Saturday, 23 June 2012

Art is in: Lebreton

A modern cafeteria-style bakery in an industrial setting, no basic breakfast, delicious pastries, benny's and omelets to stay or go. $3 self-serve coffees, seat yourself somewhere in the chaos.

Stoneface Dolly's: Preston Street

Classic breakfast favorites served with an unpretentious gourmet twist. $8.25 Basic breakfast. Coffee not included but worth every penny. Friendly staff. Our new favorite!

When you tell people you write a blog about Breakfast, everyone has a recommendation.  We had to try Stoneface Dolly's in Little Italy because so many people  have been singing its praises!  We were not disappointed. In fact, if it weren't for our  commitment to this blog we would have no problems making this our regular breakfast haunt! 

This is no hidden gem. It was even recently featured on the Food Network's You Gotta Eat Here: Stoneface Dolly's .   This means that if you want a seat you better get there early. Sundays are the busiest day and often have a lineup of hungry patrons out the door, patiently waiting for a table.  They have a cozy little patio on Beech Street for people who like to eat in the morning sunshine.

We were lucky enough to find a seat right upon arrival, and were quickly greeted with extremely friendly and prompt service. Our coffee came in an ample sized mug (no dainty coffee cups here, folks!), and when it came to answering questions about the menu, our server not only had fantastic explanations about the food, she also shared facts about the preparation, ingredients and presentation of all of the items in question, and managed to present them without sounding the slightest bit rehearsed or forced into it... you could tell that there was a bit of pride involved with the product!

For our first visit, we stuck to the basics, as we tend to do on inaugural visits. One order of 2 over easy eggs, capicola ham, and sourbread toast. The other a 2 over easy, sausage, and the house specialty molasses toast. We happened to mention to our server that we wrote a little breakfast blog, and as most people do, she made a few other recommendations for good local breakfasts (see next review: Art Is In). Other menu items looks fantastic as well, including a penko crusted salmon Benedict, gorgeous looking omlettes, French Toast and killer pancakes!

With expectations and hunger levels running high, our breakfast came out within just a few minutes of ordering. Both of us were thrilled with the majority of our breakfast, the eggs were cooked to perfection, the ham and sausage were surprisingly tasty, and both types of bread were absolutely delicious (the molasses toast was sweet and perfect for a little jam spread. However, one of us didn't love the potatoes as much as the other, as they were not homefries, but in fact more of a hash brown.
That said for those who like their brakfast potatoes fried, they were delicious. It didn't even slightly tarnish any of the breakfast experience. We also asked for a little taste of the Diablo sauce (their version of the Hollandaise), made with a cream-based jalapeno sauce, it was light and fluffy with a little bit of kick.  This was by far the tastiest take on Benedict sauce that either of us had experienced in quite some time.

Other wonderful touches are present throughout the meal. There was a little jar of jam on the table, which was so much nicer than having the usual packages, as well as a personal favourite of having a bottle of gourmet hot sauce on the table, which were the perfect accompaniment for the sausage and hash brown (for one of us at least).

Within a few minutes, the owner of the restaurant, a lovely man named Sam, was by our table to answer any questions we had. Not only did he obviously take a great amount of care and pride in his menu, but he was also quick to point out other local spots that served great food.

Although a couple dollars more than your average greasy spoon, Stone Face Dolly's is well worth every penny for your entire breakfast experience. Expect a further review in a couple of months, as next time we will both be going outside our usual breakfast patterns to expeience some of the other fantastic treats on the menu!

Stone Face Dolly's on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 17 June 2012

The Wellington Diner: Westboro

Relaxed and modern diner/bar atmosphere, large breakfast menu, $8 basic breakfast, $5 special on weekdays before 11am. Hot coffee.

Warning:  Breakfast may be slightly bitter this week.

I should tell you that I was not in a cheerful mood setting off for my favorite meal of the week today. Just as we were leaving the house, we stumbled upon the carnage that had been my freshly planted lilies the night before. The flowers were gifts and treasured as my very first garden blooms, but it would seem that someone or something would not abide by lilies! We are assuming it was a disgruntled raccoon who thought lilies might be tasty, then changed his mind and destroyed them for the offense. Whoever he was, this bandito destroyed my lilies and and ruined my mood for breakfast, so this blog may seem particularly bitter this week.

This popular diner on the charming strip of Wellington West near Westboro and Hintonburg offers a full breakfast menu including a breakfast poutine (fries and cheese smothered in hollandaise sauce), white, brown rye and egg toast, as well as this Breakfast blogger's favorite morning feast: the eggs florentine benny. It's never cheap but it's worth every penny when it's done right. Although we did not feel brave enough for the poutine, I did feel justified in trying the benny, in the hopes that it would bring up my mood, and take my mind off those dam-ned raccoons!

The Wellington Diner's benny was fair, but not good enough to get the unnecessary slaughter of my innocent flowers off my mind. The eggs were poached to perfection and the bacon was pea-meal and it even came with a fresh-ish slice of pineapple which was much appreciated. The hollandaise sauce was tasty but not ideal; I prefer my hollandaise creamier than this one, and i usually like my spinach further steamed. The homefries were your standard cubes of fried  potato mush.
This trip was underwhelming, but satisfactory as far as the food and service went.

As for price, I've got to say that a restaurant owner that only offers a weekday special, and raises the price $3 for weekend traffic seriously diminishes my faith in common decency. I wouldn't be surprised if this diner were actually run by a sinister band of cold-hearted raccoons.

Wellington Diner on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Zak's Diner: Byward Market

Fifties-knock-off 24 hr diner, complete with mirrored walls, big reliable meals, plenty of choice, friendly staff, crayons for the kiddies, bottomless coffee, gets lineups after 10am on most weekends.

