Morning Glory

Twenty great reasons to rediscover the pleasures of brunch in the city

For Torontonians, brunch is more than a noun. It’s a verb, a way of life. And it’s about more than just eggs Benny and toast. The city’s best restaurants have turned the lazy midday feast into a multidisciplinary art. Here, 20 reasons to brunch now.

 

Buca Yorkville

Because brunch is just another chance to eat carbonara

There’s no reason to pass up a bowl of pasta just because it’s before noon, and carbonara is the perfect brunch pick because it’s pretty much bacon and eggs with bucatini. Buca Yorkville’s rendition takes it to a whole new level with the bright yolk practically sunning itself atop a mound of chef Rob Gentile’s oh-so-fresh noodles. Once the bowl hits the table, it’s tossed right there in front of you, the yolk mingling with pecorino romano, plenty of black pepper and crispy bits of seared guanciale that go off like salty firecrackers in your mouth. It’s like the best bacon-and-egg breakfast you can find—in pasta form. 53 Scollard St., 416-962-2822, buca.ca/yorkville

Buca’s bacon-and-eggy brunch pasta.

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The Drake Commissary

Because this toast is worth celebrating

We’re not exactly sure when avocado became the go-to bread spread for hipster taste- and toast-makers, but we’ve found something better. Smørrebrød, a Danish delicacy, is one of the stars of the morning menu at the new Drake Commissary. The key is the rugbrød—dense, almost black house-made rye bread that comes thin-sliced and loaded up with rich savouries, like duck pâté and ­pickled onions; steak tartare with horseradish and chanterelle mushrooms; and the peak-Nordic pairing of ­pickled herring with beets, dill and a schmear of charred-onion cream cheese. You can even buy the ­rugbrød and other breads from the Commissary’s bakery counter to take home—but save the avocados for guacamole. 128 Sterling Rd., 416-432-2922, drakecommissary.ca

The Drake Commissary’s smorrebrod is quite literally the toast of the town.

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Harry’s Charbroiled

Because all-day breakfast is the new brunch

You can’t get brunch at Harry’s, because brunch wasn’t a meal most Parkdalians ate when the restaurant first opened in 1968. But you can get breakfast until 4 p.m. every day, which is even ­better—especially when that classic diner plate of steak and eggs has been dished out by chef Nate Young and co-owner Grant van Gameren, who, along with Robin Goodfellow, took over the restaurant in 2016. They made mostly under-the-hood upgrades to the food while keeping the menu largely recognizable to its regulars. The beef—skirt steak, a pricy cut you won’t find in any old greasy spoon—is rippled with delicate ­marbling, and flavoured with garlic, achiote, bay leaf, red wine vinegar and cumin. It’s paired with two eggs and home fries the size of golf balls, and as much diner coffee as you can drink. 160 Springhurst Ave., 416-532-2908, harryscharbroiled.com

Harry’s: curing hangovers since 1968.

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Toca

Because few words are sweeter than “all-you-can-eat brunch buffet”

A meal invented to capitalize on the sweet and savoury pleasures of breakfast and lunch, and combine them into one plate-filling occasion, should be extravagant. Which brings us to TOCA, inside the Ritz-Carlton hotel, where the $89 all-you-can-eat spread seems almost like a dare concocted by a competitive eater. There’s a seafood buffet piled high with oysters and crab legs; an assortment of fresh pastas and flatbreads; stacks of smoked fish and prosciutto; a carved-to-order hunk of beef Wellington; and wheels of bleu d’Elizabeth, brillat-savarin and other aged delights pulled from TOCA’s cheese cave. And that’s all before we get to the breakfast items, which include eggs Benedict, frittatas, ricotta pancakes, and enough croissants, muffins and baguettes to carbo-load for a marathon. 181 Wellington St. W., 416-585-2500, tocarestaurant.com

The all-you-can-eat seafood spread at TOCA.

 

Where’s the beef? (Found it.)

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Souk Tabule

Because all-day shakshuka means brunch never has to end

When one of the best ­Middle Eastern restaurants in Toronto opened a sleek counter-service spinoff in the then–mostly vacant Canary District, the arrival went largely unnoticed. Two years later, there’s much more activity in the neighbourhood, and the secret’s out about Souk Tabule’s all-day shakshuka. The thick roasted-tomato-and-red-pepper sauce is slow-simmered with three runny eggs poached right in the blazing cast iron skillet. There’s a za’atar-dusted dollop of creamy labneh, too, and it’s best to just stir everything, yolks and all, into one gloriously rich hot mess in which to dunk torn-off pieces of still-steaming house-baked saj. 494 Front St. E., 416-583-5914, souktabule.com

Souk Tabule’s shakshuka is some of the best in the city.

