BOOM BREAKFAST & CO (808 College, at Ossington, 416-534-3447) With its all-day breakfast lineup and modern diner decor, this busy storefront resto has been a zoo since the day it opened, especially on weekends. Expect variations on bacon 'n' eggs and comfort-food-style lunch classics. Complete meals for $15 per person, including all taxes, tip and an espresso. Open daily 6 am to 4 pm. Unlicensed. Access: one step at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Boom Breakfast does exactly that - breakfast. And its business is booming. So much so that after only three weeks in operation, the joint's already planning to franchise. Last week-end's lineup out the front door proved Boom's winner status. The narrow storefront that once housed Irie has been converted into a stylish diner that opens every day at 6 am. Walls have been ragged egg-yolk yellow, and a curved formica bar cleverly lit by inverted cups 'n' saucers turned into halogen spots fronts an open short-order kitchen and faces a row of highly coveted black vinyl booths.
Bands of glossy ceramic tiles cross the floor and climb walls, giving the comforting space the feel of a subway station crossed with a swimming pool. The place must be a snap to hose down come closing time at 4 every afternoon.
Most restaurateurs would keep a gold mine like Boom Breakfast open 24/7, especially when it sits on some of Toronto's most costly commercial real estate. But Mauro Martina, who with fellow Mövenpick vet Tony Capellano came up with the breakfast-only concept, has other ideas.
"I don't want to be here all the time," says Martina. "I have a life."
As do the Literary Device and I. We've snagged the last table just inside the front door this Saturday noon, a front-row view of the affable maître d' working crowd control on the down-filled jacketed and backpacked queue. The busy room has the buzz of a frantic Fran's, and though an AM radio plays in the background, the clamour mixes in equal parts animated conversation, steaming espresso machine and the clunk of china and cutlery.
Not being breakfast types, we pass on Boom's traditional Power Breakfast ($5.99), a trad wake-up of eggs, bacon and chips, and start instead with Benny Boom ($7.99). It arrives verging on lukewarm, a pair of nicely poached hollandaise-sauced eggs on a leafy bed of steamed spinach. We wonder why only one of the eggs comes topped with smoked salmon. Furthermore, foodie purists will freak when they see what Boom calls frites - thick wedges of deep-fried spuds.
Considering the setting, I know that the bland sauce that smothers the Forestière crepe ($7.99) concept-correctly recalls Campbell's Cream of Mushroom. But once waded through, it reveals a pleasant paper-thin pancake stuffed with first-rate grilled chicken, wilted spinach and Swiss.
We add an order of Boom Greens ($4.99 main/$2.99 side), an impressively fresh mesclun mix that includes wayward avocado. Upgraded with qua-lity canned tuna, hard-boiled egg and a half-dozen haricots, they become a creditable niçoise ($6.99).
A few days later, we tuck into Boom's triple-decked Superhigh Brioche Chicken Club ($6.79), a tassle-toothpicked sandwich so massive it could easily feed two.
Don't think the kitchen's getting all pretentious-like with the brioche; it's really Texas toast. I applaud the BLT's moist chicken breast - meaty grease-free bacon and retro iceberg lettuce stack up admirably - so I'll forgo my annual tomatoes-in-winter-suck rant.
The pale impostors are easily removed from the otherwise tasty Boom Burger ($7.99), a remarkably pink-centred 5-ounce patty of ground round topped with melted cheddar and raw red onion rings. We finish with a fabulous Honey Bee smoothie ($3.19), a delicious blend of blueberries, banana and honey kicked with yogurt to suggest a lassi.
VECCHIO FRAK (690 College, at Montrose, 416-516-3725) This huge 80s-style lounge is also North America's first Bruscotta franchise - think toast topped with pizza fixin's. Complete meals for $25 per person, including all taxes, tip and a glass of house plonk. Open daily 9 am to 2 am. Licensed. Access: barrier-free. Rating: NN
a few blocks east of boom breakfast, another franchise has opened - Vecchio Frak, North America's first Bruscotta outlet. Sold alongside panini at roadside autogrill gas stations in Italy, Bruscotta is basically toast with pizza-style toppings. Frak is a recent addition to the over-saturated College resto strip. But with its unusual name, late-80s decor and macho Euro-pop soundtrack, I can't imagine who it's trying to attract.
As for the Bruscotta, the two I try - one with wimpy tomato sauce, meek mozzarella and supermarket salami, the other similarly sauced and topped with canned tuna (both $8) - are smaller than a slice, twice as expensive and half as appetizing.
CAFFE BRASILIANO (851 Dundas West, at Euclid, 416-603-6607) Former tavola calda-style cafeteria slash Portuguese coffee house moves across the street into fancier digs but keeps its super-value suppers. Linger over caffeine in the swell new booths and curbside perches or grab comfort food to go for those nights you don't feel like cooking. Complete meals for $12, including all taxes, tip and a domestic beer. Licensed. Open Monday to Friday 5:30 am to 6 pm, Saturday and Sunday 7 am to 3 pm. Unlicensed. Cash only. Access: barrier-free. Rating: NNN
open since the 60s, dundas west's Caffe Brasiliano was a busy breakfast spot long before the neighbourhood gentrified. But its recent move to more deluxe digs across the street has affected neither its quality nor its prices. The scene's still a multi-culti mix of grumpy old men, coffee-swilling locals pushing strollers and early morning club kids still up from the night before, all starting the day substantially with hearty veal stew or slow-roasted chicken sided with lemony chick pea or creamy old-school potato salads ($6 tax-inclusive) as well as a score of "spoon-style" egg combos.
But now they do it in relative style at one of several four-seater booths or at a row of counter seats that face a glass garage door that opens to the street. Weather permitting, of course.
last week's review of banh mi subs at Kim Thanh suggested they contain cat food, liverwurst and hot dog wieners. Those were taste references; the subs contain none of the above.