10 new restaurants adding their own avant-garde flavour to the bustling Toronto brunch scene
The latest wave of Toronto brunch restaurants, in an effort to separate themselves from the mountains of hash browns and Hollandaise, serve dishes that might not resemble the eggs and mimosas you’ve come to expect – but are more than worth dragging yourself out of bed for on a weekend. These 10 new Toronto brunch spots are scrambling our expectations of what a morning meal can be.
READ MORE: Toronto’s all-time best brunch restaurants
THE GOOD FORK
What began as a low-key breakfast spot beloved by Bloor West Villagers has become an entirely different animal over the past eight years – something the Good Fork’s gleaming new space on Dundas West proves in spades. In a high-ceilinged room decked out with terrazzo floors and plush forest-green banquettes, brothers Ali and Tolga Yalcin are still serving the eclectic brunch staples they made their name on (diners would flip if the red velvet pancakes ever went away). But the menu now skews toward stylish Mediterranean plates inspired by the recipes they ate growing up, like a gorgeous hummus bowl with grilled greens, or cilbir, a traditional Turkish dish of poached eggs in yogurt, served with what might be the best housemade pita bread in the city. The latest step in their evolution? Dinner service.
1550 Dundas West, 647-352-5955, goodfork.ca
Toronto’s food scene is wall-to-wall sushi and ramen – but if it’s homestyle Japanese you crave, head to this three-year-old spot, which moved to bigger digs in the Beaches a few months ago. Specializing in Western-inspired dishes known as yoshoku, Isabella’s is maybe the only place in North America that sells mochi donuts (available as rounds or donut holes, in flavours from matcha to ube to classic rainbow sprinkle). But the broad menu also runs the gamut from omurice (a dish featuring a moist-centred Japanese omelette atop a dome of fried rice in sweet-and-savoury demi-glace) to yuzu hollandaise-topped Benedicts and “mochi mochi” pancakes, served with or without their signature karaage chicken. (Trust us you want the chicken.)
2066 Queen East, 416-699-5050, isabellasboutiquerestaurant.com
We tend to be distracted by flashy new food trends here in Toronto, but the hottest ticket in the west end right now might be the bagels at this standing-room-only Oakwood Village deli. There’s no gold leaf, no muddy swirls of food colouring – just old-fashioned, hand-rolled, malt-boiled goodness. You can get ’em in big bags to go, made into pizza bagels or fried-bologna sandwiches, or smeared with a number of house cream cheeses and salads – but do it early, since they sell out way, way before close.
317A Oakwood, 416-546-9906, primrosebagel.com
It’s right next door to the Mad Dog Cafe on Gerrard – but people will happily scrunch themselves into Madame Levant’s tiny vestibule in the hopes of snagging their Middle Eastern brunch dishes. The m’shaut fritters – falafel-like cauliflower patties piled high, doused with spicy tahini and dusted with spices – are a must-order. But chef-owner Himi Hunaidi’s menu also features a number of egg dishes flanked or flecked with labneh and sumac, halva-inspired pancakes with pistachios and orange blossom syrup, and the very east-meets-west combo of grilled halloumi and maple butter on toast.
821 Gerrard East, 416-729-0503, madamelevant.com
THE GREEN WOOD
It’s tough to believe this Leslieville-based spot’s second location on King West was once a Firkin, seeing as how it’s just about the opposite in every way: Sophisticated and minimalist, an ideal spot for a date or a meeting, but especially brunch. With off-white and mint two-toned walls and sprawling windows, the noon-hour lighting is peak, the mood mellow. The majority of the Mediterranean-flavoured brunch menu is gluten-free with multiple vegan options. And each part of the dish, from the bread to the sauce, is made in-house, while all ingredients, from the cooking oil to the coffee beans, are purchased from local and sustainable purveyors.
461 King West, 416-365-5314, eatgreenwood.com
Lapinou’s brunch menu offers a more sophisticated, varied take on the mid-morning meal, with everything from ratatouille and short rib to a classically simple Boursin-stuffed French omelette on offer. The neo-bistro offers French classics made with mostly local ingredients, while the menu changes up every month. What you can always count on: half-price wine and champagne. While sleek and swanky, the space does not intimidate. Incredibly warm and welcoming, with its vintage oil lamps, plush emerald couches, exposed brick and marble bar, it brings a much-needed coziness to King West.
642 King West, 416-479-4414, lapinoubistro.com
SISTERS & CO
Owned and operated by three friends who are practically sisters, this Trinity-Bellwoods spot echoes their taste for comfort and passion for food with a homestyle brunch made up of simple ingredients. Every dish has an Asian flair (think bulgogi beef benedicts and chicken katsu club sandwiches). Other musts include the spicy tomato oxtail stew, derived from an age-old family recipe, and Earl Grey pancakes. Your go-to standards, including home fries, bacon and eggs, are all there, too. Doubling down on the homey mood is the space, which feels like your older sister’s bedroom, elegantly minimal while replete in soft pinks and purples.
887 Dundas West, 647-350-7478, sistersco.ca
At Labora (previously known as Campo Food Hall), the dining room’s bold attitude – from the swanky, market-like atmosphere to the salsa playing overhead – speaks as loudly as the flavours. Chef Rob Bragagnolo’s brunch menu includes the tapas dinner-goers have come to love, along with huevos bravas sporting a mean, spicy tomato sauce and chive aioli, and crispy dulce de leche-stuffed churros (complete with a candle-warmed pot of chocolate for dunking) as a sweetener. Bragagnolo’s paella – available with either Wagyu beef or a jaw-dropping mix of seasonal seafood – is the most popular dish noon or night, constructed and plated to flavourful perfection.
433 King West, 416-260-9993, labora.to
Born out of the Great Anthony Rose Restaurant Change-Up Of Late 2019, Gordy Smiles was once a location of Schmaltz Appetizing, but is now a colourful, disco-ball-bedecked temple to Mexican eats. The backbone of brunch is a whack of egg dishes packed with poblanos, drizzled with salsa verde and dolloped with crema – dig the massive breakfast burritos or the “breakfast nacho extra vaganza”. “But I’m a sweet breakfast foods person,” you cry. How about a quesadilla stuffed with Nutella, bananas, strawberries and cinnamon?
224 Ossington, 647-350-4400, gordysmiles.com
Once a fast-casual pizza joint, True True has reinvented itself as a showcase for chef Suzanne Barr, formerly of Saturday Dinette (as well as Avling Brewery and a number of other projects). The brunch menu riffs on diner staples – steak and eggs gets an adobo marinade, while the reuben swaps out pastrami for a mushroom ragu hasselback potatoes come with sour cream and cheese or kimchi. Those with a Dinette breakfast burger-shaped hole in their hearts should spring for the brisket burger with pimento cheese and a fried egg.
169 King East, 647-350-3228, truetruediner.com
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