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Starving Artist

Posted by Emily Thomas / Posted on June 26, 2009

Starving Artist"This is our special starving artist blend," says Tobias Wang with a gigantic grin. "It's the strongest coffee I've ever had! It's the strongest coffee anyone's ever had!" One of the owners of the new Bloor and Lansdowne café/bar/waffle place, Tobias hands me the package of grind and tells Alyssa and me to smell it. "Doesn't that smell strong!?" It does. I ask if this is what he used to make our iced Americanos, and his smiling face adopts the slightest look of concern. "No, we don't really use that blend. It makes you shake."
Starving ArtistAlyssa and I take our (mellower) iced coffees to the back patio. The outdoor space is shaded from the sun and most signs of industry save for a sliver of factory visible through a crack in the awning. This sliver serves as a reminder of where we are: Paton and Lansdowne. Factories comprise the (once) desolate walk north of Lansdowne subway station. When Alyssa lived in the area (and when I was crashing on her couch for months on end) we made the walk daily and it was so boring. Tobias seems all too familiar with this walk. "It was terrible," he says. "The whole time you're like 'when am I going to be home?'"
Starving ArtistTobias and his business partner, Bryan Jackson, were looking for an office space for just one day when they came across this place. They had worked in the area before, and found the coffee options there lacking. "We would go out to grab a coffee and end up at Bloor and Ossington," says Tobias. Initially the plan was to have a workspace, with an espresso machine in the corner. But the place had such potential that Starving Artist turned into a bigger venture.
Starving ArtistMost of that venture translates into waffles of various kinds. They serve desert waffles, brunch waffles, mini waffles, mini burgers on mini waffles and waffle shaped experiments (i.e. waffle shaped rice with green curry chicken). "The waffle is the template," says Tobias. Right on. I go for the waffle benny ($9) and Alyssa chooses the Starving 4 Waffles special: four mini waffles with butter maple syrup ($8).
Starving ArtistOur plates arrive to the covered patio with greens and fruit salad - top-notch fruit salad that includes cranberries! The waffles are light and fluffy and go well with the rich Hollandaise and caramelized bacon. Caramelized bacon! Alyssa polishes off her top, syrup-drenched waffle and asks for more maple. Tobias brings some in a little cup and notes that in the future, he thinks he'll always provide customers with their own cup of syrup. "It gives the people more fun," he says. Alyssa has tons of fun with her supply. She soaks all the waffles and can barely finish them.
Starving ArtistThe outdoor patio is so comfortable that Alyssa and I stick around long after we're done our breakfast. While enjoying our second Americano, plastic bottles and empty milk bags begin to fall onto the canopy at a rate of about one item per minute. They seem to be coming from the apartment above. We can't see anything, but we hear a child's voice and speculate as to what's going on. Tobias and Bryan come outside to join us and we tell them about the falling recycled material. We laugh. They laugh. They've both gotten to know the kid, and tell us how cute and smart he is, like he's a favourite nephew that is always doing hysterical things like throwing recycling on people. It's endearing.
Starving ArtistThe four of us stay out in the sun talking about art and freelancing and the guys' plans for Starving Artist. They want live music, late Fridays and a liquor license (for which the wheels are already in motion). They want to put art out on their fence by the sidewalk, improve that walk from Lansdowne station for good. It's inspiring. "The whole point of Starving Artist is an artistic hub," says Tobias, "a network, you know what I mean?"
Starving ArtistStarving ArtistStarving Artist

Photos by Alyssa Bistonath



Derek / June 26, 2009 at 09:37 am
As usual, lovely photos...
trav1dr / June 26, 2009 at 10:35 am
best waffles in the city! if you don't know, get to know!
jack replying to a comment from Derek / June 26, 2009 at 11:26 am
Tobias looks yummy
lifeatblandings / June 26, 2009 at 11:35 am
Man, your reviews are the best.
Elle Driver / June 26, 2009 at 11:57 am
Eggs Benny on mini waffles?! Served to me by the really hot owner?! *sound of Elle running out the door*
ramanan / June 26, 2009 at 01:35 pm
The Chocolate Chip and Nutella waffles are what you need to be eating. Damn son. This place is good, and it's in Blansdowne. Bonus.
Zach / June 26, 2009 at 03:07 pm
Go Tobias!
Vaneska / June 26, 2009 at 03:59 pm
So awesome. Great work, Tobias!
le marie / June 26, 2009 at 04:02 pm
the waffles are so nommy. see you tonight for funk and waffle
stephanie / June 26, 2009 at 04:16 pm
whoever did the photography here did a brilliant job! kudos!
Paul / June 26, 2009 at 04:49 pm
I really hate the "Blansdowne" nickname and I hope it doesn't catch on.

