Pass the Pork! Lunch at Café Belong

Café Belong is nestled amid the lush gardens, refurbished buildings and large art installations at the Evergreen Brick Works, along the Don Valley. With the Brick Works’ weekly farmer’s market, its ample local goods and produce, and its low-flow toilets, Café Belong is situated as fine dining meets green conscientious.

It’s the latest project of Chef Brad Long’s, a veteran of the Toronto food community who’s perhaps best known for being a host on Food Network Canada’s Restaurant Makeover. I recognized him immediately, moving swiftly but calmly through his slick new restaurant that only opened last weekend. Chef Brad Long, a.k.a. B. Long, of Café Belong, where YOU belong. Pun very much intended.

Though a little pricey for a casual Sunday afternoon, the fresh, local ingredients and bright, open space make it the perfect spot if you’re in the mood to treat yourself. And we were.

We started with the Tomato Salad with pot barley, micros, cucumber and a yogurt mint dressing ($12). Yogurt dressing is a blessed thing and I spent the duration of my time with that salad contemplating ways to DIY this tasty dressing at home.

To accompany the salad, we also started with the Rosemary Kugel & Jus ($8), which is foodie code for potato pancake with sour cream, applesauce and gravy. This was my least favourite dish. I found the beef flavour in the jus overwhelmed the milder ingredients. The whole point of potato with sour cream and applesauce is to enjoy the gentle flavour combination.

Though perhaps I’m just not such a fan of beef. As a diner who errs on the side of meatlessness, I was pleased to discover a variety of vegetarian options.

For the main course we ordered the Vegan Moroccan Chickpea Stew ($15) which is comfort food with a blast of interesting spicing, including accents of cinnamon and molasses. The dish arrived at our table in a Le Creuset tagine (a Moroccan stewing pot with a sloped chimney-shaped lid), which put to shame the presentation and thrill of a sizzling plate of fajitas.

Another entrée at our table was the Frittata ($13), which achieved a texture and creaminess that is rare in an egg-dish. Baked with the warm flavours of cherry tomatoes, mushrooms and spinach and served alongside a crisp green salad and tangy vinaigrette, it was quintessential summer.

The standout menu item was the Sweet and Sticky Pork with apples ($17) that paired pork and bacon in an asian-inspired sauce, sending my (semi) meatless ways right out the window. Everything on the plate was cooked to juicy perfection. Highly recommend!

We finished with the Raspberry Apricot Crostata with fresh cream ($7) and a butter tarte. Not just any butter tarte though. It was a beautiful marriage of rich, flakey pastry and a tender, sweet filling. It was such a favourite at the table that I didn’t get a chance to snap a photo of it before it was nearly all gobbled up.

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