EVERYBODY EATS (557 Parliament, at Winchester, 416-923-0100) With a name taken from a Cab Calloway song and a programmed easy jazz soundtrack, this familiar, comfortable space takes a low-fat veggie approach to current global-influenced bistro cooking. Not everything works - non-dairy vegan French toast minus syrup? - but much of owner/chef Trudy Hine's moderately priced menu shows promise. Bonus: fireplace! Complete meals for $25 per person ($15 at lunch or brunch), including all taxes, tip and a glass of house red. Open Tuesday to Friday 11 am to 10 pm, brunch Saturday and Sunday 10 am to 4 pm, dinner Saturday to 10 pm. Closed Monday. Licensed. Access: three steps at door, washrooms on second floor. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
A block north, the two rooms that now house the two-month-old Everybody Eats are also known for their significant contribution to the local dining scene. For it was here in 1971 that the original Bumpkins, then the only alterna-restaurant in town, introduced Toronto to quiche. Since then, the space has been La Plume, Le Charolais and lately a Filipino spot that catered to this gentrified district's domestic help. Today, it's still a very comfortable space - a bright front area with an open kitchen and a more formal backroom complete with burning fireplace and French doors leading to a garden patio that will be lovely in spring. Cocktail jazz tinkles.
One lunch, the brother and I pull burger duty. He opts for Everybody's first-rate filler-free chopped strip loin, ordered and delivered medium-rare but with its menu-promised garlic mayo AWOL. I go with the curried lamb burger, another meaty patty this time topped with sweet apricot chutney. Both are served on classic oversized kaisers dressed with lettuce, tomato and onion (both $6.95).
Our interest piqued, we return a few days later for the full treatment. We start with Artichoke Caviar ($4.75), an intriguing combo of diced 'choke, chopped peppers and crumbled feta served with warm pita points dusted with oregano.
Today's soup, a cream-free parsnip purée ($2.95), has a marvellous licorice flavour, surprisingly rich though unburdened by dairy.
Despite being topped with a tangy red onion salsa and sided with low-fat home fries, Everybody's 8-ounce sirloin ($13.95) disappoints. And does it really need to be automatically served with ketchup? Better it should come with some of the house's marvellously nutty toasted barley and asparagus risotto ($7.95) thick with carrot, peppers and roasted tomato. And though the desserts are brought in, Altitude's divine chocolate banana bread pudding ($5.75) can be more than forgiven.
Back for brunch, I thumbs-up my eggless omelette ($6.45), more a scramble of tofu, sweated onion and Monterrey Jack.
But where's the ketchup when you need it?
The brother suffers through Everybody's vegan French toast ($6.25), a dish that's not only free of butter and eggs but maple syrup, too. It may as well be a vegan grilled cheese sandwich since all that's left is fried bread with some cinnamon-dusted apple on the side.
With 25 years experience in local kitchens, first-time restaurateur Trudy Hine has the right idea. A vegetarian - that explains the so-so steak - she's smart to focus on a healthy, moderately priced card that occasionally features meat. But if she wants to relive some of Toronto's culinary history, perhaps she'll put quiche back on the menu.
Vegan, no doubt.