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Cardinal Rule

Posted by Jenna Lianne / Reviewed on June 30, 2011 / review policy

Cardinal Rule TorontoCardinal Rule is comfort food at its finest. The dim lighting, the cozy wood tables, and the food, oh the food. The place is perfect for a pub stop, some intimate conversation, or the post-hangover meal - maybe all at once.

Located at 5 Roncesvalles (at Queen), Cardinal Rule has a simple teal exterior. Walking into the diner, I pass the kitchen and the bar, which has a selection of regional beers on tap, including Steamwhistle, Wellington and Beau's.

It's too early to start on the drinks; I am at Cardinal Rule for Sunday Brunch. We are immediately greeted and ushered to our seats with menus, but take awhile to decide. The options are all intriguing: Breakfast Pie; Hawaiian Stuffed French Toast; Quinoa Coconut Pancakes; Hail Caesar Eggs Benedict; or The Chwaley, a family breakfast for two or more that includes a pitcher of Caesars. In the end, I choose the Breakfast Pie, sold on its crust of bacon. My eating companion orders the classic Eggs Benedict with potato latkes.

Cardinal Rule TorontoThe fillings of the Breakfast Pie ($9) alternate regularly. Today's version features the standard bacon crust, with Italian sausage, provolone cheese, eggs and potato latke inside. The pie is soft and flavourful, the eggs and cheese delicately blended. It melts in my mouth. Despite the combination of meat, cheese and potatoes, it is not overly dense, nor too heavy. The crispy bacon gently counters the taste and texture of the filling. To balance the pie is a simple salad of mixed greens, doused very lightly in vinaigrette.

The Eggs Benedict ($10) are also a success. Set on English muffins and peameal bacon, the eggs are poached flawlessly, falling apart when prodded by knife. The hollandaise is light but flavourful. My friend much appreciates the modest dollop, a fresh change from the hollandaise drown that often accompanies an eggs benedict.

The potato latkes are crispy on the outside, and soft on the inside--creamy almost, and not in a mushy-potato way. Leaks are added for flavour. These latkes need no sour cream or applesauce on the side; they are not dry, and are savory all on their own.

Cardinal RuleIOur total bill for two is $23.50, one of the cheapest and most delicious brunches I've had in this city. This includes our meals, one coffee and an orange juice. Right now, payment is by cash-only; for those unprepared, an ATM is conveniently located beside the bar.

Cardinal Rule takes the standards of home comfort food to a whole new level, with a cozy neighbourhood vibe. Food is prepared with care and creativity, and despite the hearty meals consumed at my visit, they offer veggie, vegan and gluten-free options. Cardinal Rule is exactly what I need on a Sunday morning, or for that matter, any other day of the week. Whatever rule this place is playing by, I want to stay in the game.

Cardinal RulePhotos and text by Jenna Lianne.



rg / May 16, 2011 at 07:39 pm
the "home made pineapple chutney" on the Hawaiian stuffed french toast was really a thin ashen slice of tinned pineapple.
Katie / May 21, 2011 at 01:05 pm
the canned pineapple situation from last weekend was a one day incident and has been gloriously rectified with an even better improved pineapple chutney. I welcome you to come and try it!

Cheers. :)
mike / June 30, 2011 at 12:38 pm
I mean this with the utmost respect, but I won't be returning to this place anytime soon.

I ordered a gluten-free club with fries a few months back. The menu made it sound delicious, but what I got was lunch-meat turkey on teeny-tiny gluten-free bread. The tomatoes were nice and fresh, but the lettuce was lacking. The bacon is VERY average. The fries were small in portion and easy on the delicous. In all, it was 14$. Too steep for me when the food is hovering somewhere around the average.

Ok, so, maybe one meal does not an opinion make. But, what annoyed me more than anything was the staff. Sorry guys, I know you're a small group of gals trying to make good, but i've walked into this place twice, ordered once, and each time I came in it felt like I was interupting you. You guys seems to just be hanging out a lot, and that's cool, but from a customers standpoint it doesn't make for a comfortable dining experience. Chatting, laughing and general tomfoolery with a bunch of other people in the restaurant while neglecting my drink and food service is just plain annoying. Do you know what it looks like to leave my food somewhere, where I can see it, while watching and listening to the waitress talk to her friends?

Anyway, nice try, hope you succeed, but I doubt i'll be back.
Marlowe3000 replying to a comment from mike / June 30, 2011 at 12:53 pm
I've had a very different experience the few times I've been in recently - I found staff to be very attentive, fun atmosphere, wonderful salads and great options on tap. Subjective, I guess!

