BOHO (392 Roncesvalles, at Howard Park, 416-516-7446) Don't let the name scare you off. This casual space for dining -- dare I say it? -- family-style will never be mistaken for downtown urban cool. As if. Rather, you get medium-priced mains that deliver mid-range style. And a cheap kids' menu, too. Complete meals for $35 per adult ($18 at brunch), including all taxes, tip and a glass of wine. Open for dinner Tuesday to Thursday, Sunday 5 to 10 pm, Friday-Saturday 5 to 11 pm. Brunch Sunday 11 am to 2 pm. Closed Monday, holidays. Licensed. One step at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNN
Really, I'm quite fond of children. Especially stewed in their own jus and plated next to a few caramelized shallots. So you can imagine my dilemma when the Literary Device announces that not only will her nine-year-old daughter be joining us for brunch at BOHO -- yes, BOHO -- but the brat's 11-year-old sidekick will be coming along, too. As if I haven't suffered enough.
My disdain for youngsters is nothing new. I didn't like them even when I was one. But since BOHO -- where do they find these names? -- is an offshoot of North Toronto's family-friendly Monkey Bar (3353 Yonge, 416-468-2288), I figure the four us can pretend to be kinfolk and check it out. After a 10-minute drive, our minivan pulls into a parking spot next to the Revue rep house, and Daddy needs a drink.
We're seated at a pair of bare-topped deuces pushed together. A welcoming server takes our drink order -- orange juice and vodka ($5) for me, serviceable coffee ($1.50) for the Device and tap water for the tweens -- and returns with them shortly. Did I want coffee, too?
"No, thanks," I answer, slugging back my screwdriver. "I'm on medication."
The kids split the baked apple pancake ($8), a large folded crêpe-like flapjack thick with sugary fruit and surrounded by a puddle of custardy crème anglaise scattered with the requisite brunch garnishes -- cantaloupe and such. LD settles on a substantial seared beef sandwich ($9) on grilled Ital loaf piled with season-ripe tomato, mesclun and melted Asiago and sided with crisp sweet-potato fries.
After packing away my quite tasty fish of the day ($12) -- grilled tilapia with a delicious lemony red-onion pickle kicked with chili, sided with crunchy cubed home fries and citrus-dressed mesclun -- I attempt to make small talk with the small fry. Desperately wondering what I could possibly have in common with two young girls, I mention Kylie Minogue. Blank stares. I change direction and ask the 11-year-old about school.
"So, you're in, what, grade four?" I ask, sounding interested.
"Seven," she hisses, daggers shooting from her narrowed eyes that flash me back to junior high and a formative childhood incident involving Margaret McGuffin, an egg salad sandwich and my forehead.
A few days after that exchange, I convince the Other Two to join me on Roncesvalles. Childless like me, they don't normally dine at eateries with children's menus. But other than the family across the way, this high, vaulted room painted shades of chocolate is populated tonight by local singles and couples. A Sarah Brightman CD can occasionally be heard above the exhaust of the copper-trimmed open kitchen.
We quiz the server on the origin of BOHO's name. She goes to find out and soon returns to tell us it means "bohemian." But, I counter, shouldn't that be BOHE, or wouldn't ROHO -- Roncey and Howard Park, à la SpaHa's Spadina and Harbord -- make more sense? Unknowingly, she gives us that McGuffin look.
Sharing two aps, we dig into rounds of tomato terrine ($6) rich with bocconcini and leaf basil drizzled with sweet balsamic syrup over baby greens.
But we're unimpressed by over-salted grilled calamari ($7) despite the reappearance of the lovely lemon pickle relish.
The Other wants braised short ribs, but since the kitchen's sold out, she substitutes bison meat loaf (both $14) to satisfy our comfort-food craving. Served with over-processed garlic-mashed potatoes and lots of wine-rich gravy studded with onion, these two tender slices are the hit of the evening.
I'm envied for the fantastic Asiago scalloped potatoes that come with my rather lacklustre grilled lamb loin ($17) instead of the mash.
And what's with the soggy stuffing next to the random chunks of Mary's little friend?
Tonight's special of veal tenderloin ($21), delivered medium-rare as requested, is sided with those impossible-to-eat angel-hair frites they do at Rouge, Goldfish and Toba.
We polish off the last of a not-bad Tuscan cab (99 La Villa Veneto, $6.50/$25 for a bottle) and a slim-line wedge of house-made lemon tart ($5) dusted with confectioners' sugar. A scoop of tart raspberry gelato adds the perfect counterpoint.
Owners Richard and Melissa Fox-Revett and chef Les Mandeville have installed their successful family formula in a casual downtown setting. Prices are reasonable for the most part (but six bucks pre-tax-and-tip for a Stella?) and the menu's just the thing for the nabe.
Perhaps I'll invite my new 11-year-old gal pal back to BOHO for a McGuffin egg salad sandwich.