Toronto: The Poet Café

Once upon a time, I used to work at an unusual law firm that insisted that each associate, student and partner take turns choosing poetry to kick off each of our all-staff meetings. If none of us had anything good to share, the default would be a poem by Rumi, our then-managing partner’s favourite poet. Although I am glad the pressure of finding good poetry for meetings is no longer a part of my life, I do appreciate the exposure I had then to Rumi, and the beauty of Iranian poetry and culture. Discovering Toronto’s Poet Cafe has brought me back full circle!

Psst! You can read my little explanation on “Persian food” through this beautiful Jewelled Saffron Rice recipe.

The Poet Cafe is not as well-known as many of the obvious Toronto brunch spots. My hypothesis is that it is a bit mysterious in its look, which is ironically, part of its allure. After my first visit however, I loved it so much that I went back right after for a second weekend! Location-wise, it is very conveniently situated on King Street East, only a few blocks from King Subway Station. They also take reservations, which is such a wonderful and rare thing for Toronto brunch spots. They also offer a wide variety of exciting dining options, and cater to all sorts of dietary restrictions.

Other than the fun Persian flavours, the most unique thing about The Poet Cafe’s brunch is that they have four entirely different menus: a cafe menu, a Weekday Brunch Menu (Mondays to Friday from 8 AM to 2:30 PM), a Saturday Brunch Menu, and a Sunday Brunch Menu. The following photos are all from my recent Saturday Brunch.

On Saturdays…

You order all of the brunch options à la carte, and they are all served with a well-dressed green salad. Mike (my Saturday dining partner that day and, as an aside, someone who lived in Istanbul for a year and is in love with Middle Eastern food), ordered “Last Night’s Cure” ($16.50), with sunny-side eggs and sausages baked together in a small cast iron skillet, hummus, beans, and bit of country baguette. This was a fun take on the North American hangover breakfast and the Full English, and had a little of everything you wanted. Mike also gave a thumbs up to the Turkish coffee, so there’s a bonus point for that.

I ordered the super-satisfying breakfast burger ($18.50), which was punched up with a really well-spiced patty, a tahini herb sauce and spice fried potatoes dressed with a little hollandaise sauce. The tables around us all seemed to be enjoying similar dishes, and I do not think that you could have gone wrong with any of the options offered.

On Sundays…

It’s all about the tiny, delightful dishes that come together to make a complete meal. The menu is fixed at $24.99 per person, and includes a bottomless coffee or tea, six side dishes, and a main egg dish. The side dishes are generous and complementary, and include little ramekins and plates of things like fresh cream and honey, rose jam, cucumber and tomato herbed salad, and walnut balls with labneh. The egg dishes are similar to the “Last Night’s Cure” pictured above, but without any of the side dishes. Eric (who was my Sunday dining partner) and I ordered the Tomato and Spinach & Feta Omelette, respectively. Instead of the traditional French or American omelette, these could better be described as baked eggs in little cast iron skillets.

So, should you go on Saturday or Sunday?

The answer to this trick question of course, is that you should go both days. And weekdays. However, if this is your first time, or you’re going with someone you are not super close with, I would suggest a Saturday, as the dishes are more familiar and easier to order as individuals. Sundays, on the other hand, are more exciting, but you have to come with an open mind, and willingness to eat all of the dishes offered. There are olives, there is charcuterie, there is dairy, there is sugar, there is bread. These are all wonderful things, but not wonderful to everyone.

Final Thoughts

The Poet Cafe is the perfect little spot to come to if you want to mix up the monotony of your usual downtown weekend brunch. It could be better said that the soul of the restaurant is based in Tehran, but the cookery and style is very much Toronto. A little bit of escapism, and a little bit of home.

Location: 137 King Street E., Toronto, ON
Website: (note: automatic video plays!)

Disclaimer: I visited The Poet Cafe once on my own, and was a guest of the restaurant for my second visit (but I will definitely come back on my own many more times this year!)

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