220 Yonge Street
Brunch for two with all taxes and tip plus coffee and juice: $40
Montrealers must really like their eggs. How else to explain the huge popularity of chains like Eggspectations with 7 locations in the Montreal area in addition to the 2 in Ontario, 4 in the US and 2 in India? The Toronto Eaton Centre location is constantly busy, at all times of the day, with a line-up and an average wait of about 10 minutes for a table.
Which is the confusing part, because having eaten here a few times, the food, while passable and hole-filling, has never been outstanding. It’s not worth waiting in line for, and in the years since they’ve been open, I’ve walked out more times that I’ve eaten there.
But many people would seem to disagree with me, for even at 11am on a weekday, we get stuck waiting a few minutes for a table. Maybe it’s the massive menu – at 160 items that range from the expected egg dishes to burgers, pasta and sandwiches; the selection more closely resembles that of Milestones or The Pickle Barrel than a place that focuses on eggs.
Not that they don’t do eggs well. The poached eggs in our California Benedict ($12.99) couldn’t be more ideal – runny, golden and smooth. And the serving of smoked salmon underneath is generous, if nothing else. But the hollandaise is chalky and congeals oddly, revealing itself to be from a mix, while the floppy out of season and overcooked asparagus just makes us sad. The wilted spinach is nicely done, though – actually wilted as opposed to a green mess.
Wanting to try the crepes, we order the Sugar Shack ($9.29), two crepes Bretonnes with scrambled eggs, ham, beans and the signature flat sliced potatoes. It seems missing something on arrival and we’re halfway through before we realize the ham has been forgotten. Our server is apologetic – overly so, in fact – and a plate of ham arrives within two minutes. Too bad it’s sitting in a pool of grease and is as salty as the Red Sea. As for the rest of the dish, the crepes are slightly rubbery, and the beans appear to be the same maple-flavoured Heinz ones I get at the grocery store. I’m a sucker for the flat fries though, as they remind me of Saturday nights as a little kid when we had these for dinner and were allowed to eat in the living room and watch cartoons.
This is not to say that we hated our meals – they were, as expected, passable and hole-filling, if not amazing. With the amount of turnover a restaurant of this size experiences (we guess about a thousand covers a day), the kitchen probably works on the premise of cooks at various stations turning out one finished, perfected ingredient – ie. poached eggs, crepes, fried potatoes. It’s the garnish ingredients, or cases where the station gets ahead of itself and has cooked product sitting under heat lamps, that lowers the quality of the final dish.
The benefit of a place like this is that, like all family dining establishments, it does offer something for everyone. With all manner of breakfast dishes as well as lunch and dinner items, it’s a fast, reasonably-priced place to take the family, but it’s not a destination restaurant for anyone looking for a gourmet breakfast. Those with lowered eggspectations will find it a passable choice.