1424 Dundas Street West
brunch for two with all taxes, tip and coffee: $28 (cash only)
The choosing of this brunch review was left up to fate. We’d ride the Dufferin bus north in the drizzle than permeated the city on the Victoria Day Sunday, and if there was a streetcar coming at Dundas, we’d head as far as Ossington and try our luck at the communal table at the Dakota Tavern. If there was no streetcar in sight, we’d cross the street and head to Gayley’s. a local place that we had passed a hundred times but had never been to.
Fate saved me from communal table brunch with jam-handed toddlers (with music for the kids!), but I’m not sure we chose the less frustrating option.
Nestled in a long narrow space on Dundas just east of Dufferin, Gayley’s is one of those cozy little neighbourhood places that people flock to. With its bright colours and warm brick wall, it’s a cheerful place that is obviously a much-loved part of the community. The inclusion of a kids menu shows that the owners are onto the local hipsters and their need for family-friendly spots, and happily most of the kids who were there stayed seated and kept their jam hands to themselves.
Menu offerings are the full spectrum of basics, with a variety of eggy fry-ups ($5.95 – $10.95) with the steak and eggs or big breakfast topping in at the most expensive. Two versions of porridge are available for those needing some stick-to-your-ribs goodness ($3.95 with milk and sugar, $6.95 to add toast and fruit salad).
We opt for the eggs benedict ($7.95) with fruit salad. The use of a sweet ham instead of peameal bacon is a nice switch-up, and the dill-flavoured hollandaise, besides being obviously real and not from a packet, was a nice bright note atop eggs poached to a perfect golden runniness. The accompanying fruit salad was an uninspiring combo of imported strawberries, grapes and bananas atop chopped lettuce. This hurt our heads. Not a lettuce cup, which would have been at least decorative in some way, but little bits of torn lettuce. It was just weird.
From a full selection of sweet stuff that included waffles, French toast or pancakes, I opted for the crepe filled with apple cinnamon compote (all items $7.95). The two crepes were nicely cooked, and the filling was warm and cheerful – not too sweet nor overpowered with cinnamon. A dollop of whipped cream was on the soft side, but had the aura of being hand-whipped instead of from an aerosol can.
A side of homefries ($2.95) was a generous portion of golden cubes, but was slightly over-salted and while we ate them all, they wouldn’t win our acclaim for best homefries ever.
Based on the food, we were please to have discovered such a decent place so close to home, but as we waited for our bill, things started to go sideways.
A couple of other reviews we had read of Gayley’s all mentioned the friendly but scattered service. And as the drizzle outside turned to a downpour and a line-up formed inside the door as people arrived looking for a table, thing pretty much fell apart. Over the course of 20 minutes, we asked three separate servers for our bill, all of whom headed back to the register and then got distracted and wandered off. When a group of three arrived and there were only deuces available, the owner asked a pair of girls, seated at a slightly larger table, to move, sticking them closer to the door where it was cold and damp. They ate their food with their coats on. I understand the need to want to accommodate everyone, but I truly hate when restaurants rearrange people who are already seated, and in this case, halfway through their meal. Not cool.
Eventually the bill arrived but there was more confusion and we had to make our way through the snugly packed place to pay at the register. All of this was enough to turn me off the place – at least on weekends. The food was decent and quite reasonably priced, so I can see dropping by on a weekday morning for breakfast, but the potential chaos and confusion would probably send me somewhere a little calmer on a Sunday morning. Sometimes it’s fun to let fate lead the way, but I’ve got to be in a good state of mind to deal with service as scattered as this.