Surprisingly I hadn't heard about Hoof Cafe until Sean mentioned it to me from a review in NOW Magazine. When Sean called me later to rave about a pig-centric restaurant, I wasn't entirely convinced. I know, I know...what the heck could I be thinking?
After some debate about whether or not we were really going to head downtown on a Sunday morning just to eat breakfast, Sean decided to throw caution to the wind and go for it. We passed by Hoof Cafe at 9:40 on a Sunday morning and guess what, not a soul standing outside the 30-seater restaurant. Sean and I decided to waste some time in the car before heading outside to stand in line but just 10-15 minutes later, the line was long! Sean and I quickly joined the line and it's a good thing we did because the guy behind us was the last one to get a table. If I had stalled in the car any longer and we hadn't gotten a seat (we got two right in the middle of the bar) right at 10 when the restaurant opened, Sean would have been VERY mad at me. Oops! Note to everyone out there: You MUST show up before 10--forget what NOW magazine says.
I accidentally deleted the photo I took of the outside of the restaurant so imagine a white brick facade with a hanging black sign with a white outline of a pig and the words "Hoof Cafe" in cursive. That's what you'll see along Dundas St. West, at Gore Vale Rd.
Once seated, right in the middle of the bar and after getting our drinks (grapefruit juice for me and an Americano for Sean), Sean and I couldn't really decided what to order because everything sounded so good. We stared at the chalkboard menu for quite some time. Do we get the rabbit pancakes or the pig tail and grits or the sucking pig benny or the ploughman's plate or the french toast with foie gras? Seriously decisions had to be made! After pondering for quite some time, Sean and I settled on the following:
Bone marrow donut holes (like Timbits) with sour cherry jam, rolled in granulated sugar:These come six to an order ($3) and are hot little nuggets of yum! Seriously. Seriously on the hot part though. When they arrive, do not dig in! Even though you're crazy excited to bite into your first bone marrow donut hole and experience your first taste of something at the Hoof Cafe, don't do it! You will burn your tongue and it will mar the rest of your tasting experience.
Next up was the toast with jam and goat butter ($4)...
Is it just me or does our blob of jam look like a frog to you? And does the goat butter look like a piece of lard? Well anyway, it surely didn't taste like any of that. Sean could detect a subtle taste of...of...y'know...that je ne sais quoi when you're eating goat cheese. It's like you just know it's goat cheese. Anyway, being obsessed with brie and goat cheese, I had to figure out what the heck he was talking about but sadly, could not pick up on the distinct goat flavour :( It was still a great way to enjoy goat butter though. The jam...I have no clue what kind of jam it was...strawberry, cherry?...it was great too; not too sweet or viscose, it went quite well with the goat butter.
And just when you thought this tiny body couldn't eat anymore, we have our main breakfast meals! I ordered the Sucking Pig Benny ($13):Two poached free-range eggs atop a mound of tender pulled pork atop a biscuit. A jalapeno hollandaise topped everything off and onto the side, one of my favourite greens--a simple-dressed argula with with homemade spicy pork rinds. Yum!
Sean's breakfast: buckwheat pancakes with rabbit, blueberries, bacon crisps/curls and candied celery ($14):
Sean was the winner on this day. His plated combo of sweet and salty left me with a taste that I can only compare to the eggplant maki consumed at Kinki and if you know me, you'll know that I've been talking about this damn eggplant maki since it was eaten at this restaurant in Ottawa almost five years ago to this day. Seriously! Explosion of flavours in my mouth and no syrup necessary--not that they even serve it with syrup. I could have devoured Sean's plate but being the lady that I am, I touted the merits of his dish and then went back to mine--a little bit sadly.
And lastly, the dish Sean had been waiting for, bone marrow ($5) served with small toast crisps alongside a dish of sea salt:
Ah, bone marrow. Thankfully, I'm one of those crazy kids who got fed bone marrow when they were like...I dunno...6 or 7? My earliest recollection of bone marrow comes from a stew either one of my parents would make. The stew would sometimes contain carrots, peas and potatoes (wow, so "white people" for Asian parents in the 80s) and sometimes other things, but the one thing my brothers and I fought over was the bone marrow. And we either used a tiny little butter knife (thanks British Airways--which now means I must have been 5 or 6) or the smallest, narrowest teaspoon in the house we could find to scoop up little blobs of tasty fat. And oh, turns out that bone marrow is not fat at all but a tasty form of protein and healthy fats. Not sure if this is true but more research will have to be done. I should ask my parents, really. Anyway, whoa, I digress. Back to the bone marrow dish. It always reminds me of my childhood and it always will; that meaty, fatty flavour spread on a little piece of toast and sprinkled with a bit of sea salt...the whole thing just pops in your mouth. So, so good.
I am still thinking about Hoof Cafe. Writing this review has made me really hungry. I want pork products and I want them now. Obviously the only vegetarian thing in this restaurant is the juice (orange/grapefruit), coffee, tea and French Toast (sans foie gras). Let's just put it this way, if you're not a pork fan, head in the opposite direction. But if you're a fan of Porky just like I am (and trust me, I am), head downtown really early on a weekend because you won't regret it. And don't forget about the donuts--because they're not on the chalkboard menu. For $3, you'll thank me later!