veggie.brunch.toronto: Crème de la Crème

Crème de la Crème

Crème de la Crème

Alternate title: Shari’s Ode to Etobicoke. You’ve been warned.

The Location: Crème de la Crème (venture over the river into Etobicoke, and Crème de la Crème can be found in Toronto’s alternate reality. I’m surprised they actually put the accent grave in the name. I mean, doesn’t Etobicoke seem like a place where the word CREME runs abundant?)

The Time: Late November (opening day of Mockingjay Pt 1! Thanks for the afternoon showing, Etobicoke!)

The Company: Chris

Veggie Menu: an omelette or egg white omelette with your choice of veggie items, a three-egg breakfast with hashbrowns and toast, a florentine benedict, waffles, french toast, pancakes, granola and fruit with yogurt or cottage cheese (REALLY, Etobicoke?), grilled cheese with or without tomatoes. Side orders include fresh fruit, ice cream (on my toast maybe, Etobicoke?), avocado and tomatoes (Etobicoke has specified on their menu that both of these items come sliced. Phewf).

Two thumbs up for accent graves!

Two thumbs up for accent graves and giant tams. How french.

There’s a different quality to west of the river, isn’t there? Actually, we’ve figured out exactly where Etobicoke starts, restaurant-wise. Bryden’s, our favourite bar, is very Toronto. The servers are bearded, the cliental is varied in age, and it is always busy. Meanwhile, on the other side of the wall, Classico Pizza feels very much Etobicoke. It’s usually empty, with the exception of a few 70+ couples and the guitarist they’ve hired for every Thursday night. The staff is SO eager to see you, and immediately ask you to come back. All that’s missing is a restaurant parking lot outside.

Crème de la Crème is Etobicoke through and through. We were the youngest ones there by 30+ years. That would NEVER happen at a Toronto brunch joint – not even on a Friday. The walls are sponge painted and peeling, and the bathroom is past a tall fake plant. But you know what? Sometimes you’ve got to go to Etobicoke to go back to basics.

I ordered the three-egg breakfast with a side of tomatoes and avocado. I deviated from my usual fried or poached eggs to try scrambled eggs, and it was a mistake; not Etobicoke’s fault though. I just like dipping in yolk. I know better for next time.

My hodgepodge meal.

My hodgepodge meal.

The order was delivered to us faster than Morrison’s in Kingston. In fact, Morrison’s has a strong reputation for the fastest food service of all time, so I wondered if their new marvel was delivering to Etobicoke in under ten minutes. The eggs, as I said, were tasteless and boring. But the hashbrowns, the avocados, and the tomatoes, were all no-fuss and delicious. Truly, Etobicoke’s hashbrowns are what I wish all potatoes would taste like. To combat the blandness of the scrambled eggs, I mixed everything on my plate and ate it as ladylike as I could. I was in Etobicoke, after all.

While Crème de la Crème doesn’t have a gimmick, like Toronto brunch places do, they did the basic breakfast very well and very quickly.

Thanks, Etobicoke!

Etobicoke word count: 17

Creme de la Creme Cafe on Urbanspoon

#19: Fanny Chadwick’s

Fanny Chadwick's

Fanny Chadwick’s

#19 on blogTO’s 50 Best Brunches: Fanny Chadwick’s

The Location: Fanny Chadwick’s (we’ve all passed this place a million times, but contrary to popular belief, it is NOT on Bloor street)

The Time: Late September, Saturday afternoon

The Company: LK Team Sudbury, Alain, Jillian and me!

Veggie Menu: Granola, fruit and yogurt, Two Farm Fresh Eggs (with greens, toast (sourdough is an option!), and baked beans or fruit), daily omelette (with the same sides), Fanny’s Rancheros (their take on the classic, with beans, avocado sauce, but served on sourdough and with potato hash and fruit instead of meat), the Finnish pancakes (topped with mango passion fruit compote and other sweet things, with beans and fruit on the side), or a Build Your Own Benny (veggie options include wilted greens, blanco baked beans, sautéed mushrooms (yuck), and extra hollandaise (who wants that?))

Fanny's Ranch-bleh-ros.

Fanny’s Ranch-bleh-ros.

I lived in the Annex for seven years and never came to this place. I ran by it at least a hundred times and never came here. I walked by it on my way to the Tarragon and still never came here. Turns out, I wasn’t missing much.

The three of us sat down on the outdoor mini-putt (aka the patio) and ordered the Rancheros (I don’t know why I keep doing this to myself) and the Farm Fresh Eggs. Apparently this farm fed molasses to their chickens, because that’s what Al’s scrambled eggs tasted like. The potatoes were nice, but the side salad I shared with Al was not. Mine and Jillian’s Rancheros was only okay. The sourdough bread got lost under all the mushiness of the guac and beans. Really, every piece of sourdough bread has been a disappointment since the days of CoGro’s sandwiches.

Another Rancheros bites the dust.

Another Rancheros bites the dust.

Considering the competition, I am REALLY surprised Fanny’s is so high on blogTO’s list. It was a nice couple of hours spent with good friends, but still, I would have rather spent it at nearby Grapefruit Moon, or Sudbury’s Laughing Buddha.

*Acknowledgements: This blog post brought to you by The Annex, Bloor Street, Queen’s University’s Common Ground, Sudbury’s Laughing Buddha, the Tarragon Theatre, farmers who feed their chickens molasses, and mini-putt courses all over the world.*

Fanny Chadwick's on Urbanspoon

#21: Grapefruit Moon

The Grapefruit Moon rises over the Vegan Grilled Cheese

The Grapefruit Moon rises over the Vegan Grilled Cheese

#21 on blogTO’s Best Brunches: Grapefruit Moon

The Location: Grapefruit Moon (north of Bloor, on Bathurst)

The Time: mid-September, Saturday morning

The Company: Good friend and fellow runner, Stacey!

Veggie Menu: the Half Moon Breakfast (eggs, toast and home fries), the Vegan morning (a tofu scramble with veggies and vegan cheese), Morning Poutine (home fries topped with fried onions, cheese, hollandaise sauce, green onions and two fried eggs), french toast, crispy corn cakes, ultimate grilled cheese, and the ultimate vegan grilled cheese

Only Stacey could look this glamorous after a run.

Only Stacey could look this glamorous after a run.

First things first: Stacey is a vegan. She is on my mind every time I go for brunch. As a vegetarian, I always have options, or at least substitutions, at all brunch places. Stacey, as a vegan, doesn’t have that luxury. Enter Grapefruit Moon.

After our 7k run with Parkdale Road Runners and a little furniture shopping on Queen West, we transited up Bathurst and sat ourselves on GM’s patio. Stacey opted for the grilled cheese, which, on the plate, looks like the epitome of Grapefruit Moon. She gave two vegan thumbs up!

Breakfast Poutine

Breakfast Poutine

I, in turn, was tempted by the breakfast poutine. I asked if the gravy was vegetarian, and found out that it’s not served with gravy at all, but rather hollandaise sauce. Having had success with another homefries-based meal the week before, I decided to go for it, but asked them to go easy on the hollandaise sauce (I had just gone for a run, but didn’t want to have to go for ANOTHER one).

Truly, this meal was everything I had wanted in a breakfast poutine. Fried onions, plump homefries, cheese, hollandaise, and two fried eggs and green onions to top it all off. In a Starving Artist-like fashion, I gallantly fought the wasps for every last bite.

I hate the sun and I hate the wasps but I love the poutine!

I hate the sun and I hate the wasps but I love the poutine!

Thank you, Grapefruit Moon, for giving my vegan friends something to eat while I had my fill of veggie poutine. I will return.

*Side note: When I visited Lady Marmalade, they had stopped serving their veggie breakfast poutine, because they were afraid of running out of homefries. Were they saving them for more important customers? All I know is that at Grapefruit Moon, I was that more important customer. *puffs chest*

The Grapefruit Moon on Urbanspoon

#20: Universal Grill

Goodbye Summer. Hello Universal Grill!

Goodbye Summer. Hello Universal Grill!

#20 on blogTO’s Best Brunches: Universal Grill

The Location: Universal Grill (We had passed its teal exterior many times along Dupont Street, heading east towards the Annex)

The Time: Mid-September, which seems to be the thick of fall for Toronto

The Company: My parents, and my Chris

Veggie Menu: Buttermilk Pancakes, Huevos Rancheros, French Toast, Spicy Chillie Cheese Spuds Supreme, Cheesy Scrambled Eggs, Granola, a pancake of the day, an omelette of the day (on this day, it was vegetarian, but had mushrooms, yuck) and if you want to, you can make your own breakfast by ordering a combination of eggs, spuds, fruit, toast and pancakes off of the Sides Menu

SCCS (That's Spicy Chillie Cheese Spuds to YOU)

SCCS (That’s Spicy Chillie Cheese Spuds to YOU)

Walking up to the empty patio at Universal Grill felt like arriving at a funeral for summer. The patio was stacked and furniture was covered. Goodbye Summer 2014.

Thankfully, the Spicy Chillie Cheese Spuds were waiting for me, to warm me up and cheer me up. My dad opted for the vegetarian omelette, and my mom for the buttermilk pancakes. We were starving and hadn’t eaten anything all day. Alas, even though it was mid-afternoon and the restaurant was nearly empty, the meals took over 40 minutes to arrive.

I can only assume that the reason the meals took so long was because they were setting fire to my Spicy Chillie Cheese Spuds, and had to extinguish it. The food was SO hot that, even though I dug in immediately, it was at least fifteen minutes until I could taste any flavour. When the temperature settled, the meal reminded me a bit of the taco pie Chris, Cali and I made in university (that’s a good thing), except I could still walk after eating the SCCS (Spicy Chillie Cheese Spuds).

Chris and I also took advantage of the Sides menu and ordered one pancake to share. It was thick and fluffy and was extra tasty topped with the raspberry compote and maple syrup. It wasn’t my favourite pancake in the city, but close.

My second favourite pancake in the city

My second favourite pancake in the city

Apparently my dad’s vegetarian omelette was great too, but I didn’t go near it because of the mushrooms, yuck. I did have some of his challah toast, yum. Here is his dish in intimate detail, since he couldn’t figure out how to work the zoom lens on my SLR.

Mega zoom is what happens when parents take pictures.

Mega zoom is what happens when parents take pictures.

Next time, if the restaurant promises to serve it in a timely fashion, I promise to order the Huevos. If Universal’s Huevos is in the same family as the Chillie Cheese Spuds, it may just compete with Mildred’s Huevos.

Thanks for the food, UGrill!

Thanks for the food, UGrill!

Universal Grill on Urbanspoon

My blogTO’s Best Brunches List – Halfway Done!

Nearly a year has passed, and I’m halfway through my journey to trying out all 50 of blogTO’s 50 Essential Brunch Restaurants in Toronto. It has been quite challenging, as last year I worked nearly every Saturday and Sunday morning. I’ve also travelled a lot, and have been sidetracked into going to other great brunch spots that didn’t make blogTO’s list. My goal is to get through the rest of the list before blogTO makes anymore changes to it!

To make things easier for me: Toronto brunch restaurants, please serve brunch on Fridays. Us artists like brunch too.

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


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

1. Mildred’s Temple Kitchen (blogTO’s #7) – The best Huevos in the city

The Rest:

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

4. The Queen and Beaver (blogTO’s #47) – Going for the third time this weekend, at my mom’s request.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

18. The Westerly (blogTO’s #28) – Huevos Rancher-NOs (I can get a bit more mileage out of that joke, can’t I?)

19. Hogtown Vegan (blogTO’s #48) – Oh chicken and waffles, a dish I’d never tried before becoming a vegetarian, how I’ve missed you.

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

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

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

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

24. 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.