Also, LOVE the latkes!
Bruncher / June 30, 2011 at 01:10 pm
Stopped in for Sunday brunch a few weeks back and was very impressed.
I had the hawaiian stuffed french toast with an extra side of bacon, and was very impressed. The pineapple chutney was definiely fresh cut pineapple. $4 for a side of bacon seemed a little steep but it went so well with the french toast, peameal bacon, pineapple, and syrup I'm willing to look past that.
My girlfriend had the breakfast pie and enjoyed it.
Breakfast x2, coffee, a pint of KGB Raspberry Ale (after all, brunch is technically lunch right?), came to around $40 which seemed like a fair deal given how good the food was.
p. / June 30, 2011 at 01:58 pm
Sweet. I live a few steps from here and have been wondering what the story was. You had me at pitcher of caesars. Sunday morning can't come soon enough.
jwey / June 30, 2011 at 02:50 pm
Been a couple times (Groupon deal) but I don't think we'll be going back anytime soon.

Food is incredibly overpriced considering it's average quality and the decor falls on the wrong side of kitchy (think Portuguese dive bar made over by someone from Etsy). Menu is uninspired save for the cute but gimmicky macaroni.

The entire place feels slapped together on a shoestring budget by amateur designers and cooks because they thought it would be cool to say they own a restaurant, rather than because they had something fresh and exciting to add to the mix.
Viv / June 30, 2011 at 03:14 pm
Looks great, definitely on my list of places to check out!
Kaley / June 30, 2011 at 05:11 pm
I love this place. Unique options, friendly service, local watering hole feel. Keep it up!
Danielle / June 30, 2011 at 05:31 pm
I've been here for dinner and brunch and it's a great place I can't wait to go back. The french toast with blueberry compote was insanely fresh and filling, the breakfast pie was mouthwatering...BACON CRUST? Insanity.
Tania / June 30, 2011 at 05:45 pm
Met a client for lunch at CR a few weeks back and we both absolutely loved the meal. Tasty food, great menu choices and attentive staff. Looking forward to my next visit... think I'll make it a Sunday brunch. Thrilled about this addition to the 'hood.
bee / July 3, 2011 at 10:13 am
I love the latkes!!!! soo delicious. They make their own hot sauce as well and it is very kick ass!
Katie / July 12, 2011 at 11:17 pm
Thanks for the lovely review Jenna.
ALways a nice surprise to find things like this online when stalking oneself. :)
We keep planning to upgrade as we can round here and keep feeding you all and making you welcome in our home away from home.

Cardinal Rule
Buck / July 20, 2011 at 04:13 pm
Twice I've checked out this place and both times I've felt disappointed with the quality of the food (it's not BAD, but there is nothing special about it to validate it's price) and the service.

It feels like their top priority is to hang out together, not run a business. They sat around and talked loudly to each other most of the time.

No one wants to listen to your conversations. It's weird.
Greg / July 21, 2011 at 07:34 pm
I have been a few times and enjoyed the food, service and company. I see this as a great little local place that has regulars. I mean the times I have seen the staff talking were usually to other customers that seem to be laughing and enjoying themselves. You can't please every one, but as far as I am concerned I would rather a friendly staff that takes the time to know there regulars.
anders / September 4, 2011 at 04:23 pm
We went here for brunch today and were terribly disappointed.

We waited extra long to receive undercooked and cold french toast, an okay grilled cheese sandwich with warmed up frozen sausages and a vegan breakfast burrito that was full of flavourless tofu with a few beans and corn kernels thrown in, with no standard breakfast sides included. A sad little burrito for 9 bucks? Sure tax is included, but taste certainly wasn't.

I was so excited to see so many veggie friendly and interesting options on the menu, but it seems like someone who doesn't know anything about cooking is preparing them.

Sorry, CR, I really wanted things to work out between us, but I will never be coming back.

CPB / December 31, 2011 at 07:12 pm
A friend & I went this afternoon. I enjoyed the Breakfast Pie which was bacon crust, egg, potato latke and this week was cheddar & broccoli. Was filling but not too much. My friend had the Mexican Egg Burrito thing which was a generous dish. Also, a pitcher of Caesar which was made with horseradish and was surprisingly delicious considering it came from a pitcher and had no other garnish other than a wedge of lemon and lime. Total was under $30. I will definitely be back again!
Bettes / January 25, 2012 at 05:58 pm
As a Roncey's local, I love my restaurants - big, small - pricy or just a few bucks - there is room in my belly for all.
Unfortunately for CR, I won’t be going back.

My roommate and I were on an afternoon stroll to the lake when we came over the sunnyside bridge STARVING, so we decided to pop into the Cardinal and see what the fuss was all about (did they not get NOW's best of 2011??)

Off the top...was the smell. Not sure if it was just that day, but there was defiantly a sent that was not pleasing. Now this may be a 'leftover' of the days of cigarettes in restaurants, I'm not sure.

