Cafe Next Door
When I think of seriously tasty Toronto panini, my memory reverts back to the years I lived on Bellwoods. Just up the street was a little hole in the wall called Rosa's Panini. It has long since shuttered (replaced by the Chelsea Room) but at the time it was my go to lunch spot and once it closed my cravings for toasted Italian sandwiches surprisingly faded as quickly as McDonalds and the rest of the city seemed to seize on their newfound popularity.
Some time later, Toronto is ripe with panini offerings. They can now be found on all corners of the city from Daddy O's on Roncey , Mangiacake in Baldwin Village and Cafe Uno in the Distillery to name just a few. Not to be outdone a little spot on the edge of Greektown has been quietly adding their own twist to the panini landscape since 1999.
An offshoot of the Magic Oven empire, Cafe Next Door serves healthy sandwiches, salads and more. Like their pizza-focused brethren, the restaurant makes the effort to offer a range of wheat, gluten and lactose free foods to appeal to those with dietary constraints.
The menu is by no means heavy on the panini but what it does offer is downright delicious including the Portobello Mushroom melt with Asiago cheese (pictured above - $8.99), Roast Turkey with bacon, tomato, greens and mozzarella (also $8.99) or the simple grilled cheese ($5). All include options to upgrade to spelt or gluten free toast.
Also available is an all day breakfast (see menu embedded below), a range of wraps, a daily rice bowl, soups and prepared salads. On this day I sprung for the soup and salad combo ($6.95 - pictured above) which included a sublimely spiced (if a bit luke warm) vegan chickpea soup and a glass noodle and tofu salad. Both tasted great and were filling enough to make a complete lunch.
The surroundings are super-casual. Orders are placed directly from the counter but meals are brought to the table when ready. Looking around, it seems that panini are definitely one of the star attractions here. Our server offered that we were just one in a long list who chose to indulge in the portobello mushroom variety already that day.
For the full menu, check out the embedded PDFs below.