Lemon squares, rhubarb pie and chocolate cake immediately grab my attention as I enter Upper Crust Cafe and Caterers. On display under glass, like high-end works of art, the desserts are protected from people like me – eager to sneak a finger through some sticky toffee.
I refrain from digging in fingers-first even when the dessert is removed from under the glass and placed on my table. There’s no shame in starting with sticky toffee pudding at a restaurant where sweets are their focal point. The sweetness of the toffee is a little over-the-top, but is nicely balanced by the mild sponge cake that I swirl through as much of the sauce as my sweet tooth can stand.
With an awning-covered front door and dark wood tables and chairs, the restaurant has a vintage feel, despite only being around since the ’80s. It’s like a mix between a ’40s-style diner and a vintage grocery store, which makes sense because the cafe also has deli selections, including salads, breads and cheeses – along with catering.
While the vibe is vintage, the menu is contemporary and reads like a multicultural map of the city. The Bobotie, for instance, is a South African dish that’s easily the lightest meatloaf I’ve ever had. The ground beef holds the flavour of curry, and the sweetness of raisins are complemented by onion.
Next up, we try the Thai coconut curry, with just a touch of a spicy kick, and the diner’s choice of shrimp or chicken. Perfectly grilled, the shrimp are mixed with huge chunks of carrot, broccoli, zucchini and asparagus. Again, traditional meets contemporary. (10909 86 Ave., 780-758-5599, cafeuppercrust.ca)