The food was dismal. I had the beet salad, it had almost no flavour and the beets were warm. The burger was horrible. And speaking of strange smells - the beef had a strange order to it as well that seemed to seep into my salad. I ate it all and I'm happy to report that I was not sick or anything like that afterwards....but that smell...I will never forget. It was against my best judgment to eat it - but as I mentioned, we were STARVING, so I did.

As for the service, they are a friendly bunch - but I must agree with some of the other comments here that it does seem a bit like you're putting them out by asking for service. I know we're all friends - but I've been to other restaurants with the same friends vibe and I don't get the feeling that I'm interrupting that way I did here.

I hope the smell was a one-day only thing - and a little bit of professionalism will go a long way for the Cardinal.

Meh / April 5, 2012 at 11:39 pm
I've been a few times. For breakfast I've just ordered the eggs, sausage, latkes etc and it was good. They seem to deep fry their sausages which I think it's awesome but the whole dish tastes so greasy. Ive ordered their club sandwich a few times which I always liked even though the turkey sometimes looks like mutant meat. I really despise how everything is separate/ extra instead of adding side options included in the price. Call me cheap but I felt really odd asking for a 75 cent pickle on the side lol. Fries as a side for $4? And a side salad for the same price basically? Not worth it. Ps. The pulled pork panini was extremely dry. Almost like eating meat flavored straw. Pieces of it were actually hard. No sauce on the damn thing either. Lol
Megan / April 22, 2012 at 07:18 pm
Worst service ever and worst food! The food is over priced and complete garbage!! I can't believe I just paid for that under cooked crap!! The staff is incredibly rude and act like they have much better things to do then take your order. Won't be coming back and won't be recommending this crap hole to anyone.
Charlotte / May 22, 2012 at 09:17 pm
Worst eggs benedict ever. I have no idea how they could possibly call whatever was on it hollandaise sauce; it was thin and flavourless. Both my mother and I were thoroughly unimpressed. Also, our waitress appeared to be incapable of dressing herself - her boobs were practically falling out of her shirt - don't wear what you wore out last night to work the next morning.
Marvindale II replying to a comment from Charlotte / May 23, 2012 at 02:45 pm
I hear ya. Saw them on the Food Network. They do really 'funny' recipes with eggs. I don't go to a diner to be experimented on for your off-the-wall menu ideas, gals.
brian / June 1, 2012 at 04:59 pm
had chicken paramsian with greens and 2 beau's last night.
tasted good.
will be back

canuckian416 / November 23, 2012 at 10:45 am
Food: Pretty great.
Service: Timely and friendly
Room: 90's basement but not offensive
Overall: Will not return. This smallish space suffers from the smell of cheap industrial bathroom cleaner that's mixed with a steady flow of cigarette smoke from wherever the staff and/or neighbours suck and blow. Can't imagine breakfast within that space. Too bad.
K & J / July 9, 2013 at 07:24 pm
If you are looking for an amazing gluten free beef burger and gluten free French fries combo, look no further! This is THE ONE AND ONLY PLACE to get THE BEST GF Burg & Fries dinner in Western GTA.

Matt / January 25, 2014 at 06:40 pm
We had a very good brunch this morning. Eggs Benedict, done classic with peameal bacon, for me, Brined tofu with baked beans and fesh fruit for the better half. The eggs were perfectly done, oozing yolk when prodded with a fork. The better half loved the vegan dish, and she's a confirmed carnivore! Pleasant, attentive service with a generally comfortable vibe to the room.

Will return soon for a stab at the dinner menu.
Lacey / May 17, 2014 at 11:47 pm
I came in with my dad for a quick lunch on a weekday. I have tough dietary restrictions (no gluten, no dairy) and I was attracted to the allergy friendly menu. My dad is an omnivore who specifically said 'don't bring me to some weird gluten-free and vegan restaurant'. We were both impressed by our meals- he got the mac and cheese bites, and I got the vegan pulled 'pork' on gluten free bun. It might not be haute cuisine but it does a great job of catering to any and all diets and providing a good, hearty meal- it's homemade, updated and tasty diner fare. I would definitely come back, and so would my omnivore dad.
Sue / November 16, 2014 at 10:55 am
I came here for brunch with friends because I'm vegan and they're omnivores, and it can be a little annoying to find a place where we can all get something we like. We were pretty excited to have found a new place. I ordered the tofu scramble and was extremely disappointed. It seemed as though someone had taken a package of tofu, chopped it up on the grill, completely doused it in oil and garlic powder, then threw some beans on top. Partially cold and pretty flavourless. My friends seemed to be okay with their food choices, but we all decided that we wouldn't be going back there.

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