Turkish scrambled eggs from this downtown café are topped with feta and sausage
Fresh Start Bakery & Café is located at 595 Bay St., Toronto
There's a mini food renaissance underway at the Atrium.
Until a few years ago, there weren't many food options in the Atrium's retail and office complex, which is just steps away from Yonge-Dundas Square.
But now tucked away in the food court is Fresh Start Bakery & Café.
"This is one of the most diverse buildings in the city, if you ask me," said Korhan Kinazi, who co-owns the bakery with his brother, Tufan Kinazi.
"There are a lot of cultures in the offices above, and I think the food options are starting to reflect that."
This Turkish restaurant requires multiple visits to really peel back the layers and discover the hidden food gems.
You can pop in the mornings for a variety of baked goods, including the simit, a Turkish-style bagel similar to its Montreal counterpart because it's dense and chewy.
"You haven't had simit properly until you eat it the way we do for breakfast," Korhan Kinazi said.
Save the cream cheese for store-bought bagels, it ruins freshly-baked simit. For breakfast, the restaurant prepares the fresh bread with a generous slathering of clotted cream, which is slightly milky and nutty, and a thick drizzling of rose jam.
"My mother makes this jam," Kinazi said, beaming.
Once you have it, no substitutions will suffice.
Until two years ago, their café was located farther north on Bay Street. Since the Kinazi brothers moved to the Atrium, they slowly started introducing traditional Turkish dishes via weekly specials.
"When you're here, you're in our house. And so we try to serve you the food that we would eat at home — the way my parents used to cook for us" Tufan Kinazi said.
This is the kind of restaurant where it's best to ignore the menu altogether and instead have a conversation with the owners to help you decide what menu item to pick.
Hot specials rotate from steamed fish served with a medley of vegetables, to slow cooked meatballs and a fantastic jewelled eggplant dish.
"Our parents are retired. When they're in Canada, they help us by cooking all the dishes here," Korhan Kinazi said.
One of my favourite dishes at Fresh Start Bakery is the shakshuka, Turkish-style scrambled eggs.
"This is what my mom used to make for us as a kid," Korhan Kinazi said.
The vegetable and egg scramble is topped with feta cheese and a spicy sausage called sujuk, made of beef, garlic, sumac and red pepper.
The scramble arrives with over a dozen accoutrements, including green and black olives, an earthy olive paste, honey, two types of ajika (a spreadable paste made with roasted eggplant, tomatoes and walnuts), rose jam and clotted cream. You can also add sweet, sour, salty or umami accents to each spoonful.
It's easy to be overwhelmed by a display case at a bakery, but spend time with the café's pastry selection.
There is a variety of baked goods to choose from, including the poğaça, a wonderfully buttery roll stuffed with cheese and dill.
The baklava is made in-house, with thin layers of phyllo pastry cushioned with sweetened nuts and syrup.
And if you spot pistachio cookies, get one — better yet, buy a box. They're made in-house by the pastry chef and are a wonderful amalgam of pistachio, walnuts and coconut in a chewy vessel with a crisp edge.
Like many other food items on the menu, it's sure to create future cravings.