B CAFE (2210 Dundas West, at Roncesvalles, 416-533-2987) Complete breakfasts, lunches or brunches for $15 per person, including all taxes, tip and an organic coffee. Average main $9. Open Tuesday to Sunday 9 am to 4 pm. Closed Monday, holidays. Unlicensed. Access: barrier-free, but crowded room. Rating: NNN
Friday noon and B café is packed to the rafters. Launched last February, this laid-back luncheonette where dreary Dundas meets the top of Roncesvalles has been a hit with west-siders from the get-go. It's a no-brainer to understand why.
Like Leslie Jones on Queen East or Grapefruit Moon in the Annex, B - named for tattooed owner-chef Robert Bechard - epitomizes neighbourhood noshing. Seating two dozen max at tables topped with Marvel comics under glass on Karim Rashid's iconic Oh chairs, the unpretentious space must be a zoo when the stroller brigade shows up en masse for weekend brunch.
"You got that right, sport," smiles our accommodating server.
To make those with toddlers in tow feel even more at home, a bench seat out of a minivan has been set up as a banquette at one long communal table.
Some might recall Bechard from his stint at Ciao Edie honcho Michael Sweenie's short-lived Honey Kaffe on College in the old Airport a few years back. Those days, the Vancouver-born chef was more likely to whip up skilful takes on classic boeuf bourguignon or coq au vin than the Dr. Seuss-inspired green eggs and ham ($10, all tax inclusive) he does today.
Having slightly more mature tastes, we begin with cups of Blue Mountain organic coffee ($2) and three of his all-day breakfast specials. Slices of roast duck, crisp apple and sausage combine with melted Brie to make an exceptional omelette.
Corned beef hash (both $10) finds a sandwich's worth of Montreal-style smoked meat mixed with an equal amount of peppers, potato and zucchini, the lot topped with two wonderfully poached runny eggs.
It's also one of the few dishes on Bechard's card that doesn't automatically include sides of crunchy homefries, creamy purple cabbage coleslaw, mesclun in pumpkin-seed vinaigrette and the letter "B" stamped into radish slices with a mini cookie cutter. Which explains why there's no way we can possibly finish an additional side of veggie poutine ($5), home fries with Jack and artery-clogging butter gravy.
The next visit, I decide to take things a little more sensibly and start with du jour's soup, a fantastically rich vegan purée of portobello mushroom ($4) with just an undertow of chili heat. Butter on that house-baked biscuit ($2)? No, thanks, I'll just have it plain.
But there's certainly nothing dull about the red hot chicken burger, two nicely grilled pieces of boneless breast on a multigrain kaiser dressed with blue cheese and splashed with Portuguese-style piri piri hot sauce ($12).
Passing on the grilled sandwich the chalkboard menus amusingly refer to as the BELTCH - bacon, egg, lettuce, tomato and cheddar - we settle for the BATCH (both $10) instead, a winning combo of peameal, diced avocado, ripe tomato and chili-speckled brick cheese ($10). Sadly, today's meaty beef burger layered with fried button mushroom and melted Swiss ($12) comes served on an unnecessarily doughy supermarket-quality bun that tastes mostly of air.
As we're polishing off the last of our oatmeal chocolate chip cookie ($2), the bill arrives in an empty recycled tomato paste can. And that's B to a T, idiosyncratic to the end. Though unlikely ever to appear in any restaurant critic's top-10 year-end poll, when it comes to solid no-frills restos not that far off the beaten track, B Café passes with flying colours.