Zak's Diner has been a mainstay in the Byward Market since 1986. This 50's style diner isn't exactly your typical greasy spoon though. Designed to capture the invading tourists who descend on the Market every weekend, Zak's offers up your typical diner fare (complete with the Blue Plate Specials), at moderately inflated prices (although par for the course in the Market area).

Lucky for us we got to Zak's just before the morning rush (which seems to start at 10:30), so we didn't have to wait for a table at all. The service was friendly, fairly prompt, and everything was delivered just as ordered, with one of us enjoying the standard breakfast; 2 eggs, bacon, homefries and toast, while the other tried the breakfast with French Toast and a side of sausage. The food was good, the coffee was dineriffic. We really had nothing to complain about... but there seems to be something so sterile... while not unpleasant, Zak's seems to have a Stepford Wive's attempt at perfection about it.

Zak's Diner on Urbanspoon

The Carleton Tavern: Parkdale Market

Limited Menu, dive atmosphere, convenient location, bacon fail, breakfast sausage fail, poor service.

Breakfast is a very personal thing. Everybody has their own preferences for how they like it served. Egg lovers are a finicky bunch. Bacon conoisseurs are no different. Then there are those that will eat anything so long as its hot and filling.  We here at Breakfast are no exceptions, some of us are choosier than others, but we don't have impossible standards.  We sincerely think breakfast, though a humble meal is, at its best, a fine art. What we really agree on, however, is that breakfast is the catalyst for a day well spent. The day we went to The Carleton Tavern was looking pretty bleak by the time we left.

 Our wonderful neighbour (let's call him Shrick, so his true identity won't be wrongfully sullied) suggested that we try a local spot for breakfast, The Carleton Tavern in Hintonburg, convieniently nestled next to the Parkdale Market. We aren't fancy-shmancy breakfast consumers, but this place seriously pushed the limits of acceptable fare.

We didn't have high expectations when it came to the decor part of our dining experience, and quite frankly, when it comes to a greasy spoon breakfast, we rarely do. Upon entering, you get pretty much what you would expect, a typical tavern, complete with the requisite stale beer odor, dim lighting and sparse clientele sipping on their morning quarts of Blue.

Coffee is important and its the vanguard of meal.   So the moment it comes to the table, you hope that its not served with attitude when you ask for milk instead of cream. Some people like a little snark in the morning though. It's not usually for me, but I swallowed it in the spirit of Breakfast. While The Carleton Tavern has tasty enough coffee, it comes in very small cups and though refills are possible, they did not seem probable at the time. The server only once offered to refill our cups once and that wasn't until after we asked for the bill.

Our goal for breakfast today was simple... the infallible breakfast special.  The menu was bare bones, but offered a few choices, including a variety of omeletes and your basic pancakes. No frills, no fruit and nothing at all that might be construed as either fancy or healthy, except perhaps for the specialty farmer's sausage. Of course they had a breakfast special (and rye bread to boot!)!

Two eggs over easy, a side of bacon and rye toast. A second order was exactly the same, except with breakfast sausage. Simple, no?  An order that should have been pretty easy and quick to prepare in a tavern where, at 11 am, the other 6 patrons were way more interested in their quarts of Blue than ordering breakfasts that might compete with ours for the cook's attention. Our hopes were still high for a good greasy spoon fry up. We would be sorely disappointed.

Fast forward somewhere in the neighbourhood of 20 minutes, which in a busy diner would still have been a little off putting, but here it seemed downright puzzling. Did we mention that we weren't offered any coffee refills during this time? We weren't, even though our miniature ceramic cups had long since been drained. Maybe it was the late hour of our breakfast adventure (normally we eat much earlier) or the lack of caffeine, but our hopes of the perfect breakfast were fading fast.

Enter breakfast! Served on abnormally small plates, our breakfast did come as ordered. It all seemed alright on the surface, a quick glance and you would say that it was all good... but wait... once you actually took the time to take a good gander you realised that something was amiss on our overgrown saucers.  The sausage looked like wrinkled human fingers (maybe I should have tried the upgrade to the farmer's sausage), and were watery when you bit into them. As for the bacon, it was grey and tasteless. Our best guess as to how someone could possibly ruin the best tasting part of a pig is that perhaps the grill was wet when the bacon went on, but we will never know.  The potatoes were bland, tasteless and boiled. The over easy eggs were inconsistent: either way under cooked or a smidge over cooked.   Our rye toast were not much bigger than an iPhone, but at least it was well toasted without being burnt. When we asked our server for some jam to go along with it, it came too late. our server did try to hand it off to us after taking away our plates and even tried to charge us for it.

Since this experience, a we have spoken of it to a few friends and most of those familiar with the Carleton Tavern stared incredulously at us. Why in the world would you eat breakfast there? What were we thinking?  Apparently we got what we deserved.

Now for the main plate. We'll start with the less offensive of the two. The sausage and eggs. A pretty epic fail on all accounts of the breakfast experience, but it was gourmet when compared to the second order.

Carleton Tavern on Urbanspoon

Meadows Lunch: Preston

Unpretentious diner with a basic breakfast menu, friendly service, good food, full breakfast for under $10!

This is the quintessential greasy spoon breakfast, complete with great coffe (and timely refills to boot), quick and easy breakfast fare without breaking the wallet. The eggs, toast and sausages were cooked perfectly, and while it is hard to go wrong with hash browns, these were quite possibly the best I've had in quite some time! And while the unassuming decor might seem a bit shabby at first, the bacon is sure to win you over. This is one breakfast place that ranks among the best we've found so far.

Meadows Lunch on Urbanspoon