Toronto’s best new brunch 2018

These 12 hot spots have what you're craving, from pancakes and Benedicts to creative, chef-driven twists on the classics


Constantine

Campagnolo and La Palma chef Craig Harding’s latest outing occupies the first floor of the Anndore House hotel – which means serving a morning crowd is a requirement. Though the evening menu pinballs all over the Mediterranean, the morning selections mostly stick to crowd-pleasing heavy-hitters. Weekday options include sourdough avocado toast with za’atar ($15), mammoth lemon pancakes topped with a dollop of ricotta ($17) and St-Viateur bagels with Smoke Bloke lox ($18), while the weekend crowd can dive into duck confit on a bed of sweet potato hash browns ($21) or breakfast pizza ($17) done in the wood-fired oven (and topped with merguez sausage, naturally).

15 Charles East, at Yonge, 647-475-4436, constantineto.com. Read our full profile of Constantine here.

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Samuel Engelking


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Natalia Manzocco

Borrel

They might eat more pancakes than maybe anyone else on the planet, but the Dutch aren’t really big on brunch (a slice of spice cake or toast typically does it). But Torontonians sure are, which is why Borrel chef Justin Go adapted many of his ancestral homeland’s native dishes for a weekend-only brunch menu. The crepe-like pannenkoek (typically eaten at lunch or dinner) comes topped with thick curls of bacon and grated cheese ($13). Kipcorn, the Dutch answer to chicken nuggets, is recast as a cornflake-crusted patty perched atop housemade waffles ($14.50) and drizzled with Dutch stroop (not maple syrup – accept no substitutes).  

1333 Danforth, at Linnsmore, 647-349-5722, borrel.ca. Read our full profile of Borrel here.


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Natalia Manzocco

Parallel

Tahini is the life force of this Geary café, which grinds its own on a massive stone mill at the back. (Show up early enough, and you can watch them milling the day’s batch.) The stuff turns up in everything, from nutty lattes ($4.50) to hummus plates to a half-dozen halvah flavours ($2.40/100 g). They don’t need dairy or eggs to make things rich here (honestly, the amount drowning the hummus might even be too much of a good thing), but there’s still room on the menu for dishes of labneh holding in a caldera of olive oil and confit garlic cloves ($10), or piquant shakshouka served with plush, pillowy pita ($13). Most of the brunch menu is served daily, but come on a weekend to try the open-faced Black Sabbath egg sandwich doused in squid-ink-like black tahini ($16), or e-ja ($15), a herb-packed Iraqi omelette (you’ll never guess what’s put on top).

217 Geary, at Dufferin, 416-516-7765, parallelbrothers.com


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Natalia Manzocco

BB’s Diner

The trio behind BB’s have worked at some of the coolest joints in town, including Cold Tea and Bar Isabel. But until recently, they didn’t see themselves truly reflected in the Toronto food scene – which is where this candy-coloured shrine to Filipino breakfasts, slotted right next door to brunch mecca Aunties and Uncles, comes in. Much of the menu is focused on silog platters ($13), which feature fragrant garlic fried rice with fried eggs and your choice of marinated milkfish, citrusy longanisa sausage or corned beef hash. But they’ve got the vegetarians covered, too, with a French toast covered in coconut, almonds and banana dulce de leche, or an unbelievably smoky, creamy eggplant ($11) smothered in aioli and flanked with a potato rosti and greens.

76 Lippincott, at College, facebook.com/bbsdinerto


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Natalia Manzocco

Tennessee

Don’t let anyone tell you pretzels aren’t a breakfast food. Grant Van Gameren’s Eastern European watering hole does hefty brunch plates festooned with enough kielbasa, cevapi, smoked mackerel, sauerkraut and, yes, doughy soft pretzels (served with eggs and beef stroganoff) to satisfy even the pickiest babcia – and kill the toughest hangover. But if your taste in brunch is a little more South Beach than Eastern Bloc, the apricot-topped French toast ($13.95) smothered in smoked maple syrup and macadamia nuts is a real stunner.

1554 Queen West, at Sorauren, 416-535-7777, tennesseetavern.ca


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Natalia Manzocco

Egg Bae

The breakfast sandwich is having a moment. Gold Standard got bona fide foodie buzz – but if you looked at its menu and found yourself wanting more than two options (or seating), get thee to Egg Bae. That name is gonna age like an unrefrigerated carton of jumbo AAAs, but there’s nothing to nitpick about the five-sandwich roster, which features house-baked bread and some well-considered condiments. My pick is the Seaside Bae ($10.50), an eggy brioche bun loaded with loosely scrambled eggs, a citrusy house-cured salmon, herb aioli, pickled shallots and – brilliantly – potato chips for a saline crunch. Your Egg McMuffin could never.

