THE PALMERSTON (800 Dundas West, at Palmerston, 416-703-9164) This postcard-perfect patisserie is exactly the kind of cozy spot we all wish we had at the end of our street -- tasty market-fresh sandwiches and salads, house-baked pastries and strong roasted coffee, all served al fresco on a sunny patio. Complete meals for $10 per person, including all taxes and tip. Open Tuesday to Sunday 8 am to 5 pm. Closed Monday. Unlicensed. Smoke-free. Cash only. Access: one step at door, washrooms on same floor. Rating: NNN
halina jakowenko and chrissy Lumley consider themselves closet gourmets. And they craved a neighbourhood place for a nosh. So despite their zero experience in the restaurant biz, they opened the Palmerston, a cozy west-side lunch and brunch spot with a no-frills, retro feel.
"I've just moved back to Toronto after two years in New York," explains Jakowenko. "A restaurant on my block only sold cupcakes, and the lineups were incredible! I realized that people want the kind of comfort food -- macaroni and cheese, meat loaf, scalloped potatoes -- they don't have time to make and can't buy in fancy gourmet shops."
Where else in Toronto -- other than Nana's house -- are you going to find a perfect three-minute soft-boiled egg served in a china eggcup along with dunkable toasted whole-grain "soldiers" ($2.75)? I haven't seen that on a menu since I had my tonsils out.
Or gooey sprinkle-covered Dainty Lace marshmallow squares (a whopping 25 cents each)? Or a kid-friendly Portuguese bun spread with thick Nutella and optional banana ($1.75)?
No, not everything here comes with a side order of post-ironic nostalgia.
The current roster includes substantial baguette sandwiches like smoked turkey with havarti and fresh dill; avocado coupled with jalapeño cheddar and wasabi Dijon; or house-made chicken-liver pâté with minced fig laced with port (all sandwiches $5).
Add a tasty side salad of red pepper and ripe mango strips in balsamic, or leaf lettuce with red apple wedges ($1.95). Or a velvety soup thick with spring asparagus ($2.25).
If you don't feel like hanging around, the Palmerston can supply the fixings for a picnic à deux (BYOB, i.e., bring your own basket), including a baguette, pâté, Brie, olives, strawberries, cookies and a Mason jar of freshly squeezed lemonade ($20).
The menu expands to brunch for the first time this weekend. Expect the likes of croque monsieur ($3.75), French toast, and quiche (both $4.75, and all with salad).
Save it for a sunny day, though -- the patio, decked out in a nautical theme, with wrought-iron furniture and canvas awnings, may easily seat 30, but the cute Provençal-inspired interior seats maybe 10 at most.
And that's with some sitting on laps.