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Café

Gilead Café

4 Gilead Pl, at King E, 647-288-0680. Organic guru Jamie Kennedy transforms a Corktown photo lab down an obscure laneway into a terrific self-serve lunch spot and take-away. Show up off-hours or fight the crowds. Best: from a seasonal menu, gorgeously marbled roast Cumbrae beef sandwiches with caramelized red onion jam and crumbled blue cheese on St. John’s Bakery’s seeded sourdough signature frites topped poutine-style with Monforte’s sheep cheddar and tomato-strewn beef jus organic greens dressed with yellow beans, Thunder Oak Gouda and house-made jambon blanc lemon tarts in classic pâte brisée. Complete meals for $25 per person, including all taxes, tip and a glass of house-bottled water. Average main $10. Open Monday to Wednesday 8 am to 6 pm, Thursday 8 am to 5 pm, Friday 8 am to 6 pm, Saturday 8 am to 4 pm, Sunday 10 am to 4 pm lunch daily 11 am to 3 pm. Closed some holidays. No reservations. Licensed. Access: three steps at door, washrooms on same floor. Rating: NNNNN

Contemporary

Big Mamma’s Boy

554 Parliament, at Amelia, 416-927-1593. Former Slack Alice and Looking Glass honcho Heather Mackenzie presents chef Michael Guenther’s health-conscious card in laid-back Cabbagetown digs. Count on comfort food, pub grub classics and pizzas with pizzazz that are mostly organic, locally sourced and often gluten-free. Best: at dinner, slow-cooked Mennonite pork ribs braised Korean-style in tamari, honey and whiskey, sided with organic brown basmati and sautéed seasonal veg gluten-free macaroni ‘n’ cheese with chèvre and farmer’s sausage portobello mushroom burgers stuffed with lemony lentils on toasted sourdough spread with house-made chipotle mayo at brunch, $2 Morning Glories rice-flour pancakes topped with fresh berries. Complete dinners for $45 per person (brunches $20), including all taxes, tip and a glass of wine. Average main $18 ($10 brunch). Open for dinner nightly 4:30 to 11 pm brunch last Sunday of the month 11 am to 3 pm bar nightly till close. Licensed. Delivery. Access: five steps at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNN

Edward Levesque’s Kitchen

1290 Queen E, at Hastings, 416-465-3600. Chef Levesque’s converted greasy spoon has been wowing local foodies since it launched in 2003, long before Leslieville was a trendy dining destination. Uninviting from the street, this spacious room’s retro decor mirrors a menu of modern comfort food that often employs homegrown organic veggies. Best: from a seasonal card, grilled prosciutto-wrapped figs over arugula in balsamic syrup spaghettini with garlicky grilled sardines sirloin meatloaf ‘n’ mash and beer-battered Vidalia onion rings dark chocolate cake with peanut butter ice cream at brunch, poached eggs with Cumbrae breakfast bangers or Italian sausage, chipotle corn bread and potato pancakes. Complete dinners for $60 per person (lunches/brunches $28), including all taxes, tip and a glass of wine. Average main $24/$12. Open for lunch Friday 11:30 am to 2:30 pm, dinner Monday to Saturday 5:30 to 10 pm. Brunch Saturday and Sunday 9 am to 3 pm. Closed Dec 24, 25. Licensed. Access: four steps at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNNN

Union

72 Ossington, at Humbert, 416-850-0093. Oz’s hottest boîte after dark, chef Teo Paul’s 34-seat resto features a horseshoe-shaped marble-topped bar upfront and a more intimate brick-lined space and a second bar flanking an open kitchen out back. Reservations recommended. Best: elk sliders on Harbord Bakery challah drizzled with sweet mirin-galangal reduction the inevitable charcuterie board, house-corned beef brisket, fat-streaked pork rillette, and country-style terrine specials like lake trout dusted with curry powder and paprika, sided with garlicky rapini, al dente baby veg, frites and hot potato salad at lunch, meaty pork ‘n’ shrimp Pimp burgers topped with runny fried eggs on crisply crusted rosti to finish, Parisian bread pudding. Complete dinners for $65 per person (lunches $35), including all taxes, tip and a glass of wine. Average main $25/$15. Open Tuesday to Friday 9:30 am to midnight, Saturday 10:30 am to midnight, lunch from noon, dinner from 6:30 pm. Closed Sunday, Monday, holidays. Licensed. Access: two steps at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNN

Vegan

Hot Yam!

International Student Centre, 33 St George, at College. Only open one day a week – and for two hours at that – this U of T student-run vegan cafeteria open to the public doubles as an inexpensive exercise in sustainability, dishing up locally sourced and often organic veggie meals with sides of delicious idealism for all of four bucks. Best: from a menu that changes weekly, nutty sweet ‘n’ sour beet soup dolloped with Ontario cucumber salsa, followed by bruschetta topped with garlicky white beans, lemony orzo dressed with roasted season-peak tomatoes, and fresh raspberry cake another day, creamy potato salad with silken tofu, coleslaw in dilled dressing, green beans in basil pesto, peaches in syrup, and flaxseed cornbread roasted veggies and tempeh on house-baked rosemary focaccia spread with black-olive tapenade, coupled with cayenne-dusted corn on the cob and spinach salad with caramelized shallots. Complete lunches for $4, first week of the month pwyc. Open for lunch Thursday noon to 2 pm. No reservations. Unlicensed. Cash only. Access: barrier-free. Rating: NNNNN

Vegetarian

Calico

1226 Bloor W, at Brock, 416-536-1883. You can’t get much greener than former Fressen chef Jared Davis, who either grows most of the produce that makes its way onto his inventive vegetarian card in the resto’s backyard garden or buys it from nearby Dufferin Grove organic farmers’ market. Best: seasonal starters like creamy cauliflower phyllo purses with sautéed spinach and tomato coulis dramatically plated mains like grilled tofu with balsamic Brussels sprouts, French lentil ragout and Muskoka maple syrup ‘n’ wine reduction at brunch, egg or scrambled tofu frittata-style omelettes du jour with organic house greens and paprika-dusted home fries to drink, rosemary green iced tea. Complete dinners for $30 per person (lunches/brunches $20), including all taxes, tip and a juice. Average main $13/$10. Open for lunch Wednesday to Saturday 11 am to 5 pm, dinner 5 to 9 pm. Brunch Saturday and Sunday 11 am to 4 pm. Closed Monday, Tuesday, holidays. Unlicensed. Cash only. Access: barrier-free (not patio), washrooms in basement. Rating: NNNN

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