Archive for Downtown west

Sam James Coffee Bar

Sam James coffee

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I gotta say – Sam James makes me feel a little depressed. He’s a wunderkid of the Toronto coffee scene. He already has two (soon to be three) coffee bars. He’s won a slew of barista awards. Did I mention he’s only in his late twenties? Sort of makes me feel like an unemployed, nearly-homeless loser with a penchant for Betty Crocker icing. Oh WAIT. I am all those things.

Anyway, I digress – after hearing about how terrific his coffee bars are, finally we headed down to the Harbord St location to try it ourselves.

Sam James coffee bar

It’s a very tiny little cafe, with just a handful of seats. I guess it’s hipster? Me and my collared shirts don’t know nothing about that.

The friendly barista whipped us up a cappuccino ($2.62 plus tax) and a latte ($3.33 plus tax). We also grabbed a large chocolate chip cookie ($1.90 plus tax).

The coffees were just straight-up excellent. I’m terrible at describing good coffee, so really all you need to know is that these coffees are creamy, tasty, and very smooth.

Sam James coffee and cookie

The cookie was also trying to steal the spotlight from the coffees. It was large, crammed with chocolate chips, and was soft and chewy. It also had a generous sprinkle of sea salt on top, which is such an awesome match with chocolate.

Don’t count on getting a seat at Sam James’ Harbord location, but please go anyway, and prepare to weep into your delicious coffee about how un-accomplished your life is.

 

Sam James Coffee Bar

297 Harbord St, Toronto (Harbord & Bathurst)

Also at 688 Bloor St. W, and soon to be opening in the Sun Life Financial building at 150 King St. W

www.samjamescoffeebar.com

 

Feelin’ for more hipster coffee? Check out these other EatDrinkToronto reviews:   Darkhorse Espresso Bar           Bulldog Coffee

 

Sam James Coffee Bar on Urbanspoon

Porchetta And Co

Porchetta & Co sandwich

 

 

 

 

 

 

A couple of months ago, on a weekend, I asked one of my friends what she did that day. “We went and got sandwiches,” she said. She said it the same way you’d say, “We went to Niagara Falls” or “We went to an engagement party” or “We stalked Ryan Gosling around Yorkville”. I was a little bewildered at first, not knowing what the big deal was, until she told me about where she got them from.

So, on a recent Saturday, D and I realised we were due to center our entire day around getting a sandwich from Porchetta & Co.

Porchetta & Co

This Dundas West shop has a huge cult following, and we were expecting a line up when we arrived. Luckily, we were the only customers when we got there (just after 12), and we managed to snag two of the five seats inside. Seating is obviously very limited – just a handful inside, and a bench outside.

The menu is also a bit limited – although don’t let this put you off. Basically, you can choose from a porchetta sandwich, a porchetta plate, or a breakfast sandwich. The porchetta sandwich ($5.95) has a variety of toppings that can be added for an extra charge, while the plate ($8.95) is porchetta with your choice of side.

Porchetta & Co sandwiches
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D ordered the breakfast sandwich, which was porchetta, egg, smoked gouda, and crackling on a bun ($5.95). I had the sandwich with tomato sauce (+25 cents), although I’m kicking myself that I didn’t try the truffle sauce (+75 cents).

Everyone who works there seems to enjoy their job and have fun, while still promptly and professionally serving up dishes. Shortly after we got our food, the place was starting to fill up and got busy very quickly.

We tackled out sangas. I loved the bread rolls (from Caldense down the street). They were the kind that are really soft and dusted in flour, so the flour gets all over your lips and pants. The buns held a generous little pile of fresh, hot porchetta and a smear of chunky Italian-style tomato sauce. I admit this was my first time trying porchetta – basically, pork shoulder wrapped in prosciutto wrapped in cured pork belly* – and brother, it will not be the last. This is not just meat, this is an experience. Porchetta has a bunch of different characters all bringing something to the table: there are the tender, chunky pieces of pork shoulder, the soft parts of fat, and the crunchy pieces of crackling and prosciutto. All of the different components make for a very flavorful bite. My hot tip: pile that seeded mustard on there. It’s wonderfully tangy!

Porchetta & Co mustards

D was loving hard on his breakfast sandwich. I personally felt that the egg overpowered the porchetta a bit, but he disagreed and liked how the gooey yolk seeped into everything. He actually proclaimed it the best sandwich he’s ever had.

We rolled outta there with the promise to be back. Better schedule it into the calendar.

 

Porchetta & Co Sandwiches

Sandwich Shop

 

825 Dundas St W (just past Bathurst)

Toronto

647-352-6611

 

Closed Sunday & Monday

http://porchettaco.com

 

*For a full explanation on what porchetta is, visit this link

Porchetta & Co on Urbanspoon

Saving Grace

Saving Grace pancakes

My glasses are a sensible size. My boyfriend is clean shaven for 11 months of the year*. I may squeeze my booty into skinny jeans, but I’m really not a hipster.