 

Also on the brunch menu: The Full Souk, featuring foole, labneh, falafel, hard-boiled eggs and veggies.

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La Cubana

Because tostones are way better than toast

La Cubana, Toronto’s Cuban mini-chain, is now three restaurants big, but it’s at the original Roncey location that brunch reigns supreme. Every Saturday and Sunday morning, the hungry huddled masses loiter on the ­sidewalk—there’s no room to line up inside without being underfoot. Locals in the know, many with small niños, arrive right at 10 a.m. to avoid the wait (and the inevitable tantrums). In the cacophonous open kitchen, spatulas smack, coffee grinds and ice cubes clatter to the beat of a Cuban playlist—this is as close to Havana as Toronto gets. We’re partial to the Cuban Breakfast: tender shreds of slow-roasted pork, a pile of tangy pickled cabbage, two perfectly poached eggs, the obligatory rice and beans, and a solitary tostone. The house-made mango-habanero hot sauce isn’t necessary, but it sure doesn’t hurt. And before you order that café con leche (which is great, by the way) remember that this might be the only place in town where it’s totally acceptable to order a rum and Coke for breakfast. 392 Roncesvalles Ave., ­416-538-7500; plus two other locations, lacubana.ca

The Cuban Breakfast at La Cubana is the way to go.

 

Just look at all that roast-pork goodness.

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Farmhouse Tavern

Because a breakfast burger is a beautiful thing

The beauty of brunch lies in its rejection of mealtime boundaries. At the Junction Triangle’s Farmhouse ­Tavern, owner Darcy ­MacDonell’s ode to all things local, you can have the signature Barnyard Burger morning or night. The juicy chuck-and-prime-rib patty comes topped with house-smoked bacon, goat cheese, iceberg lettuce and a fried duck egg so big it can’t help but escape the bun. For those who want pancakes, well, they have those, too (and they’ll throw on a lobe of foie gras for a few extra bucks). One more must-have is the oyster-­garnished smoked caesar…provided it’s after 11 a.m. (okay fine, there is one limitation). 1627 Dupont St., 416-561-9114, farmhousehospitality.tumblr.com

Farmhouse Tavern’s signature Barnyard Burger.

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Café Cancan

Because this brunch is “Le Grand”—and it’s true to its name

Champagne. Caviar. Shellfish. Lobster. There’s no need to choose one (or two, or three) over the others at chef Victor Barry’s pastel-pink heir to the Harbord Room, where there’s a brunch option called Le Grand, and it truly is. The $149-per-person extravaganza, which is such a BFD that it must be ordered three days in advance, includes a two-tier tower brimming with shrimp, oysters, octopus and a whole tin of inky Acadian sturgeon caviar; an entire roasted Nova Scotia lobster; airy morsels of pâte à choux; coffee; and a bottle of Perrier-Jouët, because odds are this is a meal you’ll want to toast more than once. 89 Harbord St., 647-341-3100, cafecancan.com

When you’re this big, they call you Le Grand.

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Lady Marmalade

Because this BYOB stands for Build Your Own Benny

You can’t bring your own booze to this perpetually queued-up Leslieville gathering spot, where it’s all about the Benedicts, baby: perfectly poached eggs piled atop a split English muffin. And here’s where you come in: top it however you want, with add-ons like brie, ham, spinach and cheddar. We’re partial to a custom combination of bacon, avocado and roasted tomato, served under silky hollandaise with crispy home fries and a little salad. It’s even better with a few squiggles of Lady Marmalade’s house-made habanero hot sauce. 898 Queen St. E., 647-351-7645, ladymarmalade.ca

Voulez-vous manger avec moi?

 

The standard weekend (and sometimes weekday) queue outside Lady Marmalade.

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Edulis

Because the only thing better than brunch is a fancy Sunday lunch

If you’re lucky enough to land a table for Sunday lunch at Edulis, husband-and-wife team Michael Caballo and Tobey Nemeth will have you believing you’re anywhere but a Liberty Village townhouse for a good two hours or more. The five- to eight-course menu (not including a cloth sack full of still-warm rolls) changes every week, but always leans heavily toward seafood and vegetable dishes, like a lobster bisque made with Spanish cider, espelette pepper and the crustacean’s own roe; ­cellared leeks so good they’ll ruin any and all future leek experiences; and flaky B.C. skate dressed ­Moorishly in buttery olive oil, mint and raisins. And to finish (unless you choose to add on a grand finale cheese course, and why wouldn’t you at this point?) there’s always a show-stopping dessert, like a thick slice of layered coconut cream cake dotted with boozy cherries, because dinner doesn’t own the rights to dessert. 169 Niagara St., 416-703-4222, edulisrestaurant.com

Lunch at Edulis is a multi-hour deal. And it’s worth every second.