That said, this place is pretty great. Dropped by today for the first time, opened up blogto on my phone and there was the review!

The coffee was great and I enjoyed my waffles although they took a while to be served.
Tobias / June 26, 2009 at 06:17 pm
Thanks for the write up ladies, we also really enjoyed your company and our convos.

Thanks to everyone who's been supporting Starving Artist! Hope you will continue to follow us and keep us in business as we head into our 2nd month of operation.

@Paul, sorry for the wait, it happens sometimes when I'm the only person in the kitchen, our usual wait if 5-10 minutes.

I'm glad you enjoyed the coffee, we will continue to show improvement and diversity in our menu as we go...

YAY! Week 5 here we come!
Sona / June 28, 2009 at 06:57 pm
I want to go there:)
Sherry / July 8, 2009 at 03:10 pm
simply delicious!!!
Chris / July 24, 2009 at 01:02 pm
This neighbourhood is so lacking for decent places to eat. I work just up the road from Starving Artist and it's great when you don't want the Falafel poison that lines Bloor St. Owners are great. Food is astounding, never knew waffles were so adaptable. Quality is lightyears beyond their peers.

If you haven't been, go. I hope they make it.
karen replying to a comment from Paul / August 14, 2009 at 11:58 am
I agree "Blansdowne" stinks. I think Bloosdowne is way better.
Bren / August 26, 2009 at 01:01 pm
If you’re thinking about hosting an event or private party…Starving Artist is the way to go! Get Tobias and Brian (owners) to put their party planning skills to the test and you won’t be disappointed. My fiancé and I hosted our Stag ‘n Doe there on Saturday August 22, and the night was incredible!

The Venue: Hip, quaint and able to accommodate all of our guests (approx 75 throughout the night). With two patios (one front, one back) we were all able to sprawl out reducing some congestion inside the rectangle shaped bar and seating area. We set up a dance floor in the back where we shook it no problem! The back patio was illuminated with spot lights and candles making it really picturesque and cozy. The weather was threatening rain, so the owners put up a white canopy-type-tarp thing across the back fence to protect against the rain (which never happened) and it added that extra touch of elegance. The front patio unfortunately was not LLBO at the time, (the back one was) however our guests didn’t mind leaving drinks at the door before going out for their breathers. Just be aware (as if anyone can really control this completely) that the venue is next to residential houses so we constantly had to tell people on the back patio to keep the noise down later on in the evening. Washrooms are down in the basement,and they were spacious and clean.

Location: How much more convenient could it be being one block north (about 2 min walk) from Lansdowne Subway station?

The Staff: Bartenders Jenny and Jen were fantastic. They really were receptive to our guests, super friendly and never mind gorgeous. Tobias- the bomb our guests just ADORED him (just meet him and you’ll figure out why quick), Brian- he means business so he’s pretty serious most times, but nonetheless approachable, friendly, and honest-tells it like it is.

The Party: We were given free reign on how we wanted to decorate the place, we went minimal but the option was there. They threw a slideshow of pictures on loop of us (that we brought in) on their big screen all night which was super cute. The place comes complete with an AWESOME sound system including the use of a mic. We were able to plug in the IPOD and the sound was excellent. We were also given the option of hosting a DJ so keep that in mind too. We chose to supply our own food; however we were offered to have the party catered with some of Starving Artist's very own waffles.

Some other things to remember that we wish we would of considered before the party is that Starving Artist is a restaurant/cafe closes at 6pm. We had marketed the party to start at 7pm, and this wasn’t a good idea. I felt we were stepping over toes as they were trying to clean up from the day as we were trying to set up for the night, so I felt it was a little unfair to them. It was too rushed getting started so I suggest starting your party a little later. The great news is that they serve until 2am so even if you start later you’ll still get enough time to party.

