Toronto’s Top Brunch

It’s no secret I’m a tad obsessive about brunch.

All my life, breakfast and the foods that go with have been one of my favourite parts of the day.

Now, I’m the type of person who needs to eat the second I open my eyes in the morning. Before moving to Toronto I hated eating out for breakfast because I’d feel sick from being so hungry in the morning. I couldn’t wait.

But the best thing about specialty brunch places are the hours from 10 to 3. All I’d need is a little snack to keep me going till 10. Or just wait and eat breakfast food for lunch. Then I’d have the rest of the day to work off said brunch ;)

Toronto is a big city filled with tons of restaurants. Ten thousand to be exact. Eating at every place that serves brunch would probably be a decade’s worth of work. And a solid 30 lbs. While I didn’t have the chance to try every place while I was there, I do like to think I got to try some of the best. Places known around the city as well as some of the lesser known gems.

I haven’t done this by myself either. For you, dear reader, have been along for the ride the whole time! Here with me as I write about my adventures brunching around the city. People always ask me what my favourite places are or how they shape up against one another.

It is with this that I bring you my Top 5 Toronto Brunches.

1. Mitzi’s on College

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Home of the best pancake I ever ate. I was so awed the first time eating it, that in a rare occurrence I went back a second time and ordered the exact same thing.

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A thick oatmeal buttermilk pancake topped with something different every time. It’s like the cornbread of pancakes, made with hearty oatmeal in a thick skillet.

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Mitzi’s on College is a cool little spot in Little Italy. Bonus points for having a waiting room instead of forcing hungry brunchers to line up out the door on weekends. They also had the best coffee of any brunch place. Not to mention, an outstanding menu outside of the famous pancake.

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2. Bonjour Brioche

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Located on the cusp of Leslieville and the Riverdale District, Bonjour Brioche is mainly a bakery that fills to the brim with brunchers on the weekend.

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I came here with my sister who thankfully wanted to split something sweet and savoury. The best of both worlds! We split a croque madam made with toasted brioche, ham, gruyere and a fried egg. The bread was obviously the best part.

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The real reason why this place captures the number two spot is the french toast. Hands down, the best I’ve ever had.

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Made with day old pastries. Every person gets a different kind of french toast based on whatever they have around. We happened to get some kind of flaky chocolate bread. Soaked in eggs and topped with maple syrup, it was even better than bread pudding.

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3. Toast Restaurant

Another Leslieville location. Not surprising, seeing as my neighbourhood in Toronto had the highest brunch-per-person ratio.

Honestly, Toast was not originally on my brunch radar. But my roommate seemed pretty excited to try it out and I’m never one to turn down brunch. The place was super cute, sort of like a “classy but relaxed” pub vibe.

I ordered the Monte Cristo, with shaved black forest ham and Swiss cheese on challah. It came with a potato hash instead of the usual home fries, which I loved!

Any place that does french toast on challah is automatically good in my book. The portions sizes here were huge, with tons of ham and cheese piled into my “sandwich.”

4. School Bakery & Cafe

School Bakery & Cafe

School was an afterthought before leaving Toronto. I’m so glad I made it there!

School Bakery & Cafe

Themed to remind you of all aspects of going to school, right down to the menu that comes on looseleaf. It’s in a brick institutional building on the outskirts of Liberty Village. It’s expensive, and we waited for a long time to both be seated and served. But in the end, it was still worth it.

School Bakery & Cafe

The menu is divided into sweet & savoury, featuring tons of original french toast, pancake and eggs benedict ideas. I ended up with the Spiced Benni on a Cheddar Chive biscuit. Even though I don’t like hollandaise, I still enjoyed the spicy kind that came with.

School Bakery & Cafe

The best part though was the biscuit the benni came on. Perfectly soft and spicy without falling apart under the runny eggs.

Bonus points to School for also making a mean Nutella Scone.

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‘Nuff said.

5. Free Times Cafe

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This was one of my first places to brunch in Toronto, as recommended my by sister at the time. I later came to know Free Times on College & Spadina as a bar. But I continued to yammer on about their unique brunch to anyone who’d listen every time we were there.

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Featuring live Klezmer music, Free Times offers up a “traditional Jewish brunch” buffet on Sundays. It’s not cheap, but worth it once just for the experience.

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I tried lots from the buffet, including challah french toast, smoked salmon scrambled eggs, potato latkes with apple sauce, blintzes, pickles and beets.

