Corn Chips, Breakfast Potatoes, & Moroccan Flavour in a Tofu Scramble – Weekend Vegan Brunch at Disgraceland!

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Appearances can be deceiving.  There are some places that are decked out to the nines, but their food?  Nothing particularly special.  And then there are the diamonds in the rough.  The no frills, rough around the edges type of establishment with hidden gems and amazing food just waiting to be discovered.  The spots that completely take you by surprise in the best way possible because you’d never think, just by looking at them, that they would dish out such magnificent culinary brilliance.  And I have my dear friend, Wini, to thank for this latest scumptious epiphany!  With all the recent talk of the Vegetarian Food Festival going on at Harbourfront (this weekend y’all!) and the return of Veggielicious, it’s incredibly timely that I would make this post on vegan breakfast and weekend brunch today!  Yes, vegan brunch!  With veggie brekkie posts on Fresh, Table 17, Lady Marmalade, and Sadie’s Diner, it was due time to add another one to the mix.  And is this ever a fabulous one!  Make way for vegetarian and vegan brunch comfort food at Disgraceland in Bloorcourt Village!

Disgraceland is what I would describe as a dive bar.  If you didn’t see the booths from across the street, you would totally mistake the space for a motorcycle related shop.  I sure did.  And that’s if you see it at all.  It’s easy to miss because you just can’t tell from its exterior that’s a place to gorge on food!  And when you come up closer, all you really see is darkness.  Until it lights up at night according to Wini.  In short, Disgraceland would fit perfectly into Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives in the dive category because they have the look (jukebox, games, bar, booze, booths, diner fare and comfort food!) and they have the food to prove it!  My friend Wini told me about Disgraceland after a great dinner out and I quickly looked them up and was delighted to find that they had the full monty of menus on their site.  Perfect!  I can daydream about what I want to eat when I eventually go!  And there was certainly plenty of options to consider including meat, vegetarian, and vegan dishes.  A triple threat of a weekend brunch and dinner spot!

 

Disgraceland’s weekend brunch serves up 11 different dishes with a copious amount of brunch sides to choose from!  Prices for mains range from $8-$11 (most coming in at $11), additional sides from $2-$4, and the tax already included in all the prices.  They also only accept cash, so keep that in mind if you plan on coming!  Disgraceland is SO PERFECT for groups of friends and family with different tastes, preferences, and diets.  Not only can you customize your meals with different proteins, you can substitute a number of the items for meat or meatless equivalents.  Win-win for everyone!  Meat lovers, vegetarians, and vegans can all dine here without feeling like they’re being left out, without feeling like they need to sacrifice, and without feeling like they need to order something they’re really not into just for the sake of having something meaty or meatless.  

Not only does their menu cater to different diets, it also caters to different sweet and savoury brunch cravings.  We have the savoury English breakfast ($11) with eggs, pork or vegan sausage, baked beans, fried tomato, sauteed mushrooms, potatoes, and toast; brekkie burrito ($11) with vegan and non-vegan cheese, proteins, beans, and veggies; eggs benny with strip or vegan bacon and hollandaise over poutine ($11); cinnamon French toas ($8); and a BLT bagel with sides ($9) in both meat and vegan forms!

Because I’m totally smitten with tofu scramble, I pounced on their tofu scramble dish ($9) complete with a scramble of tofu with peppers, onions, spices, black beans, and jalapenos served with crunchy corn chips, fruit, and a choice of breakfast potatoes or greens.  Ever since that fateful first tofu scramble at Sadie’s Diner last year, I’ve been completely devoted to scoping out every single last tofu brunch item in the city and I think I’ve done a pretty good job so far!  I’m itching to do a tofu brunch post for the Flavour Favourites series, but I’m going to hold off on doing one right now just because I really want to get in a few more dishes before I do a big comprehensive post for it. 

I love tofu and I always have, even as a kid.  Granted, the way I ate it as a child is vastly different from the way I eat it now.  Growing up, my mum would put tofu in our Chinese soup and she would cook it up soft with meat and vegetables.  Now I have tofu “deli” slices that I can slap on the grill, egg tofu that you slice in coins, grilled tofu wedges, tofu scramble, you name it.  I feel so super fortunate that my soy allergy only extends to milk; I’d be so sad if I couldn’t eat tofu anymore!

There was so much to love about the brunch here and about this dish.  You get your money’s worth on fantastic portions, there are so many ways to customize it just the way you like, and the food is just darn good.  I loved my tofu scramble because of it how different (and of course, delicious!) it was from other tofu scrambles.  Disgraceland’s was almost like a tofu stir-fry scramble with their tofu chunky and cubed with their sauteed vegetables chopped and diced and woven in throughout the entire dish.  The flavours were amazing.  Because of the cumin and spices, I felt like I was eating something straight out of a Moroccan place, it was so delicious.  It was unlike anything I had ever had before and it completely epitomized warmth and comfort.  This is definitely a yummy fall and winter type of dish, and combined with the scrumptious corn chips and chunk, starchy, foodgasmic breakfast potatoes, it’s a hearty meal that surprisingly doesn’t leave you feeling like you’re in food coma afterward! 

I’m so happy there’s another fantastic vegetarian and vegan brunch eatery in the city for me (and many others!) to go to and the great food here just proves that you don’t have look red-carpet ready to give a star performance.

*****

Disgraceland is located at 965 Bloor Street West in Bloorcourt Village, between Ossington Ave. and Dufferin St. just west of Delaware Ave.  They are open only for dinner and weekend brunch from Monday-Friday, 4pm-2am and Saturday-Sunday, 11am-2am.  CASH ONLY.  You can view their site HERE.

