A Guide to Brunching in Toronto

Brunch is a “thing” in Toronto. Whether you’re throwing on a loose-fitting tee and ordering a Caesar to nurse your splitting headache courtesy of last night, or slipping on a summer dress and ordering a iced-matcha-latte, brunch is not to be rushed (the city won’t let you – very few restaurants take brunch reservations and long waits are inevitable).

Whether you’re recovering from a buzz or ready to get a buzz going, looking to treat yourself with something sweet or savoury, or nourish with something nutritious post-spin class, here’s this hungry girl’s guide to brunch in Toronto.

Simit & Chai Co.
King West

Simit & Chai Co. is a Turkish bakery and café, allowing visitors to order over the glass, baked-good adorned counter, take a seat wherever they choose, and move around the tables and chairs as needed. This all-day brunch spot is run by husband and wife duo Candeniz “John” Ulgen and Duygu “Dee” Ulgen, and is designed by John himself, an architect with a firm back in Istanbul. The industrial, modernist space is airy and inviting with its high ceiling, brick walls, and white marble tabletops.

Simit (Turkish bagels) are the bread and butter here (literally and figuratively… sorry, had to). Unlike their North American counterparts, these Istanbul street style bagels are coated in molasses and rolled in seeds prior to baking. And their taste and texture is quite unlike our North American version; the bagels are thin and dense, chewy, and unique and distinct in taste. While it was evident that the bagels were made fresh in house, I found them to be a bit lacking in flavour. Ordering the olive tapenade is a must add-on and completes each bite.

The bagels can be ordered plain or dressed up with a choice of toppings including tomatoes, cream cheese, goat cheese, olive tapenade, and smoked salmon.

In addition to the bagels, the bakery and café brings small sandwiches, pastries, teas, and rich Turkish coffee.

DSCF1874-2Simits (Turkish bagels) with olive tapenade, and masala chai tea

Kupfert & Kim
Richmond & Spadina

Kupfert & Kim (finally) brings us meatless, wheat-less, plant-based ‘fast food’, made with real, quality ingredients. The dishes are vibrant and flavourful, giving half-ass, flavourless competitors (ahem, Freshie) a run for their money. Established as a grab-and-go takeout counter in the PATH offering an alternative to bagels and scones, Kupfert & Kim has earned its right as a now standalone eatery at Richmond and Spadina.

K&K will meet your needs for a vegan protein smoothie post-yoga, a quick and nourishing week day lunch, or an Instagram-worthy Sunday morning brunch date. And it was my go-to for breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, and snacks. Mike used to give me a hard time for spending the equivalent of rent here, but it was in the food court right below my office so I was set up for failure.

Okay, I’m straying from the brunch theme here, but some of my favourite menu items include:

  • PB Mocha Smoothie: Organic banana, organic peanuts, organic cacao, organic lucuma, espresso (this one always satisfied my sweet tooth and gave me a boost to make it through my post-lunch slump at the office).
  • Almond Lime Bowl: Brown rice, organic tofu, bok choy, pickled carrots and daikon, roasted mushroom, caraway slaw, cashews, cilantro, basil, sesame seeds, lime, scallions, optional hot pepper, served with almond lime kaffir lime sauce.
  • Burger of the Day: Patty of the day on a bed of brown rice (can substitute for quinoa) topped with pico de gallo, guacamole, and pickled onions, served with roasted yam and a side salad.
  • All of their vegan, gluten-free treats, especially the Chocolate Oat Square. Whenever I ordered this square, the cashier and I would exchange “I know, right” looks. When you know, you know.
  • Kombucha on tap!

IMG_0360K&K Waffle: House-made gluten free waffle topped with berries, hemp seeds and coconut-cashew cream

IMG_0357.jpgBlue smoothie bowl: Avocado, organic blueberries, cashew butter, lemon, dates, organic vanilla, and flax, topped with organic blueberries, chia, hemp seeds, granola, and organic apple

DSCF5499Green (Crowd-Pleaser) smoothie: Organic kale, organic banana, ginger, lime, organic pear, hemp seeds, mint

DSCF5497Rise kombucha on tap

Old School
Dundas West

Old School is the latest from Chefs Brad Moore (School) and Ian Kaptain (Alobar, Ryland Inn). The narrow diner, suited with a circular bar and black vinyl upholstered tables and chairs, gives off a laid-back, retro vibe.

The chef duo serves up classic, home-style fare. Translation: if you’re in the mood to indulge in some full-blown comfort food, Old School’s your spot. It took everything in me not to crawl back into bed after this one.

