NOON(1088 Bathurst, at Dupont, 647-436-0666) Complete meals for $20 per person, including all taxes, tip and a glass of cheap house wine. Average main $10. Open Tuesday to Friday 9 am to 6 pm, Saturday and Sunday 10 am to 5 pm. Closed Monday, holidays. Licensed. Access: one step at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
It's barely noon, and noon, that four-month-old breakfast, brunch and lunch spot in the north Annex, is already jumping.
Young moms with light-weight three-wheel strollers corral tussling toddlers, while hipsters with interesting haircuts dawdle over laptops and the first latte of the day ($3.50). I thread my way through the queue at the doorway not so patiently waiting for one of the dozen or so tables in the minimally appointed storefront and make my way to the resto's rear, where I happen upon Globe gardening guru Marjorie Harris sipping a glass of inexpensive Niagara plonk (2004 Konzelman Pinot Noir, $5/$22 bottle).
Harris was a great fan of Misto, the oddball Swiss and Japanese fusion joint that previously called the room home. And who can forget its earlier incarnation as Hungarian Cuisine, the only restaurant in town that served deep-fried pizza?
When Misto mysteriously closed this summer, former Bodega sous and first-time restaurateur Ted Pegg took over and has since streamlined the place and installed an all-day card that's equal parts Boom and Sandwich Box.
From the lineup, Harris and I share an entree-sized couscous salad ($8) rife with olive-oil-marinated tuna, barely ripe tomato and fresh basil but dressed with an almost non-existent lemon vinaigrette. I ask the expert why this season's crop of tomatoes seemed to suck.
"We had a very wet spring," she replies between bites. "Followed by an early fall."
She continues with Noon's updated rendition of the classic Reuben ($9), here slices of Ace Bakery's superb multigrain spread with grainy mustard and correctly piled with sauerkraut and Beretta's organic corned beef. I've opted for barbecued pulled pork ($10, both with soup or salad), the sweetly sauced shredded meat coupled with deliciously blue Roquefort, chive aíoli and more multigrain. The sandwiches would be even more appetizing if they were remotely warm.
In contrast, my side soup, a pleasantly curried autumnal purée of squash, arrives steaming from the microwave, but Harris's dairy-rich leek 'n' potato is barely lukewarm. Lunch a few days later is anything but half-hearted.
It begins with an ingenious salad of Ontario-grown baby spinach paired with seedless red grapes, rashers of meaty nitrate-free Beretta bacon and a sizable wedge of creamy blue ($10). Less luxurious, a Middle Eastern quinoa combo ($8) comes mixed with white beans and pine nuts in a mild coriander curry dressing.
Sandwiches also significantly improve. Noon's riff on a club ($11) sees deli-style slices of Beretta's smoked chicken joined by smoky provolone, tomato and crisp leaf lettuce on toasted multigrain slathered with terrific house-made mayo. We create a vegan equivalent from the menu's DIY section ($8/$9 vegetarian,$10 meat) by combining thin strips of grilled eggplant, zucchini and mushroom with crunchy strips of raw carrot and dairy-free sun-dried tomato pesto.
As the soup of the day is a repeat of potato and leek, we side the two with Caesar salads. Fearing the worst, we're surprised to find a hail-worthy union of ripped romaine, garlicky croutons and roughly crumbled bacon in eggy lemon dressing. But whither the anchovy?
Returning a third time, we focus on the card's egg dishes. As its name and price imply, Noon's Big Breakfast consists of a large order of two eggs any style (we go for a perfectly fluffy scramble) teamed with halved cherry tomatoes, beefy sausage and bacon, stir-fried button mushrooms, whole wheat toast, unfried home fries and baked beans sadly straight from the tin.
At first, we're reluctant to try Noon's take on Eggs Benny (both $12), especially when we notice that this artery-clogging dish gets served on a buttery croissant. When the dish arrives, we're disappointed to discover that it's only a croissant layered with a thin sheet of vodka-smoked salmon, two small poached eggs and a dainty dollop of otherwise tasty hollandaise. But then again, it likely contains two-thirds the cholesterol of what we'd expected. Who's complaining?
Noon has yet to find its culinary sea legs. Though friendly enough, servers are a little too laid-back, and the CD selection needs serious weeding (Paul Simon? We think not.)
And Pegg's finally getting around to thinking about dessert now that he's been able to hire an assistant. Given time and some tweaking, Noon could become a serious dining destination no matter what the hour.