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

veggie.brunch.toronto: Sky Blue Sky

Sky Blue Sky

Sky Blue Sky

The Location: Sky Blue Sky (a few steps west, then up the stairs, from BMB Karaoke. If you don’t know where that is, we likely aren’t friends.)

The Time: It may or may not have been the same day as our brunch at Rose and Sons. You won’t judge me when I’m a professional veggie brunch reviewer.

The Company: Christopher

Veggie Menu: An array of veggie sandwiches with combinations of brie, gouda, provolone, hot peppers, tomato, pear, roasted red peppers, sautéed onions, cucumbers, baba ghanoush, chick peas, pickles, and of course avocado. There are also sweet sandwiches featuring jams, nut butter, and bananas. They also have salads available, such as cucumber, couscous, and soups such as tomato and rice.

Camouflage Sandwich

Camouflage Sandwich

It’s debatable whether or not Sky Blue Sky is a brunch place or not. However, it is the most perfect lunch place, so simply go there at 11 a.m. and call it brunch. Also, have the Art of Almost sandwich, as I always do (if brie melted on avocados isn’t brunch food, I don’t know what is). They also have amazing pumpkin cookies.

There are two types of people: people who are obsessed with this place, and people who have never been. With food this delicious and at great prices, it’s worth the gluten headache. Go and join the cult.

P.S. I understand from my Newfie sister-in-law, Megan, that it shares its name with an album by Wilco, but in my head I think of them as Woolco (too much time at the Timmins Square). Any other Northerners have this problem? No?

This dress is going to see a lot of brunches. I can tell.

This dress is going to see a lot of brunches. I can tell.


Sky Blue Sky Sandwich Co. on Urbanspoon

#4: Rose and Sons

An excellent veggie meal

An excellent veggie meal

#4 on blogTO’s Best Brunches: Rose and Sons

The Location: Dupont and St. George, right next to my old stompin’ grounds, the Pour House

The Time: Saturday morning, early May

The Company: My Muppet and Tierce de Picardie soulmate, Phil, and my romantic soulmate, Chris

Veggie Menu: bread pudding with wild blueberries, poached pear with yogurt (plus peanuts, poppy granola and maple syrup), grilled romaine caesar minus the anchovy dressing, and the all-day breakfast which consists of 3 eggs, hash, toast, and tomato and avocado as meat substitutions

To a naked vegetarian’s eye (I think I mean vegetarian’s naked eye), Rose and Sons has some

There's the Pour House! And see where it kind of says Hamburgers? That's Rose and Sons.

There’s the Pour House! And see where it kind of says Hamburgers? That’s Rose and Sons.

things working against it. A) According to their menu, they only have two veggie options, and the substitutes are not listed. B) I thought it was still the hamburger place that only townies go into.

But to an experienced vegetarian’s eye (aka, ME!), Rose and Sons actually has a lot going for it that other brunch places can’t boast. A) No lineups, even on a Saturday morning! B) It’s not masquerading as a 50’s diner. (Nice change!) C) They serve avocado, the best meat substitute at brunch time. D) Their food is unique AND delicious, not just unique. E) Them playing Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth” caused a moment of bonding between me and Phil. (This video still scares me so much that I couldn’t finish watching it.)

Shari and Phil as children

Shari and Phil as children

That pear is mine.

That pear is mine.

I don’t usually like yogurt, and I don’t usually like pears, but I LOVED my order so much, and, despite having some envy over Phil’s griddled brie cornbread, Chris enjoyed the veggie version of the all-day breakfast. It’s great to finally go to a brunch place that has a standard breakfast done really well.

Great recommendation, blogTO. I will definitely be back!

 

I suppose if you're going to eat meat, this is the way to do it.

I suppose if you’re going to eat meat, this is the way to do it.

Two great vegetarian meals. Thanks Rose and Sons!

Two great vegetarian meals. Thanks Rose and Sons!

Rose and Sons on Urbanspoon

#2: Easy Restaurant

 

Weekday Tacos - The Best Kind of Tacos!

Weekday Tacos – The Best Kind of Tacos!

#2 on blogTO’s Best Brunches: Easy Restaurant

The Location: Easy Restaurant (Go antiquing along Queen towards Roncy, then choose Easy Restaurant instead of EggSmart)

The Time: Wednesday morning, late April

The Company: My companion Chris, and fellow theatre artist and fellow Newfie to Chris, Candice!

Elton and Candice anticipate the Weekday Tacos

Elton and Candice anticipate the Weekday Tacos

Veggie Menu: Going to Easy means getting a lesson in the structure of Mexican dishes. There are three meals here with similar ingredients: Their infamous Huevos Divorciados, Breakfast Burrito, Weekday Breakfast Tacos, and Vegetarian Tostada. Alternating components include salsas, corn vs wheat tortilla, guac, and toasted baguette with ancho jam. All include refried black beans, and all come with a choice of home fries, salad, or half and half. The differences happen in how the eggs are cooked, and if the food is served open faced or not on the tortilla. Easy also serves Toast Soldiers with soft boiled eggs and fruit, Eggs Florentine, Brioche French Toast, Belgian Mini Waffles, Granola, and four Veggie Omelette options. Wow!

A Breakfast Burrito

A Breakfast Burrito

Easy serves brunch every day of the week, which I can’t say about most places on blogTO’s list. As an artist who spends Saturday and Sunday mornings teaching, I appreciate Easy’s understanding that brunch is not just a weekend meal.

The Divorciados came highly hyped by Anjali, a current Parkdale resident. Wanting to try the ancho jam and being a huge fan of salsa and guac, I chose this over the other similar Mexican-inspired dishes.

That blob is the Ancho Jam

That blob is the Ancho Jam

After a few bites, I started to believe that this was another Rancheros that tastes better on paper than in your mouth. However, once I topped the eggs with the guac, I enjoyed the meal much more. The ancho jam was also great, and is something I’d like to try making (or ask my husband to make… who am I trying to kid?). The salad and home fries? I literally (not figuratively, Ted) forget what they tasted like. I concur that they must not have been memorable.

While my two companions were underwhelmed, I will still recommend Easy for three reasons. 1: A plethora of veggie options. 2: Guacamole. 3: This place does not look like a 50’s diner.

He's smiling because he's excited to make ancho jam

He’s smiling because he’s excited to make ancho jam

 

Easy Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Best Veggie Brunches (October through April)

Recommended:

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. Camp (blogTO’s #40) – My forever home. They know I hate mushrooms. And they have the best french toast in the city.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go with your carnivorous friends, if you must:

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

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.

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

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

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

19. School (blogTO’s #48) – They ran out of half of their menu at their all-day brunch. LAME.