by Lorette C. Luzajic
Google “brunch Toronto” and Yasi’s Place shows up second to the top of the food chain. I’d love to dine this morning at the very first menu venue on the list- The Burger and Tequila Bar – because the best things in life are burgers and tequila, indeed. Alas, it’s unwise for me to have tequila for breakfast, and so I headed further west to hipster heaven.
At Yasi’s, you can expect a predictably Vancouver-esque excess of cumin splashed on your home fries, and I’ve never liked such liberal use of this particular spice. But everything else here is unexpected, starting with the neighbourhood. At 299 Wallace Street, an unassuming corner blooms out of an industrial cityscape north of Bloor and Lansdowne. Sprouting colourful vibes into a rather bleak geography, it’s laid back good times with friends for breakfast. The café is housed in an old convenience store, complete with signs still harking another era in the front windows. It’s cheery yellowlicious wall to wall, with cutesy salt and pepper bric a brac and orange counters curling around a simple kitchen.
The coffee arrives seconds after we do, and instead of opting for the cheapest brew, Yasi’s favours yummy fair trade, organic blends.
Another surprise is the menu. There’s a vast selection for wheat avoiders, which instantly induces a mild euphoria even before I consume anything. I can order a gluten free grilled cheese sandwich! The eggs Florentine come on polenta instead of muffins: brilliant. The menu is resplendent with Portobello mushrooms, avocadoes and free run chickens, along with chipotle sauce, goat cheese and tofu. And homemade burgies. I feel like I’m in an eco-friendly Jughead comic strip as I plow through my “Florentine-ish,” as they call it. Our eggs come with a simple spring mix salad, an easy addition of greens that most breakfasts lack.
It’s inspiring to see a line up of wiser food choices that don’t overdo it on sunflower seeds. It’s great to see meat and rabbit food side by side where they belong, on a menu that remembers that industrial soy waste is not the only available vegetable. Yasi’s doesn’t overkill on the politically correct restrictions like some places where you’ll never find an orange because Canada doesn’t grow them- but the place does make an effort to buy ethically, more often. “While not all of our food is organic, we try to purchase our goods with an awareness of our impacts on the environment and local economies.” You can find a list of their suppliers online, including Hewitt’s family operated dairy farm, The Healthy Butcher, and ACE Bakery, whose traditionally soaked, handcrafted artisan breads are the best in the country. They also use only compostable take out containers, or you can bring your own to save a few cents, both nice touches and easy ways any restaurant could help Mother Earth.
Finally, it’s nice to see a mom and pop operation (or is that mom and mom?) stuffed to the gills with down to earth peeps who don’t seem to mind that my date and I are a generation older than they are and no longer pass for hippies.
Ralph (my intrepid photographer) and I both gave this sunny Yasi’s Place a thumbs way up, though we humbly ask them to go easy on the cumin so we can taste the rest of the delicious fare. We also liked the dwarf statues loafing in the windows and the rows of used books, and the kennel of neighbourhood canines parked outside. We’ve been doing the brunch circuit for a while, and having exhausted the east end, we’re heading west now. We’re enthusiastic about a number of west end bruncheries, but we’d like to give a best- brekkie shout out to this neighbourhood hub. It won’t be long until we come back for lunch.