedict.

11. Lady Marmalade (blogTO’s #5) – Overhyped, and they wouldn’t serve me the miso breakfast poutine.

12. Little Fish (blogTO’s #14) – If you love custards and jams, you likely love this place more than I do.

13: Farmhouse Tavern (blogTO’s #18) – Inventive dishes, great ambiance, slow service, cold tea

14: Wallace & Co. (blogTO’s #50) – Tempeh substitutions are remarkable but not much else is.

Go with your carnivorous friends, if you must:

15. The Stockyards (blogTO’s #15) – Stocky yards has great emergency vegetarian meals. Go with your carnivorous partner.

16. Voodoo Child (blogTO’s #25) – Very few menu options, period. Hopefully one of the three will always be a veggie meal.

17. Weslodge (blogTO’s #46) – Decorated by Gaston (who uses antlers in all of his decorating). Gaston is not a vegetarian.

18. Emma’s Country Kitchen (blogTO’s #22) – The pig shelf says it all

Veggie options if you’re in the neighbourhood and desperate:

19. Starving Artist (blogTO’s #37) – Their new location was not up to their usual standards. And their usual standards include WASPS.

20. Saving Grace (blogTO’s #3) – #3 blogTO? Really? I had a flavourless Indian-inspired meal.

21. School (blogTO’s #6) – I’m not sure why blogTO moved School up to #6. They ran out of half of their menu at their all-day brunch, and the items they had were dull and over-priced. LAME.

Other:

Camp (blogTO’s #40) – Camp has been toying with my heart. First, they closed for three months. Then they reopened as a seafood restaurant and called themselves Fish Camp. Then they decided to close all together. I will miss you, Camp, and treasure the memories. May you rest in peace with my other favourite brunch spot, Kingston’s Epicure.

#22: Emma’s Country Kitchen

Zuckerman's Famous Pigs

Zuckerman’s Famous Pigs

#22 on blogTO’s Best Brunches: Emma’s Country Kitchen

The Location: Emma’s Country Kitchen (near the new Starving Artist. Tip: if you take the Dufferin bus north, turn right on St. Clair, not left.)

The Time: late in the month of June, but early in my 33rd year (this was in celebration of my 32nd birthday!)

The Company: Long-time friend Vikki

A runner's meal

A runner’s meal

Veggie Menu: Strawberry Pancakes, and house roasted granola with yogurt. All other dishes have meat in them, and there is no information provided about substitutions. There is also an assortment of donuts, oatmeal cakes, and the infamous “biscuit”. A fruit salad is also available, for those crazy people who actually enjoy the texture of fruit. There are also eggs, toast and potatoes to be ordered as sides, so a standard vegetarian breakfast is possible.

Vikki enjoys a non-veggie breakfast at Emma's. Probably for the best!

Vikki enjoys a non-veggie breakfast at Emma’s. Probably for the best!

So June was the busiest month of my life, but I can’t pass up the opportunity to go to brunch, or to hang out with Vikki. In order to maximize my “spare” time, I decided to commute to Emma’s Country Kitchen via TTC, but then ran home! From brunch!

Knowing that I was going to run home and therefore needed to eat a light meal, I didn’t investigate any possible veggie substitutions for the main dishes and opted instead for the granola. I’m not a fan of granola, but I had such a great experience with it at Rose and Sons that I decided to give it a go, with a side order of biscuit. Both were disappointments.

The idea of Emma’s Country Kitchen is fantastic: homemade biscuits, donuts, and other indulgent foods. However, the biscuit was not nearly as good as those I used to make from my Anne of Green Gables Cookbook. Actually, I don’t think they’re as good as those at Tim Horton’s. And I know from a previous walk-in experience that the donuts here are not as good as the $2/dozen grocery store donuts that Mason Gagnon recently gave me.

Emma's Country Kitchen should steal some recipes from here.

Emma’s Country Kitchen should steal some recipes from here.

Maybe I have to go back on a non-running day and have something more than granola and biscuits, but right now, I don’t get the hype with Emma’s Country Kitchen.

With my tummy full of granola, me and my skort are ready to run home.

With my tummy full of granola, me and my skort are ready to run home.

Emma's Country Kitchen on Urbanspoon

#39: The White Brick Kitchen

The White Brick Kitchen

The White Brick Kitchen

#39 on blogTo’s Best Brunches: The White Brick Kitchen

The Location: The White Brick Kitchen (on Bloor, a few blocks east of Honest Ed’s)

The Time: Sunday Morning, early June

The Company: Chris. This was one of our only dates in June!

