Sky Blue Sky owner Chad Comfort (left) displays bread fresh from the oven; patrons get ready for sandwiches; Heather Cameron serves up the Casino Queen.
SKY BLUE SKY (605 Bloor West, at Markham, 647-351-7945, sbssandwiches.com) Complete meals for $10 per person, including all taxes, tip and a soda. Average main $5. Open Monday to Friday 7 am to 9:30 pm, Saturday and Sunday 11 am to 9:30 pm. Closed some holidays. Unlicensed. Access: 11 steps at door, washrooms on same floor. Rating: NNN
Lady Gaga I can understand: chez Alejandro, the Fame Monster Bar and Grill, perhaps the Dirty Ice Cream Parlour. But naming a restaurant for a Wilco album seems a bit of a stretch even to me.
Not to Chad Comfort, who did exactly that last October when he and wife Robyn launched Sky Blue Sky.
"Wilco is our favourite band," says Comfort of the Chicago alt-rockers, whose sixth studio album inspired the couple's inexpensive Annex sandwich shop. "Most people probably won't get it, but Wilco fans will."
They're the ones who'll know that SBS's singular A.M. breakfast sandwich - a particularly tasty round of roasted tomato and onion frittata on a house-baked bagel-like "country muffin ($2.99)" - cross-references an Egg McMuffin and Wilco's first album, and that A Shot In The Arm ($3.29) is not only a fried egg, Montreal-style smoked meat and marinated mushrooms on a bun but also the hidden track on Summerteeth.
Like the band's musical output, Comfort's breads defy categorization, his muffin more a bagel, his bagel a kaiser-sized mutant that practically dwarfs It's Just That Simple's straightforward bacon, lettuce and tomato. But he gets the balance right with Red-Eyed And Blue ($4.29), thick slices of honeyed whole wheat spread with wasabi mayo and layered with ripe tomato, Spanish onion, mozzarella and pesto.
Soups and salads are well worth the extra two bucks ($2.79 small/$3.79 large à la carte), especially the creamy roasted red pepper and sweet corn chowder, the chilled roasted peach "cobbler" and the bittersweet combo of Belgian endive and raisins. And don't miss SBS's superb brownies made with premium Ghirardelli chocolate ($1.75).
However, not everything's a CHUM-dinger. While there's cheese all over the place, none of the sandwiches is buttered, inside or out. That causes some difficulty when the Casino Queen (deli-style smoked turkey, bacon, avocado and balsamic-infused onion marmalade on brown, all $4.99) or Dreamer In My Dreams (shaved roast beef, caramelized onions and aged cheddar) are "toasted" in a panini press. Without butter, both come out overwhelmingly dry, and because the bread is so thickly sliced, the cheese has trouble melting.
As an experiment, back at the Test Kitchen I lightly butter the leftovers and throw them into a frying pan. After a minute a side, the results are sheer perfection.
"Most of our customers don't want butter," explains Comfort. "But if someone asks, no problem."
Make sure to request it on the Hoodoo Voodoo (crisp slices of Asian pear with Gouda on house brown) and the We're Just Friends (smoked chicken, roasted red peppers and Swiss), but hold the mustard unless you fancy French's.
We likely won't win any new friends by pointing out that the One Wing - turkey with a surfeit of stuffing and the merest suggestion of cranberry sauce - is little more than bread on bread. And some lettuce on just about everything wouldn't hurt.
We'll gladly big-up the Wishful Thinking - "a vegetarian's hamburger," says Comfort - of beefy portabellos, buttery avocado and caramelized onion on grilled white pepper Jack but draw the line at SBS's Someday, Some Morning, Sometime ($2.79). Who could possibly stomach sliced apple, cream cheese and oatmeal in an untoasted sandwich?
"There's this one guy who comes in every morning," laughs Comfort. "He's vegan, and it's the only thing he'll order."