25. Lazy Daisy’s Cafe (blogTO’s #29) – Daisy is out of her league


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.

#28: The Westerly

Huevos Rancher-NOs

Huevos Rancher-NOs

#28 on blogTO’s Best Brunches: The Westerly

The Location: The Westerly (on Roncy, north of a Kind Exchange)

The Time: Saturday morning, early September

The Company: Chris and Kara

Veggie Menu: Creme Brûlée French Toast, Frittata, Eggs Benedict with a substitute of sautéed spinach, lemon ricotta fritters, honey almond granola, Huevos Rancheros, vegetarian baked Mac and Cheese, and two salad options, but who goes to brunch to eat only salad?

Guard Dog, come to brunch with me?

Guard Dog, come to brunch with me?

The Westerly was our third brunchventure (don’t autocorrect me, MacBook, that’s what I meant to write) in Parkdale. I’m smitten with the neighbourhood and happily went on to buy two sweaters at Kind Exchange for $10. I also admired Heisenberg and Los Pollos Hermanos drinking glasses at an antique/general store. Also, we saw a dog guarding Himalayan Collection. Unfortunately for the Westerly, I remember all of these things better than I remember my Huevos.

I was impressed with the veggie menu options, and asked the waitress which one she recommended. I was skeptical, but took her advice and ordered the Huevos. The tacos tasted like beer. (Funny, because I find beer tastes like nachos.) I was, once again, underwhelmed.

I’m sure the Westerly has lovely food, and Chris and Kara both liked their non-vegetarian meals. But restaurants, if your Huevos isn’t amazing, please take it off the menu. You’re toying with my emotions.

I look skeptical about the Huevos, but not about that $10 top I'm wearing from Kind Exchange!

I look skeptical about the Huevos, but not about that $10 top I’m wearing from Kind Exchange!

The Westerly on Urbanspoon

veggie.brunch.stratford: Let Them Eat Cake

Veggie Eggs Benny

Veggie Eggs Benny

The Location: Let Them Eat Cake (In Stratford. I don’t know how to get there. I just followed my friends.)

The Time: Labour Day Weekend, Saturday morning

The Company: Our QMT reunion crew (Me, Chris, Liz, Vikki, Rhonda, Anjali, Rebecca)

QMT Reunion in Stratford!

QMT Reunion in Stratford!

Veggie Menu: Omelette, Granola, Oatmeal, French Toast, Buttermilk Pancakes, Banana Oatmeal Pancakes, Belgian Waffle, Eggs Benedict with asparagus and swiss cheese or spinach, a Build Your Own Breakfast where you get to choose any number and combination of toast, pancakes with toppings, home fries, french fries, yogurt, eggs (as many as you want!), and tomatoes, and an assortment of scones, muffins and cookies

Back when we were all in the process of moving out of Kingston, groups of us from Queen’s would meet up in Toronto and brunch at Bloor Street’s Over Easy. We loved every home fry and fried tomato. Let Them Eat Cake has a fancier name but accomplishes the same thing: Unpretentious brunch with room for big groups of people.

L-TEC served us vegetarians eggs benedict (for Anjali) and a meatless Build Your Own Breakfast for me. Since I am obsessed with protein as of late, I ordered three eggs with my homefries and tomatoes (I am also obsessed with tomatoes ever since our trip to Italy).

And now that I'm grown I eat FIVE dozen eggs....

And now that I’m grown I eat FIVE dozen eggs….

There was nothing fancy about the breakfast but everything was well-cooked and hit the spot. Not pictured is the apple cinnamon scone that I had. The quality of their scones makes this place way more than a greasy spoon, and makes them a way better brunch destination than Over Easy and its counterparts. In Anjali’s words:


Thank you, L-TEC, for curing our hangriness (and no, auto correct, I do not mean hungriness) and taking care of our protein and scone needs. I'm roughly the size of a BARGE!

…so I’m roughly the size of a BARGE!

Let Them Eat Cake Restaurant & Dessert Cafe on Urbanspoon

#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:


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


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