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Round two included in-house smoked fish, bread, cheese, smoked salmon cream cheese and a beet salad. All “my kind of food.”

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And what’s breakfast without dessert?

Years from now when I look back on my time in Toronto, I will always fondly remember the time I spent eating brunch. Researching brunch. Discussing brunch. And basically just loving and living through some of the best food the city has to offer. Even though I tout a “healthy lifestyle” on this blog, I think letting go and truly enjoying the food in that city was probably one of the healthiest things I’ve ever done.

Okay, and it was pretty damn fun too. All in the name of research, right?

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Posted on March 29, 2011, in Restaurants, Reviews and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 24 Comments.

  1. My boyfriend and I had a hilarious first date at the Free Times Cafe. I saw it on your list and laughed – very funny memories. Didn’t realize they had brunch, maybe we’ll have to go back ;)

  2. oh. my. gosh. what a shame that i am not allowed into canada.

  3. I am so sad you have left Toronto, as I was enjoying living vicariously through you :-( however, it has inspired me to tackle your best of brunch list -of that list, I’ve only been to the Free Times, so I have some eating to do!
    I also realized the other day that I can use your Ottawa rec’s for when I’m there in April – thanks, and aside from the reviews, your photos are great!

  4. all of these brunch places sound so amazing! that massive deep-dish style pancake looks so darn good. i dont go gaga over pancakes normally BUT every now and again i stumble on a place that makes really good ones and i fall instantly in love! i have a place like that in LA and it’s worth the drive and wait every time.

  5. This post is totally starred in Google Reader for my trip to Toronto in September. I can’t wait!

  6. Every time you talk about that pancake, I am tempted to drive the hour to Toronto just to eat it.

  7. I’m with Jess. I feel it would be well worth the drive.

  8. Brunch is my favorite meal to eat out for as well, which is why this post was basically porn to me.

  9. greensandjeans

    Well now you have to come down to Philly when your arm is on the mend so I can take you to all of our fantastic brunch places. Deal?

  10. I am bookmarking this!! SO many places I still need to hit :D

    xo

  11. The french toast place reminded me of a cafe nearby that uses the leftover morning pasteries to make bread pudding. It will have varying bits of muffins, scones, and cinnamon rolls. So good! I have very fond memories of that bread pudding!

  12. I’m totally with you- brunch is always worth the splurge! I usually have the same thing for breakfast every morning during the week (toast with PB smeared as I run out the door to work) so weekend brunches are KEY. And all that relaxation that comes with a leisurely mid-morning meal HAS to be healthy, I agree.

  13. Dang mama! This makes me want to move to Canada for the brunch opportunities alone! And to visit you of course! It looks like you’re making awesome progress with your arm. Obviously I’m just catching up–so sorry to hear about the death in your family. Hope you’re doing well! xoxo
    P.S. Maybe I can smuggle Janetha across the border one day. It would be totally worth the risk for a Monte Cristo ;)

  14. Totally drool-worthy. Someday when I happen to be in Tdot these places are going to be on my radar. Especially Mitzi’s. I CANNOT get over that pancake. Breakfast is love.

  15. Awesome post!! I think brunch is my favourite meal to eat AND read about…haha.

    I love how the clocks at School are all set to 3:30! Nice touch. And I didn’t know the Free Times Sunday brunch comes with Klezmer music – amazing!

  16. Yum! Breakfast food is my favourite kind of food, too!

  17. Came to Mitzi ‘s after reading this blog. Sadly, this was one of the worst breakfast I had.

    The pancake had a strange taste to it.
    Scrambled eggs had overpowering blue cheese flavor.
    Service was do slow…we had to wait 30 minutes to be served. Apparently, the pancake takes a long time to prepare. Only good thing was the orange juice.

    • Ohno! Sorry it turned out to be a waste of time and money. It’s a shame when restaurants can’t be consistent in taste and service. One thing I did notice the last time I was there that the oil from the potatoes leaked on to the pancake, which created a weird sweet/savoury flavour that wasn’t welcome in bits. If I were to ever go back I’d ask for the potatoes on a different plate. Although, I’m not sure if that’s the issue you had. Thanks for coming back and letting me know!

  18. I just went to a place called union 72 the other day and had a great brunch there! Next up is le select :) will definitely use your list for the rest of my discovering brunch events haha thanks for this :)

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