Big Mamma's Boy (554 Parliament, at Amelia, 416-927-1593) Complete dinners for $45 per person (brunches $20), including all taxes, tip and a glass of wine. Average main $16. Open for dinner Monday to Thursday 4:30 pm to 1 am, Friday and Saturday 4:30 pm to 2 am. Brunch Sunday 11 am to 4:30 pm, dinner till midnight. Licensed. Delivery. Access: five steps at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Come Pride Day, Church and Wellesley might seem like the centre of the queer universe, but Toronto's gay and lesbian scene isn't restricted to just one neighbourhood.
When former Slack Alice supremo Heather Mackenzie closed Looking Glass on Church a year ago, which succeeded Spiral in the brownstone now housing Voglie, she relocated to a low-key space in Cabbagetown and launched Big Mamma's Boy.
Next door to Timothy's Tikka House, Big Mamma's has the feel of a clubhouse where everyone's more than welcome. The front room's a riot of Victorian kitsch, the second floor's home to a lounge that hosts comedy events, and out back's a cozy candlelit patio.
Chef Michael Guenther's mostly organic card is just as comfortable. He slow-cooks Fresh from the Farm's Mennonite pork ribs ($17.95) for five hours in a thick barbecue sauce sweetened with maple syrup and peaches, then plates them alongside a first-rate cabbage slaw and baked kidney beans laced with caramelized onion.
Gluten-free Spaghetti Squash Primavera ($13.50) sees the veggie noodle substitute tossed with garlic-sautéed asparagus, snow peas and beets from Kensington's 4 Life ($13.50 with organic mesclun in the house Dijon vinaigrette).
Burgers come two ways. First is a dense organic beef patty topped with Emmental and chipotle mayo. The second, tastier veggie version is a large grilled portobello cap stuffed with lemony chickpeas 'n' lentils (both $10.95 with salad and excellent Kettle Creek potato chips).
Pizzas are available with three different thin crusts: regular wheat, whole wheat and gluten-free tapioca. Of the lot, Mamma's eponymous pie works best. Topped with a uniform dice of artichoke heart, grilled chicken, goat cheese, pesto and sun-dried tomato, it would benefit from a more random distribution of fixin's so not every bite tastes exactly the same (all pizzas $14.95/12-inch, $17.95/14-inch, $21.95/16-inch, $25.95/18-inch).
In the broad daylight of brunch, Big Mamma's shabby chic appears sadly just shabby and in need of a paint job. But there's nothing shabby about the Boy's eggs Benedict ($8.95), two poached eggs sauced with house-made hollandaise over thick rashers of quality bacon.
The cut of beef in the steak and eggs ($12.95) might be on the stringy side, but the remainder of the plate - a fluffy scramble, a fried potato pancake and My Market Bakery whole wheat toast - makes up for any extra mastication.
We upgrade both with sides of Manitoba farmer's sausage and more of those delicious baked beans (both $1.95) as well as fabulous gluten-free almond toast spread with house-made strawberry jam ($2.50) that almost makes us think we could live with celiac disease. We could be churlish and mention that BMB's Morning Glory tastes like frozen orange juice concentrate mixed with cheap Baby Duck, but at $1.99 a goblet, who cares?
And what card-carrying queer could resist ordering Fruit of the Day ($1.95)?