Bite into South African Sunday brunch at Jack and Lil’s

T.O.’s own taste of the rainbow nation


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At Jack and Lil’s, brunch is truly a family affair. Stepping inside the Dundas West space, it feels as though you’ve entered your mom’s kitchen. South African tchotchkes and memorabilia spill from all corners, creating a cheery visual tapestry, while classical music provides auditory ambience. Come Sunday, brunch dishes are spread across a harvest table, and a communal one opposite houses midday diners.
“We call it an open kitchen,” says co-owner Dan Gütter, “because we’re bringing you into our home kitchen.”

All in the family
Despite its moniker, Jack and Lil’s is, in fact, Dan and his mom Lauren’s. (The name honours Dan’s grandparents, who can be spotted grinning away in photos  dotting the room.) Hailing from South Africa, Lauren ended up working in T.O.’s fashion scene, though, after 30 years, her enthusiasm was waning. Dan  encouraged his mom to start a food business and got roped in himself.

The duo made a name for themselves by selling street eats at the Toronto Underground Market and the Stop’s Night Market (their bunny chow was a hit), before falling into catering.

A bit of everything
“We just cook the food we love,” says Dan, pointing to the brunch spread. Much like in Canada, South African cuisine is a hodgepodge of influences. Brunchers serve themselves from the table using a weigh-and-pay system ($2.80/100 g).

Lauren’s pecan-studded granola pairs with guava-strained yogurt sweetened with Lyle’s Golden Syrup, a favourite in S.A. The South African seed bread is their take on the carb spotted across the nation, and comes flecked with sunflower, poppy and sesame seeds. Top with Township Eggs, a cross between shakshuka and chakalaka. The latter is a relish miners in the impoverished apartheid-era townships would make using cheap veg like tomatoes and onions.

For sweet, there’s Cinnabun bread pudding: homemade challah smothered in brown sugar, maple syrup and butter. Top with passion fruit cream.

“In South Africa, it’s very common to start chatting someone up at a bus stop,” says Dan. “Here it would never happen.” At Jack and Lil’s, they’re hoping to bring that friendly spirit to Toronto.

Jack and Lil’s, 823 Dundas St. W., 647-347-5459

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Karolyne Ellacott is senior editor at Post City Magazines. She can oft be spotted at Toronto’s most nostalgic diners wearing glittery heels and pink faux fur. Follow all of her eclectic writing interests on Twitter @kellacott and Instagram @itismekar.

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