Mitzi’s Cafe and Gallery

Mitzi’s Café & Gallery
100 Sorauren Avenue (at Pearson)
lunch for two with coffee, tax and tip; $35, cash only

Think for a moment about your perfect neighbourhood café. It would be small and cozy, hidden from the beaten path, but still busy enough to flourish. There would be funky mismatched furniture, artwork on the brightly-coloured walls, and an open kitchen where the staff regularly broke into song (in a good way). There would be a cute patio and maybe a big picnic table out front under an old apple tree, where locals gathered each sunny day, kids and dogs in tow, to sip coffee, share gossip, watch the birds flutter by and enjoy their breakfast.

Oh yeah, and the food would kick some serious ass.

Don’t have one of those in your ‘hood? I feel bad for ya, dude, because here in Parkdale, we’ve got Mitzi’s, and we love it.

Named after actress Mitzi Gaynor, no relation to owner Leslie Gaynor, Mitzi’s Café is located in a tiny little corner shop in the middle of an otherwise completely residential area. With a focus on breakfast, brunch and lunch, the menu features a selection of rotating specials built around the concept of altering the flavours on a weekly basis. For instance, the oatmeal buttermilk pancake can have candied orange peel and white chocolate sauce one week, and sautéed pears and cream anglaise the next. A similar approach is taken with the French toast, the omlette and whatever version of eggs benedict they’ve come up with. Complimenting the dishes are the much-loved roast potatoes (but only until noon!), fresh fruit and mixed green salad.

Sandwiches play a big role at lunch with offerings such as jerk chicken, barbecue beef, and a cranberry apple melt with cheddar and caramelized onions. Most sandwiches average $9.25 and come with a hefty salad and fruit.

Service is prompt and professional, but also comfortable, like you would expect in a place like this. Staff chat with customers while baking up muffins and pastries for their busy take-out business – the place opens at 7am on weekdays, and it seems everyone in the neighbourhood stops at Mitzi’s for coffee on the way to work.

Any complaints I could come up with are few and far between; the place is small and it can get claustrophobic during busy times. On weekends, there is often a line-up that snakes out the door and down the street, although staff are happy to serve coffee to people standing in line for a table. And they only take cash, which means you have to come prepared, as the nearest ATM is a five to ten minute walk away. Try as I might, I can’t come up with a complaint about the food, other than the fact that there’s no liquor license, so I can’t have a glass of oatmeal stout with my oatmeal pancake. (This can be rectified by visiting Mitzi’s Sister, the pub around the corner on Queen Street West owned by the same folks. The weekend brunch menu there is similar to the café’s regular menu, with the addition of a really great beer selection.)

It’s important to remember that this is not the kind of place where customers eat a power breakfast and hurry off. On weekdays in particular, when the crowds are not so bad, Mitzi’s is conducive to sitting back and reading the paper, to thoughtfully sipping that refill of your coffee cup that has so conscientiously appeared, or, in warmer weather, to sitting outside in the sun by the apple tree, patting a dog and watching the locals stroll by.

It’s the perfect neighbourhood café, and everyone should be so lucky as to have one exactly like it.