Joanne Kates on the New T.O. Brunch: Benny There, Drank That

Frybread and biscuits edge up eggs benny


Frybread arrives topped with smoked salmon at Pow Wow Café


Pow Wow Café
When eggs Benny met a Kensington Market indigenous restaurant, English muffin morphed into native frybread, hollandaise turned into genteel cream sauce spiked with melting goat cheese atop the oozing eggs, and smoked salmon replaced the usual ham, all to good effect. Pow Wow’s other brunch staple is the Ojibwe taco. Instead of a tortilla there is the classic frybread, a non-yeasted soda bread deep-fried to order for warmth and crunch. It’s the base for a carnival of flavours and textures — multi-bean chili with the kiss of heat, high-flavoured salsa, grated cheddar, shredded beats, corn shoots and coriander under a roof of fried eggs and sour cream. Everything comes with fried potato cubes, salad and fruit — plates big enough to support humanity for a week.

The room is tiny and funky, its decor owing more to rough plywood than to any other esthetic, its open kitchen in the middle of things with cooks singing along to the music. Let’s not forget, this is Kensington Market. On a nice day, life is sweet on the patio out front, especially thanks to the fabulous fence built of horizontally stacked cedar trees.

Pow Wow Café, 213 Augusta Ave., 416-551-7717

Homemade buttermilk biscuit is a mattress for this Benny at Emma's

Emma’s Country Kitchen
The room could not be more ordinary: a plain white room with pale wood chairs and tables. That’s it. Why, then, is the St. Clair West neighbourhood plus le tout Forest Hill gaga over Emma’s? Crowding the place for their all-day brunch even on weekdays? 

Two reasons: first, the staff are deluxe. One day there’s no table for us, yet, the guy seats us at the front and brings coffee and cheer. Second, the food is as yummy as it gets. The Benny is superb, maybe the best in town these days, with perfect runny yolks oozing into rich hollandaise, atop a big buttermilk biscuit (house-made of course) with a soft heart and crispy outside. They do splendid cloud-light blueberry pancakes, topped with dreamy whipped ricotta, and a renovated Cobb salad with crispy pork lardons and grated cheddar.

Emma’s Country Kitchen, 810 St. Clair Ave. W., 416-652-3662

T.O.’s finest tipples for noontime sipping — Karolyne Ellacott

A) Cafe Belong
The Ploughman’s Caesar uses pork-infused vodka, a process that takes 36 hours to nail. 
550 Bayview Ave.

B) Planta
Cold-pressed cocktails? This beet juice with coconut is so healthy you can excuse the rum.
1221 Bay St.

C) Rose and Sons
Putting their spin on a Caesar, the Extra Vaganza adds in duck salt and kabanosy sausage.
176 Dupont St.

D) Harry’s 
This ain’t your average vanilla shake, thanks to the addition of bourbon. This be smooth.
160 Springhurst Ave.

E) White Lily Diner
This diner’s small-batch Caesar uses Dillon’s White Rye and Walter’s Caesar mix, plus fixin’s.
678 Queen St. E.

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Joanne Kates trained at the Ecole Cordon Bleu de Cuisine in Paris. She has written articles for numerous publications, including the New York Times, Maclean’s and Chatelaine. Follow her on Twitter @JoanneKates.

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