Owner/chefs Therese DeGrace (left) and Karen Balcom make brunch at Lola’s Commissary a beautiful thing.
LOLA’S COMMISSARY (634 Church, at Hayden, 416-966-3991, lolascommissary.com) Complete brunches for $25 per person (lunches $20), including all taxes, tip and a domestic beer. Average main $12/$10. Open 7 am till close Friday (July 2), 10 am till close Saturday and Sunday (July 3 and 4). Otherwise, Tuesday to Friday 7 am to 3 pm. Brunch Saturday and Sunday 10 am to 4 pm. Closed Monday, holidays. Access: five steps at door, washrooms on second floor. Rating: NNN
If this is Sunday, it must be brunch. Brunch at Lola's Commissary at the top of the Church Street strip, to be exact.
The weekend morning ritual and I have become very familiar of late (nowtoronto. com/brunch), so much so that when I now ask friends out for a nosh, the response is almost universally "We don't have to eat eggs, do we?"
Not when there's French toast, the cholesterol-soaked confection Dr. Oz recently called a heart attack on a plate. The TV quack would likely pop a couple of Lipitor at the mere mention of owner/chefs - and married couple BTW - Therese DeGrace and Karen Balcom's challah version ($12).
Stuffed with orange and vanilla cheesecake (!) and finished with a boozy drizzle of berry compote and a light dusting of confectioner's sugar, it's the self-described "kick-ass girls'" most popular dish.
And it's easy to see Lola's appeal. Ceilings are high, windows are tall and free of curtains, and a fireplace divides the 55-seat all-day café in two. On the CD player, it's Non-Stop 80s Retro Dance Party as the Bangles demonstrate how to walk like an Egyptian, followed by Adam Ant's admonishment of Goody Two Shoes ("don't drink, don't smoke, what do you do?"), both drowned out by the clatter of cutlery and excited conversation.
Dan Lockwood (left) and Barry tuck into lunch on Lola's patio.
Though tempted by the promise of the Kitchen Sink's scrambled eggs and "lots of lovely bits" ($9), I opt for Eggs Lola instead. I've stared at enough Bennies to spot an exceptional one, and here it be, two perfectly runny poached eggs over shredded ancho chicken on a bed of soft corn tortillas dressed with Mexican sheep's milk crème fraiche, sliced ripe avocado and Italian tomato-basil fresca ($12).
All come with either skinny bistro-style frites, roasted "sexy" sweet potatoes or a terrific salad of shaved fennel, carrot and mandarin oranges in gingery vinaigrette tossed with pumpkin seeds.
At lunch, we start with the vegetarian soup du jour ($6), today a velvety cream of sweet potato, apple and subtle chipotle splashed with more of that tangy crème fraiche. A grilled whole wheat wrap follows, its advertised deep-fried jerk chicken breast low on spice despite a lashing of curried apple chutney (Calypso, $13 with salad or frites). Usually pass on pasta? Don't make that mistake with Lola's spectacular Penne Rusticana ($14), an deliriously rich collision of al dente noodles, Gran Padano cheese, wild mushrooms and truffled tomato cream.
Flatbread pizzas arrive on thin whole wheat cracker crusts à la Buca, the day's special topped with smoked provolone, sweet peppers and lean turkey meatballs. Though we'd rather just leave the dairy off any of Lola's other veggie pies, we find in the Vegan Rhapsody (both $13) a dearth of al dente Chinese broccoli and dreadful fake cheese. But we'd gladly strap on the feedbag again for her Hog Wild ($14, all half-price Wednesday lunch), a meaty mess of bacon, sausage, pickled peppers and real-deal cheddar.
Regulars know to save room for dessert, especially when it's house-made pistachio ice cream ($4) paired with Balcom's triple fudge brownies iced with white chocolate ganache ($2).
"It's a very loyal neighbourhood, a combination of everything," says DeGrace of her clientele. "During the week, we get the business crowd and on the weekend it's the village people."
Isn't it always?