Hidden Gem of Downtown Toronto: the CHCA Café

At the Centre for Hospitality and Culinary Arts of George Brown College, the Chef School students offer gourmet meals on all weekdays at a restaurant called the Café.  “The café” is probably the most mundane name for—you guessed it –a café. But the menu of the Café is anything but mundane. When I entered the building for the first time, nothing seemed special at first glance. It’s a busy, cafeteria style café on the second floor of the building.  All meals are prepared and served by third-semester Integrated Culinary students under the direction of chef technologists.

Now let me tell you why I call it a hidden gem! The items offered at the café are not like any mom and pop shop ‘s spread but healthy gourmet entrées, snacks and baked goods. The menu reads like items on expensive restaurants but food gets served in humble take out boxes and trays. On some days they offer cult favourite fried chicken, biscuits and gravy and the very next day they may offer sweet potato gnocchi and vegetable Bolognese.  From lamb Rogan Josh to butter chicken, fish tacos to pad thai, the food offered is as diverse as Toronto itself. And it’s absolutely always fresh. The menu is always changing keeping some classics like Philly steak sandwiches available on most days.

Last week, I had lunch at the café and tried the roasted lamb shoulder with root vegetable pave, broccolini, braised leeks and gravy. Every bite was perfection.  Most entrees at the café range from $6-$8, tax included. I also tried the Philly Cheese Steak sandwich and to my delight it had roasted jalapeño pepper in it. The bun wasn’t soggy with sauce and the meat was juicy and medium rare. For dessert we shared cheesecake and donuts and packed all the financiers on the serving dish. Financier is a repeated item on the menu and only a $1 each! You can either find it plain or with chocolate chip. The cheesecake was not dense like store-bought frozen cheesecakes at all. It was fluffy and not overly sweet.  It’s easy to overeat at the café but the bill won’t show it! The juices are the only relatively pricey item on the menu but they are outsourced from the Juice Concepts. For $4 you get a 355 ml bottle. I had pear & apple juice with cinnamon and didn’t regret it! The freshly squeezed juice was truly refreshing.

What makes the café unique is the variety of food they offer at such incredibly low price point. It’s a win-win situation for all! The students get real life experience and we get to try healthy gourmet meals for lowest possible price. Shout out to my friend Sharmin Shamaly, a professor at George Brown for often bringing me baked goods from the Café and the Chef on the Run! I discovered this hidden gem only because of her!  The chef school is located at 300 Adelaide St. E and the (nearest subway station is King and streetcars are available). It costs more than $8 for a semi decent meal in any food court in downtown Toronto so why not try out the Café?  My only suggestion is to arrive early during lunch hours to avoid disappointment!

Day 19

Image Courtesy: Official Instagram account of the George Brown Cafe
Instagram: @georgebrowncafe twitter @gbccafe

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