Scratch Fresh Foods
Scratch Fresh Foods is in an absolutely abysmal location. Unless you live near Glencairn subway, you likely wouldn't know about it; but you should. "Fresh" doesn't only apply to the food, but also to the very concept behind the business, which is run by Sonya Spagnola-Lee. Helping like-minded chefs get a head start in an industry synonymous with incredibly expensive upfront costs is a gutsy move.
She was in the same boat a few years earlier, starting with homemade dips. Prepared dips evolved into catering, and when a small laundromat in her neighbourhood folded (sorry, bad pun) Sonya dove in head first. Catering turned into a market, then with some nudging from customers, a small café, and cooking classes.
Closed Monday and Tuesday, the market-cum-café is well-stocked for grab n' go meals or for those not under time constraints: there are about 10 tables in the quaint dining room. Shelves line the entry way, stocked with products made by Sonya's protégés such as ready-to-go sauces, spices and desserts.
It's a family business, so service is swift and friendly. Sonya's daughter was our server, and her son was helping out in the kitchen. The food focuses on breakfast-to-lunch-style dishes, with the most expensive plates hovering around $13. Sonya is adamant that everything is from scratch, hence the obviously straightforward name.
The Full Englishman ($12.99) lives up to its name. A gluttonous portion of three eggs, (perfectly over easy), bangers, thick-cut bacon strips, a mountain of home fries, lightly buttered toast, and a lovely side of baked beans makes for a belt-busting meal.
Next up is the yogurt, which sees fresh fruit atop a deep bowl of vanilla yogurt ($6.25), which balances out the cholesterol collision with a welcome splash of colour (and vitamins).
Mini Cinnamon Pancakes ($5.99, or $9.49 for bigger portion) are a bit of a contradiction, in size at least. Three freeform and fluffy pancakes with a dusting of icing sugar and a smattering of cream cheese frosting leave me shaking like a sugar junkie. I probably should refrain from drinking maple syrup, but when it comes in an adorably tiny mug, things get reckless.
The Soup and Sandwich ($6.99) combo is another mega portion. Brothy butternut squash soup is an excellent partner for the king-sized chunky chicken and grilled cheese bacon sandwich, while the crusty, grilled white bread offers exceptional soup-dipping opportunities. I was easily sated by half of the sandwich and couldn't find the bottom of the soup bowl.
With a focus not solely on her bottom line, Scratch Fresh is unlike anything else I've ever seen. Dedicated to the local food movement and encouraging other wannabe chefs to join her is just the beginning. Sonya's energy is absolutely contagious, and her cooking is unpretentiously delicious. Now, to work on the location.