 

Step into Edulis and, for two hours or more, forget you’re in a Liberty Village townhouse.

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La Palma

Because doughnuts aren’t just for dunking

Everything about this Dundas West hangout is meant to evoke a crisp West Coast cool, from the whitewashed walls and sharp blue cursive marquee outside, to the espresso banquettes and mid-century modern fixtures in the dining room. Which makes this twist on eggs Benedict a ­wonderfully sloppy outlier. The kitchen tops an aged-beef-and-Duroc-pork-sausage patty with a poached egg, baby gem lettuce, bright salsa verde and rich béarnaise. It’s all piled onto (and spilling over the sides of) a grilled savoury doughnut. It’s brunchtime rule-breaking at its best. 849 Dundas St. W., 416-368-4567, lapalma.ca

Being an adult means saying yes to doughnuts for breakfast.

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Maha’s

Because we pity the fools who haven’t tried this foole

Waiting in line to get into this 24-seat Egyptian spot is unavoidable. Here, brunch is an everyday thing—and so are the lineups. Even blustery winter weather is no deterrent. (The owners kindly put a heat lamp on the sidewalk during the colder months.) Inside, the small space is redolent with cumin, garlic and coffee (the honey-cardamom latte is dreamy). It’s tempting to order one of Maha’s more Instagrammable dishes—say, the Mind Blowing Chicken Sandwich, a sesame-seed bun that’s given up trying to contain its contents—but the #uglydelicious foole is where it’s at. There’s a whole separate menu devoted to the spiced, fava bean–based dish: foole with sweet bell peppers, foole with sautéed tomatoes and garlic, foole with scrambled eggs, and more. Servers wisely suggest a side order of chewy, charred balady bread for scooping. It’s not pretty, but it’s totally worth the wait. 226 Greenwood Ave., 416-462-2703, mahasbrunch.com

Two versions of foole at Maha’s.

 

A crowd gathers.

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Mildred’s Temple Kitchen

Because these pancakes are as thick as a novel

Mildred’s Temple Kitchen—Mildred Pierce’s successor—is a veteran of the city’s brunch scene that excels at the classics: scones and jam, steak and eggs, a savoury tart, a salmon Benny, mimosas. But the most popular of chef-owner Donna Dooher’s brunch dishes are her Mrs. Biederhof’s pancakes, a stack of three buttermilk babies, each one easily an inch thick but light as air. They’re served perched in a puddle of sweet, sweet Lanark County maple syrup, and buried under an avalanche of whipped cream and blueberry compote. 85 Hanna Ave., 416-588-5695, templekitchen.com

Try not to get drool on your screen.

 

As you can see, the pancakes are a pretty popular choice—and for good reason.

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Mad Crush

Because a glass of sparkling wine is good, but a flight is even better

A glass of something sparkling with brunch can be the key to unlocking a legendary Sunday Funday. So what’s better than a flute of bubbly? Try a whole flight of bubbles picked from this Little Italy wine bar’s selection of hard-to-find wines from all over the world. Start with the trio of three-ounce sparklers; from there, it’s your call as to which pairs best with a ginormous slice of cheesy quiche or a plus-size croque madame with a runny-egg chapeau. Can’t decide? Ask for a pairing recommendation: the place is run by the team behind the Oxley, the Queen and Beaver, and the Wickson Social, so you’re in good hands. 582 College St., 647-350-8111, madcrushwinebar.ca

A perfectly fluffy omelette at Mad Crush.

 

What’s better than a glass of wine? Three glasses.

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Takht-e Tavoos

Because Persian brunch is a thing

This cozy nook in Brockton Village is almost single-handedly responsible for turning Toronto onto the beauty of Persian brunch. Our favourite dish on the morning menu is the Guisavah, fluffy scrambled eggs on a bed of butter-sautéed dates, dried apricots and walnuts, sprinkled with nigella seeds, and served with two blocks of salty feta and squares of chewy Barbari bread. It’s a riot of flavours and textures on one plate. Using your fork, stab some egg, a sugary sliver of date or apricot, a crumble of feta and a walnut (it’s tricky, but possible) to get the perfect bite. A cup of the Persian chai is perhaps the strongest drink on offer, but the spiced tea is soothing in a way that a caesar could never be. 1120 College St., 647-352-7322, pomegranaterestaurant.ca/tavoos

You haven’t really had brunch until you’ve had Persian brunch at Takht-E Tavoos.

