CLOSED: Oliver & Bonacini Café Grill (Toronto)

Location: Toronto, Canada
Address: 33 Yonge Street
Type of Meal: Lunches and Brunch

The O&B Café downtown is certainly in a prime location.  So after having lunch here three times over the last two weeks, I thought I’d share my experience with everyone.  After all, if you work in the downtown core, it’s a popular choice, so you’ll  likely end up here sometime soon.

One of my favourite dishes at O&B is their mushroom soup ($5.95/cup or $8.75/bowl).  The earthy pureed soup tastes creamy but doesn’t contain any butter or cream. To contrast the smooth texture, O&B tops it with snippets of chives and enoki mushrooms.  The soup is of course served piping hot, which is welcomed during the cold winter season.

The mains, on the other hand, have always been decent but never exceptional.  Some of the recent dishes I’ve tried are:
The breakfast pizza ($14.95), available on their weekend brunch menu, is topped with caramelized onions, maple glazed ham, cheese and a sunny side-up egg. The crust is thin and chewy but because of the uneven distribution of toppings (too heavily concentrated in the centre) the middle becomes soggy and gross.  In keeping with the breakfast these, the egg is useful for dipping your crust into.

If you’re hungry, their chicken burger ($15.25) is a large and is accompanied by a generous portion of sweet potato fries.  Topped with bacon (soft and not “crispy” as noted on their menu), cheese, crisp romaine lettuce, a thick slice of beefsteak tomato and red onions there are certainly a lot of flavours and textures.  Expecting the chicken to be a piece of chicken breast, I was surprised when it ended up being a chicken mixture formed into a patty. Although the patty was juicy, the consistency was a bit soft for my preference. 

During the latest visit, I tried the seared cheery snapper tacos ($15.95). Mixed feelings are abounding for this dish.

  • I enjoyed the plethora of sauces filling the tacos – avocado crema, sweet bbq/mole type sauce, tangy pineapple chutney and a dish of sour cream made each bite flavourful.  It also had great texture from the mix of coleslaw, sliced radishes and cilantro (albeit wilted).
  • But, improvements could be made to make this dish better.  Firstly, the store bought tortillas have got to be changed.  Understandably, O&B is not a Mexican cantina but sourcing hand-made tortillas can’t be that difficult in the city!  Secondly, the fish to toppings ratio is dismal given I could hardly taste the pan fried snapper; the coleslaw to fish ratio must be revisited.  Thirdly, what I like about Mexican food is the heat!  The three thinly sliced pickled jalapenos is simply not enough. Lastly, please invest in metal taco stand/holders.  Indeed, I enjoyed all the sauces, but after finishing my first taco, the second tortilla was soggy from being saturated from the extra moisture.  O&B, I can assure you that guests do not like soggy wraps that leave hands sticky.

If you’re not afraid of insanely fat and calorie-laden dishes, you should try the O&B macaroni & cheese ($15.95).  A shallow dish filled with elbow macaroni drenched in a creamy, buttery, white cheddar & Gruyère sauce.  As if that weren’t enough, pieces of roasted chicken, peas and dollops of goat cheese are mixed throughout.  I suggest ordering with an entrée salad and sharing with a friend as the dish is very rich.

 Macaroni and cheese (1)

Overall, I’ve always liked my order, but with the exception of their soup, have never ordered anything I’d want to have again.  Perhaps, for O&B Café & Grill, food is not the big draw.  Rather, it’s their central location, substantial dining area that can accommodate groups of any size and the professional & efficient service that attracts their patrons.  Whatever the attraction, O&B continues to be a popular lunch destination.

Overall mark - 7 out of 10

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Gastro World's Grading System
  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!
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Photo Sources:
  1. Macaroni and cheese - Monster Media (