Introducing: Around the Corner, the west end’s new gluten-free café and breakfast spot
New Toronto—that little pocket of post-war bungalows at Islington and Lakeshore—is teetering on the brink of gentrification. Just off the tired, time-worn main strip, new residents are tearing down the dinky houses to build dream homes by the water. Stepping in to feed these folks is Mark Ali, the enterprising foodie-locavore who has owned and operated The Village Butcher for the past three years. At his new café, Around the Corner, Ali shifts his devotion to all things fresh and local to the world of gluten-free eating.
Running an all-day, organic, gluten-free eatery wasn’t part of his initial plan. It took a sales rep to convince Ali to carry a few celiac-friendly products at the butcher shop, and once he saw customers’ reactions—joy, gratitude, relief, excitement—and a space became available around the corner (get it?), he knew the opportunity was too good to pass up.
The sun-drenched café has mint-green walls, bright orange banquettes and a slate floor. It seats 40 inside and another 30 on a bare-bones patio. In the short time since he opened on June 20, the place has been rammed. “The first weekend, it was stupid in here,” he told us. “Some people waited up to an hour for their food.” He and his chef, Jack Clift, have since worked out all the glitches.
Clift is a natural fit for New Toronto. He had a blue-collar upbringing in a small Ontario town (Brights Grove, near Sarnia) and started working in restaurants at the age of 15. With some diverse training under his apron strings—Hooters, Easy on Roncesvalles—he pumps out all-day breakfasts that are filling and healthy: French toast with sautéed berries and cream ($12), water buffalo short-rib hash ($9.50), house-cured Berkshire bacon and eggs from small-flock, free-run hens. A customer favourite is the freshly squeezed organic royal gala apple juice ($4). Beer and pop are not available, however. Ali explains, “It’s not part of my vision. I want this to be a healthy place for families with lots of screaming kids.”
Around the Corner, 132 6th St. (at Lakeshore Blvd. W.), 416-503-9555.