Sunday Brunch – The Parkdale Drink

The Parkdale Drink
1292 Queen Street West
Brunch for two with all taxes, tip and coffee: $30

When The Parkdale Drink first opened up a couple of years ago, we were distraught that it would lure too many hipsters under the bridge at Queen and Dufferin, forever changing the face of our insulated little neighbourhood. Then one night we walked past and realized that it had, in fact, lured 905ers under the bridge, as evidenced by the Daisy Duke jean shorts, high heels and bedazzled t-shirts worn by the very classy young ladies hanging around out front having a smoke. We swore at that point never to enter the place, and reviews of the food by other media outlets did little to persuade us to change our minds. We’d peer in the huge glass windows on our way to the Caddy and make that tsk tsk sound, either because the place was empty or full of people who scared us.

But we needed a brunch review last week and didn’t feel like going too far in the pouring rain. We’d exhausted most of the other options in the area, so figured it wouldn’t be too terribly scary to pay the Parkdale Drink a visit on a rainy Sunday afternoon.

The room was empty and we were the only customers in the place for the whole time we were there, reinforcing the idea that the locals, at least, aren’t really considering this lounge a viable dining option. However, the food was decent, the service impeccable (as you would expect if you were the only customers) and the vibe – on a rainy Sunday, at least – was comfortable.

Leather sofas arranged in a large south-facing window would be a great spot for cocktails although the low coffee table isn’t conducive to eating. The rest of the long narrow room is an odd mix of beige, red and pale green walls that seems to suck all the light out of the place. But it is modern and comfortable, and there’s a bright patio at the back.

The brunch menu is full of basics, most of which are under $10. There’s a variety of omlettes ($7 – $9), brioche French toast ($9) and pancakes that comes either plain or with fruit or chocolate chips ($7 – $9). Eggs benedict comes in a variety of options ($9 – $11) and there’s a decent variety of vegetarian choices as well.

The fried egg sandwich ($6.50) comes with “choice of breakfast meat” with options of bacon, sausage or ham or peameal bacon for $1 extra. It is exactly what it claims to be – fried egg, cheese and back bacon on white toast. Home fries are a delightful surprise; nicely browned chunks of fluffy potato, topped with sautéed sweet bell peppers and onions.

I opt for the veggie eggs benedict ($9) which sees the standard poached eggs, English muffin and housemade hollandaise sauce accompanied by sliced avocado, wilted spinach and tomato. This is a really great flavour combination, although it would work better with the avocado slightly mashed, as things tend to slide around too much otherwise. Eggs are properly cooked with nicely runny centres and the hollandaise is fresh if not memorable in terms of flavour elements.

Both plates come accompanied by the typical selection of brunch fruit; de rigeur cantaloupe and berries, although where there would normally be a slice of orange that threatens to squirt the diner in the eye as they eat it, someone has sectioned and peeled orange segments and artfully arranged them on the plate. Yes, I said sectioned and peeled. But I guess if we’re the only customers in the place for an hour, it’s not like the kitchen has anything more interesting to do. We appreciate the effort – it’s a nice touch, and the sides and garnish add a lot to our overall good impression of the place.

Service is friendly and efficient – coffee is refilled regularly, water comes to the table with our menus. We’re asked if we want dessert. We’re so impressed, in fact, that we discuss coming back for dinner, and would definitely come back again for brunch.

I don’t know if The Parkdale Drink is still attracting that some clubland-style crowd who descend upon the place for cocktails and bottle service; I suspect it doesn’t get hopping until well after my bedtime so I may never know. But maybe after a couple of years in business, the kitchen has worked out the early kinks that earned it so many mediocre reviews. Brunch at least is a decent card of well-executed standards at reasonable prices that are worth checking out if you’re brave enough to venture under the bridge.

Sunday Brunch – Toba

243 King Street East
Brunch for two including all taxes, tip and coffee: $43

I’m a sucker for a pretty face. While our reviews here at TasteTO generally focus on the food, service and décor always play a part in the overall experience. And while it’s usually the case that the artwork hanging in a restaurant will neither make or break the meal, I’ve got to admit that the wall of 50s pin-up girl paintings at Toba endeared the place to me – just a little. Six paintings line the east wall of the persimmon-coloured room, and all appear to be channeling pin-up artist Gil Elvgren. The works are unsigned and appear to be copies of some of Elvgren’s most well-known images; it’s clear someone is as enamoured of the collection as I am – the series also appears on Toba’s website.

But we didn’t come to Toba for the cheesecake, we came for the brunch, and an impressive brunch it was.

Continue reading “Sunday Brunch – Toba”

Sunday Brunch – Sunset Grill


Sunset Grill
1 Richmond Street West (and other locations)
Brunch for two with all taxes, tip and coffee: $23

People like breakfast. They want it hot, fast and familiar. They’re even willing to stand in line for it if that combination can be guaranteed.

Thus is the business plan on which the Sunset Grill is based. And it seems to be working. Starting with one all-day breakfast diner in the Beaches in 1985, this local chain has grown to 15 locations and counting. Most are known for their line-ups, especially on weekends. That’s a lot of bacon and eggs.

Continue reading “Sunday Brunch – Sunset Grill”

Sunday Brunch – Niagara Street Cafe


Niagara Street Café
169 Niagara Street
Brunch for two with all taxes, tip and coffee: $52

I’ve always heard good things about the Niagara Street Café. It’s original incarnation was run by a mother/daughter team who used free-range and organic ingredients. When it transferred hands in 2004, it continued to gain accolades, particularly at brunch.

Everything about the place seems ideal – nice cozy space that would be filled with sunshine if we weren’t in the middle of a run of grey days, great looking menu with interesting options. But there’s an undercurrent of something that wasn’t quite right, especially in terms of the menu. What looks good on paper doesn’t jibe so well when reality sets in.

Continue reading “Sunday Brunch – Niagara Street Cafe”