Easy Restaurant (Little Italy)

Easy Restaurant @ 713 College Street Street in Toronto Ontario, call them @ (416) 535-2222

Easy Restaurant Little Italy

There are presently two Easy Restaurants – one in Parkdale and one in Little Italy. I lived directly above the Little Italy permutation this Spring and regularly witnessed long lines of soon-to-be patrons eagerly waiting to worship at this altar to Southwestern-inspired diner food. So when my mom came to visit, I was primed to take her for an approximate Mother’s day brunch and see what all the fuss was about.

Easy is a reference to the movie Easy Rider. I suppose the unifying theme of this restaurant is the aesthetic of that movie, along with similar films from the 70s. There are also a bunch of movie posters from the Easy Rider era. The cuisine, on the other hand, is composed and pricey (by breakfast standards), belying the grittiness of the movie.

Easy could also be a reference to the service at Easy Restaurant. The servers, exhibiting a high level of experience and professionalism, move fluidly through the room taking orders, refilling coffee, and chatting with customers. They get everything done quickly and well, with a cool and easy vibe.

Breakfast Tacos w Chorizo at Easy Restaurant

Easy is certainly not a reference to Easy Restaurant’s impact on your pocketbook. I ordered the weekday special, which is three breakfast tacos for about $10. It didn’t seem much like a special, as it essentially consisted of three tortillas, eggs, cheese and sauce. The food cost couldn’t be much more than a quarter of the price. The server offered the tempting upgrade of chorizo in the tacos, which I accepted, but bumped the price to $15. I know tacos are expensive in this city, but three breakfast tacos with no sides for $15 is excessive by any accounting. They were good: expertly scrambled eggs, tangy sauce, and fresh (but not house-made) tortillas. But for $15 they needed to wash my car and take out the garbage to be worth the price I paid.

I’m on the fence with Easy Restaurant. On the one hand it’s a fun restaurant with a cool vibe. On the other hand, I’d rather just buy some tortillas at La Torilleria, fry some eggs, and save myself $8 + tip. You know?

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Quarry Bay Restaurants

Eastern Promises 13: People I Will Remember

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Being what people call a “foodie,” I feel as if dining should be all about the food for me. Indeed, my philosophy about eating has long butted up against that of traveling companions as I get dead set on finding the absolute best, most authentic place to eat when in reality we are starving and just need to find somewhere to refuel. I’ve also spent time with people more interested in the atmosphere – is there a view? is bright and airy? – than the food itself.

I’m not here to say that any one of these approaches is right (in fact, I’m still highly resistant to the last view above). But I have begun to realize there’s more to a dining experience than the food. I came to this conclusion as I was moving out of my first apartment in Hong Kong. In particular, I noticed that despite my desire to try the best food that area (Quarry Bay) had to offer, I was doing a lot of repeat dining. And it wasn’t because I thought the restaurants I had found were the absolute best in the area, but because I really liked the people running those restaurants and wanted to support them.

So here they are, the people I’ll remember in Quarry Bay.

Mr. Chris at Yo Bago (80 Pan Hoi Street, Quarry Bay, Hong Kong; call him at 2561 7700)

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Mr. Chris grew up in Canada but moved back to his family’s home of Hong Kong a few years ago. Pulled in many directions professionally, entrepreneurship eventually called the strongest. And missing Canada, he decided to open up a bagel shop steeped in Canadiana. Allow me to draw your attention to:

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Mr. Chris told me it was rough going at first. Quarry Bay is a tough nut to crack with a tremendous number of restaurants packed into a small area and a clientele that disappears when work lets out and the office buildings nearby begin to clear out. Things were touch and go for Yo Bago until the office drones slowly began to gave this little Canadian bagel shop serving Tim Horton’s coffee a shot. And when they did, Mr. Chris won them over with his product and congeniality.

Indeed, Mr. Chris had learned my name by my second visit to his shop. I often stopped by before ten to take advantage of the breakfast special, which includes a bagel sandwich and coffee for about $3 Canadian. A hard deal to beat. But living abroad can be lonely and sometimes I just wanted to come in and chat with Mr. Chris about business, news, and reminisce about our respective times in Canada.

Rina at Q-Bay Burger (Shop 5D2, ground floor Dragon View House, 6-16 Hoi Tai Street, Quarry Bay, Hong Kong; call her at 2568 7196)

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Unlike Mr. Chris, Rina isn’t the outright owner of Q-Bay Burger. But she did develop the concept and manages the place. She also does pretty much everything else including cooking, serving and cleaning up.

Q-Bay dropped into my radar during one of my nocturnal nourishment-seeking walks. As I mentioned above, lots of Quarry Bay shuts down in the evening, as early as seven, so finding dinner could be a chore. Fortunately, Q-Bay stays open until about ten, making it a key part of my rotation.

Rina and her operation impressed me because of the quality and quantity of their output in the tiniest space that you could expect to hold a first-class burger joint. Her and “Auntie” operate out of a slim piece of real estate flanked by an electric griddle, a bit of counter space, and a fridge. This is not a job for the claustrophobic.

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Still, she serves fresh grassfed New Zealand beef along with fresh and sometimes elevated ingredients, like a truffle mayo. One night they didn’t have any sweet potato fries ready, so Auntie pulled one out of the fridge and sliced it up in front of my eyes. The inside of the fries weren’t completely cooked, but it was still a great experience.

Bandy Cheng at Kam Heung Vegetarian (hop D10 & D11, 18 Hoi Tai Street, Quarry Bay, Hong Kong; call her at 2880 0173)

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(Bandy didn’t want me to take a photo of her)

Bandy corralled me one day as I was walking by her vegetarian restaurant. It operates as both a cookery where you pick out your food and then a dining room next door with a few tables and an area where you can serve yourself all-you-can-eat soup and rice to go with the meals. I wasn’t particularly interested in vegetarian food, but I was taken by this restaurant’s charms. If you walk by in the morning you can see them cooking the food, the staff is sincere, and it’s a pretty good deal for about $5 for a sizable amount of food and unlimited rice and soup.

So there you have it.  As much as these restaurants defined my time in Quarry Bay, the people behind them left a deeper impression.  I still think about them often.

Eggsmart (Bloor)

Date 49: Brunch at an egg-centric diner with the improv crew (Atakan and Kimbo)

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Eggsmart (Bloor Location), at 864 Bloor Street, Toronto; call (647) 345-5578

Towards the end of July when I started to feel summer was slipping away, I started making more serious attempts at bonding with my improv friends. Throughout the late spring and summer we had a blast in class, but for some reason we didn’t hang out much outside of class.

This was eventually rectified by one of my classic blow-out nights at WVRST just a few weeks ago, but I think a brunch at Eggsmart marked the beginning of this out-of-class bonding trend.

Eggsmart Toronto

I don’t really know what to make of Eggsmart. It confounded me when I first moved here and I thought it was some kind of Ethiopian restaurant based on the Saharan-seeming art it had up (the Koreatown location at least). Turns out it’s just an egg-centric diner with higher prices than you might expect.

I had a mushroom omelet with home fries and the price was about $10. While the home fries were good – well crisped and generously portioned – you expect a little more than two eggs, mushrooms and some potatoes for $10 when you are eating in a diner.

Service was good despite the fact that Kimbo demanded a very specific amount of coffee.