Bringing Great Brunch to the Masses – Baby Arugula & Mango Salsa, Stuffed Croissants, and More at The Commissary

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I didn’t waste any time, did I?  Last week I wrote the 2nd edition of Confessions of a Brunch Obsessed Foodie listing several weekend brunch picks from Leslieville, the land of good food, and *BAM!*, here I am reporting back with a mouthwatering account of The Commissary, one of the three spots I featured in that post.  What can I say?  I had eating to do errands to run in the east end and The Commissary, with its corner location and big windows facing the street, becknoned me like a little floating magical fairy holding a cupcake.  I have to say, I have never pounced on a new discovery so fast.  Normally when I find out about a place I’ve never been to, I take a quick photo of it from the outside, “tuck it away” in my mind (or on my computer; these days they might as well be one and the same) and then figure out a good time to make a real visit which often takes me weeks or even months.  This time?  Within 2 weeks.  The menu looked too good to pass up, I wanted to give you all a first-hand look at one of the newer eateries in this part of town, and it just fit into my schedule and my flow of errands.  Done and done.

The Commissary, located at Queen Street East and Logan Ave., has only been in business for about half a year but judging from the great crowds, you’d never know it.  The place was packed the first time I walked by its front window and door and if you can believe it, I was 2nd in line even before they officially opened their doors for weekend brunch at 10am.  It takes a long time for a food business to get its feet wet, especially in a city as food crazy and critical as ours.  Trust Torontonians to get into a debate online about cupcakes and it cultural significance!  But it truly seems to be thriving in Leslieville because it’s attracting different types of people.  You have young-ins, you have girlfriends, you have families with babies, you have the whole kit and caboodle – and everyone is having a great time in a bright, fresh, airy atmosphere. 

Now, everyone who writes about The Commissary will discuss the significance of its name – heck, even The Commissary themselves provide definitions of what a commissary is on their website.  It’s worth noting though because it really plays into the atmosphere and the feel of the bistro.  A commissary can refer to either “a store that sells food and supplies to the personnel or workers in a military post, mining camp, lumber camp, or the like” or “a dining room or cafeteria, especially one in a motion-picture studio”.  

In order for the name to make sense, we’re not supposed to take these definitions literally but rather use them to make sense of the surroundings around us and the feelings we have while we’re here.  Case in point: the reference to the working class in the first definition speaks to the unpretetnious way food is made here.  Read: it’s not fuss and frills.  It’s just damn good food and tap water in glass bottles (you have to read what the bottle says, it’ll make you laugh).  Even the menu items that scream fancier pants (like my arugula salad with mango salsa and goat cheese crumbles, $5 side) are so simple and fresh and down-to-earth.  And the giant side of breakfast potatoes for $3?  Soft, starchy, cute, insanely scrumptious, and something straight out of a local greasy spoon diner only not greasy. 

Finally, while we foodies aren’t surrounded by red carpets, lights, cameras, and action, you definitely feel like a star dining at a hip and happening hot spot.  And it also helps that everyone who passes by will undoubtedly be curious and glance through the windows to take a peek at the hustle and bustle and, you know, your food.  Because I sure did!  As well, if you take a look at their website, it exudes that old-time Hollywood glamour (I’m looking at you, Fred and Ginger), with black and white photos of old town Toronto and what I’m assuming is old town Leslieville.

The Commissary’s weekend brunch menu is full to bursting with egg breakfasts, breakfast sandwiches, salads, meat mains, vegetarian delights, and plenty of cheesy goodness!  The menu is a jack-of-all-trades.  Prices range from $7-$12, with breakfast sides coming in at $3-$5.50.  Their refreshing salads are available as mains or sides (curried shrimp and melon, caprese, watercress with jicama and Granny Smith apple just to name a few), there are 5 different types of eggs benny including peameal, grilled tomatoes, and applewood smoked bacon and smoked gouda *cue my mouth watering here*, stuffed croissants such as apple compote and brie (OH.MY.GOD) and PB & J, hearty meat dishes (roast beef steak and eggs, lobster and mango salsa, and roast beef and sauteed shrimp surf n’ turf), vegetarian dishes (ratatouille and beans and salsa rancheros), and cheese present in about 3/4 of the dishes.  I LOVE IT.  I ordered a ridiculous amount of food because I couldn’t walk away knowing I didn’t try a little bit of everything my heart desired and it paid off because it was delicious and I didn’t even feel bogged down afterward.

I was in the mood for some veggies and cheese so I went all out and had their vegetarian pepper and cheese stuffed grilled croissant ($9) with roasted red peppers, caramelized onions, and warm, creamy goat cheese, which was served with fruit and a side green salad.  You don’t see stuffed croissant breakfast sandwiches much on brunch menus!  And then I added a side baby arugula and mango salsa salad with goat cheese crumbles, grilled red onion, and sunflower seeds.  And then for good measure I ordered a side of breakfast potatoes for my boyfriend and I to share.  I barely had enough room for my camera!  It was fabulous vegetarian brunch feast.  The grilled croissant was buttery and crispy and savoury with my roasted and sauteed veggies, the goat cheese was abundant, and I would have that baby arugula and mango salsa salad over and over again in a heartbeat, only as a main the next time! 

I love how crisp all the flavours were for everything and how bright, casual, and relaxing the whole place was.  The space may not be the biggest, but it’s a sweet place with great food and a happy atmosphere; you can’t ask for more.

*****

The Commissary is located at 889 Queen Street East at the southeast corner of Queen and Logan Ave. in Leslieville.