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.

Hail to the ‘Dale

gatefishPeople don’t really think of Parkdale as being a foodie paradise. And yes, if you’re looking for high-end health food items, organic meat or artisanal bread or cheese, you’d be mostly out of luck. But as one of the most multi-cultural neighbours in one of the most multi-cultural cities in the world, we’ve got a lot of variety working in our favour.

Most folks tend to think of the ‘Dale as a low-end neighbourhood full of nothing but greasy spoons and burger joints. For sure, we’ve got two of the best. The Gate (1206 King Street West) sits at the corner of King and Dufferin and offers up filling breakfast, burgers and some damn fine fish and chips. Peggy, the waitress who’s been working the tables here since the late 60s when she came to Toronto to be a go-go dancer, tells regulars to help themselves to coffee. Further west along Queen, The Skyline (1402 Queen Street West) is about as retro as you can get in terms of diners, with that famous neon sign out front, and fast and efficient service inside from the flurry of activity that is Doris, once voted “best waitress in Toronto”. Other places that serve up a mean burger or all-day breakfast includes Harry’s Burgers (160 Springhurst Avenue) and Stavros (1530 Queen Street West).

Continue reading “Hail to the ‘Dale”