SMITH 553 Church, at Dundonald, 416-926-2501, 553church.com. Cousin to nearby 7 West and Wish, Renda Abdo’s latest resto-lounge features a confident comfort food kitchen and the village’s most exclusive patio – a romantic two-top on a secluded second-storey terrace overlooking the street. Bonus: show up on your bicycle and get a 10 per cent discount on food. Best: to start, brownie-like mint chocolate scones ($6) follow with a wilted kale salad dressed with frisée, roasted almonds, toasted quinoa, a shaving of Grana Padano and a runny egg ($11) traditional huevos rancheros on La Tortilleria tortillas dressed with black beans, chunky guacamole and house-made salsa ($15) fluffy omelette du jour with caramelized leek, bacon and aged cheddar ($10).
Brunch Sunday 10 am to 4 pm. Licensed. Nine steps at door, washrooms upstairs.
WISH 3 Charles E, at Yonge, 416-935-0240, wishintoronto.com. This whitewashed South Beach-style resto-lounge returns to its original mandate. Lucky us! The owner’s overhauled the kitchen and lowered prices, too. And did we mention the fabulously chic curbside terrace? Best: at brunch, try eggs Charlotte, a pair of expertly poached eggs in Parmesan and leek fondue over smoked salmon on whole wheat Ace Bakery muffins, sided with organic greens in red wine vinaigrette ($15).
Brunch Saturday and Sunday 10 am to 4 pm. Licensed. Access: barrier-free.
FABARNAK 519 Church, at Dundonald, 416-355-6781, fabarnak.com, @fabarnakresto. Is there a more socially aware resto in town than this surprisingly stylish café in the 519’s new addition? Not only is more than 80 per cent of the truly spectacular grub locally sourced and/or organic, but it’s also prepared by a pair of professional chefs assisted by three marginalized youth from the local LGBT community with no previous kitchen experience. And it’s cheap! Similar meals would be twice the price most anywhere else. Need more? Instead of bourgeois Sunday brunch, the community centre serves the homeless, using part of the café’s proceeds. Best: to start, vegan San Marzano tomato bisque splashed with virgin alpine evergreen oil remarkably crusted quiche, one day house-smoked pastrami and blue cheese the $9 (!) Square Peg combo, an ever-changing bento box of whatever’s on special – say, pan-roasted naturally raised quail topped with a fried quail egg, sided with kimchee, coleslaw, curried potato wedges in coriander pesto and a house-baked Portuguese pastel de nata custard tart mains like brick-roasted southern chicken over wilted greens and retro house-made cornbread to finish, butter tarts.
Lunch Tuesday to Friday 11:30 am to 3:30 pm, dinner Friday 5:30 to 9 pm. Brunch Saturday 9 am to 4:30 pm. Closed Sunday, Monday, holidays. Reservations accepted. Licensed. Access: barrier-free.
KENZO RAMEN 522 Yonge, at Maitland, 647-340-2112, kenzoramen.ca. Gargantuan bowls of Japanese noodle soups sided with don’t-miss house-made gyoza dumplings. Best: top-of-the-line King Of The Kings ramen in spicy shoyu broth finished with sliced chashu pork, slivered scallion, runny soft-boiled egg, chewy seaweed and kamaboko fishcake, the Spam of Japan creamy Tonkotsu ramen’s broth tasting of liquefied pork chops minced pork gyoza – more soup dumpling than potsticker, they squirt so much jus for the hardcore, takoyaki dumplings stuffed with unusually tender octopus.
Daily 11 am to 10 pm. Licensed. Access: barrier-free.
TEPPAN KENTA 24 Wellesley West, at St, Nicholas, 647-345-0905, teppankenta.com. Ex-Guu chef Kenta Taniguchi trades his gong for a teppanyaki griddle at this difficult-to-find izakaya (hint: it’s around the back of the condo and across from Northbound Leather). While the snackable carte and bare-bones room might look like you-know-Guu, it’s noticeably less noisy. Best: to start, old-school guacamole made tableside ($7.5) double-fried chicken wings splashed with mirin and lemon juice $6.5) blood-red slices of barely seared Angus strip loin brushed with sweet soy sauce ($10) to finish (what else?), French toast with vanilla ice cream ($5).
Lunch Monday to Friday 11 am to 3 pm. Dinner Tuesday to Sunday 5 pm to noon.
