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.