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Restaurants

Chew Chew's Diner

Posted by Jennifer Tse / Reviewed on July 8, 2009 / review policy

Chew Chew's Toronto
It might take you a second to see the connection between the mural on the side of the Chew Chew's Diner and the Cabbagetown restaurant's name. But hold your groans... Chew Chew's knows their train fare just as well as their diner fare (yeah, I went there).

The restaurant serves up a variety of poutines, hot sandwiches, rotisserie chicken dishes, steaks, and burgers with cute titles like The Big Track Burger ($8.95) and the Little Caboose burger for kids ($5.95). As with all great greasy spoons, however, the main attraction is breakfast. Breakfast alone takes up half the menu, and Chew Chew's will have you chew-chewing over your options for a good while.

We slid into our booth and after some humming and hawing, we settled on the All Aboard Special with eggs, peameal bacon, sausages, and ham; the Eggs Florentine; the Eggs Benedict ($8.95 each); and the Conductors Special with eggs, bacon, sausages, ham, and pancakes ($9.95). Our friendly waitress also gave us a choice between white or brown toast, as well as medium or lightly poached eggs.

Chew Chew's

As soon as our sizable plates arrived and our forks went into our mouths, one thing became clear: these folks knew their Hollandaise sauce. My immediate reaction upon tasting was something like, "Wow, they must have melted a whole stick of butter on this."

Somehow a distinct lemony zing came through, balancing out the sauce's unbelievable velvety texture. Nothing bland or soupy - just perfection. Maybe not so much for those wishing to work off the extra cargo 'round their waistlines, so to speak, but to those people I quite earnestly implore: give it a try! It's worth ditching the diet for a day. (But just for a day - self-control will be important here, my friends.)

Chew Chew's All Aboard Special and FlorentineAll of our meals came with a small slice each of orange and pineapple. The home fries were nothing out of the ordinary and could have used some spicing up, but with eggs this good, we weren't complaining. The free coffee with any breakfast (Monday to Friday before 11am) was a welcome addition, but I decided to splurge on the hot chocolate with whipped cream ($2.25). A bit pricey for what I got, but it hit the spot.

As we talked and ate, our attention was drawn to something we hadn't yet noticed about the rotisserie oven situated prominently by the front window - a bright red choo-choo train smokestack poked out the top of the steaming metal box. A cute touch, we thought.

Chew Chew's Interior Train TracksThen we noticed the train tracks on the wall behind the front counter, and the striped cotton conductor's hats the staff wore. It seemed as if we were noticing a new railway-themed detail with every passing minute. And it certainly had the desired effect - the more time we spent in the narrow restaurant, the more we felt like we were... well, on a train.

Chew Chew'sWe wandered towards the back of the diner and were pleasantly surprised by the pictures lining the walls, made to look like we were looking through train car windows at the idyllic scenery passing by. I was slightly disappointed that we hadn't managed to nab ourselves such first-class seating coming in.

Chew Chew's DinerAt the back of the restaurant we came across several famous black and white railway-themed photos on the walls. One was an anonymous photo of New York's Grand Central Terminal on a sunny morning in 1934, and one was an O. Winston Link photo of Virginia's Luray Crossing in 1955. My favourite by far was the photo of the 1895 Gare Montparnasse derailment in Paris.

Stepping out of the restaurant I felt like I had reached my stop a bit too soon, but I knew I'd eventually be making another trip via Chew Chew train. Maybe next time if I listen hard I might just hear a whistle going off in the distance...

Discussion

15 Comments

jamesmallon / July 8, 2009 at 10:52 am
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How's the clientele? Dodgy area.
Mark / July 8, 2009 at 11:19 am
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There are much dodgier areas in the city.
Anshuman / July 8, 2009 at 11:42 am
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I don't have any real "allegiance" to Cabbagetown despite living close to the 'hood, but I have to say, the area isn't that sketchy. Colourful? Of course. Dodgy? Pfft, welcome to Toronto.
George replying to a comment from jamesmallon / July 8, 2009 at 01:08 pm
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man... people really should get out to cabbagetown more often.
jamesmallon replying to a comment from George / July 8, 2009 at 07:26 pm
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Sure, there's dodgier (not a great way to endorse an area). Yes, I live there and am happy to walk through even at night, but I discourage my wife from doing so. I hope you would, since the people under-served by our society's mental health care, addiction and social services, tend to like that area after dark, as near to the park as it is.
eric chen / July 9, 2009 at 12:13 am
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Cabbagetown can get a bit... weird after dark. Not really a problem (I think). And during the day, its just fine.

Nice article. I would have never considered going into such a punny resturant. But now... who knows. Looks yum.
Wes Bos / July 13, 2009 at 12:37 pm
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I live pretty close to Chew Chew's and its my favorite spot to hit up for a sunday morning breakfast. The staff is very nice, the prices are great and the portions are more than generous. I often drop in just for a coffee to go (which is amazing) and am treated as a full customer.

I also won a $10 Gift card just from putting my phone number on my reciept. Great place - you should check it out!
Jeff / September 19, 2009 at 09:17 am
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It's not Dorkville that's for sure.
Z. / January 30, 2010 at 05:53 am
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After reading this, I'll be giving Chew Chew's a try soon.
Peter / July 8, 2010 at 11:10 am
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I've gone to Chew Chews for breakfasts and the servers are friendly, the place is clean and I do love their eggs Ben. I want to go in the evening to try the prime rib or rotisserie chicken.
Dylan Hamada / December 4, 2010 at 11:22 am
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As good a breakfast as any. Portions and price make it a regular on my breakfast rounds. Staff are very friendly.

I don't understand the stigma associated with Cabbagetown. It's got more character than 90% of the downtown core (Yorkville/University/Yonge) and has a cozy, lived-in kind of feel. It'd take a suburbanite or yuppie to snub their nose at that.
Rod / August 7, 2012 at 02:56 pm
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CHEW CHEW'S The food is GREAT :) yummy:O).. Staff is Amazing ,, A place to feel at home ,,, cabbage town is just fine,, yes a tad bit IFFY at night,, but all in all Relaxed,,
Fred / September 19, 2012 at 06:46 pm
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Chew Chews is our favourite, the hood has really cleaned up in that area. It's not perfect but it's still a great place to get really good food.
TripleD / October 22, 2014 at 02:33 pm
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Their specials are questionable, more like leftovers. Spaghetti & Meat Sauce is microwaved. The familiar beeps are heard throughout my visit. I was hoping for Diners Drive-ins and Dives but I don't believe this place will ever make the cut. Halibut & Fries lacks any colour, not even a jolt from a slaw. More of a breakfast place. More home-cooked fare needed.
Rick s / November 3, 2014 at 01:40 pm
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Great burgers!!! And hot waiter!

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