1. Keriwa Café
1690 Queen W, at Roncesvalles, 416-533-2552, keriwacafe.ca.
Now that the Hoof Café's suckling pig eggs Benny and bone-marrow beignets are a thing of distant memory, our vote for Hogtown's most creative brunch goes to owner/chef Aaron Joseph Bear Robe's innovative midday weekend nosh.
It begins with an assortment of pastry chef Nis'ku Closs's baked goods - a pair of flaky petite croissants, a moist carrot-cake muffin, a perfect crumbly blueberry scone, some buttery shortbread and a brittle ginger snap or two, the lot sprinkled with granulated sugar ($10) - before moving on to a new potato 'n' onion hash ($14) piggybacked with slices of picnic ham and a pair of baked runny eggs, all garnished with Kozlick's grainy Triple Crunch mustard and a blob of funky adobo sauce.
Bear Robe expertly sears slabs of fatty pork belly confit, then plates them over a sautée of wild mushrooms, shallots and leek, a tangle of organic greens and house-baked Red Fife toast spread with house-made butter on the side ($15). But chef pulls out all the stops with his spin on bread pudding ($16), here concocted from cinnamon buns and finished with a confited duck leg, a puddle of tart bullberry sauce, a dollop of crème fraîche and a final toss of pea shoots
We say "Hoof who?"
Brunch Saturday 10 am to 2 pm, Sunday 10 am to 3 pm. Reservations accepted. Dinner Tuesday to Thursday 5:30 to 10 pm, Friday and Saturday 5:30 to 11 pm. Closed Monday, holidays. Licensed. Access: barrier-free, washrooms in basement.
2. Gallery Grill
7 Hart House Circle, at Wellesley, 416-978-2445.
If you're planning on having a bite under the vaulted arches of historic Hart House on the U of T campus, you might want to consider donning a mortar board and matching gown, such is the resto's scholastic vibe.
The less academically inclined may opt for more casual attire when commencing with chef Suzanne Baby's excellent biscuits du jour - cheddar and chive, say - alongside glasses of unfiltered cranberry juice ($4.95). Sadly not set aflame like they do out on the Danforth, slices of haloumi cheese arrive on a bed of quinoa studded with fresh dates, while a pair of perfectly poached free-range eggs ladled with Meyer lemon hollandaise ride salt-cod fish cakes ($14.95).
Baby's take on Alsatian tarte flambée (both $15.95) skews more to breakfast than the versions offered at Elle M'a Dit on Baldwin, here topped with a runny olive-oil-fried egg, house-cured Berkshire bacon and shaved Benedictine blue cheese. Save room for textbook crème brûlée ($7.95) drizzled with maple syrup collected on the university farm.
Brunch Sunday 11 am to 2 pm. Reservations mandatory. Lunch Monday to Friday 11:30 am to 2:30 pm. Closed Saturday, holidays, holiday weekends, and July and August. Licensed. Access: barrier-free.
For those who can't decide, Brockton General's waffles come sided with a fried egg.
3. Brockton General
1321 Dundas W, at Rusholme, 647-342-6104, brocktongeneral.com.
Though they're lined up out the door at Federal Reserve down the block, the Sunday scene is a bit more serene at Pam Thomson and Brie Read's west-side resto.
As an iPod shuffles through the Beach Boys' greatest hits, we tuck into a basket of chef Alexandra Feswick's tasty pastries ($6): grilled slices of Southwest-style cornbread, delicate Niagara cherry scones and fried-to-order doughnuts topped with sweet pear puree 'n' apple compote ($2.50 each à la carte).
We follow with eggy wedges of frittata thick with chopped rapini, Toscano cheese and spicy Portuguese chorizo and a skilfully executed omelette stuffed with wilted watercress and sharp triple-cream Riopelle cheese (both $12), a shared plate of house-cured bacon ($4) on the side. Both come with roasted beets, sweet potato and parsnips in place of ho-hum home fries as well as a few of Feswick's ethereal grilled gnocchi.
Go big with buttermilk waffles ($14) layered with a wobbly sunny-side-up egg, house-smoked chicken and a heap o' collard greens. Better still, get any main on the brunch card and a choice of either granola, oatmeal, soup or salad plus a drink for 18 bucks.
Brunch Sunday 10:30 am to 3 pm. Dinner Wednesday 6 to 10 pm, Thursday to Saturday 6 to 11 pm. Closed Monday, Tuesday, holidays. Licensed. Access: one step at door, washrooms on same floor.
92 Ossington, at Humbert, 416-537-0134, deluxrestaurant.ca.
Those of us with an expanded waistline won't appreciate this Franco-Cuban bistro's tight-fitting booths, but the rest of you tattooed skinny Minnies will squeeze in just fine. You'll definitely leave a few belt notches larger, though, after chowing down on chef Corrina Mozo's stellar Sunday-only lineup.
Be sure to start with a paper bag of baked-to-order buttermilk donuts sided with sweet dulce de leche chantilly, and a plate of crunchy Caribbean-style conch fritters and tangy tartar dip (both $5). Don't miss the fried egg-topped picadillo hash ($12) flush with Quebec duck confit, duck-fat-fried potatoes, peppers, olives, capers and raisins. A mound of black beans ‘n' rice and smashed-plantain tostones completes the considerable plate.
Maple-syrup-drenched challah French toast gets dressed with caramelized banana, while her signature grilled Cubano sandwich of cider-cured pork shoulder, sliced deli ham and gooey Gruyère comes between pressed slices of Havana-style bread (all $10).
Brunch Sunday 10:30 am to 3 pm. Closed Monday, holidays. Lunch Tuesday to Saturday 11:30 am to 3 pm, dinner Tuesday to Sunday from 6 pm. Closed Monday, holidays. Licensed. Access: one step at door, washrooms on same floor.
5. Free Times Cafe
320 College, at Robert, 416-967-1078, freetimescafe.com.
If you think the scramble for a table at the Dakota Tavern's insanely popular Bluegrass Brunch can be difficult, you should see the mob scene Sundays at Judy Perly's 30-year-old resto when 100-odd hungry seniors descend on her all-you-can-eat $19.95 Jewish buffet.
We advise wearing football shoulder pads to fight your way through the feisty throng, such is the crush for blintzes stuffed with lemony ricotta and dolloped with apple sauce just like Bubbie used to make. Golden-fried latkes arrive topped with sour cream, and consummately fluffy omelettes come stuffed with lox and sided with St Urbain bagels spread with cream cheese. As they should.
The salad bar alone is worth two trips, if only for the pickled herring. Bite-sized desserts - fruit flans, chocolate cake, cherry Danish - will have you up and dancing to live klezmer combos at 10:30 and 1:30.
Brunch Sunday 10 am to 3 pm (under 12 half-price, infants free), reservations recommended, dinner to midnight. Cafe open Monday to Saturday 10 am to 2 am. Licensed. Access: barrier-free.