Polenta at Grasslands is topped with meaty shiitake mushrooms.
Cafe Belong 550 Bayview, at Pottery Rd, 416-901-8234, cafebelong.ca
Now that spring has sprung (cough), is there anywhere better to experience the wonder of nature reborn than the bucolic Brick Works eco-centre? Spend the day wandering its wetland trails, then make a beeline for ex-Restaurant Makeover TV chef Brad Long's equally eco-conscious cantina for the best of the season's bounty.
Order this: at dinner, start with roasted Ontario beets tossed with toasted pumpkin seeds and apple cider vinaigrette ($12) before moving on to wine-braised bison bourguignon over thyme-scented spätzle ($29); at brunch, the inevitable Benny with house-baked buttermilk biscuits, maple-glazed ham, poached ouefs and classic hollandaise ($20).
Lunch Monday to Friday from 11:30 am, dinner Sunday to Friday from 5 to 9 pm, Saturday 5 to 10 pm. Weekend brunch 10:30 am to 3 pm. Closed holidays. Reservations accepted. Licensed. Access: barrier-free. Rating: NNN
This newish addition to the 519 Community Centre makes us feel good on two fronts. Not only is the café part of a social enterprise initiative that helps people with employment barriers get valuable experience in the resto biz, but the food that they produce is of a shockingly professional calibre, as much as 70 per cent of it locally sourced.
Order this: at weekday lunch, the Square Peg, an ever-changing four-course tasting menu served in a lacquered bento box brimming with the likes of house-made headcheese crostini, puff-pastry pizza dressed with duck confit and crumbled blue cheese, braised beef tongue in horseradish crème fraîche, and retro banana cake with salted caramel and tempered chocolate ($11).
Lunch Tuesday to Friday 11:30 am to 3:30 pm, dinner Friday from 5:30 to 9 pm. Brunch Saturday 9 am to 4:30 pm. Closed Sunday, Monday, holidays. Reservations accepted. Licensed. Access: barrier-free. Rating: NNNNN
A true culinary pioneer, Jamie Kennedy was locavore back when locally sourced meant delivery from Swiss Chalet, blazing trails at such legendary boîtes as Palmerston, JKROM at the Museum and his eponymous wine bar on lower Church. This Corktown café may not be quite as grand as his Windows in Niagara Falls, but the dedication to the cause remains the same.
Order this: at dinner, Kennedy's signature frites made with Ontario-grown Yukon Gold potatoes served with two types of aioli ($6), followed by a tranche of fresh sustainable Pacific halibut à la meuniere ($18) and apple pie à la mode ($9); at brunch, a Cobb salad of poached organic chicken, house-cured jambon blanc and pickled wild leeks ($14).
Monday to Saturday 8 am to 3 pm (lunch from 11 am), dinner Tuesday to Saturday 5:30 pm to 10 pm. Sunday brunch 10 am to 3 pm. Closed some holidays. No reservations. Licensed. Access: three steps at door, washrooms on same floor. Rating: NNNNN
Stephen "Urban Herbivore" Gardner reinvents his long-running Fressen as a stylish downtown lounge with a culinary scope far beyond most vegetarian restaurants. Who knew what's good for you could taste this good, too?
Order this: at dinner, seared starter-sized rounds of polenta topped with meaty shiitake mushrooms and garlicky wilted spinach in tomato-basil marinara sauce ($10); at brunch, the Monster Burger, a beefy baked black bean patty piled with avocado, lettuce, tomato and house-made ketchup and sided with skinny frites and organic greens in sweet tahini vinaigrette ($13).
Dinner Tuesday to Sunday 5:30 to 10 pm. Weekend brunch 10 am to 3 pm. Bar till close. Closed Monday, holidays. Reservations accepted. Licensed. Access: one step at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNNN
Proving that a cutting-edge kitchen can offer its vegetarian customers more than just gussied-up salad, David Haman's celebrated west-side bistro keeps most everybody happy with two parallel lineups, one carnivorous, the other geared to the rubber Birkenstock set.
Order this: from the meat menu, naturally raised whey-fed pork chops with smoked chili pepper 'n' chocolate sauce over charred spring onions ($29); from the veggie menu, smoked white bean and Savoy cabbage rolls with dried cherry, pistachio and sprouted organic barley ($24).
Dinner Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday 5 to 10 pm, Thursday to Saturday 5 to 11 pm; bakery same days from noon. Closed Monday, some holidays. Reservations accepted. Licensed. Access: one step at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNNNN