With fab fresh fixings all over the place, the food should be good in Kensington Market. These eateries pass the test.
AUNTIES AND UNCLES (74 Lippincott, at College, 416-324-1375) A proto-mod hole-in-the-wall dishing up superb grill-pressed sandwiches and wondrous waffles to the cool sounds of 60s beat groups. Best: fluffy omelettes du jour with challah toast, or classique croque monsieur, both served with garlic-spiked mashed-potato salad and cantaloupe wedges; Belgian waffles with sautéed fruit; straightforward soups like leek and potato. Complete lunches and brunches for $8 per person, including all taxes and tip. Open Tuesday to Sunday 9 am to 4 pm. Closed Monday, holidays and long weekends. Unlicensed. Cash only. Access: barrier-free, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNN
AIRPORT LOUNGE (492 College, at Palmerston, 416-921-3047) This 70s-inspired psychedelic funkateria is the hottest thing on the strip. Unlike neighbouring it spots, there's more on offer here than hyper-cool. Chef Timothy Ng, a former Canoeist, launches tsunamis of taste with globally twisted tapas-style takes on Japanese tradition. Best: whatever he feels like. Seeing the menu as a frame, Ng paints with the day's catch, market finds and his customers' moods to create one-of-a-kind combos he calls, with a wink, Le Sashimi Fantastique and L'Inspiration du Moment. Think mini-napoleons of sweet sliced scallop on a translucent bed of pink onion, scooped-out lemons piled with coral-hued flying fish roe, skewered rabbit yakitori and fresh figs in teriyaki glaze, tiny fiddleheads bound to rice by nori ribbons, strawberry tempura with melting chocolate heart and peppermint nip. Complete dinners for $45 per person, including all taxes, tip and a martini. Open Tuesday to Saturday 6 pm to 1 am, bar till 2 am. Licensed. Access: one step at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNNN
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BELLEVUE DINER (61 Bellevue, at Nassau, 416-597-6912) A former working-class dive gets transformed into an attitude-free eatery with reasonably priced Mediterranean-inspired grub and downtown's sunniest out-of-the-way patio. Best: rare slices of pan-roasted duck breast over crisply grilled polenta and market veggies; pan-roasted halibut with pesto-infused mash and grilled zucchini 'n' eggplant with tomato-garlic sauce; grilled calamari rings and chili-spiked chorizo with arugula greens; oven-baked yogurt-laced salmon cake over Idaho mash topped with a feathery poached egg; mushroom 'n' potato pavé with tomato coulis, basil oil and wilted spinach; rare lamburger with greens, fries and house-made marjoram-scented aioli. Complete meals for $35 per person ($17 at lunch), including all taxes, tip and a glass of wine. Open for lunch Tuesday to Friday noon to 4 pm, for dinner Tuesday to Thursday and Sunday 6 to 10 pm, Friday and Saturday 6 to 11 pm, and for brunch Saturday and Sunday 11 am to 4 pm. Closed Monday. Licensed. Access: one step at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNNN
LA PALETTE (256 Augusta, at College, 929-4900) Forget the hype and hubbub. Here's a funky low-key neighbourhood boite serving no-nonsense café classics that just happens to be French. Add suave service and a young chef who's got a deft touch with grilled meats and the sum is an unpretentious spot that defies food fads. Best: superb 10-ounce triple-A black Angus sirloin topped with sun-dried brandy butter and hand-cut Yukon Gold fries; herb-crusted New Zealand rack of lamb with silky yet textured mash and butter-brushed veggies; mixed grill -- deboned quail, pork tenderloin, chicken breast strips with cranberry compote and roasted spuds, snowpeas and peppers; Salade Basque -- foie gras-like port-glazed chicken livers and mushrooms over greens in red wine vinaigrette; $25 three-course prix fixe specials. Complete dinners for $35 per person, including all taxes, tip and a glass of wine or an aperitif. Open for lunch Wednesday to Friday noon to 4 pm, for dinner Monday to Thursday 6 to 10 pm, Friday and Saturday 6 pm to midnight, Sunday 6 to 10 pm, and for brunch Saturday and Sunday noon to 4 pm. Bar open till 2 am. Licensed. Access: three steps at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNN