A strong case can be made that Lazy Daisy’s Café makes the finest breakfast sandwich in the Toronto metropolitan area. The Café’s Rise and Shine breakfast sandwich ($7.25) consists of Mennonite smoked bacon (from Tim & Jacqui Schmucker’s Fresh from the Farm, which sources its meats, vegetables and eggs from Mennonite farmers in the Kitchener/Waterloo region of Ontario), a fried (free-run) egg, and aged cheddar piled high on a buttery homestyle biscuit. The Café sources its artisan cheeses from artisan cheese maker, Steacy den Haan’s Primeridge Pure of Markdale, Ontario. This delectable treat (served until 2:00PM) is something to sing about with its combination of quality ingredients, textures and buttery/salty flavors.
My dining companion enjoyed her Harvest Salad ($9.95) consisting of chunks of ripe avocado, tomatoes, cucumbers, sunflower seeds, shredded carrots and the café’s “black bean n’ sweetcorn salad” all served on top of a crispy mount of green leaves. On request, the café agreeably substituted olive oil preferred by my lunch mate for its house vinaigrette. The vegan soup of the day ($5.95) was a delicious bowl of spiced beet and carrot soup, rich with flavor and perfectly blended, and served with buttery sour dough bread. My mug of fresh brewed Pilot Coffee (a micro roaster located in Toronto which takes pride in sourcing its coffee beans directly from growers so that the premium prices paid go straight into their hands) was a perfect muddy cup, smooth tasting and an energy booster for an afternoon to be spent at the wonderful Alex Colville retrospective (on display until January 4, 2015) at the Art Gallery of Ontario.
Lazy Daisy Café located on Gerrard Street East, in a neighborhood sometimes called Little India, is off-the-beaten path for tourists like this diner. In a section of eastern Toronto a little rough around the edges, the trip across the city to get there was a stimulating urban experience which brought back to this visitor’s mind the vision of Jane Jacobs, the urban planning activist. [The 506 Carlton streetcar (adult fare $3,00), runs from downtown Toronto nearly every five minutes, and passes Lazy Daisy’s Café (Gerrard at Coxwell stop).]
In The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961), Jane Jacobs contended that “urban renewal” did not respond to the needs of most city dwellers. During the 1960s, she led the opposition to the Lower Manhattan Expressway planned directly through Greenwich Village’s Washington Square park. Arrested by a plainclothes police office at a public hearing on the Expressway, during which the crowd had charged the stage, she was accused of inciting a riot, criminal mischief, and obstructing public administration. Soon after her arrest in 1968, Jacobs moved to Toronto where she lived until her death in 2006. According to the Wikipedia article on Jane Jacobs, she decided to leave New York in part because she opposed the Vietnam War, worried about the fate of her two draft-age sons, and did not want to continue fighting the New York City government. She became a leading figure in Toronto and helped stop the proposed Spadina Expressway. Arrested twice in Toronto during demonstrations, she argued that cities should be built for people, not cars.
The urbanization of Toronto was stunning to this visitor who had last visited the city 35 years ago. With walls of modern condo towers blocking views of Toronto’s beautiful waterfront on Lake Ontario , Jane Jacobs’ vision of urban life seems forgotten. Still as reported by Alex Bozkovic in The Globe and Mail (on 9/13/14) plans by developer Ian Gillespie and the British Columbia architect, Gregory Henriquez for redevelopment of a prime piece of downtown Toronto “to bring egalitarian principle to transformation of iconic Honest Ed’s site in Toronto,” shows that hope remains for “people to feel part of the process and inspire [the developers] to do meaningful things” in architect Henriquez’s words. Jacobs’ vision of urban life also lives on in Michael Kimmelman’s (architecture critic for the New York Times) recent article (on 9/14/14), “Trading Parking Lots for Affordable Housing” where he applauds the NYC’s Planning Department’s goals to prod developers “to spend money not on parking but on subsidized housing and neighborhood improvements; promote equitable and diverse development in areas that could and should be denser; and involve the residents of subsidized projects.”
Lazy Daisy’s Café is a perfect response to the needs of city dwellers for a welcoming food haven, with pride taken in the ingredients used in preparing its menu items. It also enables a visitor to wander off the tourist’s route and experience a slice of Toronto with human-scale shops and housing. It’s a café where Jane Jacobs would feel at home.
[Lazy Daisy’s Café, 1515 Gerrard Street East, Toronto, Ontario, 647.341.4070, Breakfast, sandwiches, salads, soups, quiche, farmstead chili, baked goods: Mon-Fri 8:00AM-5:00PM, Sat 8:30AM-4:00PM,Brunch: Sun 8:30AM-4:00PM, www.lazydaisyscafe.ca]
Frank W. Barrie 9/16/14