At the end of the day, our party was awesome, and we both recommend this place for any type of party. We would like to send a shout out to Brian and Tobias-Thank you so much for everything, it was an incredible night and we’ll never forget it! Thanks for the great expereince!
another artist replying to a comment from Tobias / September 6, 2009 at 02:33 am
I walk by the Starving Artist on a daily basis (and just did so a few minutes ago), and have thought to go in and ask this question, but haven't figured out how to approach it without it seeming like an attack...but,

Why Starving Artist? Why that name?

As an artist, who also lives in the neighbourhood, I get the struggles of trying to make ends meet, but I think the name is a little insensitive by not acknowledging the people in the area who may actually be going hungry and not have the finances (or luxury) of eating at cafes or owning one.

It's exciting to hear that the owners would like to build community/a hub for artists, but we need to be conscious of the rest of our community to do so.

I'm sincerely interested to know the owner's thoughts, so please share with us.
chris replying to a comment from another artist / September 16, 2009 at 04:45 pm
its a great name.

it means alot to me being an artist.

if you would have actually gone in and asked, then perhaps you would have discovered the owners are artists themselves.

not everyone who buys a 2$ espresso is living in luxury, nor is someone who owns a cafe rich. in the first 3-5 years, a new independent business is barely going to make ends meet.
Paula Tavares-Robinson / December 15, 2009 at 11:55 pm
Hi Brian Thanks for the good chat. When I become as famous as your waffles I'll think of you. Tactical is out and Waffles are in...No more cops I promise. You're the coolest dude I ever met. Can't wait to taste your waffles....

Love Paula Tavares-Robinson AKA Stuck in Brampton with no flow...
LG / February 7, 2010 at 10:24 am
Really cool place... GOOOD food... but i do suggest they have the option to add extras to their bennys like cheese, tomatoe etc...
i love this place and will definately go back often!
Rokevena / March 15, 2010 at 01:02 pm
Waffle bacon! Potato waffles! Strong coffee! Oh man! Sooo good. Was there this sunday and will become a regular for sure. You guys are awesome!
B-Boy / May 3, 2010 at 07:13 pm
How does this place get good reviews is beyond me. Microwaved Eggs? Store-Bought potato salad and dressing? please, NEXT
Mary Sand / May 4, 2010 at 09:13 am
I had the worst brunch ever here on Sunday. For some reason it took about 1 HOUR for us to get our microwave poached eggs on top of gummy cold potato waffles, store bought potato salad and limp mixed greens topped with store bought raspberry vinegarette?????
MEDICOCRE FOOD!!!!! And the service is non-existant too!
MB / May 8, 2010 at 12:25 pm
My thoughts exactly! Following my first (and last) visit to Starving Artist, I decided to do a bit of shopping at No Frills on College and Lansdowne. The tub of Ziggy's potato salad staring up at me looked eerily familiar. Shameful.
Jessica / May 22, 2010 at 11:01 pm
Had to share that I just went in for the first time today and am returning tomorrow for more. All around - so well done (the gluten free waffles - aaaammmazing) i <3 starving artist
Cereal_Luva / June 1, 2010 at 09:46 pm
I LOVE STARVING ARTIST!!! Geeze so many haters. Does every restaurant have to make their own ketchup too? These are side dishes, their main specialty is their waffles and they're fn fantastic!!!! I ABSOLUTELY loved everything about this place, and the owner is super friendly and cool, and I highly recommended it to a bunch of friends whose mouths dropped once they tried it.

I love love love the name, the concept, the vibe, the food, the tunage and the goldfish.


