*Post Updated January 2019 with new additions!*
I’ve said it before, I’m no foodie. But I do love brunch (well, and gnocchi if you know me at all). And judging by the lineups at dozens of Toronto restaurants every Saturday and Sunday, I’m not alone in this love of all things brunchy. So here are a 10 brunch places in Toronto that Henk and I have tried where you can enjoy what I believe to be the best meal of the day.
But First, Why the big brunch bonanza?
There are probably a lot of reasons why brunch is a fave with folks. But here’s what it boils down to for me (see what I did there?)..
Reason to Brunch #1.
Who wants to cook on a Saturday or Sunday?
These are meant to be days OFF, people. And by combining breakfast with lunch, you get to take a pass on the kitchen for not one, but TWO meals. Sweet!
Reason to Brunch #2. Guilt-free indulgence.
Speaking of sweet, let’s talk pancakes, waffles and french toast – they all come standard at brunch without even having to ask for a dessert menu. It’s like getting a Free Pass between 10am and 3pm when these treats are just served up as regular food. So I can feel free to eat sweet if I choose to (one of the perks of being a grownup is that, yes, I am the Boss of Me.)
Reason to Brunch #3. Mornings in bed.
Planning to eat around noon means you have plenty of time to spend weekend mornings in bed doing whatever you prefer to do in bed. Do sudoku, do the crossword, do your partner – and you won’t have to do dishes afterwards (added bonus to point #1).
Reason to Brunch #4. Brunch is budget-friendly.
In fact, it is probably the cheapest meal ‘out’ that you can enjoy. Because except for the odd special-occasion Mimosa or hangover Caesar (Americans who don’t know what I’m talking about may want to read this), I’m not likely to be pounding back the beers or downing glasses of Shiraz at 11 in the morning. This is way cheaper than ‘date night’, and is good news for my senior years, since I am planning to continue brunching all through retirement.
So having established why brunch in the first place, here are my 10 picks (and counting) for great places for brunch in Toronto:
*January 2019 update: Lady Marmalade has moved to Broadview Avenue near Dundas, and now accepts credit cards (still no American Express) and debit cards. Same killer food, but the decor is less thrift store, and there are 2 floors.
Lady Marmalade is just plain “D squared”: Decadent and Delicious. My fave is the brie/bacon Eggs Benny, but seriously, it’s all good, and I have it on good authority from vegetarians and gluten-free folks that this place rocks too. (not an issue for me – but hey, it’s a big thing for some people). The ambience is early Salvation Army, where cups don’t even match saucers and formica has found a second life, but it all works.
I like this for the new life it’s brought to this neighbourhood (this second location is on St. Clair West between Dufferin and Oakwood), but I am a little p-o’d that Starving Artist didn’t exist when I lived near there for 8 years. Nonetheless, you must go here because the food is waffle-icious. Meaning waffles are a mainstay, and underpin almost everything on the menu, including the savoury Eggs Benny (here the waffle is a potato waffle – hello!) Proof that a waffle can make everything brunch even better.
TIP: Bring cash, not credit here since they don’t accept cards – if you forget, you can always use their ATM on premise.)
Okay, I have to admit, Epicure is a nostalgic favourite for me, even after they moved several years ago to a new location 2 doors east on Queen Street just east of Bathurst. They kept the same artsy museum posters, the same hidden patios, and more importantly, the same frites that come with their black forest ham version of Eggs Benny.
Right in the heart of High Park and with a summer patio shaded by its own tree, the Grenadier has to be the best breakfast place in town when you’re looking for brunch in a park setting.
It may not be the best ‘food for foodies’ (the hash browns are frozen not fresh), but the bacon, eggs and sausages are typical diner-style in quality and quantity.
TIP: Come before 11am on a weekday and the price for a classic breakfast is only $4.99. Fair warning for weekends, though – the place fills up with Running Room runners (enjoying their bacon, just like everyone else!) and lots of baby strollers.
5. Farmhouse Tavern
Duck eggs! Better yet, panko-crusted, soft-boiled duck eggs (the photo at the top of this post.) That’s gotta be a lot of work, and not just for the duck. But at Farmhouse Tavern you’ll find a lot of farm animals making an appearance on the menu, along with some rather interesting and cheeky descriptions (“Mother and child reunion” for a duck prosciutto served alongside the panko duck egg – clever, yes, and yummy, too.)
Red. Velvet. Pancakes. And yes, they actually come with maple syrup AND cream cheese icing at Goodfork on Bloor Street West. ‘Nuff said. (Remember Reason to Love Brunch #2?)
After years of having this tiny little retro hotspot on my radar, I FINALLY made it to Aunties and Uncles just off College Street, and luckily it wasn’t a freezing cold morning when we went, because as I had been warned, there was a lineup. The reasons for the lineup were obvious when we got in after a 25-minute wait: 1) the place is teeny-weeny and 2) the food is homemade and worth every affordable penny.
I opted for the Croque Monsieur, an ooey-gooey treat of ham and cheese on Challah with just enough Dijon to make it flavourful and not overpowering. The potato salad? Reminiscent of your grandmother’s summer picnic staple. (if any of us had those kind of old-school grandma’s or ever went on picnics!)
TIP: Even better than the food is the authentic retro decor in the hollowed-out rooms of this old house!
8If you’re looking for an upscale brunch-with-a-view, head to Lavelle, a chic rooftop resto-bar on King Street West. When it’s not serving as an evening venue for trendy rooftop parties where its pool plays centre stage, Lavelle serves a refined weekend brunch with a spectacular view of Toronto’s downtown. Hipster staples include the obligatory ‘Avocado Toast with the Most’ and Eggs Benedict with kale, but other options include a short rib Eggs Benny and even oysters if you really want to luxe it up.
TIP: The big advantage to Lavelle is that you can actually make a reservation (starting at 11am) and you don’t have to wait outside like so many other popular brunch venues.
9. Dirty Food
The Junction is definitely hot these days when it comes to funky food, and Dirty Food is another of my faves for a weekend brunch. And as much as I’m tempted to order something different, I always end up defaulting to anything egg-y that comes with their signature house potatoes (like their Eggs Jenny on a buttermilk biscuit with wilted collard greens). Super-thinly sliced and then roasted, baked, or whatever they do to make the potatoes soft and delicious, these are not your typical home fries. And if they don’t fill you up, there’s always the chicken and waffle sandwich or pierogies (who wants a light brunch, anyways – this has to serve as two meals!)
The Drake Commissary in one of those funky reinvented industrial spaces that are helping to make the trendy Junction just that – trendy. But this is more about food trends than style trends, although the Commissary has both: cool decor plus food that is all made in-house from real ingredients that are as healthy as they are delicious. The sourdough bread is a must-eat treat that comes with many of their dishes, but you can always take a loaf home as well, as the Commissary sells everything breads and baked goods to their own charcuterie and sauces.
TIP: While you’re in the neighbourhood, why not check out the new Museum of Contemporary Art that just opened right next door?
One Final Brunch Tip:
The busiest times for weekend brunch are from 11 – 1pm, especially on Sundays. So if you don’t like lineups consider going earlier, later, Saturday instead of Sunday, or better yet, on a weekday – many of these places are open all week, so if you’re playing hooky from work anyways why not do brunch as well?