Karine's, a new eatery in the Village on the Grange food court, offers a rare combination of all-day breakfasts and plentiful vegan treats. I'd never been to the restaurant before, so I was surprised to be greeted familiarly by a smiling lady in a hot pink headscarf. Hand to jutting hip, she purred, "Hi baby. What can I get for you, baby?"
Now, grown woman to grown woman, this baby talk is a novelty, and my usual response to the catcalled 'hey baby' -- a middle finger and some stern words -- just doesn't seem appropriate. Still, I'm tempted to give her a good "you don't know me" finger wagging, until I notice the menu. $5 for breakfast? The choice was clear: I make an exception, order and serve myself a tea while Karine fries my eggs. (Is she actually Karine? I don't think so, but if she gets to call me baby, I get to call her Karine.)
Bedecked in hot-pink flowers and flashy purple prints, Karine's looks like an exploded fragment of Barbie's Dream Home, but thankfully the specials are geared more towards paper bag princesses than the plastic-doll crowd. At $5, breakfast includes 2 eggs, toast, and a choice of salad, bacon or sausage, plus fries, tropical fruit garnish and unlimited coffee or tea. Fries come in regular and garlic varieties, but unless you're planning to kill a vampire later, I suggest choosing the regular.
The breakfast is surprisingly generous, so I have time to read the menu while I devour my crispy bacon and perfectly fried eggs, and scrape raw garlic from over-garnished fries. Ranging from pedestrian standards like the $5 breakfast and sandwich combos, Karine's also offers vegan waffles and burgers, fattoush salads, raspberry turnovers and exotic cheese platters.
I decide to get a vegetarian platter to take home, and am greeted this time as "honey-bunny." Although the $8 take-out platter is supposed to include four choices plus salad and pita bread, Karine insists I take more, piling my container high with mushroom-fried and tomato-pesto-topped tofu, tomatoey baked eggplant, a vegan burger patty, a serving of roasted vegetables and a scoop of celery and fava bean salad.
Like my breakfast, the platter is a satisfying mix of garlic-dominated flavours, with rich portabella tofu, sweet pesto tofu, perfectly roasted vegetables and a divine baked eggplant the definite highlights. I could do without the greasy, rice-heavy vegan burger, but will definitely be back for more of Karine's tropical-fruit topped combos and sugary sweet talk.