Stella’s Cafe and Bakery

IMG_0908-filtered9 Stars: April 5, 2010.

Stella’s Café and Bakery. 116 Sherbrook Street

Stella’s is easily one of my favourite breakfasts in the city. I particularly love their coffee and the hashbrowns. The atmosphere is quirky and cool with good music always playing.

image310-filteredThe reason we re-reviewed Stella’s is that the Sherbrook location is now doing table service. It puts a whole different spin on the experience, where before you had to get your own coffee and constantly cross paths with servers carrying precarious trays of food, now you can just sit and observe the crowd (it’s always crowded).

I’m a big fan of their baked eggs, but today I went with the French country omelette. Very tasty with lots of meat and veggies inside. The hashbrowns are just cooked perfectly, that’s the best way I can put it. They might very well be pre-frozen and factory-cut, but they come out of the kitchen crispy and tasty.image306-filtered

Leif had the Mexican breakfast, their most touted breakfast item (it was even printed on the bill that we should try it). Guacamole is a dollar extra, but worth it. Delicious salsa, aioli sauce and frijoles make it a scrumptious selection.

I love their jam, their fresh bread (excellent sourdough and multigrain) and their perpetual selection of cute girl servers. So why aren’t they a ten out of ten? Good question. There’s a certain je-ne-sais-quois that’s missing. A flash of brilliance… can you define it for us?

IMG_0915-filteredThe Sherbrook location just bought the neighbouring Laundromat which they apparently plan to turn into a bakery. Their patio is nice and might be expanded too. I’ll keep coming back!

SEPTEMBER 30, 2007.  STELLAS CAFE & BAKERY

166 OSBORNE

Hours of operation:

Mon – Sat   7 AM – 8:30 PM

Sun             8 AM – 5 PM

Cafe Breakfast   $6.95 plus coffee (free refills) and tax.

I must predicate this review with a fact: Stella’s is busy. Especially on a Sunday.

Busy busy busy. They’re busy because they’re amazing.

IMG_0917-filteredThe non-traditional serving methods of Stella’s are refreshing, but at the same time discombobulating to those not used to it. I had forgotten that you need to line up to order.

After ordering and taking my cute table marker (letters instead of the traditional numbers), I chose the dark roast out of the three types of coffee (regular, dark & decaf). The line to be seated stretched well past our table by the front window and when we got served our food, people started glancing wistfully at our table. I totally understand; the breakfast looks and tastes spectacular.

The highlight had to be the tub o’ jam. I love the little metal bowls it’s served in, and the homemade thick jam verges on orgasmic when splashed on bread. It’s available for purchase by the jar.

IMG_0916-filteredStella’s boasts an organic menu with as much organic meat as possible. My bacon had a pleasantly unique taste; It didn’t just taste like grill scrapings and neither was it dripping in its own fat. It was firm yet tender and tasty tasty. My eggs came perfectly over-easy, the restaurant-baked rye bread came well done as I’d requested and the potatoes were magnificent.

Seriously, magnificent. You can tell just by looking at them that they were sliced by people in the back, and the herbs sprinkled about them made for a mouth-watering good time. My plate came with a slice of orange and a sprig of parsley as garnish. We ate the orange but left the parsley. (Are you supposed to eat parsley or just look at it? Leif)

The only downside to the whole experience had to be wading through massive crowds in order to refill your own coffee. We’ve never wanted a server more than when we drained our cups. The servers work hard though, even without table ordering/refilling. It must take fantastic energy to schlep around the crowds as they do and enormous patience to barge through the line with hot plates of food in their arms. Kudos to all the beautiful people working hard to make sure we’re properly fed.

It must be noted that when ordering, while all their food is exquisite, the baked goods really draw your attention. I was very close to abandoning the whole idea of having eggs and just eating the bread pudding instead. Also tempting: banana bread, cinnamon buns and the gooey brownies lying just inches away behind glass. There’s nothing on the menu that I wouldn’t try and probably love. The lox and cream cheese bagel is a local favourite.

While there was no verbal pressure to vacate our seats after finishing eating, there were a couple of worried glances our way by the servers, trying to figure the logistics of the crowd. Well, we paid for our breakfast and we were going to enjoy sitting there. After we’d been there a full hour we couldn’t justify occupying our coveted table anymore. There’s only so long you can look at the same people waiting in line right beside your table before you start to feel guilty.

[A discussion of eggs at our table led to the misinterpretation of “quail’s eggs” as “whale’s eggs” and a snappy image was generated of whale nests on the bottom of the ocean. While quail eggs are tiny and tasty, I would doubt that a whale egg would even fit in the building.]

The atmosphere of the restaurant is a little odd, but not unpleasant. We were finding it hard to justify the need for a mini-mall in Osborne, especially one that quizzically holds a restaurant, a fancy furniture store and a radio station. (The fancy furniture store has moved out. Summer 2009)

We enjoyed fantasies of Stella’s buying out the furniture store and expanding the seating area. There are rumours suggesting as much and we all wait for the day to come. Stella’s is more upscale than the traditional greasy spoon, yet it still feels welcoming and warm. The place is run by a tight-nit group of young people who hold several groups on facebook dedicated to the Stella’s employees. They always look like a happy bunch in the pictures.

The absence of “coffee served at table” service is a bit annoying, but the servers are friendly and do a good job. A truly unique place to eat. You’ll spend a little more money here than other places, but the quality cannot be denied.