Veggie Menu: “Scotch-ish Eggs”, which were two soft boiled eggs breaded and fried, with hollandaise sauce, served with greens, a baguette and potatoes; rarebit (no rabbit involved!) with aged cheddar pimento cheese, texas toast, sunny side up eggs, and greens; lemon blueberry waffle with cheesecake ice cream; banana bread french toast

Cochrane's White Brick Kitchen can be found in here. *shudder*

Cochrane’s White Brick Kitchen can be found in here. *shudder*

I have to admit, I am skeptical of Toronto shops and restaurants in those white brick buildings. This must be due to my Cochrane Ontario upbringing, and the creepiness that was the King George Hotel.

The White Brick Kitchen gives new hope to all those white brick buildings in Koreatown , that they too can escape a fate similar to the King George Hotel (like most buildings in Cochrane, I must assume it fell into condemnation, and then burnt down. Correct me if I’m wrong).

Breaded fried eggs, the way they should always be fried!

Breaded fried eggs, the way they should always be fried!

Chris and I shared the rarebit (don’t google-search this word. I promise there was no rabbit involved!) and the Scotch-ish eggs. I thoroughly enjoyed both dishes, especially the aged cheddar pimento cheese in the rarebit dish. Chris enjoyed both dishes as well, but found the rarebit dish too rich. On the other hand, the Scotch-ish eggs were, and I quote, “Astoundingly well-cooked”, and the yolk was perfectly runny.

White Brick Kitchen, thanks for not being the King George hotel. We’ll be back!

A great morning date!

A great morning date!

The White Brick Kitchen on Urbanspoon

veggie.brunch.pearson: Zet’s Drive-Inn Restaurant

 

The Location: Zet’s Restaurant (pick your visiting friends up from Terminal One then drive here)

The Time: May 2-4 Monday

The Company: Newfie friends Matt, Oliver, Pauline, and my favourite Newfie, Christopher

Veggie Menu: Custom omelette, pancakes, french toast, or the “No Meat Breakfast” (eggs, homefries and toast)

Ever since I went to Disney World’s Sci-Fi Dine-In Theatre as a child, I became obsessed with 50’s diners. I wanted to have a milkshake at The Max. I wanted to play a song on the jukebox at the Frosty Palace. I wanted to wear a big pink dress with a side ponytail and eat hamburgers like the Homecoming Queen, perched on a red bar stool. I googled for the best brunch near the airport, and everywhere I clicked, the recommendation was unanimous. ZET’S is the best brunch near the airport! ZET’S is the best greasy spoon diner! ZET’S! ZET’S! ZET’S!

Naturally, having been to so many retro diners in Toronto, and with “Drive-In” in the name, I imagined Zet’s to look like this:

50's Diners

The-Max-Saved-By-The-Bell-528x308

Here’s what Zet’s looked like in reality:

photo 1-2

 

photo 2-2

photo 4

We weren’t exactly going to burst into a chorus of “Telephone Hour”, that’s for sure – though I did sneak in that side ponytail. Beyond the disappointment in ambiance and theme, the food was just as generic.

No meat = no personality

No meat + tomatoes galore = no personality

I’ve been known to mock brunch spots for so often emulating the 50’s diners I referenced above. But being all the way out by the airport, in a place so nondescript it might as well have been a gas station, I missed all those Toronto diners.

(Side note: Thank you, though, to Zet’s, for giving us a place to loiter for a few hours with our dear Newfie friends who we rarely see.)

Zet's Drive-Inn Restaurant on Urbanspoon

veggie.brunch.toronto: Butler’s Pantry

Indian Scramble

Indian Scramble

The Location: Butler’s Pantry (on my favourite street of restaurants and seamstresses, Markham)

The Time: Early May

The Company: Co-worker Joey

Veggie Menu: French toast, Benny Gone Veggie, Indian Style Scrambled Eggs, Build-Your-Own-Omelette, and scones and bagels

A great patio brunch in the middle of a work day!

A great patio brunch in the middle of a work day!

I have to admit, I’ve had not-so-great experiences with Butler’s Pantry before, but Joey and I found ourselves with an hour to kill, so we headed over to Markham St. The Butler redeemed himself! We both had the Indian Style Scrambled Eggs. It was reminiscent of Saving Grace‘s rajastani eggs, but much more flavourful and enjoyable.

My advice? If you’re a vegetarian, and you like Indian food as much as I do, skip Saving Grace and visit Butler’s Pantry. Then go get your clothes altered at Cherie’s Dressmaking, go buy some unders at Secret’s From Your Sister, and go see a show at Randolph. I really like Mirvish Village.

Take that, Saving Grace's Scrambled Eggs!

Take that, Saving Grace’s Scrambled Eggs!

Butler's Pantry on Urbanspoon