Jason / July 6, 2010 at 04:41 pm
Amazing place. Fantastic atmosphere with great food and a fitting beer selection. Definite win!

looking forward to checking one of the jazz nights sometime.
Lisa / August 3, 2010 at 03:55 pm
There is nothing not to love.
leslie / August 3, 2010 at 07:03 pm
wu-tang and waffles for brunch? oh yes!
buhhh / December 18, 2010 at 10:39 am
I went to the Starving Artist for brunch this morning. Here's how it went:
This place is such a dump I can't even take it.
There are so many contradictions lying around this place it makes me sick. The fact that this is a place where "artists" congregate is laughable. The "art" on the walls is deplorable. The dingy dark atmosphere is just sad and not inviting. The staff didn't make it any better. They're fake and pathetic and made me feel really unwelcome. Friendly til you've gotten your food, then you're forgotten and over charged for the most mediocre food I've ever had. I watched the cook scoop store bought potato salad out of a tub (which looked like it was from costco) and then kraft dressing onto my salad. Their "waffles" are obviously just some mix you add water to. And no, not every place needs to "make their own ketchup", but going somewhere that I'm going to shell out $25 (with a regrettable tip), then it had better be food I couldn't make at home for $5. The coffee is certainly nothing to be excited over. As they obviously have no clue on how to use an espresso machine.
I just felt so underwhelmed by this place, I just can't see how anyone would enjoy it, unless hungover and willing to pay more for less. Tobias get out of there and open something that you can be proud of. That owner is going to run your name into the ground. Blansdowne has a lot more places to offer than a crappy breakfast at a crappy establishment.
Lodo / February 21, 2011 at 10:14 pm
I went to Starving Artist for the first time today: loved it!

Our server was funny and friendly, the food was good, there was a great selection of music and the coffee was perfect.

I'll be going back, for sure!
Nilou / March 3, 2011 at 01:34 pm
The female server was friendly. The male server started shouting at us when we asked if we could move our table. He said WE DON'T DO THESE THINGS HERE. WE DON;T DO RESERVATION da da da. I have no idea how the place is run with a crazy guy like him. There was 8 of us and none of us will ever go back there or recommend it.
kay / March 6, 2011 at 11:31 pm
The place is mediocre. The wait for food is surprising considering they're just making waffles. I had the grilled cheese and was not impressed with the processed cheese they used. Tiny portions. I had to ask for a table, ask for more water, ask for an extra side they forgot, ask for cutlery, and ask for my bill -not enough staff to check in on the table. Bad service.
keven / June 11, 2011 at 03:59 pm
Went here this morning for the first time and I really dont understand the people who did not like it. It was AMAZING! Definitely going back.
Sharon / July 12, 2011 at 03:48 pm
One of the worst in the city! A roache came scurrying out when the waitress moved the table for us to sit in the middle of the aisle, had to ask for water, after waiting over 20 minutes for coffee, and finally after a 45 minute wait for food I complained. I was then told by the owner that "it is Sunday brunch" in a tone of voice that suggested he doubted my intelligence. He informed us that they had not started cooking our meal (45 mins after placing order) and that we could leave. So we did. We paid for our coffee and left. We have lived in the area for over 5 years and really try to support local merchants, but we will never be back.
Olga / August 5, 2011 at 12:27 am
Horrible. Will NEVER go back.

It wasn't the food. It wasn't the wait staff. Nor the super long wait for just a drop of water - never mind a waffle or two! What really did it... The owner barking at us if we were "just sitting or if we were going to have food" and then shouting at us telling us that WE were to pick up and pay for our food inside ourselves and the waitress that took our order (45 minutes earlier and who forgot to mention this rule to us) doesn't know how things work at Starving Artist.

Way to throw your staff under the bus! It must be a great place to work. Just not a great place to sit and enjoy a meal. Luckily, we left and didn't enjoy a meal at all.
cabbagehead / August 5, 2011 at 12:51 pm
Just got back from Starving Artist and I have to say I enjoyed the food but had a not so great experience with service. It seems like the place is short staffed and not very attentive to patrons. Hire an extra waiter and this will really change the vibe of the place ---
Ashley replying to a comment from B-Boy / December 8, 2011 at 06:56 pm
The eggs aren't microwaved. They're made in an egg poacher! That's why they're so perfect & delicious :)
clementine / January 29, 2012 at 08:30 pm
Your signature dish is waffles and they are made from an instant mix? gross. will never go back here.
Di Anna / February 21, 2012 at 04:42 pm
:) regular waffles were delish, eggs benny were yummy, fruit were fresh and I liked the variety (berries and bananas)
:| potato waffles were ok, tasted heavy
>:( Service sucked: Waited an hour for our food, forgot to bring milk for coffee even after asking twice.

