Of all the things people ask me about moving home from “the big city,” two questions come up over and over:
1) Aren’t you going to get bored?
2) How will you eat??
The answers are actually quite simple.
First, a girl can make her own fun wherever she is. Trust me. It’s pretty darn simple to be in a big city with a million things to do and still feel bored and lonely. Sometimes you just have to be a little more creative in smaller towns ;)
Secondly, one word: Calactus.
Actually, one of my best friends told me that I won’t miss any of those Toronto restaurants because Moncton’s Calactus is all I really need.
Exaggerated, yes. But still not that far from the truth.
I’ve been blogging about this place for years now. It’s my favourite restaurant. Ever. And all right here in my hometown.
I first started going to Calactus over a decade ago when it was in a small old house on Mountain Road. It was around the time my family first started eating vegetarian, and this vegetarian/vegan restaurant helped introduce a whole new style of eating to me.
Calactus is also home to the world’s best veggie burger. Seriously. This coming from a girl who spent eight years as a vegetarian and has choked down a lot of veggie burgers in her day…
But the even better thing about this restaurant, is that they are more than just one standout dish. Everything is good. All house made, fresh, flavourful. The kind of meal that doesn’t weigh you down, but leaves you feeling healthily satisfied.
Like with they’re Burrito Bandito.
Or their extravaganza pizza with tomato sauce, veggie pepperoni, falafel, red onion, green pepper and cheese. Along with a beet and goat cheese salad.
I have yet to try their pakoras, but their munchables are amazing.
The Thousand and One Nights with chapati bread, feta cheese and olives, falafels, hummus, tofu cream and veggie sticks.
Their falafels are the bestest. Perfectly seasoned, crunchy on the outside, soft in the middle, without being greasy. Their tofu cream still alludes me. They put it on a lot of their dishes. Like a garlicky tofu hummus or tzatziki of sorts.
My latest visit to Calactus was on Saturday for lunch and my midday cravings wanted something rolled up in bread.
I went with a “Flute” which is essentially a wrap. Falafel flavour, because as I said, their falafel is out of this world.
With sprouts, lettuce, red onion, tomato, and a drizzle of that savoury tofu cream. My oh my it was good! Their house made chapati bread never ceases to amaze me. Always so soft and fluffy. A million times better than the usual flour tortilla.
The tabbouleh is something to write home about as well. Rather than being pre-mixed, it’s couscous with the dressed parsley and tomatoes dolloped on top. Tastes almost like a bruschetta on couscous.
Then of course there’s Christie and Tiffany.
My Calactus lunch-mates on Saturday. We’ve lunched manymany times together over the ooohhh 20 years (?) we’ve known each other.
They’re both living back at home now too. So the three of us live just down the street from each other like we did growing up!
Except you know, with a few extra stories to tell from along the way.
Told ya, a girl can find some good fun and good food just about anywhere ;)
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
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.
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.
2. Bonjour Brioche
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.
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.
The real reason why this place captures the number two spot is the french toast. Hands down, the best I’ve ever had.
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.
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 was an afterthought before leaving Toronto. I’m so glad I made it there!
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.
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.
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.
5. Free Times Cafe
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.
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.
I tried lots from the buffet, including challah french toast, smoked salmon scrambled eggs, potato latkes with apple sauce, blintzes, pickles and beets.
Round two included in-house smoked fish, bread, cheese, smoked salmon cream cheese and a beet salad. All “my kind of food.”
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?