White Lily Diner

Address: 678 Queen St. E. (at Broadview Ave.), 416-901-7800, whitelilydiner.ca

Chef: Ben Denham

Hours: Wednesday to Sunday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Reservations: Dinner only

Wheelchair access: Yes

Price: Dinner for two with coffee, tax and tip: $35

Goodbye, burgers. Hello, patty melts.

In case you haven’t tried these deliciously greasy American sandwiches — imagine a grilled cheese hooking up with a hamburger patty — Riverside’s White Lily Diner makes a particularly fine example ($12).

It starts with thick slices of white bread, baked in-house. Aged cheddar is melted into a silky sauce. Poblano peppers are diced into a lively relish straight out of a Mexican cantina. All this, plus a six-ounce beef patty, is griddled in butter until golden.

A colleague calls it “the hangover cure of glory.” It’s also good sober.

The vibe

Despite the name and the retro signage, White Lily isn’t a classic diner.

For one, it serves trendy fermented kombucha ($4.50), sprouted grain salads ($6) and a hummus plate ($9.50).

For another, White Lily doesn’t keep classic diner hours. Unlike the Patrician Grill on King St. E. (“nothing fancy since 1953”), where you can get a cheeseburger at 7:30 a.m., White Lily opens no earlier than 10 a.m. It’s more brunch than breakfast.

Yet it feels like a diner, bright and simple, with decor lifted from an Ikea catalogue.

New (short) order

There is no deep-fryer.

“People need to stop Jestbet eating deep-fried foods. We’re not ramming health consciousness down people’s throats, but we’ve added elements that might make people feel better,” says chef and co-owner Ben Denham.

Denham (ex-Electric Mud) and partner Ashley Lloyd opened the diner last November in a one-time catering kitchen. The Southern slant on his comfort food menu includes sweet tea ($2.50) and creamy white grits ($4). He builds a club sandwich ($13) from juicy turkey smoked on site and thickly sliced. In place of fries, sandwiches come with springy kale dressed in buttermilk.

Griddle me this

I’m happy White Lily is atypical.

Otherwise, I would’ve never tried cottage cheese and sour cherries on pancakes ($11.50), a winning combination that arrives pre-poured with syrup. Honey-pepper butter sits on the side.

“Cottage cheese is one of those homey things that no one puts on a menu,” says Denham, who plans to make his own.

In important matters, such as good drip coffee ($2.50), White Lily stays true to the genre, brewing beans from Toronto’s Mountain View Estates. The bacon ($3.50) is pink and flexible. Sausages ($3.50) are smoked and juicy.

From scratch

The bakery is another feather in White Lily’s cap.

Sharon Hammond cuts dozens of flaky buttermilk biscuits ($4.50) a day, the recipe derived from Husk restaurant in Charleston, S.C.

Yes, the pie crust can be tough and the meringue grainy. But we love all the fried doughnuts ($4.50 for two). And her butter tart filling runs out like a kid at recess ($4 for two). Inside are golden raisins plumped in Jack Daniels.

“At least five times a day we have the raisin debate with customers,” Denham sighs.

No argument from me. White Lily is a modern classic.

apataki@thestar.ca , Twitter @amypataki

apataki@thestar.ca , Twitter @amypataki

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