We came in early to beat the saturday morning crowd. Even though there were groups of people that came in after us, most got their food first. What was disappointing was that the wait staff didn't even check up on us(the place is small)and it wasn't until we flagged them down that they retook our order. We finally got our food an hour after we had arrived, hurray!

Other than the wait, the food was yummy and hit the spot. I'll probably be back, and I really hope that the wait staff are more attentive next time because even if they serve yummy waffles, I'm certain there are other places that serve yummy waffles and offer good service.
Emily / March 22, 2012 at 02:18 pm
This place is just about the WORST when it comes to service. My co-worker and I have been here three times, hoping every time that maybe we had just gone on a bad day, but we've always left more disappointed than the time before.

Waited close to an hour today for eggs benny and a waffle sandwich, and ended up having to ask for it to go... That's on top of having to get our own menus because the waitress was unapologetically on the phone. I'm never going back here again – even if it has one of the only patios in the neighbourhood. Horrible service, ridiculously long wait, and very mediocre food.
Ma El / March 20, 2014 at 09:07 pm
I used to live nearby, and for some reason kept going back hoping the service would get better. Hygiene here is questionable and the vegetarian options are very lacking (there are no vegetarian versions of the benedicts.. you can replace the bacon with..Tomato!!). That all said, the waffle eggs benedict do taste good, but not good enough for me to make the trip now that I moved out of the area.
Tara / October 11, 2014 at 08:31 pm
Still in shock. We went for Saturday brunch and asked to sit inside as there were a few wasps circling the outdoor tables. When we were seated inside it was like a scene from a horror film. The place was *infested*, no seriously *infested* with wasps, all hovering near the ceiling initially but eventually when the syrup and fruit was served, understandably dive-bombing at all the diners. We sat at the bar in utter disbelief, at least 30 wasps, near the main dining area, and asked the waitress if perhaps there was a hive somewhere in the facility. She was nice about it, but told us the source of the bugs was "the property next door" and they had traps inside the restaurant to remedy the problem. One wasp took a liking to my husband's hair gel and made a go for his forehead at which point we decided to ditch the waffles and call it a day. Could not believe with such an insect problem they would stay open, serve food and take money for it! Hope I saved you a trip and a disappointing brunch.
jameson / December 7, 2014 at 07:36 pm
such a dump - why is this place so busy? beats me
Emily / March 16, 2015 at 04:20 pm
Just witnessed something atrocious and had to share it, as I will NEVER be going back to this restaurant or any in the chain. I left the restaurant this afternoon after an average at best meal, and headed over to my local laundromat to get change. A man named Bryan, who I now know to be the owner of the Starving Artist chain came storming out of the restaurant door like a mad man and into the laundromat where he then much to my dismay started verbally and PHYSICALLY attacking someone who upon listening in I realized was a staff member at the restaurant who was on duty folding some restaurant laundry. I have worked in and been around restaurants for the past 30 years and have never, ever seen someone treated that way by a member of management not to mention an owner of the restaurant. It was flat out assault and I was completely disgusted and shocked. He was swearing at him, threatening him, etc. for what appeared to be the sole reason that he was not folding laundry fast enough or wearing a black shirt. I am utterly appalled at what I had to witness and will never dine at this restaurant or recommended it again. Anyone who runs a business like that deserves zero patronage.
Iliana & Sergey's Palette / April 28, 2015 at 05:19 pm
"We walked through the long room with an open kitchen on one side, which created a unique ambiance with the huffing and puffing waffle machines (five of them in total, waffles non-stop!). "
"However, our waitress' enthusiasm made up for the dark setting and our grumbles about the menu. One interesting option was Sub Your Waffles section: bacon could be changed by avocados or tomatoes, for example (which we tried)."
"Waffle Benny came in a shape of two round mini waffles with caramelized bacon (avocado in our edition) and plenty of Hollandaise sauce. We noticed a hint of vanilla sweetness from the waffle. It was fresh and soft besides that and appeared to have a touch of smokiness to it. A side of maple beans was also in interesting choice. "
"Starving Artist is a definite must if you love waffles with everything. Even if you do not, try out the desserts at least - worth it!"

Just a few bites of our full review - http://ilianaspalette.blogspot.ca/2015/04/starving-artist.html

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