I know some people sneer at certain places that are ‘hipster’. It’s as though preppy people like me will not be welcome in these uber-hip cafes and restaurants. Luckily, Saving Grace doesn’t follow this way of thinking, welcoming everyone with open arms and the promise of one of the best brunches in Toronto.

I had heard horror stories of hour-long line ups at this tiny Dundas West cafe, but on a recent Saturday we just waited for about 20 minutes. Just why is there always such a long wait? Well, it could partly be because of the extremely limited seating. Saving Grace has maybe 24 or so seats. They make up for their small amount of seating with their huge brunch menu. I could barely decide what to have to drink! I debated between the espresso-avocado smoothie; the blueberry lemonade; even a regular ol’ cup of joe. In the end a friend and I both went with the pineapple/mango/coconut smoothie (~$4), while our other pal ordered one of their numerous varieties of lemonade.

Despite a full house, our food delivery was timed well, and was brought out shortly after we finished our drinks. Again, it was hard trying to decide what to order. I got the brie, honey, and pear baguette ($10); B ordered the savoury french toast (~$11); and K went with a half order of french toast (~$5), and a side order of potatoes (~$3).

Saving Grace brie honey baguette

Brie, honey, and walnut baguette

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My baguette came with a fresh side salad and the crispiest little potato slices. These little potato suckers are  halfway between a potato wedge and a roasted potato, and are crispy, creamy, and perfect. The baguette was crunchy, and topped with a generous slice of oozing brie cheese and ripe pear slices. This is a really simple sandwich, but the flavor combination is one of my favorites.

The ladies were busy attacking their dishes with gusto – the half order of french toast was surprisingly bigger than expected, and was covered in caramelized banana slices. The savoury french toast was also a favourite – the Gruyere cheese dripping out of it convinced me to order it next time.

Savoury french toast

Savoury french toast

And oh yes, there will be a next time at Saving Grace. The menu has all the brunch items you could want, from the sweet (waffles, pancakes, granola), to the savoury (quesadilla, baked eggs, frittata), to the lunch-like (sandwiches). The wait is long, but the prices are low, and the food is delicious – it even has the hipsters smiling.

 

Saving Grace

Cafe

907 Dundas St W (just past Bathurst, near Trinity Bellwoods Park)

Ph: 416-703-7368

Like brunch? You may also like to check out these Toronto brunch reviews: La Societe         Lola’s Kitchen        BLD

 

*Movember is coming up kids! Down with CaP.
Saving Grace on Urbanspoon

Ezra’s Pound

Ezra's Pound coffee

I’m pretty sure 90% of the city was out frolicking in the streets last weekend, am I right? The warm Fall weather had everyone wanting to go outside and soak up the sun – me included. I frolicked in the park, chased some bunnies, encouraged new moles forming on my arms, and ended up at Ezra’s Pound’s lovely patio.

This cafe in Little Portugal serves up basic, light meals and snacks, as well as damn good coffee. I ordered an iced latte, and it was so creamy and smooth that it didn’t need any sweetener at all.

Due to all my exuberant bunny chasing and skin cancer-growing, I needed some grub, so I also ordered a baguette with peanut butter (~$2.75). A fresh, soft, doughy baguette came with an overflowing dish of peanut butter. Bread and peanut butter is obviously not rocket science, but when it’s done with good-quality products for a very low price, it’s a thing of beauty.

Ezra peanut butter baguette

The aforementioned patio is a reasonable size, although there’s also plenty of comfortable seating indoors.

This is a great little spot – take advantage of these last few days of patio weather while you can!

Ezra’s Pound

Cafe

 

913 Dundas Street West (near Bellwoods Ave)
Toronto, ON M6J 1V9

(647) 346-8448

Ezra's Pound on Urbanspoon

Caplansky’s

Anyone for brine?
I have a pickle problem.

True story: when I lived at home my mother would yell at me for eating too many pickles. “You can have one a day! No more! You eat too many! Too much salt!” she would scream. (Not really. Momma T is a pussycat. So the above was said, but in a more subdued tone.)

Imagine my delight when I moved 20,000km away and could eat all of the pickles I wanted.

The above would be Caplansky‘s pickles. They are thick, juicy, salty, tangy, and garlicky. That whole plate is a $1. I sent a picture of it to Momma T to taunt her.

So, our visit to Caplansky’s deli was off to a very good start. It got better as we looked over the menu, drooling over latkes, smoked turkey, and mac’n'cheese.

D ordered the Leaning Tower of Caplansky ($13), and I went with the BBQ Beef Brisket on a Bun ($8).
I wasn’t expecting my sandwich to be too big – after all, it was only $8 – but the thing that was plonked down in front of me meant business. A huge pile of steaming, saucy brisket and crispy onions spilled out from a soft onion bun.

