On the corner of Dupont and Shaw is a little teal building that I've been eyeballing for months. It's just something about that shade of blue green that I can't pull my eyes away from. Or maybe it's that the menu has been taunting me from the window every since I glanced it over. Yes, Universal Grill had sunk its hook into me. Time for a review! By some stroke of fortune, my buddy JJ lives right around the corner. A few of us rolled over there Sunday morning to see what they had to offer.
Universal Grill attracts the expected crowd of baby brunchers, and it's not very large on the inside - about eight tables and the bar. We wound up waiting nearly 40 minutes, and for some unexplained reason people who arrived after us were seated first.
Inside, it's a colour-coded classic diner, with mica flecked counter tops in black and silver, and sea green tile to match the exterior. With a proliferation of plants and vintage decoration, it really is lovely to sit in, with a cozy mothers kitchen feel. If you crane your neck, you can see into the kitchen.
Since it was a lazy Sunday, we started with some drinks- a Ceasar for me, a mimosa for JJ, and coffee all 'round the table! The Ceasar was spicy, sweet and heavy on the Worcester. There was some very pretty cucumber and lemon wedge to garnish it up. My sister had ordered a cappuccino, and it was traditional with a single shot and a full head of foam- the flavour was too watery for my preference, and the espresso and milk weren't married to a good consistency. The drip was spot on, though.
11$ - 'Huevos' is Spanish for eggs, and these ranchers eggs are a fun blend of Mexican bean chili and tortilla, and gringo fries and fried egg, all served like a tostada in layers (requisite sour cream and guacamole on the side, thanks). I barely had a second to grab a forkful and jot down some notes before JJ wolfed everything down! Even without our grumbling stomachs it was mouth watering. I tasted a lot of paprika in the chili, which made it complement the greasy flat egg. Major hangover absorption qualities sensed here. Fries and tortilla added crunch and texture.
12.50$ - One of the daily specials was this horrifying tall mound of peameal, challah and egg called the P.L.T. Oh, the name cannot do it justice. The dry and fluffy challah was cut into generous hunks like ham fists to hold together the stacks of tender bacon, the thick frittata of egg, layers of lettuce, wedges of tomato, and a dripping lava of cheddar. There was a completely unnecessary side of spuds, crispy polyhedra with dense butter laden hearts weighing down an already intimidating meal. Mary was in trouble, that was plain, so we all helped out by grabbing bites of her meal. It was a juicy and bold creation, not shy on the meat, with lots of natural salt. The home fries were lightly seasoned if at all, and were pleasant in their simplicity.
11$ - The omelette of the day was a classic concoction of creamy and rich goat cheese mixed into very generous, salty heaps of sharp spinach, and halved crimini mushrooms. The omelette was very big, not just for it's diameter but for the depth of its stuffing. It was a round hill of filling, oozing fresh spinach juice onto the plate, and glistening with butter. There were four slices of crunchy toast to pile the garden grown creation onto, and a return of those simple spuds. When I tried this, I could swear I tasted a hint of lemon curiously hidden in with all the other flavours, and with something as creamy and rich as a goat cheese omelette, it seemed like a natural and clever decision.
7$ + 3.5$ - By itself this oatmeal is very filling. The bowl seems neverending, just like in the Grimms story 'Sweet Porridge'. It's thick and glutinous, not too dry or wet. Maybe I should be referring to Goldilocks instead, since this is just right? Very much like my go-to breakfast at home, which is porridge and banana, I felt comforted to slowly dig to the bottom of the gooey grey grain. The difference here is that this is not instant, which is why the texture is so much more satisfying than my 1-minute meals. Also, this porridge comes with a thick and zesty homemade compote of raspberry, which cuts through the weight of the banana and porridge and adds an amazing interest that maple syrup couldn't hope to compete with. There were also orange slices and melon, to add to the cornucopia of colours. I'm a big lover of chorizo, so I ordered a sausage on the side as a complement to what I didn't realize would be an obscene amount of oatmeal. This chorizo was dry and had a very noticeable flavour of onion. It was mild for spice, with a crispy, chewy skin.
12$ - One of the least traditional items on the menu is this fritter of potato and onion, a potato pancake of great ambition in size. I think the Universal Grill has a good thing going for fulfilling appetites. Nobody left the restaurant hungry. We may have left much rounder, though. Using gravlax instead of smoked salmon seems like a natural progression for a breakfast item. Unlike smoked salmon, the cured salmon of the gravlax is more tender, easily sucked apart. I find smoked salmon is stringier. There was a very long list of ingredients for the curing process, but Jack Daniels struck me. Hair of the Dog in a most concealed form? The gravlax also wound up with a beautiful raspberry colour, and altogether the dish was visually appealing as well as flavourful. The latke was filled with onion, carrot julienne and potato, fried until the outside became delightfully crisp. with a heap of fresh and crunchy greens, cucumber, carrot, lemon and tomato topped salad, it was a refreshing breakfast on a big plate.