Fire on the East Side
6 Gloucester Street
416-960-FIRE
Brunch for two with all taxes, tip and coffee: $40

There’s a renewed interest in southern food these days – fried chicken, collard greens and even grits are showing up on restaurant menus. But for the past few years, one restaurant just steps off the Yonge Street strip has been quietly serving up some classic southern-inspired fare. We reviewed dinner at Fire on the East Side a few years ago, back before Chef Adam Baxter took over the stoves, but figured it might be time to stop by for brunch.

Like most Torontonians, we enjoy brunch, and doing a column about brunch means we’re always looking for something out of the ordinary. You can only eat so many omelettes, yanno? So we were pretty delighted to arrive and find a selection of classics with unique southern-flavoured twists.

We get off to a shaky start with some complimentary banana bread. And while I know it’s probably rude to complain about the freebies, these chunks of really cold loaf manage to be dry at the top and soggy at the bottom. Plus, it’s kind of bland. We spy staff pulling them out of a cooler with tongs and an exclamation of “eww!” from one of them while peering into said cooler isn’t reassuring.

That seems to be the only miss though, as we peruse the regular menu to make our choices.

I’m torn between the spicy rosemary turkey hash ($12) and the crab cake Benny ($12) – one of four variations, the others are served atop cornbread – with the crab cakes ultimately winning out. They’re a little spicier than I’d prefer but the orange Hollandaise sauce softens the burn. Lots of real crab in here too, which pleases me – there’s nothing worse than getting crab cakes that are mostly bread crumbs. Accompanied by a hearty portion of crisp frites and a mixed green salad with candied walnuts, I now doubly regret eating the banana bread, just because there’s less room for crabby goodness.

The hungry husband cannot resist the breakfast poutine ($11) which is a big ol’ bowl of grease – and I mean that in the best way. The same frites are topped with pulled pork, Monterrey jack cheese, chipotle hollandaise and an egg. It is overwhelming in both quantity and cholesterol. It is awesome.

There are healthier options too, such as the healthy scramble ($11) or granola ($9), but Fire on the East Side wouldn’t be true Southern food without some hearty plates, and brunchers can find everything from steak and eggs ($14) to toad in the hole ($11) here.

Service throughout is pleasant and well-timed. This is a busy joint and staff manage to keep people moving so there’s never a wait for newcomers. Atmosphere too, is enjoyable. We’re seated off to one side but the main room is bright and cozy and in the warmer months, the patio is the place to be.

Banana bread aside, we’re pleased with the quality and quantity of the food – as well as the price – and may soon feel the need to wander back this way for dinner.