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.

TIED FOR #1:

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

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.

#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:

PicPlayPostPhoto-4

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.

...so 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:

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