Mildred Pierce (99 Sudbury, at Dovercourt, 416-588-5695) Complete brunches for $25 per person, including all taxes, tip and a glass of recently squeezed orange juice. Average main $12. Open for brunch Sunday 10 am to 3 pm. Reservations not accepted. Licensed. Access: barrier-free. Rating: NNN Rating: NNNNN
Sunday 9:30 am, the parking lot of Mildred Pierce. We're standing at the locked gate that leads through the wisteria-covered patio to the esteemed west-side eatery's front door a good half-hour before it opens.
The week before, we'd foolishly made the mistake of showing up at 11, and because the Joan Crawford-themed cantina doesn't take reservations at brunch, we witnessed a mob scene unlike any I have ever encountered at any other Toronto resto. Why, Mildred makes the chaos at Bella's look like high tea at the King Eddy.
Over the next half-hour, another two dozen or so like-minded folks show up early in order to secure a seat at what is surely Toronto's hottest weekend spread. I'm surprised not to see camper vans parked overnight out front.
Soon, we're all seated in the vaulted converted warehouse space. Renaissance murals and billowing organza curtains loom over large hammered-copper tables set with comfortable club chairs. I almost expect the all-in-black servers who wander the room with jugs of house-squeezed orange juice ($3.75 glass) to be on horseback like the Medieval Knights. For some reason, James Brown belts out Sex Machine on the sound system, though no one can really tell over the general din.
A basket of flaky buttermilk biscuits and warm currant-studded scones (both $3.75 for two) arrives along with pots of whipped butter and house-made strawberry jam. We'd intended to order Pierce's savoury chicken waffles sauced with Dijon cream and sided with blueberry chutney, but alas, we're informed they're only available at Saturday lunch. Instead, we go for Veda's Choice, two poached eggs on a Clafouti croissant dressed with smoky salmon and eggy Béarnaise, a few chunky deep-fried spuds on the side ($12).
Ida's French Toast ($11) finds substantial slabs of cinnamon brioche dolloped with maple banana compote and whipped cream, while Huevos Monty ($13) refried beans and sharp cheddar pressed quesadilla-style between two crisply baked flour tortillas, topped with two sunny-side-up fried eggs comes garnished with innocuous salsa and avocado-infused crème fraiche.
On our way out, we pick up a copy of Mildred's Out To Brunch cookbook ($14.95) that includes the recipe for her chicken waffles, before fighting our way back to our bikes through the crowd that's now been waiting up to an hour for entry.
Next time they'll know the first rule of Mildred Pierce: get there by 10 or be prepared for a long wait.