*Trumpets and horns tooting in the distance* “Hear ye, hear ye! We are gathered here today to mark the celebration of winter comfort food in the wake of the treacherous weather that has descended upon our fair land. Winter comfort food shall not be taken lightly; it is of utmost importance that we, the masses, surround thyselves with warmth, flavour and heartiness over the coming months in efforts to warm and soothe thy soul and fill thy belly amidst snow, rain and freezing cold. Thou shall read this post and proceed to drool over the plethora of scrumptious delights Her Royal Highness, Queen Mother Cafe, has to offer: the brightest and heartiest of salads, the most mouthwatering of sandwiches, the savouriest of pasta and noodle dishes, the most scrumptious of burgers, and the most decadent of desserts. Take note my fellow foodies, for there is only one Royal Highness in the land.”
It’s time to cozy up to some really awesome comfort food in the downtown core on Queen Street West at Queen Mother Cafe! After passing by this beautiful establishment (serving food in the city since 1978!) more times than I can remember over the years, I fianlly put my foot down and said, “I’m going, no more putting this off!” back at the end of November. And after that first time, I mentally slotted Queen Mother Cafe into my top 10 favourites, just like that. It drives me crazy (in a good way!) when I find or visit a place that I end up loving so much I want to go back over and over forever and ever. It’s one thing to want to come back on your own, it’s a whole ‘nother thing to tell others that they MUST ALSO GO OR ELSE.
And you all know me well enough to know that it’s rare for me to order the exact same thing from a place because 1) I like variety and 2) I can’t blog about the same dish twice so I purposely choose different things so that I’ll always have new content for Ate by Ate even though there might be one particular dish that I adore to pieces. Well, I’m confessing that I broke my own rule because I actually went back in December and ordered the same thing because IT WAS THAT AMAZINGLY DELICIOUS. I didn’t order a salad the first time though and I ordered a different dessert so at least I did that!
There are so many things to love about Queen Mother Cafe. For starters, it’s cozy and warm and intimate and homey with Victorian flair. Second, it’s so close to Osgoode subway station and walkable from Eaton Centre. Finally, and most importantly, their menu and food leaves me awestruck. Multi-faceted doesn’t even begin to describe how fantastic it is. There are meat dishes, vegetarian and vegan dishes, light fare, hearty fare, bar food, comfort food (which, to some, could be one in the same!) and so many different textures and ethnic flavours: Thai, Chinese, Indian, Middle Eastern, and French just to name a handful. There is no shortage of variety on their menu as well, with choices ranging from Thai noodles to grilled sandwiches to grain salads to mouthwatering burgers, providing the perfect landscape for picky eaters and larger parties with different diets and preferences. In addition to their regular menu, they offer daily specials and a weekend brunch menu on Sundays.
What we have here is their fluffy quinoa salad and their to-die-for curried chicken and quinoa meatloaf burger (oh we’ll get to dessert in the next post! And if you’re wondering, no, I did not eat all this by myself! I shared.) If you love quinoa, you need to have these dishes in your life because they are game-changers. Their quinoa salad ($10.95) is a meal-sized salad consisting of quinoa, chickpeas, crumbled goat cheese, sundried tomatoes and red peppers, a little bit of diced red onion, lots of fresh flat-leaf parsley (I love parsley like nobody’s business so I happily inhaled it all) and baby salad greens, all tossed in a light and refreshing vinaigrette of lemon, herbs, garlic and olive oil.
The great thing about this salad is the lightness and all the different textures in it. The goat cheese is very creamy, you have the crunch from the parsley and chickpeas, a little savoury flavour from the sundried tomatoes and peppers and the greens complement the quinoa giving it even more body and fullness.
Okay. The curried chicken and quinoa meatloaf burger ($13.95; all burgers and sandwiches are served with your choice of Yukon gold fries or salad). I honestly didn’t know what to expect when they brought my plate to me. I just knew I wanted it because it sounded so delicious from the description: “lean ground chicken and quinoa with onions, celery, bell peppers, lime leaf and curry, oven baked and nestled on a toasted bun with baby arugula and roasted tomatoes”. Would the meatloaf be like a big meatball on a bun? Would it be a round grain patty? Would it more like a sloppy joe type of style?
When my plate was placed down, angels sang and harps started playing. I could not believe how beautiful it looked. A perfect 1-inch loaf slice of, hands down, one of the juiciest, most amazing things I have ever tasted in my life! The curry flavour was bang on, the meatloaf was so moist and the ground chicken and quinoa complemented each other so well because the ground meat gave it depth and body while the quinoa kept it from being too stodgy or heavy. The roasted tomatoes lent a little bit of juicy acidity to it and the arugula kept it bright and crunchy. It was one of those dishes that struck the perfect balance. It was hearty and made you full without making you feel uncomfortable in the end. On the contrary, this will leave you feeling energized and so good afterward.
And the bun! I’ll be the first to admit that I shy away from sandwiches and burgers sometimes because I’m just not a fan of some of the buns people serve. Sometimes they’re too dry, too hard, too doughy or too bland (or even a combination of all of them). But on this burger? Holy mother of pearl. The toasted bun is so soft and light on the outside and crispy on the inside and more than capable of holding the entire meatloaf burger fillings together.
I can’t praise Queen Mother Cafe enough; it is a gem in this city. In the next post, we’ll talk dessert!
Queen Mother Cafe is located at 208 Queen Street West in the downtown core just steps away from Osgoode subway station, situated between St. Patrick Street and Duncan Street. They are opened 7 days a week, serving lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday (11:30 am to 1 am) and weekend brunch and dinner on Sundays (11:30 am to midnight 12 am). You can visit their official website HERE to view their info and menu.