Maha's Egyptian Brunch: Why This East-End Gem is My Favourite
The first time I made the trek down Gerrard to the East End, I'd heard a lot of buzz about Maha's brunch, famed all around Toronto for their twist on Egyptian classics. So, I got up at 6 am to head over there by 8 and avoid the lines. (Is there any bigger sign of dedication to the brunch blog life? I think not.)
I arrived at 8:15, and got one of the last remaining tables. An hour later, as I was leaving, there was already a long line outside... so my 6am wake-up hadn't been such a bad idea after all. (Large groups not recommended, at least not for Maha's brunch times.)
Maha's small, cozy interior makes it feel as though you've entered someone's home and are about to have an intimate meal with them, as does the soft Egyptian music playing in the background. Although there's limited space inside, there's also a small outdoor patio: perfect for the summer. ('m also a big fan of all the plants!)
The quirkiness of Maha's décor is matched only by just how delicious the food is. When I last visited, we decided to start with one of their famous honey-cardamom lattes - iced, since it was ridiculously hot and humid outside.
I was initially concerned that I wouldn't be getting the full experience if I got it iced instead of hot, but the waitress assured me otherwise.
And she was right.
Iced, the latte was amazingly strong and sweet. It's a must-try for cardamom lovers like myself (or for anyone who wants a sweet treat while waiting for their food to arrive). I also really appreciated that some of the ice cubes were actually made out of coffee, ensuring that the latte didn't get any weaker as the ice melted.
As for the food, it was even better.
First up: Maha's Egyptian Falafel. It was definitely one of the most unique brunch meals I've had--and I mean that as a compliment. The central feature was the soft-boiled eggs wrapped in falafel and drizzled with garlic sauce, and they were absolutely delicious. (How do you even do that?) The real clincher, however, was the garlic sauce. It was creamy, smooth, and delicious.
The fresh flavours of the salata balady, an Egyptian specialty made with onion, tomato and cucumber, provided a fresh counterpoint to the cumin fries. I don't like parsley or raw onions, and even though this meal had both, I still found it delicious. (If that isn't a recommendation, what is?)
The Cairo Classic also comes highly recommended. Scooping the fava beans from this traditional Egyptian dish onto the balady bread, similar to pita, made for a great flavour combination. Although the feta sauce was extremely salty, it was creamy and distinctive. Although it may seem like a heavy meal, I left feeling satisfied but not stuffed.
For a slightly sweeter brunch option, you can try their Date Grilled Cheese.
It comes with a side of either cumin home fries (my pick!), salata balady, or their lentil soup. I'd recommend getting it with the fries mostly because you'll then get the garlic sauce, which is a great option for dipping the sandwich!
As for the sandwich itself, it was delicious. The bread was buttery and crispy, and the combination of the sweet dates and the savoury cheese was absolutely perfect.
Get your protein in! For a meatier option at Maha's, you can try the Basturma Scramble. Accompanied by the salata balady (get your veggies in!) and their classic balady bread, you're sure to leave satisfied.
The fenugreek with which the beef is cooked is a flavour that many people who aren't used to traditional (by which I mean "white", in this context) won't be used to — but it's a great addition to this savoury meal, and the perfect reason to try it out!
Overall review of Maha's brunch: 5/5
Would I line up two hours for this meal, as some reviewers on Yelp have been known to do? Nope, but Maha's was still well worth the journey to the east side of Toronto as well as the hype. (It was definitely worth the early wake-up, too.)
The variety of options (many of which are vegetarian) as well as the uniqueness of the flavours combine to make this my favourite brunch restaurant in Toronto. I'll definitely be back again to sample new dishes, or just to eat my old favourites again!
Maha's brunch at a glance:
You can find their menu here
Good for: couples or small groups
Parking: on the street only (but it isn't a busy area)
Lots of vegetarian + some vegan options; everything is also halal
Saturday-Sunday 9am to 5 pm