The best summer spots in Toronto, by genre
When calculating the cost of a complete meal, we include the average price of a starter, a main, a dessert, a glass of wine or beer, 15 per cent tax, plus 15 per cent tip. The prices listed for beverages are approximate. When NOW labels a restaurant “barrier-free,” it has at least one entrance where there are no steps, its tables are reasonably spaced and its washrooms are located on the same floor, although they’re not necessarily equipped with assistance.
ñPHIL’S ORIGINAL BBQ
838 College, at Ossington, 416-532-8161. This is as close as Hogtown gets to real Kansas City barbecue. Despite a confusing name change a few years back, Phil Nyman’s low-key beanery retains its nondescript digs; dig the grub – super slow- cooked, melt-in-themouth stuff with first-rate sides. After pigging out, follow the smoke, have a peek in the backyard and check out a smoker so large it cooks 250 pounds of meat at a time. Bonus: Phil’s take-home merch line of hot sauces, T-shirts and baseball caps. Best: superb slowcooked Southern US-style barbecue unlike any found locally; gorgeous pulled pork, meaty moist spicerubbed and/or sauced pork ribs, disintegrating beef brisket and grill- charred chicken served as combo platters or as substantial sandwiches sided with tremendous smoker-baked beans strewn with even more pork, cheesy Venezuelan cachapas pancakes, hush puppy cornmeal dumplings, classic slaw or potato salad kicked with horseradish. Complete meals for $30 per person ($20 lunch), including all taxes, tip and a premium beer. Average Main $12/$10. Open for lunch Monday to Saturday noon to 3 pm, for dinner Monday to Thursday 5 to 9 pm, Friday and Saturday 5 to 10 pm. Closed Sunday, holidays. Licensed. Access: one step at door, washrooms in basement. NNNN
457 King E, at Gilead Place, 416-703- 4728. The unofficial offshoot of Aunties and Uncles offers a similar all- day breakfast slash soup ’n’ sandwich lineup but focuses more on the first meal of the day. Quality ingredients and first- class attention to detail make this diminutive diner the biggest thing to hit Corktown since the Great Fire of 1904. Bonus: read all about MG’s daily specials – as well as the off-thewall ruminations of its staff – at www.morningglory.ca/news.html. Best: on pre-proofed housebaked breads, regular sandwiches like sweet tuna salad with tart green apple on ciabatta, or Bavarianstyle Mennonite ham and sharp cheddar on chewy baguette, or one- offs such as curried chicken breast on Italian roll; Asian-inspired soups like spicy squash purée with crushed Szechuan peppercorns, or complex lentil with lime; whopping omelettes wrapped around havarti ’n’ leak or Brie paired with pear; more than competent cappuccino and retro raspberry crumble. Complete meals for $12 per person, including all taxes, tip and a fruit nectar. Average Main $6. Open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday 8 am to 3 pm, Saturday and Sunday 9 am to 3 pm. Closed Wednesday. Unlicensed. Access: two steps at door, washrooms in basement. NNNN THE RECTORY
102 Lakeshore, Ward’s Island, 416-203-2152. Open very sporadically in the past, this lovely island getaway just off the south-shore boardwalk now keeps regular hours year round. Although its morethan- competent card of upscale sandwiches, designer salads and straightforward pastas might not be as well received on the mainland, the menu could consist of beans on toast and Spam fritters and most still would be wowed by the bucolic surroundings. Bonus: other than wind rustling through the towering pines overhead, silence. Warning: Reservations recommended in good weather. Best: to start, roasted zucchini and asparagus purée dolloped with lemony crème fraîche; grilled chicken panini dressed with oven- dried tomato and sided with a roasted corn and dried berry relish and mixed greens; grilled Ontario lamb chops with minty blueberry chutney and curried couscous; for dessert, island baker Louisa Milan’s famous chocolate cake. Complete meals for $45 per person ($30 at lunch or brunch), including all taxes, tip and a glass of wine. Average Main $15. Open daily 10 am to 10 pm. Closed Monday and Tuesday. Licensed.
