Tuck into sardines with onions or kale salad at S. Lefkowitz.
Cheekily described on its front window as "the hummus institute of North America," Ezra Braves's stellar S. Lefkowitz (913 Dundas West, at Bellwoods, 647-346-8448, slefkowitz.com, @hummuslefkowitz, rating: NNNN) is downtown's first café dedicated to the humble chickpea dip.
You'll find the garlicky stuff deliciously spread onto plates and splashed with French organic olive oil infused with house-ground za'atar ($6 small/$7.50 large) or gussied up with spicy minced beef ($7/$8.90), warm mixed olives ($6.50/$8) or chopped up hard-boiled egg ($7/$8, all with pita). There are great slabs of wild Pacific sardines finished with harissa oil and Spanish onion over retro iceberg lettuce ($7), and blocks of mild Macedonian feta aromatically layered with fresh mint ($6).
None the worse for wear, a side of cherry tomatoes in more of that terrific olive oil look like they could've been cut in half using that two-plate trick that made the rounds on Facebook a couple of weeks back. But the simple words "green salad" fail to do justice to the magnificence that is local red-leaf kale, baby watercress and arugula micro-sprouts in lemony apple cider vinaigrette (both $5/$7).
Unfortunately the service isn't as polished as the grub. They take your order at table, then deliver it on a large plastic cafeteria tray, but you have to settle the bill at the counter - no inconvenience in a near-empty resto on a Wednesday afternoon, a bloody pain on the weekend when the lineup out the door rivals Saving Gigi's down the block.
And while they're made daily to Braves's specifications, pitas out of a plastic bag are never as palatable as those straight from the oven.