While on maternity leave, my son Xavier and I brunched- a lot. We’d meet coworkers (there were a bunch of us on mat leave at the same time— I know, how lucky were we all to be off together?), new friends with babies (specifically, Sabrina!), and friends who work from home (or on ‘faux mat leave’- April!) and/or had a day off. Sometimes just Xavier and I would grab and go, and then end up at the park on a picnic blanket. When we met up with friends, we’d go to the park, a workout class or Sprouts or Oaks and Acorns, and then we’d brunch. I loved it, and I think I can speak for Xavier when I say that he did too; he got to eat all kinds of delicious food that I doubt I was exposed to at his age. (Realistically, he’s a major food monster and probably didn’t care what was going in his mouth, but I digress). Once I went back to work, X and I clearly weren’t brunching as much, but we still go out for food and walks to coffee shops on weekends.
I haven’t posted a Toronto Food Guide in a while; I typically love putting together a blog post of my new favorite spots in hopes it will help others pick their next resto! Better late than never, right? Here, I have compiled a list of some of my favorite (mostly) east end brunch and coffee shop hang outs (and a few west end gems!) that I enjoyed on maternity leave up until this very moment!
Maha’s Fine Egyptian Cuisine – I had been itching to try Maha’s Egyptian ever since my friend Jess told me about it. She recommended I go during the week while on mat leave, since on weekends the wait is typically an hour and a half wait to get in. I’m glad I took her advice! The first time I ate there, Ian was on holiday for a couple of weeks in the summertime during my maternity leave, and we strolled right in and had a sunny lunch on the patio, with Xavi by our side.
I lost my mind for the Pharaoh’s Po Boy, while Ian dove into the Egyptian Falafel, and we both munched on the cumin homefries. Oh, and the honey cardamom latte is a drink I would have every day if I could.
Other recommendations: the Egyptian Falafel, the Chef’s Appetizer Platter, the Date Grilled Cheese, and Maha’s Mind Blowing Chicken. (PS: they have a takeout menu too!)
Tabule- Oh, how I love the Leslieville location of Tabule. When I was on maternity leave, the staff was great when a bunch of us mama’s arrived: they’d give us the harvest table, let us park our strollers, and we’d order up a storm. They even participated in a PC sponsored event called Babylicious (mimicking Summerlicious) and my friend Sabrina and I brought our boys. They were gifted with a ton of take-home treats and a three-course baby meal. My recos from Tabule are as follows: The hallum salad + falafel (I NEED to learn how to make the dressing!), the lamb skewers, the hummus, tabule and labni dips and the flash fried cauliflower.
The Wren– I recently realized that my favorite comfort-food-kicked-up restaurant, The Wren, offers weekend brunch. Ian and I recently brought Xavier, along with two of our other friends visiting from out-of-town, and we all really enjoyed it. We arrived around 10:30 on a mild winter day and were seated right away. The brunch food is what you would expect of the fusion-style gastropub. The brisket hash was mouth-watering and the woodsy homeyness of The Wren never disappoints. Arrive hungry.
Bonjour Brioche- A old favorite, but oh-so-reliable. We even buy their bottled oil and herb-based salad dressing to keep at home! Anyone who follows me on social media knows that Bonjour is my longtime favorite brunch spot in Toronto. The wait is usually manageable (although maybe not with a rambunctious toddler) and on weekends they still serve my favorite spicy bacon and avocado sandwich; there is just something about the spicy maple bacon that sends my mouth into oblivion. (I know that isn’t actually possible, but just go with it. My mouth is watering just talking about it, and I went today!) They are known for their tarts, croissants, Croque Madame and specials. They don’t take reservations so line up early (or late. Just not during prime brunch hours). If you don’t have the time or the patience, grab a croissant and a coffee to go- all of their pastries, breads and desserts are made in-house. Just don’t expect skim milk for your coffee… it’s French, after all.
The Green Wood– The location of The Green Wood is awesome- Queen East, steps away from Yoga Mamas and QMP.! My friends Gavin and Zain are big fans, and I finally went for my first time on New Years Eve day. The Green Wood offers a seasonal menu, fresh-pressed juice, variety (but not TOO much- it’s the perfect amount), and delicious mimosas. I recommend the Souk Fries (hand cut fries topped with grilled eggplant, sumac salad, spicy tahini, fried egg and crispy halloumi, + lamb) and the grapefruit mimosa. The next time I go, I will have a hard time deciding between the Coziest French Toast, the Brisket Baguette and the Fried Chicken. Mimosa’s are $8 on weekends, and they take reservations! Last thing I will say about The Green Wood: it’s completely child-friendly. (We actually ended up at a table beside Xavi’s daycare friend and his parents). A great addition to a thriving neighborhood!
Lady Marmalade- It’s another Leslieville hot spot, and I must say, there is a lineup for a reason. While I almost always choose Bonjour Brioche over Lady Marmalade, let’s be frank: the French know what they’re doing regardless of which place you brunch at. Lady Marmalade, while not as traditionally French at Bonjour, features some of their own must-have dishes as well. Besides the fresh squeezed juices and homemade hot sauce, my personal favorite dishes on the menu are the Huevos Rancheritos, the Baja Rice Bowl, and the A.M Poutine. There is also a lot more room here than at most brunch spots in the city, so bringing kids here (if you don’t mind standing in line) is easier. Their tables are wear-and-tear 60’s diner style, and they have a handful of high chairs too. Bon Appétit!
Soho House- I realize that you have to be a member at Soho, or friends with someone who is, so this isn’t fair to necessarily include, but I cannot help it. Picture a Martha Stewart-meets-Bon Appétit magazine brunch style spread, held in a rustic and cozy-yet elegant setting with a wood burning stove and a long marble bar. It has everything you want, and then some: cocktails, oysters, charcuterie, crepes, waffles and omelets to order, fish, chicken, salads, sausage, bacon, mac and cheese, desserts… I will stop there. It’s just the most wonderful buffet-style feast. Stay for hours. Your won’t leave hungry. (It’s also kid-friendly!)
