The word “brunch” is a portmanteau—that is to say, it was invented by British writer Guy Beringer in 1895 to legitimize cosseting those burdened with bad hangovers with mid-morning pastries and tea. Yet for a bastardization of meals forged with a drunken, revolutionary spirit, we’re often uncompromising in our expectations for what dishes brunch must entail: mimosas, eggs Benedict, inflated pancakes in a pile. No wonder the meal’s become staid, catching eyerolls aplenty for its line-ups and let-downs. But perhaps all brunch needs is a little more variety to be worthy of getting out of bed for—some different dishes and unfamiliar takes. Here, we consider the merits of restaurants across Canada offering more imaginative visions of what the mid-morning meal can be.
House Special, Vancouver
A Vietnamese take on dim sum, House Special’s brunch menu is an expansive list of share plates, including items like Sunday dumplings—large, steamed rice flour pockets filled with ground pork, jicama, and shrimp; served with nước chấm, coconut milk, and Vietnamese herbs; a savoury, crispy radish cake wrapped in thin omelette; chicken wings, and red bean cinnamon buns drizzled in condensed milk cream cheese frosting. Paired with a calamansi mimosa (the small green citrus fruit tastes somewhat like kumquat and sweet lime) or a strong Vietnamese coffee, the meal is fresh, flavourful rocket-fuel for the day ahead.
Lil’ Baci, Toronto
This casual neighbourhood Italian spot’s two locations (Queen and Youge) punch above their weight come brunch, with tomato-eggplant baked eggs, truffle scrambles, juicy lamb meatballs, and BLTs. But the true fun comes from ordering breakfast pizza—the Festa pie, a riot of eggs, sausage, bacon, cheese, and potato, is all the food you need for the day. Care for something lighter, but no less indulgent? Order a baguette slathered in Nutella and a very worthy cappuccino.
Chef Antonio Park’s homey-sophisticated Argentinian restaurant is an elegant spot for Sunday brunch with friends (though making reservations would be savvy). The menu is heavily inspired by Park’s South American childhood—order a chorizo sandwich with bright, fresh chimichurri and crispy yucca fries, or a dulce de leche cream-topped French toast if you prefer starting the day with sugar. Mimosas here are well balanced, but for a bracing start to the weekend, try a Donaji cocktail, made with both mezcal and tequila and a citrus mix.
Casually elegant with a Central Memorial Park location, Provision has welcomed diners into its cabin-esque digs—designed by Connie Young Design (Ten Foot Henry)—since December 2016. Alberta proteins make the steak and eggs exceptional, though local treats fill the menu—from wild foraged mushrooms and B.C. pencil leeks in an omelette to Albertan Spragg breakfast sausage links. Here, brunch is elegant with a focus on contemporary Canadian cuisine.
Parsonage Cafe, Victoria
How do you ensure your café serves the freshest coffee? Conjoin it to your world-class, award-winning roaster. Parsonage Café and Fernwood Coffee Roasters are two sides of a coin in Victoria’s North Park neighbourhood, so expect a higher level of barista service than at your typical brunch spot—and an exacting menu of lunch counter fare elevated with local meat, bread, and eggs garnished with house-made jams and accoutrements. The grilled sticky bun is to die for, and BLT and breakfast bagel both come with Slater’s First Class Meat’s bacon—a local, historic butcher doing something very right to their pork.
Never miss a story. Sign up for NUVO’s weekly newsletter.