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Beast

Because this towering hulk is the ultimate hangover cure

For the past eight years, a lineup has formed every Saturday and Sunday morning outside a tiny west-end row house. The queue is in response to what’s coming out of chef Scott Vivian’s kitchen: deliciously decadent brunch dishes that laugh in the face of a hangover. Dishes like fried gnocchi poutine, duck confit French toast and the Beastwich, a breakfast sandwich that gives the ­humble McMuffin a severe inferiority complex. For this knife-and-fork affair, a buttery house-made biscuit spread with tangy pimento cheese is loaded with crispy fried chicken thigh and an egg (also fried), and—as if that isn’t enough—finished off with a deluge of rich, porky sausage gravy. Recommended pairing: a nap. 96 Tecumseth St., 647-352-6000, thebeastrestaurant.com

Behold the Beastwich in all its glory.

 

Weekend lineups are the norm at Beast.

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Rose and Sons Deli

Because this is deli fare turned up to 11

If you want a pastrami on rye at 9 on a weekend morning, we’re not here to talk you out of it. But for those who don’t have the ­chutzpah—or just really like eggs in the ­morning—at his newly refashioned deli on Dupont, Anthony Rose offers the brunch equivalent of splitting the baby. You get your pastrami, all peppery and fatty, with two fried eggs on top. It’s dubbed the Pastrami Hash, which means it’s served on a base of schmaltz-fried potatoes (which might just be the most out-of-this-world hash browns in the city right now, especially once those eggs are cracked open) and topped with a dollop of horseradish cream that cuts through all—well, most—of the salty goodness. A fizzy New York egg cream made with Fox’s U-Bet chocolate syrup doesn’t hurt either. 176 Dupont St., 647-748-3287, roseandsons.ca

Pastrami Hash = pastrami + two sunny-side-up eggs + schmaltz-fried potatoes (which could give any hash browns in the city a run for their money).

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Emma’s Country Kitchen

Because of these mind-blowing biscuits

The best part of brunch is the bread, be it in the form of chewy bagels, flaky croissants, crusty sourdough or, in the case of Emma’s ­Country Kitchen, buttermilk biscuits. Made in-house daily, the golden-brown behemoths start out smaller on top and widen toward the base—they’re the Jabba the Hutt of the biscuit world. You can get them drowning in sausage gravy or bracketing a breakfast sandwich, but we like them best straight-up. Twist one open to reveal the delicate doughy strata, then slather each side with house-made citrus butter and mixed-fruit jam while the biscuit’s still steaming, to get all the goodness into every fluffy nook and cranny. 810 St. Clair Ave. W., 416-652-3662, emmascountrykitchen.com

Emma’s biscuits are good with sausage gravy, house-made jam or just on their own.

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Lamesa

Because a full Filipino breakfast is the new full English

At Lamesa, the first restaurant to introduce downtown diners to dishes like lechon, pancit and ube, brunch is a Filipino affair, where the usual staples are swapped out for similar—but way more interesting—substitutes. Instead of bacon and breakfast sausages, there’s juicy pork belly tocino and links of longanisa. The role usually occupied by home fries is filled by cassava hash, coconutty polenta, or crispy and chewy garlic rice so good it’s distracting. To drink, there are tropical twists on classic brunch beverages, like the Filipino Shandy, made with lager and tart kalamansi; guava juice (sorry, OJ) makes mimosas exciting again. 669 Queen St. W., 647-346-2377, lamesafilipinokitchen.com

Brunch at Lamesa means the usual staples—bacon, sausages, potatoes—are swapped out for more-interesting Filipino substitutes.

 

Inside Lamesa, a little slice of the Philippines on Queen West.

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Starving Artist

Because waffle bacon exists

This all-day (every day) brunch spot uses the humble waffle as a canvas. Starving Artist has been filling and topping honeycomb craters with all manner of things (poached eggs, smoked salmon, roasted marshmallow fluff) since the owners opened their first location back in 2009. But it’s the waffle bacon that has developed a cult following—and inspired “Waffle Bacon” T-shirts. For the popular appetizer, strips of bacon are cooked into the waffle batter. The waffles are then cut into strips—the bacon playing peek-a-boo from within—and served with a side of maple syrup for dunking. It’s the stuff sweet-and-salty dreams are made of. 1078 St. Clair Ave. W., 416-901-7479; plus three other locations, starvingartistbar.com

Waffles and bacon: a winning combination.