Hoof Cafe at Raw Bar
Hoof Cafe at Raw Bar, now a permanent brunch pop-up (if that makes any sense), has returned to Dundas West. On a cold and miserable Saturday morning in March, we visited the restaurant and were instantly welcomed by the familiar smells of rich, fatty meat sizzling from the open kitchen.
When Black Hoof owner Jen Agg announced via Twitter in late January the comeback of what was once one of the city's most popular weekend brunches , the Trinity-Bellwoods / Dundas West locals were quick to return. Our 10:30am arrival, however, helped us to avoid the impending crowds. The smallish space contained only two other groups when we arrived.
The Black Hoof's snout-to-tail approach has been well publicized over the years and the original establishment has earned a many rave reviews and produced many chefs who've met with success in setting up their own eateries. Now back in the brunch game at Raw Bar (next door), home-style favourites are elevated with non-typical cuts of meat and bold flavour combinations.
A couple of large French presses ($8), each good for 2 ½ cups of Sam James coffee was brought to us piping hot, along with a Hoof Caesar ($9), one of those vodka-based drinks that Agg almost reluctantly offers but does a bang-up job on.
With an obvious focus on plating and presentation, the Heart n' Eggs ($12) come as bone marrow scrambled eggs served with thinly sliced beef heart topped with a chimichurri sauce. With only a Bolivian street vendor's Anticucho to compare it to, I can safely say that this was the best heart I've ever had. For those who might feel a bit squeamish at the prospect of eating heart, try to get past this mental block, as the taste and tenderness of this seasoned cut of beef practically melts in your mouth.
The Bombay Hash ($12) is a half dozen pieces of smoked mackerel on a bed of uninspiring home fries, topped with a fried duck egg. Plated with both a chimichurri sauce on the egg and butter chicken sauce, the dish mixes a tasteful combination of the smoky, savoury, spicy and sweet into each bite.
The Blood Sausage McMuffin ($6) is a classed-up version of the old fast-food favorite. Served in a checkered take-out wrapper, a fried egg, homemade thick-cut blood sausage, and arugula are sandwiched between a classic English muffin. Match it with a side of beans, home fries, or both ($4 each) for a filling breakfast.
For another dish that hits both the savoury and sweet taste buds, look to the Fried Sweetbreads 'n Waffles ($16, lead photo). Nestled on top on a fluffy waffle, the sweetbreads come lightly battered and drizzled with jalapeno syrup. It was divine.
Although brunch here might run you a bit more than at, say, nearby Saving Grace , the unique ingredients, friendly atmosphere and powerful flavours help this brunch stand out from the crowd.
Brunch is served Thursday to Saturday 10-3 and Sunday 10-4 (naturally, no reservations). Note: Raw Bar is still open in the evenings serving dinner and drinks.
Photos by Marni Wolf