D’s plate was a little more modest-looking, despite its richness. Three thick slices of challah french toast, layered with cream cheese and chunky blueberry jam, were garnished with maple syrup and bacon. The challah was soft and fluffy, with just a light golden crunch on the outside. It was a good dish, but I’m not really a fan of cream cheese on french toast. Besides, I had my brisket to contend with.

“You won’t make a dent in that,” D said, watching me as I shoveled the meat into my mouth.

The brisket had a slight chew and was so flavorsome; the sauce was sweet and had a strong tomato flavour. I dipped a bit in the house-made honey mustard (which is so good we were eating it with our fingers before our meals came), and that took it over the edge. My only complaint is that so much meat is heaped on that the bottom bun gets soggy. And no one likes soggy buns.

Service at Caplansky’s was friendly and swift. I think Mr Caplansky himself even came out at one point and served us our pickles. I fought the urge to beat his beef brisket receipt out of him.

Caplansky’s serves well-priced, delicious food, in a casual and relaxed atmosphere. I’m thinking this place is going to be a regular haunt.

My sodium levels may never be the same again.

 

Caplansky’s

Delicatessen

 

356 College St (between Bathurst & Spadina)

Toronto

 

Ph: 416-500-3852

(The Caplanksy’s Food Truck, Thunderin’ Thelma, can also be found around downtown and at various events!)

http://www.caplanskys.com

 

Caplansky's Delicatessen on Urbanspoon

Kensingtons

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Eating out can be expensive. The dollar menu at McDonald’s is amazing, but there are times when you’re sober in need of something more.

Kensingtons delivers! This place is cheap. Or maybe I’ve been drinking too much $24 beer and don’t know the value of things anymore.

I ordered the ‘AMAZING Sandwich’. For $6, I got a thick grainy panini stuffed with grilled vegies, pesto, dijon, turkey, and mayo. Kensingtons is supposedly known for these sandwhiches, and I have to say it did not disapoint.

They’re also known for their coffee – well, that’s what the sign in their window says. The sign is wrong. My Colomiban Light Roast ($1.70 for 12 oz) was pretty crap. D’s latte ($3.75) was actually quite good, so I’m not sure what went wrong between the coffee filter and the espresso machine.

D ordered a random big breakfast special that was like, $5. His plate was loaded with eggs, bacon, veggies, and a bagel. Kensington’s also does crepes (Banana and Nutella, $6), and value-for-money combos (Crepe with soup or salad for $8.99).

Bring in a tenner to Kensington’s and you’ll get a decent, tasty feed, with change. And they have the Dufflet’s Double Fudge Euro Tart.

YOU’RE WELCOME.

 

Kensingtons

Cafe

(416) 595-1822

181 Baldwin St

Toronto (Spadina & Dundas)

Kensingtons on Urbanspoon

Dufflet’s

Duffletcupcake

I think I want to marry Dufflet Rosenberg.

Think about it. She’s business-savvy. She tandem bikes. She wants us to eat more cake. She has a very cool name. And damn - that woman can bake.

I’ve only had Dufflet’s once before, and frankly I can’t remember the experience too clearly because I think I had a heart attack and passed out from the sheer excitement going on in my mouth. Two years have passed since then and I think I have grown stronger and can now handle it. So, D and I put on our elastic pants and took a trip.

The Queen Street West location is small, cosy, and bursting with treats. There are full-sized cakes, mini tarts, cupcakes, bars, slices, some light meals (so D tells me – he claims he saw a breakfast menu?), and coffee.

We ordered a mini butter tart ($1.35), then asked the server for his recommendation. He suggested the blondie ($2.25) or the pink velvet cupcake (around $2?), so we got both. We don’t muck around. We also grabbed coffees – a latte ($2.75) and a cappuccino ($2.75), which were both creamy and had a good flavour.

Butter tart

The butter tart was, as it was back when it made me lose consciousness, nothing short of amazing. The mini tarts have raisins in them, and I do prefer pecans instead, but frankly you could throw kitty litter in there and I’m sure it would still taste good.

Amazing blondie

The blondie was insane. Dotted with marshmallow bits and gooey caramel, it was like a Smore and a blondie had gotten it on and produced a very, very tasty little love child. We enjoyed the pink velvet cupcake later that night, and to my surprise it wasn’t anything like a red velvet cake (as I was expecting). Instead, a delicate strawberry cream cheese frosting covered a cake that tasted like a cross between chocolate and carrot; it had hints of cinnamon and vanilla and paired perfectly with the creamy frosting.

Many local delis and stores stock Dufflet’s products, but it’s definitely worth it to visit an actual store. Until my next visit, I’ll continue planning the wedding, ignoring: the age difference; the fact that we’re both straight females; and the chance for a lifetime of (very happy) heart attacks.

Dufflet’s

Cafe and Bakery

787 Queen Street West

(for other locations, visit http://www.dufflet.com/html/retail/)

(416) 484-9080

http://www.dufflet.com

Dufflet Pastries on Urbanspoon