We are starting the year with a tip about what may be the best brunch place in Toronto. Karelia Kitchen (1194 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M6H 1N2, Canada) is dedicated to all things Scandinavian for brunch, snacktime and dinner. Karelia’s brunch is a mix of continental, Canadian and Scandinavian flavors with dishes like Pitti Y Panna ($14) Swedish-style potato hash with dill, bacon and eggs; Herring Two Ways ($14); and a grilled cheese made with Canadian Oka cheese ($12). For something more savory, there is also a huge variety of smorrebrod – open faced sandwiches in varieties like salmon, shrimp and beet ($10-12). In true Scandinavian fashion, coffee is a major feature of the cafe, and there is also a wide assortment Scandinavian pastries for a true Swedish-style fika coffee break. It can get pretty crowded for brunch, so reservations are recommended. But even if you don’t have a reservation, you can order at the counter to go.Even with all of this selection, our favorite thing about Karelia Kitchen is that they have Pulla Bread! Pulla bread is a traditional Finnish cardamom bread, which is particularly hard to find pretty much anywhere in North America, and this quest is what initially led us to Karelia. Pulla is a relative of the Swedish cardamom bun, kardemummabullar, and may be found in braided loaves like brioche, or in smaller rolls (as seen below). Served with clotted cream and lingonberry jam, a pulla roll is a prefect not-too-sweet accompaniment for fika or breakfast (or a snack). If you have the chance head over to Karelia to sample the excellent pulla bread and more!
Poutine – a delicious combo of cheese curds and gravy over french fries – has become a fast favorite in the US, but its roots are undeniably Canadian. When we were in Toronto recently, we thought it would be the perfect chance to try poutine in its homeland (though technically poutine is from Quebec, we’ll let it slide). There are a ton of poutine-specific spots in Toronto, and everyone has a favorite. However, on the recommendation of a friend, we ended up at Poutini’s House of Poutine (1112 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M6J 1H9). This is a small cash-only spot, with tables for only 8 or so people, and poutine is the only thing on the menu.
There are several varieties of poutine on offer – including traditional, bacon and sour cream topped, mushrooms, BBQ pulled pork, and smoked meat – each of which comes in regular (all less than $11 Canadian) and “mini” size (less than $8 Canadian). We were also pleased to see they had vegan and vegetarian varieties. Lucky for us, since the friend we visited the restaurant with is a vegetarian, and this was her first poutine! Another nice feature is that you can get vegetarian, beef or gluten free gravy on any variety of poutine.
We sampled the classic, bacon and vegetarian varieties. The mini size wasn’t small and actually was perfect for one person to enjoy for lunch. The poutine was made to order, and each version was a great combo of freshly-cooked, twice-fried skin-on fries, piping hot gravy and squeaky cheese curds. The vegetarian gravy was tomato-based and didn’t sacrifice any of the flavor of the beef gravy. This was the best poutine we ever had! If you ever find yourself in Toronto and want some real-deal poutine, this is the place! Where is your go-to poutinerie?
We are going to NYC and Toronto next week, and we are looking forward to eating everything under the sun. We haven’t been to NYC for year – do you have any recommendations for any new food finds we may have missed in the past year? Plus, we are really excited to experience the multicultural foodie heaven of Toronto. We have never been to Toronto together, what should we try there?
Babka from Breads Bakery in NYC