Manager Laura Hipple makes sure the Gilead Café keeps its locavore promises.
1. Gilead Café & Bistro
4 Gilead Pl, at King E, 647-288-0680, jamiekennedy.ca.
Jamie Kennedy was a locavore before there was even a term for the eco-conscious food philosophy.
In a series of groundbreaking boîtes, among them Palmerston, JKROM and JKWB, the movie-star handsome chef pioneered the use of local ingredients. His signature French fries ($6) are made with Ontario-grown Yukon Gold potatoes, as is his poutine topped with a Bolognese of naturally raised Cumbrae beef and aged regional cheddar ($11).
At dinner, his take on traditional tourtierre ($16) features Perth County pork, house-made mustard preserves from the Café's much-copied wall of pickles in Mason jars and a roasted heirloom beet salad in a honey vinaigrette supplied by a bee that happened to be passing. For brunch, he smokes the bacon found on crisp potato rosti and cheesy scrambled free-range eggs ($13), and the whitefish on his Red Fife pancakes ($12) comes all the way from Georgian Bay. His Prince Edward County farm even grows all the resto's summer tomatoes.
Not local enough for ya? The casual Corktown café's wine list is completely VQA, and its sparkling spring water ($6/750 ml) is bottled on the premises. Now, that's locavore!
Monday 8 am to 4 pm, Tuesday to Saturday 8 am to 5:30 pm. Lunch daily 11 am to 3 pm, dinner Tuesday to Saturday 5:30 to close. Brunch Sunday 10 am to 3 pm. Licensed. Access: three steps at door, washrooms on same floor.
Fabarnak's Eric Wood has a lust for local foods.
519 Church, at Dundonald, 416-355-6781, fabarnak.com.
This breezy café adjunct to the 519 Community Centre prides itself on the fact that at least 60 per cent of ingredients are locally sourced and organic. In summer, that number climbs closer to 80 per cent.
The cutting-edge kitchen and caterer takes braised Beretta beef and interprets it two ways, first as a sandwich on Ace bakery's pain au lait dressed with a gingery slaw spiked with jalapeño pepper ($10.50 with soup or salad), and then as a potato hash laced with caramelized onion and Ontario-grown field mushrooms topped with a fried free-range runny egg.
Jowl-size pork cheeks and brandy-soaked prunes luxuriate in an apple cider jus, while house-made tagliatelle (all $12 small/$17 large) comes tossed with stewed tomato and fennel pollen as well as shredded free-range chicken braised in Peller Estates chardonnay. Or go with the Square Peg special ($10 lunch/$15 dinner), a four-course sampler of whatever it is they're up to that day.
Monday and Tuesday 7:30 am to 4 pm, Wednesday to Friday 7:30 am to 9 pm, lunch from 11:30 am, dinner from 5 pm. Brunch Saturday 9 am to 3 pm. Unlicensed. Access: barrier-free.
1564 Queen W, at Sorauren, 416-849-1095, cowbellrestaurant.ca.
Not only does owner/chef Mark Cutrara butcher his own meat and churn his own butter, but he's also been known to catch his own fish. With his bare hands!
Cutrara was doing snout-to-tail long before seemingly every toque in town turned to offal. His charcuterie board ($14/$10 each additional person) typically features house-made Genoa salami, spicy chorizo and smoky lardo pork fat from a whey-fed pig in Stratford. The house burger ($21) sees a 6-ounce patty of dry-aged Dingo Farms chuck dressed with house-cured bacon and Quebec cheddar on a house-baked bun spread with grainy mustard aioli.
At weekend brunch, he constructs eggs Benny with deep-fried ducks' eggs, pulled pork and English muffins - baked in house, of course - and sides them with sautéed southern-style collard greens ($14). Sunday nights he hosts a family-style $33 three-course roast beef prix fixe complete with sautéed chanterelles and potatoes confited in beef fat from some unsung cow.
Dinner Tuesday to Thursday 6 to 10 pm, Friday and Saturday 6 to 11 pm. Brunch Saturday and Sunday 10 am to 3 pm, prix fixe dinner Sunday 5 to 9 pm. Closed Monday, holidays. Licensed. Access: barrier-free.
Brad Long of Café Belong
4. Cafe Belong
550 Bayview, at Pottery Rd, 416-901-8234, cafebelong.ca.
The centrepiece of the Brick Works eco complex in the bucolic Don Valley, TV chef Brad Long's eponymous eatery (B. Long, geddit?) is an unabashed showcase for locally grown produce - easy when there's a farmers' market right next door every Saturday.
It translates to the plate as a seasonal salad listed as "simple mixed lettuces ($9)," a tangle of red oak, lollo rosso and arugula in apple cider vinaigrette. They cure Georgian Bay whitefish and serve it over grilled fennel and "various leaves" - kale, collards, Swiss chard - daubed with honeyed crème fraîche ($14).
Get a little bit of everything with Café's Bricklayer's Board ($20), a wooden plank stockpiled with nitrate-free house-made boudin blond and lamb merguez sausages and an assortment of Monforte and Fifth Town artisan cheeses. Pingue of Niagara provides the prosciutto that wraps a venison steak from Perth County ($28), their side of puréed Jerusalem artichokes dug up from Long's own backyard.
Daily from 8 am, full menu from 11 am to 10 pm. Closed holidays. Licensed. Access: barrier-free.
1426 Bloor W, at Sterling, 647-342-1567, zocalobistro.com.
Located near the epicentre of the Junction Triangle, this extremely casual café could be the poster child for the locavore movement.
Chef Joel MacMillan turns Ontario parsnips into garlicky hummus before pairing them with house-preserved pickles and St. John Bakery's multigrain toast ($6). He cans local lake trout in miniature Mason jars - doesn't everybody?- then plates them next to a pâté of roasted carrots and a handful of house-baked spelt crackers.
His signature "broken bread" sandwiches (all $10) are significantly less extravagant than they were when Zocalo opened just two years ago but still offer serious bang for the buck. We're partial to chef's naturally raised Gasparro beef and bacon meat loaf laced with bone marrow and his all-in-one pork and baked bean sausage sided with beer-braised cabbage and smoky split-pea purée.
At brunch, roasted apple 'n' raisin oatmeal bread pudding ($7.50) coupled with yogurt dressing and Muskoka cranberry relish almost doubles as dessert.
Wednesday to Monday from 10 am, lunch and weekend brunch from 10:30 am, dinner 5 to 10 pm. Bar till close. Closed Tuesday, some holidays. Licensed. Access: one step at door, washrooms in basement.