From the outside it looks like a family restaurant chain, but here at St. Clair and O'Connor, this is the one and only location for Jawny Bakers. For the last 15 years, in fact.
Brother and sister team Tom and Olga Zoras have owned the restaurant since its opening 15 years ago, and to make it truly a family affair, "Mom helps with the cleaning and Dad shops at the market everyday," according to Manager Nick Chajoglou.
He has been at the restaurant for a number of years, as has Manager Ga
Gavin says "A lot of the staff has been here for 8 to 10 years, which speaks volumes for the industry."
As for the name of the restaurant, Nick says it's "a secret they've never told. There is a story behind it, but they just smirk when asked about it. They've never told us."
The restaurant is covered in honeyed wood and 11 new LCD flat-screen televisions make it a perfect venue for the sports aficionado or gang of friends celebrating a birthday (Call now to reserve space for your holiday party or private event now as it is already booking up!).
Gavin calls the room's "natural tone colours warm and inviting" with photos of Toronto's past on the walls.
There are no beer signs or "eyesores," as Gavin calls them. The only thing you'll find on your table is a drinks list.
And speaking of drinks, this is not just a beer joint. They have a comprehensive wine list, and everything but one bottle is offered by the glass.
But if you're looking for a good drink, see Dave, the day bartender. He's said to make a great Caesar and Mojito.
The bar is somewhat separate from the restaurant which allows for large groups to gather and the bar generally sees "a more mature crowd than college kids" according to Dave.
As for the main dining area, the crowd varies on the time of day and week, but Nick says that the majority of people are locals.
"People who live here, who grew up here and came back, families," he says.
The restaurant can hold about 350 people, which is large for Toronto, and they cater to lunch for the businesses in the area and, according to Manager Gavin, who's been working here for almost 4 years, dinner is all about "families, parties and couples out on their first date."
But brunch draws a big crowd.
"We've had it for the past 4 or 5 years and the concept is more like a hotel than greasy spoon," says Gavin in his soft British accent. They sell a lot of Eggs Benedict, but have many options to choose from.
So you can come in for drinks and snacks on their patio (The patio has won several awards and stays open during the cooler evenings thanks to heaters), brunch on Saturday or Sunday or lunch and dinner any day of the week.
The menu is "fairly eclectic," with sandwiches, burgers, salads, steak, pastas and a monthly feature menu. The food is comfort food, with modern dishes featured on a monthly menu and the portions are big, so don't be surprised if you end up taking some home with you.
There are incredible specials during the week, like Margaritas for $3.75 on Mondays and the prices are good with pastas averaging about $12 and most dinner entrees costing less than $20.
Chef "Moorthy" as he's called, makes soups, sauces and curries on a daily basis and has been here since the opening. Kitchens Operation Manager Russell Pratt started here "when I was 19 and have been here for 9 years."
He used to frequent the place in high school and now is in charge of kitchen prep, line cooking, hiring/firing, dealing with staff, etc.
"There is very little that I don't do as far as the kitchen is considered."
The quality of food is a pride among the staff. There is Angus beef, halibut not haddock for the fish and chips, produce picked from the Food Terminal and soups, sauces and salads made fresh everyday.
The menu is always evolving and new items are showcased on the monthly feature menu and there are 2 major menu changes a year. Nick comes up with new drinks.
I have the Americana pizza ($ 12.89) which includes pepperoni, bacon, onion, mushroom and mozerella, Coconut shrimp appetizer ($ 10.89) which is covered in crisp, fried shrimp and honey and off the monthly feature menu, the West Coast Latke ($10.89).
The pizza is chewy with just the right amount of sauce and toppings per slice. The coconut shrimp are big, hot and sweet (perfect for the patio with some drinks), but it's the latke that I like the best. The shredded potato is crisp on the outside, creamy on the inside. It is topped with smoked salmon, fresh red onion sour cream and capers.
"Our goal is to provide good food and service in a great atmosphere," says Nick.