Sort-of Secret: The Daily Grind, a Bloordale gem serving Vietnamese-inspired brunch

Sort-of Secret: The Daily Grind, a Bloordale gem serving Vietnamese-inspired brunch

Part of our series spotlighting the city’s edible hidden gems

A hearty Vietnamese stew in a cast-iron pan sits next to a stack of blueberry pancakes with whipped cream, a croissant breakfast sandwich and salad, a latte and a glass of orange juice

More Sort-of Secrets

The sort-of secret: The Daily Grind, a café in Bloordale serving Vietnamese-influenced brunch
You may have heard of it if: You visited before the pandemic, when they were still an ice cream parlour
But you probably haven’t tried it because: Locals and regulars have been protectively keeping this place to themselves
 
While a slew of trendy restaurants have transformed the block of Bloor between Lansdowne and St. Clarens Avenues into a dining destination, the most exciting development for locals may be the Daily Grind. The small café has quietly built a following for its bright, refined and, in some cases, Vietnamese-influenced brunch specials.

The exterior of The Daily Grind, a brunch restaurant in Toronto

When it first opened in 2018, the airy, sunlit space that now serves as the Daily Grind’s dining room was Emmy’s Ice Cream. It had been owner Tony Duong’s lifelong dream to open an ice cream parlour.

At that time, Duong and his partner (in business and life), Thuy Le, were also running Black Briik, a pub farther east down Bloor, and dreaming about a business that would better accommodate their schedule as new parents. When the pandemic and the realities of selling ice cream in Toronto forced them to rethink the concept, their minds immediately turned to brunch.

A man and woman sit next to each other in a booth at a restaurant

“Some nights we’d be working until 3 a.m.,” says Duong. “What’s nice about brunch is that, after we’re done, we’re still able to pick our kids up from their school around the corner, go home, cook dinner and have time to spend with our family. That’s time that we’d never get back otherwise.”

Inspired by a wave of new Vietnamese brunch restaurants she noticed during a trip to Los Angeles, Le became convinced something similar could work in Toronto. “When people think of Vietnamese food, they think about vermicelli and pho. We want to change that,” says Le, whose grandmother once operated a successful breakfast stall in Ho Chi Minh City. The couple make regular visits to Vietnam for culinary inspiration.

The sleeper hit here is Le’s grandmother’s bò kho, with portions of tender beef brisket and a poached egg nestled in a rich tomato-based stew. It’s garnished with fried shallots, pickled onions and cilantro and served in a cast-iron skillet with two pieces of sourdough toast on the side for dunking.

Related: What’s on the menu at Sadelle’s at Kith, Canada’s first location of the New York–based brunch spot

Another hearty standout is the Carnivore: steak on toast inspired by a teppanyaki restaurant the couple once visited in Japan. “The woman working there must have been 90 years old. At one point, after cutting the steak, she took out this piece of milk bread and slapped it on the flat top. And I was like Whoa, what’s going on here?” says Duong. It isn’t the most intuitive way to eat a six-ounce flat-iron steak, but it absolutely works: the bread soaks up all the excess juice from the meat while preventing it from infiltrating the eggs and salad.

A breakfast croissant with a side salad

Substantial breakfasts are Le and Duong’s specialty–they’re contemplating adding bò né to the menu, which is basically the Vietnamese take on steak and eggs. But they offer more typical western brunch staples too, like eggs Benedict. Their version involves a perfectly poached egg blanketed in a vivid, silky Hollandaise (brightened with a touch of honey and apple cider vinegar) and tucked inside a flaky croissant. That egg is accompanied by a choice of bacon, smoked salmon, avocado or—the superior option—a slice of juicy pork loin marinated in lemongrass, soy sauce and condensed milk.

The ricotta pancakes are quickly becoming the Daily Grind’s signature dish. Tall and round like crumpets, moist with fresh cheese, soaked with a wild blueberry jus, crowned with whipped cream, and served on a bed of tangy lemon curd, they’re the stuff breakfast dreams are made of. When a plate of these arrives at your table, it feels a little bit like it’s your birthday.

Someone pipes whipped cream onto a stack of fluffy pancakes covered in blueberry sauce

Anyone still unsure of what to order here should start with the Daily, a deceptively simple plate of eggs prepared however you’d like, potatoes that are both crispy and fluffy, slices of sourdough from Epi Bakehouse, and rashers of some of the best bacon ever. Duong says the light maple glaze he puts on the bacon is a product of cooking for his three daughters, who have turned out to be incredibly sophisticated and particular eaters. He used to sprinkle brown sugar on their bacon before baking it, but that sometimes resulted in a thick lacquer that could be an obstacle for small teeth. Substituting maple syrup yielded a more tender product, vaguely reminiscent of a smoky, meaty fruit roll-up.

“Every one of my daughters’ palates is different, so I have to make different things for each of them. One of my daughters will only eat a specific 36-month-old gouda. And—believe it or not—my oldest one scrambles bananas with her eggs,” says Duong when asked about the genesis of Gettin’ Crabby, a delectable combination of salted egg yolk, soft scrambled eggs and delicate, sweet wild crab. Duong clearly takes pride in spoiling his kids with delicious food, and when you eat at the Daily Grind, you feel like you’re one of them.

A sign inside the Daily Grind, a brunch spot in Toronto's west end