SAGE CAFE AND CATERING (166 McCaul, at Baldwin, 416-340-7345) Complete lunches for $10, including all taxes, tip and a soft drink. Average main $6. Open Monday to Friday 9 am to 5 pm. Unlicensed. Access: half-step at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Located in a ramshackle Victor Ian House, this bustling little café can feel cramped during peak hours as customers snake past tables to place their orders, and linger for lack of anywhere else to stand.
Those dining in are told to have a seat until their food is brought to them. It's best to move along to the back room, which is homey and warm, with pale green walls and purple accents. Focusing on vegetarian fare, daily specials include pizza, pasta and quiche with soup or salad ($7.50), and the regular menu offers a good selection of hefty wraps ($6).
The curried split pea and sweet potato soup ($4 on its own) takes the chill out of a cold, rainy day. With its fine balance of hot and sweet, all it needs is salt.
The daily pizza has an unpleasantly thick and fluffy crust overloaded with oregano and sprinkled with diced tomato, onion, green pepper and cheese. The spinach and chèvre quiche is a small, slightly sodden portion.
The wraps are better, ranging from eggplant, feta and sun-dried tomato to tarragon lemon chicken. Whole-wheat pitas contain their considerable bulk instead of flimsier flour tortillas. Grilled portobello mushrooms get nicely paired with ample slices of mild Brie, cucumber and lettuce. Curried chicken salad, with walnuts and apple, is unfortunately mashed to the consistency of tuna, and the generous but slightly bitter filling becomes too much mush halfway through.
Sage boasts 11 years in business and offers fresh takeout and an at-home feel along with reasonable prices. Vegetarians in particular will like it.