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Restaurant Review: Sadie’s Diner

November 16, 2011

Hi all!

Today I have a brand new restaurant review, and like my last restaurant review, this is a joint review with Katherine, Toronto’s food blogger/illustrator/comics artist triple-threat over at the Drawn & Devoured blog. And also like last time, I’m going to recommend right from the start that you stop reading this review and just go read hers, as the pictures will be prettier and the writing will be smarter. I’m not just saying this, either: all the responses I received about our last review were about how good Katherine’s post was, and I can only assume that meant that no one even bothered to read my half. To which all I have to say is: carry on.

Anyway, in case anyone is in fact still reading this, here’s my perspective on our meal. This time around we were checking out the Toronto vegan establishment known as Sadie’s Diner, a restaurant I’d been meaning to go to for ages but never got around to. I’d long heard good things about their brunch, and so, one sunny and crisp autumn morning, we squeezed into a little table and started poring over the menu.

Sadie’s definitely has the diner feel about it: Lots of bright tables and booths, quirky art hanging on the walls, and all the food items you’d expect from a greasy spoon, plus several not-quite-as-common (at least for Toronto) Mexican dishes. After several minutes of deliberating, we decided to go for one breakfast plate and one lunch plate. Katherine took on the breakfast, this heaping plate of vegan Huevos Rancheros ($10):

Traditionally, Huevos Rancheros is eggs served over tortillas and topped with salsa, cheese, and guacamole, and Sadie’s vegan version simply subs in scrambled tofu for the eggs. Unfortunately, I think both Katherine and I were fairly disappointed with this dish. The main problem was that the scrambled tofu completely fell flat—far from being genuine scrambled tofu, this felt more like someone has simply crumbled a brick of tofu with their hands. Seriously, I had doubts whether the tofu was fried or even seasoned at all: it had no flavor, no crispiness, and was just barely lukewarm. Even the Daiya cheese topping and several shakes of hot sauce couldn’t save this dish. The corn tortillas were probably the best part, but they definitely didn’t seem like they were made in-house. So I guess good job to Sadie’s for finding a good place to get their tortillas?

For my more lunchy plate, I went with the vegan Quesadilla ($9):

As their menu advertises, this quesadilla is filled with “roasted red peppers, portobellos, grilled vegetables, tangy sambal mayo, grilled eggplant, zucchini, and Daiya cheese.” What arrived on my plate, however, was mostly Daiya and tortilla. The vegetables, though present, were limp and totally overwhelmed by the surfeit of melted vegan cheese. Granted, this was Daiya, so it was at least edible vegan cheese, but as I’ve mentioned here before, I’m no Daiya devotee, and I found the particular cheddar cheese variety used in this quesadilla to be particularly disappointing: a convincing imitation of imitation cheese perhaps (think Kraft singles or some such nonsense), but nowhere near approaching an imitation of real cheese (trust me, my memory isn’t that bad). Given this, I didn’t understand why Sadie’s would emphasize this cheese so much, instead of choosing to highlight the veggies more—that’s certainly what I would’ve preferred them to do, at any rate. The best parts of this plate for me were the tortilla itself (again, not made in-house) and the sour cream (which I’m about 90% sure was just Tofutti sour cream), which is further indication that Sadie’s knows where to get stuff, if not so much how to prepare it.

At the end of our meal, both Katherine and I felt disappointed and underwhelmed. Especially now that it has the more recently opened Hogtown Vegan as competition, Sadie’s really needs to step up its game (which, incidentally, is the same way I felt after I visited Sadie’s Juice Bar & Ice Creem Parlour earlier this year). I left the restaurant thinking that this first visit to Sadie’s would likely be my last.

But as things turned out, I was back at Sadie’s a mere two days later—but for good reason! Every two months Sadie’s hosts a Pay-What-You-Can, All-You-Can-Eat vegan “Chili for Charity” dinner, benefitting various local charities and such. I was a little skeptical of heading back to Sadie’s for dinner after my brunch experience, but my plans were already made. Thankfully, the chili they had on offer was much better than anything I tasted the Sunday before (this horribly grainy photo notwithstanding):

Granted, this chili didn’t knock my socks off or anything, but I did end up coming back for two refills. However, even better than the chili is is the fact that (at least as I was told) the owner of Sadie’s pays for these dinners out of pocket, so that all the donations can go to the featured charity, and that’s just super awesome.

So what to say about Sadie’s in the end? It’s definitely not the place to go to impress your non-vegan friends, and I don’t think it’s even particularly impressive for vegans, but it is a nice little resto that does some quality work for the community. Tasting their chili convinced me that they are indeed able to put out a good dish, and there must be other quality plates on their menu. But it’ll probably be a while before I hunt them out for myself, as I still can’t say I’m in any rush to go back.

And that’s my take on Sadie’s! If you haven’t already, don’t forget to check out Katherine’s review. See you soon!

Until we eat again,

Willie

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