Access: barrier-free. NNNN VIENNA HOME BAKERY
626 Queen W, at Markham, 416-703-7278. Though not as well known as her superstar- chef sibling Greg, Gay Couillard has an equally stellar pedigree. A consummate baker and true Queen Street original, she’s been turning out posh breakfasts and super south- of-France quiche-and-salad lunch combos from this retro spot for 20 years. But it’s her fruit-tastic pies and cassis-soaked cakes that cause the most fuss. Most mornings, and especially for weekend brunch, you’ll find a group out front waiting for the authentic 40s luncheonette to open. Best: Liptauer cheese sandwich on house-baked whole wheat toast; seasonal egg dishes like smooth ricotta and caramelized onion quiche with beet ’n’ feta salad; vegan black bean burritos; for dessert, old-fashioned sky-high apple pie, sticky date pudding and cranberry apple crumble; weekend- only poached Eggs Bombay on house toast with curried coconut-milk hollandaise and home fries. Complete meals for $10, including all taxes, tip and a coffee. Average Main $6. Open Wednesday to Saturday 10 am to 7 pm, Sunday 10 am to 4 pm. Closed Monday and Tuesday. Unlicensed. Access: barrier-free but
narrow room, washrooms in basement. NNNN
1645 Queen W, at Roncesvalles, 416-537-4893. Surrounded by junk shoppes, Peter Morrison’s funky luncheonette at the far end of Queen has been a hit with Parkdale artsy types since it launched five years ago. The reason: a crowded, cacophonous storefront offering a reasonably priced card of all- day brunch/breakfast alongside substantial soup ’n’ sandwich combos. Warning: weekend lineups! Best: Huevos Divorciados – two eggs topped with both red and green salsas, with cool refried black beans, chunky tomato-spiked guacamole, rosemary-tossed home fries and a toasted baguette with homemade ancho chili jam; a pair of soft-boiled eggs sided with toast soldiers ’n’ salad or fries; signature sandwiches like grilled chicken breast, avocado, lettuce and tomato on organic, yeast-free spelt toast spread with chipotle mayo; retro Cobb salad with smoked turkey, hard-boiled egg, avocado, bacon and tomato in blue cheese dressing; to quaff, banana latte smoothies, cheap pints, plonk by the tumbler and jumbo Bloody Caesars. Complete meals for $17 per person, including all taxes, tip and a glass of wine. Average Main $9. Open daily 9 am to 5 pm. Licensed. Access: barrier-free. NNN
100 Sorauren, at Pearson, 416-588-1234. So popular it’s opened a sibling spot – Mitzi’s Sister on west Queen West – this quirky kid-friendly storefront luncheonette on a tree-lined street in Parkdale has been serving formidable weekday lunches and weekend brunches for over a decade. Warning: lineups Saturday and Sunday. Best: at brunch, a constantly rotating card of eggy things like thick challah French toast dolloped with ripe strawberries and whipping cream, sided with herbed home fries and brunch garnish; perfectly poached eggs over wilted spinach chiffonade; maple syruped lemon poppyseed pancakes tossed with pecans; plain scrambled eggs for the rug rats; from the lunch card, apricot, date and pork meat loaf paired with warm potato salad and mesclun; panfried Newfoundland cod cakes splashed with red-pepper aïoli; lemon-basil-infused tuna salad sandwich on sourdough. Complete meals for $22 per person, including all taxes, tip and a glass of plonk. Average Main $10. Open Monday to Friday 7:30 am to 4 pm; brunch Saturday and Sunday 9 am to 4 pm. Closed Monday. Licensed. Access: one step at door, two steps
to washroom on same floor. NNN
907 Dundas W, at Bellwoods, 416-703-7368. When owner/chef Monica Miller’s deceptively anonymous space – white- on-white walls, minimalist decor, 20 seats tops – opened five years ago, friends thought she was mad to open on this dreary inner- city strip. Now that Dundas West is the snazziest address around, they join the queue with the rest of us at her charming café for straightforward soups, salads and sandwiches priced to go easy on the pocketbook. Bonus: On the hi-fi, a brilliant mix tape featuring the likes of the Turtles, Go-Betweens and Bacharach- era Dionne Warwick. Double bonus: copies of hip UK music bible NME in the magazine rack (not for taking home). Best: devilishly textured corn cakes accompanied by chili-fired mango chutney and greens dressed with sun- dried tomato vinaigrette; weekday soups like Thai-style coconut cream thick with boneless breast, green beans, garlic chives, lemongrass and bird chilies; such sizable sandwiches as grilled chicken, peameal, avocado, tomato and lettuce on raisin bread toast spread with rosemary mayo; on the weekend, waffle du jour with real maple syrup, or very plain scrambled eggs with pumpernickle toast and ovenroasted home fries. Complete meals for $20 per person, including all taxes, tip and a glass of wine. Average Main $7. Open Monday to Friday 9 am to 3 pm; brunch Saturday and Sunday 10 am to 3 pm. Closed first Tuesday of every month, holidays. Licensed. Ac
cess: one step at door, washrooms upstairs. NNN
Strudel at the Butcher Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve become a big fan of the oddly named
Chicago Butcher Shoppe (289 Roncesvalles, atWestminster, 416-588-2001). It sells a standard selection of Eastern European deli, but this Polish bakery just two doors south of Freshwood Grill (See feature, page 75) makes a mean apple strudel. For two bucks you get a huge 6-inch square of inch-thick sugar-glazed phyllo-like pastry spread with Old World fruit. Eat only half and still get stuffed.
1018 St Clair W, at Appleton, 416- 654- 0609. Forget pad thai. This gaudy west- side storefront specializes in subtly spiced Cambodian dishes that combine influences from neighbouring Vietnam and Thailand as well as those further afield – India, Portugal, France. Bonus: the joint’s previously uncomfortable food- court- style seating has been upgraded with regular tables and chairs! Best: substantial soups that verge on multi-portion stews, like hot and sour bamboo shoots, chicken and Asian eggplant in coralhued coconut gravy, or Soup Delight, pineapple, tomato and Chinese celery in a clear aromatic broth detonated with whispers of salty prahok (fermented fish paste) and galangal; Khmer Pancake, a rice flour omelette stuffed with gently spiced ground chicken dunked into a complex sugary dip of chili, peanut and vinegar; tamarind-tanged Samlaw Khmer chicken with carrot, broccoli and bell pepper over jasmine rice; lassi-like green tea shakes. Complete meals for $20 per person ($12 at lunch), including all taxes, tip and a Canada Dry. Average Main $8. Open Monday to Friday noon to 9 pm, Saturday noon to 10 pm, Sunday 5 to 9 pm. Unlicensed. Access: one step at door, washrooms on same floor. NNN
872 Bathurst, at London, 416-538-9729. A laidback Caribbean café, this bright casual space offers creative, reasonably priced takes on familiar islandstyle grub. No worries for those not in a hurry. What’s
Zorba’s Constantinos Carasoulos serves up old-school Greek.
Go for Tharo Chhouk’s soups at Khmer Thai.
Mauro Marina’s (left) all-day breakfasts score at Tony Cappellano’s Boom.