Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Hey! Restaurant

When I first heard that Roncesvalles’ then soon-to-open Hey Meatball! outlet was being renamed just Hey! and would be focused on Italian food in general, instead of meatballs,  I was thrilled because I don’t eat meatballs but I love Italian food.  And then I heard that it would also be offering brunch. This place just kept getting better and better.

So when I read this rather unflattering BlogTO review about the freshly opened Hey! I was disappointed. I’d had really high hopes for this place and now it was sounding like it was going to end up as another unfriendly restaurant serving mediocre food.

But despite those concerns, I decided to give Hey! a shot and two Saturdays ago, Husband, a friend, the friend’s male escort and I stopped by for brunch and damn, am I glad we did because the food at Hey! is great.

Because I wasn't thinking, I failed to bring my camera to the restaurant so you don’t get to see any blurry photos of our meals. But trust me, everything looked lovely and very edible.

Hey! offers a different menu for every meal but for brunch, there is always a selection of favourites (waffles, pancakes, eggs), something to represent to the neighbourhood (kiełbasa) and something a little different (on Saturday, you could order a huge slice of beef toutiere).

On Saturday, my friend and I ordered the cheddar cheese omelette, which came with a side of arugula salad, while the guys ordered a dish that featured two fried eggs, a braised pork and bean cassoulet and toast.

While my meal was simple it was very tasty. The omelette, which cost just under $11, was perfectly cooked, filled with flavourful, sharp cheddar and absolutely massive. My salad was also fresh, crispy and covered in just the right amount of olive.

The guys also loved their meals though they both agreed that the portion size could have been bigger and that the cassoulet could have contained more meat. But for $13, I think the guys got plenty of food and as we learned, if you want more meat for your cassoulet, you just have to ask (yes, the kitchen sent over a little bowl packed with pork at our request).

After seeing the toast the guys got, I also ordered a couple of slices and quickly wished that I’d ordered a whole loaf, it was that good. While white, farm-style bread is currently the only bread Hey! serves, it’s so fluffy and perfect that I don’t think they need to offer any other options.

The favourite item though was easily the orange juice. This was one of the best orange juices I've ever tasted due to having achieved a perfect balance between sweetness and tartness. While it was pricey, over $5 for a large glass, it was worth every penny and yes, of course it was hand squeezed in-house.

The juice isn't the only thing made in house. According to the waitress, Hey! makes everything in house except for the olive oil and the bread, which she said they bought “next store” (the Thin Blue Line Cheese shop is next store and does sell bread so maybe it comes from there?). There's also an emphasis on organic food, the eggs are all from cage-free chickens, the pork is heritage pork and everything is GMO-free.

The décor and atmosphere of Hey! is ideal for brunch for a casual dinner.  It’s bright, open and done up in that urban-farmhouse style that’s so very in right now. The bulk of the seating is up on the second floor where there’s also a back room that would be ideal for a birthday brunch party.

I only had two fairly small issues with my meal at Hey! The first had to do with the tables being too close together upstairs. While it wasn’t too bad when we were there and the restaurant was just over half full, things are going to be pretty squishy when that place is packed (and given that this place sells tasty food at reasonable prices in a brunch-happy neighbourhood, I have no doubt that it will soon start regularly reaching capacity).

The second issue is that service was a bit slow. While the kitchen was quite quick, our waitress was slow with everything from taking our orders to clearing empty plates. But once she was at our table, she was friendly, knowledgeable about the menu and very apologetic that rye bread wasn't available. So it wasn't bad service, just slow service that hopefully will improve as the staff gets some more experience under their belts.

In addition to housing a proper restaurant, Hey! is also home to a juice bar and a bakery that are aimed at people who just want to pop in and grab something quick.

Will I go back again: Yes! The food is great, the price is right and I can walk to it.

Should you try it out: Yes! Okay, maybe if live in the Beach it’s not worth the trip but if you live, or are going to be, in the neighbourhood, do check this place out.

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