Pan Chancho: Breakfast of Champions
Going out for brunch is usually the answer to life’s greatest dilemmas. Take the Sunday before last, for instance: I, along with a couple of out of towners visiting Kingston for the awesome Great Lake Swimmers show on Wolfe Island, was supposed to be running in the Beat Beethoven race, but the torrential downpour outside my window coupled with the fact that one of my guests had left one of her running shoes back home, pushed us off-track in more ways than one. Nipping our state of inertia in the bud, we hopped in the car and drove straight to Pan Chancho for a hearty start to the day.
Full disclosure: I really love Pan Chancho (44 Princess St, located lamentably–for now–in the Ground Zero-esque construction zone of Lower Princess), which is the bakery/cafe offshoot of another hometown hero, Chez Piggy. Their premade sandwiches and salads may cost an arm and a leg, and the place may often be panic attack-inducingly crowded, but I defy you to dig into one of their profiteroles or framboise chocolate squares and say it wasn’t worth the money or the time or the huddled masses. I ate at their cafe for the first time a year ago, and it quickly became one of my favourite lunch and brunch destinations. Their food is always fresh and interesting, and for the most part the service is unpretentious and prompt. You might wait a little while for a table if you don’t have a reservation, and you’ll certainly pay more for brekkie than other local favourite spots like Peter’s Place or Star Diner, but you’ll be glad you did.
Sunday’s brunch started on a high note–we only had to wait five minutes for our table. We busied ourselves in the mercifully empty bakery while we waited, gazing longingly at the cheese counter and nibbling at samples of various pastries. Finally cozily nestled at a corner table with a view of the storm raging outside, we started our meal with some lemon currant rolls fresh from the oven, served with jam on the side. We hardly thought we’d have room for another dish after that, but somehow we soldiered on.
In a vain attempt to get out of my smoked salmon platter rut, I ordered the Breakfast Wrapped Up, a gooey, cheesy egg burrito served with black beans and corn salad on the side. Although I really enjoyed it, I wish it had come with more hot sauce, but really, that’s a pretty minor complaint. One of my visiting friends had the smoked salmon plate in my honour, and was kind enough to offer me a bite. The fennel cream cheese that comes with the dish is truly out of this world, and the giant chunks of cucumber make you feel like you’re doing something really virtuous by ordering it. The third member of our crew had the Three Egg Torta, ordered partly because it came with roasted potatoes (a caveat: many of Pan Chancho’s sides have to be ordered separate from the main dishes, which can add to the cost of your meal). While the fritatta-style eggs were apparently very good, the potatoes left something to be desired, namely, more of them. A rather chintzy portion was a real disappointment.
I was also a little bummed out that we were obviously there too early in the day for the usual brunch specials; Pan Chancho’s chefs always seem to have something interesting up their sleeves, and it was too bad that our early-bird-catching-the-worm attitude meant we missed out on a few extra choices. On the whole, though, this was a meal well worth the visit, and by getting in first thing in the day, I got home in time for a decadent mid-morning nap. There are few things that beat a good meal and a good sleep, and having both in such fine form was a real treat.
9 thoughts on “Pan Chancho: Breakfast of Champions”
I was forced to buy their cookbook for my wife. It was either that or continue to endure the miraculous prices for their take out fare. Ridiculous prices or not, I agree that their menu is made of pure magic.
their French toast is amazing! you have to try it next time
Heavenly! I would have to say Pan Chancho is tied only with Woodenhead's and Tango for my favourite Kingston places to eat. All 3 have good atmosphere and good food. But Pan Chancho wins the delicious lunch award by far. I see their name way to often on my Visa bill!
Pan Chancho is by some distance the best in Kingston for lunch. And it's only because it doesn't open in the evening that it isn't the best for dinner too! Great breakfasts for sure, but not the place for a fry-up… and you know sometimes you want a fry-up.
The bread is also fantastic, it has a superb local cheese counter and the deserts are awesome. Sure it's not cheap but in this case, you get what you pay for.
Yes, the food is tasty, creative overall, and the service is excellent. However, I'm tired of the menu and the same baked goods. I also feel that the quality has gone downhill in the last couple of years. Don't get me wrong–I don't mind paying for good food that's really original but I think there's a bit of resting on the laurels going on here. The breads aren't as chewy tender as other breads I've had in town. And the pain au chocolate and croissants aren't as flaky and buttery as they used to be. Will I stop going there? No! However, I won't go as often.
I have to agree with Dee. Their dine-in options aren't quite worth the hype of the wait and the crowd (in my opinion). However, I really enjoy their dine-out options. Horribly overpriced (their salads, chicken, fish options especially) but really quite tasty. In particular, their roast beef and their chicken salad sandwiches are pretty yummy. Grab that, grab a chocolate profiterole, eat your goods at home (or on a park bench if you can't wait), then fall asleep in a nice sleep coma.
Dee – where do you think you can find better bread in Kingston? Genuinely interested. Pan Chancho is the only place I have found that makes bread and patisserie 'properly' (i.e. in an artisan fashion).
Flying Monkey: Discussions on food are usually subjective. I can't go into a lot of detail here but I will make 2 points. First, let me highlight that Pan Chancho does have delicious beautifully made bread overall. Of course they do! I just feel that the quality has declined in some of their loaves over the last while. The patisserie, in my humble opinion, is also done "properly". However, I think there too the quality has declined and when compared to other patisseries I've been to, PC is not really as good as those. To be fair, the patisseries I frequent are in Toronto, but after eating a pain au chocolat there, I'm thinking Pan Chancho's could be better. There is a standard and I don't think they are meeting it these days.
Bread-wise, off the top of my head, I would say Fred's was very good but I don't think he/they got the hype Pan Chancho always does. I would even say the Ace baguette (at Loblaw's!!) is better than the hard crunchy one at Pan Chancho–a local chef even told me this a few years ago and I agree. For the money Pan Chancho charges, the bread and pastry had better be top-notch. (And remember, I'm still a fan of PC despite, my comments.)
Hi Dee – I am sure there are better things in Toronto, and I am not attacking your comments. I just wanted to know who makes great bread in Kingston, so I could try it.