GHAZALE 78 Wellesley East, at Church, 416-922-4417, ghazale.ca. Upstairs from a bathhouse, this wholesome family-run Middle Eastern take-away offers an extremely inexpensive mostly veggie card in fast-food-chain digs till 4 am. Best: fabulously sour veggie cabbage rolls or grape leaves stuffed with minty short-grain rice, oily pesto and chickpeas garlicky eggplant moussaka stewed lima beans in tomato sauce pickled beet ‘n’ kidney bean salad raw cabbage slaw buck-a-cup lentil soup house-squeezed antioxidant blackberry juice.
Monday to Saturday 9 am to 4 am, Sunday 10 am to 4 pm. Unlicensed. Access: barrier-free.
MAGIC OVEN 6 Wellesley West, at Yonge, 416-929-7888, magicoven.com. Since Abby and Tony Saberwal – ex Bar Be Que Hut in Little India – opened their east-side take-away in the shadow of Pizza Pizza in 97, their thriving business has expanded to include four additional outlets, and for good reason. Their thin-crust and health-conscious (!) pies are some of the most innovative in town. Bonus: several lactose-free and vegan versions. Best: Tandoori Magic ($14), like all pizzas, offered on a choice of traditional, whole wheat, organic spelt or gluten-free crust, here layered with sweet pink barbecued chicken breast, preservative-free tomato sauce, onion, garlic and ginger Gourmet Veggie Magic ($12) with grilled eggplant, roasted red pepper and chèvre free-range tandoori chicken wings and drumsticks (1lb $11).
Monday to Wednesday 11 am to 10 pm, Thursday to Saturday 11 am to 11 pm, Sunday noon to 10 pm, holidays 3 to 10 pm. Licensed. Access: two steps at door, washrooms in basement.
GET MELTED 600 Church, at Gloucester, 647-350-6358, getmelted.ca, @getmelted1. No-frills café specializing in gourmet grilled cheese has its name for a reason: it’s got a separate vaporizer lounge upstairs. John S.J. Lee creates a mostly fried lineup. We like to upgrade his appropriately priced Classic Melt ($4.20) of cheddar and mozzarella on supermarket white with ferociously hot roasted jalapeños (75 cents), while the Club Melt (the most expensive thing here at $7.75) with additional bacon and deli-style turkey is just fine the way it is. Lee layers thin, crisp slices of Dimpflmeier marbled rye with retro tuna salad and sharp havarti (the tuna melt) or creamy chèvre, smoked ham and arugula (the Meaty Goat) and gets all fancy with Brie, mozzarella and pear (La Poire, all $6.90). Veg-heads will appreciate the innovative combo of Gruyère and roasted red pepper, cremini ‘shrooms and whole cloves of garlic (the Antipasti, $7.50). All come with handfuls of quite okay barbecue kettle chips and spears of dill pickle. For dessert try the glazed apple fritter with cheddar.
Daily 11 am to 9 pm. Closed some holidays. Unlicensed. Access: six steps at door, washrooms on same floor.
COMO EN CASA 565 Yonge, at Wellesley, 647-748-6666, comoencasa.ca. Once home to Pita Break, this Casa specializes in slow-cooked Mexican stews and the inevitable tacos ‘n’ burritos.
Monday to Friday 11 am to 9pm, Saturday noon to 9 pm. Unlicensed.
FUEL+ 471 Church, at Maitland, 647-352-8807, fuelplus.ca, @FuelPlusInc. Gluten-free pastas ‘n’ salads, vegan baked goods, power shakes and dairy-free lattes.
Monday to Friday 7 am to 8 pm, Saturday and Sunday 8 am to 8 pm. Unlicensed.
GUU 398 Church, at McGill, 416-977-0999, guu-izakaya.com, @GuuToronto. Like to be verbally abused in a foreign language while eating dinner? Then this insanely popular and extremely noisy Japorean izakaya just south of the village should do the trick. Most nights folks queue patiently outside this windowless marble-clad box for up to two hours just to join the party. The wait just got a little shorter: a new 20-seat cedar deck has made Guu that much more accessible.
Lunch Monday to Friday 11:30 am to 2 pm, dinner nightly 5 to 11:30 pm. Licensed. Access: barrier-free.
MENUS MAY CHANGE. PRICES ARE INCLUDED TO REFLECT THE RELATIVE COST OF DINING IN A PARTICULAR EATERY.