You will wait for a table. You may wait an hour, perhaps more. If you find it shocking or infuriating, then you haven’t done your due diligence. Saving Grace is one of those neighbourhood cafés that people just know will require standing and waiting. And those in the know will do it over and over again, because they believe it’s worth it.
Saving Grace isn’t new. But since opening in 2000, it remains just as busy and popular as any new buzzed-about restaurant. On Dundas Street West near Grace, Saving Grace is now in an area that’s had an infusion of other hip cafés and restaurants. But the café was there long before anyone else. It was a destination brunch for many years. Owner Monica Grace Miller says she always wanted to be where she was needed. And 13 years ago, there was a need for a trendy little café that served great food on a quiet little stretch of Dundas Street West.
Many people assume the name is due to the café’s proximity to Grace Street. It’s not — it’s actually named after Monica and also because the café was her real life “saving grace.” Stuck in a job she hated and that made her miserable, Monica wanted so badly to open her own café that, for the first few months, she was the only employee.
The café doesn’t have a website, or a Twitter account, and Monica doesn’t even have a cell phone. But word of the food she makes has traveled by reputation all over the city. Here’s the trick: Regulars know that there’s a clipboard hanging on the wall right next to the door (on the inside)… write your name down on it. During your time spent waiting for a table, you may find yourself memorizing the menu on the chalkboard. These are just the specials. There is a regular menu to throw you off with more options. One item that has been on the menu since almost the beginning is the rajasthani eggs ($11.50)– scrambled eggs with spicy red onion and tomato, spicy paratha, chickpea masala and roasted potatoes.
When I visit there is a special of panfried eggs with a chipotle sausage crumble and a lovely fresh green salad with pickled peppers ($12). Plates of stuffed French toast with lemon ricotta and raspberries have me doubting my savoury meal choice. I realize (albeit too late) that I could have had a half order of the French toast with caramelized bananas on the regular menu ($9 full/$5 half).
Monica likes to call her menu, “eclectic” saying that she borrows and steals from across the globe. This is obvious with specials like Spanish pancakes with dark chocolate, olive oil and sour cherries, or the Brazilian baked eggs with a spicy tomato coconut stew. It’s the reason people from all over Toronto visit the little café with flavours from all over the world.