There was a proliferation of bike helmets and plush toys in Tommy’s Café during my recent visit to the breakfast-focussed venue. It makes sense, in retrospect. It was an early visit on a Sunday, so who else would be awake and out the door before 9 a.m. but mountain bikers and parents of young children?
I imagine Tommy’s must do a brisk business with the former set given their proximity to the trails at Fromme and their commitment to large portions. After a gruelling morning of climbing switchbacks I’d absolutely recommend dropping in here for a carb reload.
Somehow Tommy’s Café has snuck under my radar for the last six-plus years of writing this column, which is odd because it was a regular haunt for my wife DJ and me during our nascent North Shore life back in the early oughts. This meal was well overdue and I am pleased to have reacquainted myself with the menu here. In particular, I am glad to have discovered a new breakfast food that, up until now, was not part of my regular repertoire: perogies. That’s right, I’m talking about those plump, weighty, potato-filled dumplings fried in a cast-iron pan with onions and topped with sour cream, the way nature intended.
For breakfast. Tommy’s does several dishes on their breakfast and lunch menus that feature these filling Eastern Euro specialties, including the one I chose for my meal: the Bohunky, a substantial dish of five large, pan-fried perogies with onions, two eggs over-easy (egg preparation is your choice), a butterflied half Polish barbecue smokie, potato hash browns, and buttered sourdough toast. I ate this dish at 8:50 a.m. and was not hungry again until early evening. The perogies on the plate, stuffed simply with potato, had the slightly blackened, speckled singe that is a telltale sign of cast-iron pan frying, a method of cooking that is not pursued in my household, but one that inspires nostalgia for my grandmother’s cooking. She had a perfectly seasoned pan, the result of decades of old school cooking. If memory serves, a well-meaning relative immersed that pan in soapy water and took a scrub brush to it following my grandmother’s passing, the culinary equivalent of lobotomizing it. Happily, Tommy’s fry-ups have a depth of flavour that is hard to replicate at home, the hash browns on my plate also offering a nice external caramelization.
I noted a dish on Tommy’s huge menu (I counted 36 items on the breakfast menu, and an additional 21 on the lunch) called The Mountain Man Breaky. It consists of a six egg omelette with bacon, ham, sausage, cheddar, spinach, and mushrooms, as well as two waffles, four perogies, baked beans, and toast. I am not burly enough to tackle such a combination, but I applaud anyone who makes it through this dish.
My wife DJ, along for the ride with our youngest daughter, chose The Valley for her breakfast. It was comprised of a thick slice of marbled rye toast topped with organic greens tossed in a very light, subtle vinaigrette, plus sliced avocado, and two poached eggs topped with crumbled feta. The dish had an undeniable fresh brightness to it, but proved to be filling nevertheless. The feta added a welcome briny saltiness to the greenery.
Our daughter tucked into a waffle from the kids’ menu. The deep pocketed Belgian-style waffle is served with sliced strawberries and ramekins of whipped cream and maple syrup, allowing parents to dole out the indulgences as needed rather than challenging young appetites to tackle the whole lot.
Lest you get the wrong impression from my descriptions of ultra-hearty fare above, I should clarify that Tommy’s extensive menu also includes a number of more health-minded options, such as a Smoked Tofu benny with house made vegan hollandaise, a Greek quinoa bowl with spinach and tzatziki, or a veeGhan Bowl with tomatoes, onions, roasted red peppers, spinach, mushrooms, tofu, and miso gravy, all served on a bed of pan fries.
The café has a homey charm to it, with retro framed mirrors and pictures on the wall. Bottomless coffee is self-serve and the kitchen team pops out now and then to either run a dish or talk to a table, giving diners the sense of eating at a friend’s place. I have seen the weekend lineups span the block and the small, Ross Road-facing patio is in high demand throughout the summer, so I advise an earlier visit, if it’s in the cards for you.
The breakfast dining scene has exploded on the North Shore in recent years with some heavy hitters in the culinary world seeking to carve out a niche in this specialized meal service. But as many venues pursue high-concept fare, long-running mainstays like Tommy’s continue to draw crowds by tapping into a basic insight: for most diners, breakfast is comfort food; simple and familiar are prized attributes for the bleary-eyed.
Our meal for three, including coffee and apple juice, was $42 before gratuity.
Tommy’s Café, 1308 Ross Road, Lynn Valley. tommyscafenorthshore.com.