Mike and I waited an abnormally long time for our food but were served up apology mimosas so no harm done in my books.

DSCF2047-3Buttermilk pancakes topped with brown sugar butter, whipped cream, and fresh blueberries

Early Bird Coffee & Kitchen
Queen West

Early Bird makes itself right at home on Queen Street West, with its industrial lighting, white brick walls, and greenery draping the interior. Trending indie tunes set the mood and there is a mixture of patrons; those hunched forward, typing away on their laptops and phones, and those leaning back, chatting away with a friend.

And Early Bird doesn’t just set up for success, it delivers.

Mike ordered the avocado toast (with the avocado shaped into a rose), served with a poached egg, and a coffee brewed with Pilot beans. I ordered the blue smoothie bowl, with a matcha latte.

Who doesn’t appreciate flower-filled dishes?

IMG_9776-2Blue smoothie bowl

Traditional Brunches

If you’re in the mood for more of a classic breakfast of eggs, bacon, and hash browns, the Drake Breakfast or Eggs Benedict at Drake One Fifty in the Financial District will hit the spot. If you’re feeling a boozy brunch (no shame), the retro, diner décor and occasional live band makes for the perfect outing.

Another option is the Classic Breakfast at Peter Pan Bistro on Queen Street. A little higher in price but the setting is cozy and brunchy (I’ve just decided that ‘brunch’ is an acceptable adjective as well). Art deco furnishing and fixtures include chrome stools, hanging lights and a tin-plated ceiling. The artwork by Debbie Lawson outfitting the walls will be sure to grab your attention.

Ricarda’s Mediterranean Restaurant and Bakery offers a selection of classics. Brunching with a big gang? Ricarda’s is a huge space at the base of the QRC West at Peter and Richmond, offering up 170 seats inside, and 100 or so more on the indoor patio inside the office building’s lobby.

Treat-yourself Brunches

If you find yourself in Liberty Village one morning and the sugar-craving hits, be sure to treat yourself to the Black n Blue Flapjacks at School.  The schoolhouse theme, complete with apples on each table, black chalkboards, and lined paper menus, is cute, and the renowned sweet and savoury brunch is sure to satisfy.

Also in Liberty Village is Mildred’s Temple. If you’re up for the wait, it’s well worth it. Treat yourself with the Huevos Monty (savoury) or the Mrs. Biederhof’s Blueberry Pancakes (sweet). This is a good spot to keep the mimosas flowing with your girls or to bring visiting parents.

Beast, at King Street West, is another treat well worth the wait. As you may have gathered from the name, this isn’t the most vegetarian/vegan welcoming restaurant. But for all of those carnivores out there, the Beast Burger is the ultimate treat, hands down.

If crepes are your thing, Café Crepe on Queen is decent and we’ve never had to wait more than a 5-10 minutes, which is worth acknowledging.

Healthy Brunches

In addition to Kupfert & Kim, Café Neon, at West Queen West, is a hip little joint prepared to delight. Menu items include Greek yoghurt, granola, oatmeal pots, as well as egg-centric dishes and breakfast sandwiches (just in case your man isn’t in the mood for a healthy helping of health food). The kitchen sources its ingredients with care, partnering with local farm, Sharon Creek. I actually ended up opting for a lunch menu item and ordered the seasonal Winter Bowl with a mix of kale, beets, sweet potato, chickpeas, braised cabbage, sprouts, wheat berries, raisins and toasted almonds, tossed in a sesame orange dressing.  Adding goat cheese perfected an already perfect plate.

Bring-the-Whole-Gang Brunches

Lisa Marie, at Trinity Bellwoods, is a fun spot for brunch beers (if you haven’t had a good craft beer with brunch, you’re missing out). The bustling spot opens up the garage doors in the warmer months, keeping the spirit lively, and takes reservations for brunch, which is hard to come by.

Cluny Bistro & Boulangerie dominates the brunch scene at the Distillery District, and we’d expect nothing less from the owners of El Catrin around the corner. This spacious, parisian boulangerie will whisk you all away into a buck-a-shuck, bread-basket euphoria.

Portland Variety, at King and Portland, is a convenient meet up and the wait isn’t usually too long. If luck isn’t on your side wait-wise, you can all walk a few hundred meters to Gusto 101 on Portland, which serves up brunch now. I’m not sure the dollar-an-ounce wine will be available for brunch but one can hope.


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