The Federal– This Dundas West hipster hangout does brunch right. Shout out to Lauren Shum for introducing me to this West-End joint. My favorites? The Belgian waffles with lemon cream, fruit and maple, and the grilled cheese with cheddar, chimichurri, pickled red onion and house-made ketchup. The menu item that I want to try next?: The French Toast with Fois Gras, bacon, date, almonds (not for me), fruit and maple. I may need a day to prepare.
The Starving Artist- An old reliable for your waffle cravings. Bonus: if you go during a weekday, there usually isn’t a line, so you can easily bring a little one! Come to think of it, I haven’t brought Xavier here since he was quite small, and I’m sure he would devour the waffles! Personal fave? The Cheese’n’Chives! But I recommend going with someone who likes to share 🙂
Maple Leaf Tavern– We’re big fans of MLT, and although sometimes the service can be slow, the brunch is on point and they take reservations! This newly renovated historical landmark has become a local favorite in the East End. My fave brunch dish? It’s a heart attack on a plate, so it may be best to share: The Hashbrown BLT. You got it– the bread is replaced with hash browns! I mean, COME ON!
A few more tidbits…
I’ve written about School, Mildred’s Temple Kitchen and Emma’s Country Kitchen (a fave!) before as well, and they are all fantastic. I have heard Colette is cute and Insta-worthy for showers, and Cluney’s is good but a bit over-priced, but I cannot comment on these things as I haven’t experienced them myself. I haven’t been to Lisa Marie’s for brunch in a couple of years, but boy do I enjoy their burger nights! And I do love The Stockards, but it’s pretty far from my house so we don’t get there often.
Favorite Coffee Shops and Bakeries:
The TAMPERed PRESS Cafe and Community Space– Located in the West End, The TAMPERed PRESS is one of my favorite stops when I’m on the way to visit a client or friend near Trinity Bellwoods Park. The coffee is fantastic, the environment is inviting, and the treats and snacks (Eeee, the cookies!) are made with love and oh-so-yummy. Grab a book and head over- you won’t want to leave!
Bobbette and Belle– I didn’t know Bobbette and Belle made things other than cakes until I met my friend Jean and her baby Stella on a rainy day during maternity leave. It is great for people watching on Queen W and has lots of space for strollers. I personally love the English Toffee Pudding, the scones with lemon curd and the cafe mocha. Not to mention the cupcakes and macaroons. Oi! Bobbette and Belle is another favorite of mine, but it’s trouble! It isn’t cheap, and it isn’t healthy! (You have been warned). NOW GO HERE! And try EVERYTHING! And bring treats for your friends and family home!
The Shmooz– My favorite croissants in the city reside here. Also, every meal I have eaten at The Shmooze has been made with love and oh-so-delicious. Plus, they have lots of healthy options, including a roast salad, their teas are ethically traded, and their specialty lattes are made with homemade syrups. Xavier and I spent a LOT of time here on maternity leave and we love the community feel it offers! (It even has a great patio now because we all petitioned!)
Von Doughnuts– The best donuts in the city, and always creating new ones! My favorites are PB+J, Cookie Dough and Pucker Up Sucker. The coffee’s pretty great too 🙂
The Riverdale Perk– I have to thank Jess Swartz to introducing me to the “friends Style” cafe situated in the hearts of Riverdale. The number of times we walked on a sunny morning to The Perk is beyond me, but the coffee always had us coming back for more. It’s so good, in fact, that I got some to put in Ian’s stocking for Christmas this year. The food is pretty darn good too!
Broadview Espresso– Located just north of the Danforth on Broadview, this was one of my favorite spots to walk to on summer mat leave mornings. Jess and I would grab a coffee with our boys, and sit in the giant Muskoka chairs outside, people watching as the sun beat down on us. You may even have a celeb sighting or two! 😉
Mable’s Bakery- Hand pick your pastries and desserts in this adorable bakery (with a couple of locations!). My favorite location? The one on Queen West, so I can pop in after a Spin Class at 6ix Cycle. (Haha!)
The Purple Penguin– Fresh, delicious and some awesome unique drink and food options. Check it out!
Celena’s- Two words: butter tarts.
Zav- We love the new Zav Coffee for its friendliness, coffee, muffins and its local art. Located at Danforth and Woodbine, this new local hot spot is worth checking out!
Sugar Loaf- Owned by fellow daycare parents and conveniently located in the old Starbucks at the corner of Jones and Gerrard, Sugar Loaf is a great stop for brunch, croissants, mocha’s and coffee.
Fuel+ – Butter coffee with collagen and smoothie bowls should do the trick!
Rooster– Summertime is the best time to visit the Broadview location; take a seat outside and enjoy the scenery.
Mercury Espresso– Hipster, cool, and really good coffee.
2018 Brunchie Places on my List:
Lil’ Baci – I haven’t been in a couple of years and the write-up’s recently have been great!
Saving Grace– I went to Saving Grace with my friend Kristy and we had a very strange experience here… the lights were on, the sign was outside and the hours on Google claimed they were OPEN. We went in and sat down and were told to get out… Such a strange experience, but hear such good things! I am willing to give it another try.
Farmhouse Tavern– Jane Annette Lalonde… I am MAKING you bring me here this year!
Uncle Betty’s– A greasy spoon uptown gem.
And, as always, for up-to-date Toronto Foodie news, make sure to always check out my friend Ash at Toronto Food Blog!
Let me know your favorite brunch spots in Toronto, and I’ll be sure to add them to my list!