189 Augusta, at Dundas, 647-243-1571, eggbae.ca


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Natalia Manzocco

Cafe Landwer

When this Israeli chain, which boasts locations in the financial district and Thornhill, says “all-day breakfast,” it’s not kidding around. Here, you can get your shakshouka on until closing time at 10 pm. Three different types of shak-shouka, to be exact: classic ($13.95), a feta- and eggplant-laced version, and one topped with hearty cubes of grilled halloumi (both $15.95), all served with thick labneh and tahini. The indecisive can go for the “famous breakfast” ($15.95), a kitchen-sink platter of spreads and dips (highlights: labneh, feta, tomatoey tuna salad) plus eggs and greens. Skip the “tea ceremonies” (lukewarm water and a tea bag on the side – WTF?) for a mug of sahleb ($4.50), a thick rosewater-flavoured beverage topped with cinnamon and walnuts. It’s like a rich rice pudding in a glass.

165 University, at Adelaide, 647-748-1165 9340 Bathurst, at Rutherford, 905-417-0707, landwer.ca


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Natalia Manzocco

City Betty

Seasonality is the name of the game at this resolutely farm-to-table-oriented kitchen, where the menu shifts with Ontario’s mercurial weather. If you don’t deal well with change, it’s probably best to not get too attached to anything on the dinner menu, though ever since City Betty set up shop this spring, the Saturday and Sunday brunch offerings have held steady. Mainstays include a Benny and the Jets with Bespoke Butchers double-smoked bacon or Fogo Island shrimp, a gorgeous stack of Red Fife pancakes ($14) with Walt’s Sugar Shack maple syrup from PEC, Yukon Gold latkes with Lake Erie trout and watermelon radishes ($14), and a killer hot Caesar with Kozlik’s mustard and an East Coast oyster ($13) – all so good, we’ll allow the name-dropping.

1352 Danforth, at Linnsmore, 647-271-3949, citybetty.com


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Natalia Manzocco

Kiin

Nuit Regular’s girly, gilded bistro was meant for leisurely meals over mimosas, and the chef’s painstaking eye for plating (we’ve all seen those blue butterfly-pea-dyed dumplings by now, right?) certainly hasn’t been lost when it comes to the weekend brunch menu. Coconut waffles, inspired by ones sold at street stalls, are bedecked with fresh fruit and flanked with maple coconut cream. Benedicts feature a two-inch-thick slab of fried basa swaddled in sunny-orange Hollandaise, while comforting Thai rice congee is layered with a dozen garnishes and served in a gilded bowl so you can beat a cold or a hangover in style. But one of the best options might also be one of the most homely: a rustic gratin of cauliflower, cherry tomatoes, cheese and Thai garlic that I’d happily eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

326 Adelaide West, at Peter, 647-490-5040, kiintoronto.com


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Natalia Manzocco

Sophie’s

In this age of mood lighting and $17 cocktails, it’s rare to see a place throw its weight behind brunch. In that way, the delightfully chipper Sophie’s (there’s a literal white picket fence around the patio!) almost feels like a throwback. It doesn’t even have an espresso machine (but, hey, the $3 drip is bottomless). The menu sticks to faithful versions of classic diner items like Benedicts and daily omelettes, with a chorizo-cheese-curd breakfast skillet ($12, $16 for family size) and cornflake-crusted French toast ($12) thrown in for flair. It’s nothing you can’t get downtown, but judging by the crowds Sophie’s gets on a weekday, the locals are eating it up.

1614 Bayview, at Manor, 416-485-1614, sophieskitchen.ca


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Natalia Manzocco

Alma

A veteran of Toronto kitchens (including Scaramouche and Buca), Anna Chen poured her entire personal biography into the menu at her new Bloordale kitchen, which spans Italian, French and Hakka influences. (One of the options on her abbreviated, ever-changing Sunday brunch menu: pork dumplings.) Western-style options include a two-egg breakfast ($16) with fantastic coriander sausage and steamy pockets of elastic, gently sour flatbread, and a French toast ($14) that, despite being doused in caramel and roasted banana, is a roller coaster of toasty flavours instead of a wallop of sugar.

1194 Bloor West, at Brock, 647-346-1881, almatoronto.com


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Natalia Manzocco

Pollyanna – CLOSED

This east-side bistro has flown under the radar since opening a year ago time to ruin your secret, Leslievillians. Pollyanna is a laid-back local gem, with a soothing interior done up in exposed brick and rich greens. The Sunday brunch menu takes just enough liberties with classic dishes: A pancake-sized potato rosti with chunks of tender whitefish and horseradish cream ($15) will save you a trip across town to the Free Times, while vegetarians will go home happy thanks to the savoury mushroom hash ($13) over multicoloured potatoes, doused in earthy gravy. (And if you’re not veggie, a side of thick-cut bacon is mandatory.)

1054 Gerrard East, at Jones, 647-352-6969, thepollyanna.ca

food@nowtoronto.com | @nataliamanzocco

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