BLUEGRASS BRUNCH @ DAKOTA TAVERN (249 Ossington, at Dundas West, 416-850-4579) Complete brunches for $25 per person, including all taxes, tip and a pint. Average main $12. Open for brunch Sunday 11 am to 3 pm. Dinner nightly from 6 pm, bar till 2 am. Licensed. Access: 15 steps at door, washrooms on same floor. Rating: NNN
Every Sunday, the Dakota Tavern goes through some 60 dozen eggs. No, they’re not the pickled variety. These eggs be scrambled.
For just over a year now, while other downtown boîtes whip up eggs Benedict for the hoi polloi, the Dakota has been offering an all-you-can-eat breakfast spread to the obbligato of live bluegrass. Little wonder the west-side watering hole is packed to the rafters with the weirdly bearded and trucker-hat set. And their kids.
When it comes to children in restaurants, I’m with Jonathan Swift: they’re delightful, especially when slow-braised in Merlot and plated alongside a few shallots. But the small fry in attendance this Sunday noon are a surprisingly well-behaved bunch. When they take to the honky-tonk’s mirrorball-lit dance floor as the banjos begin to duel, it’s almost heartwarming. Not that it makes me want to race home and procreate or anything.
If you’re thinking the scene sounds familiar, you’re right – the Cameron House did this sort of thing years ago. The only thing missing is Handsome Ned, though I’m sure he’s here in spirit. Thankfully, the hungry hordes that ruined brunch at the Cameron have yet to discover the Dakota’s bargain breakfast.
For 12 bucks, it’s quite the deal, starting with freshly squeezed orange and grapefruit juice from a carton and as much strong coffee as the hung-over can guzzle. For those who eat that sort of thing, a perfunctory fruit salad follows. After a short break to listen to the band – today featuring members of the Crazy Strings and the Foggy Hogtown Boys – we’re served a huge family-style platter piled with the aforementioned scrambled eggs.
To boot (the Cuban-heeled snakeskin cowboy variety), it also comes heaped with a mountain of home fries, bacon and pancakes. The scramble is appropriately fluffy and strewn with fresh tomato, the rashers unusually meaty and the spuds crisply gold from the grill. Drizzled with real maple syrup, the flapjacks are especially filling. No toast, though.
Service is a tad scattered – here one instant, invisible the next – but friendly. And the set-up is a bit odd to figure out at first. Hint: don’t wait to be seated, and sit wherever you want. Most – usually groups of six or more – choose the long communal table that runs the length of the barn-boarded room.
A rockin’ band, more greasy-spoon-perfect grub than you can possibly finish and twisting toddlers in Misfits T-shirts. As Chris Montez and Teenage Head would agree, that’s gotta be some kinda fun.