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Typically Toronto Food?

Chicago's got Deep Dish Pizza, Montreal has Poutine, Buffalo has the chicken wing? What would you say it a typically TOrontonian dish?

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  1. Hmmm ... for me it's Portuguese Churrasco Chicken, Portuguese custard tarts, and peameal bacon sandwiches. The last isn't Portuguese but I'll bet you plenty of Portuguese eat them. (No, I'm not Portuguese!)

    2 Replies
    1. re: Scruncheons

      I'm born/raised in Toronto and I never knew what churrasco was before moving in with a Portuguese guy ;)

      1. re: Scruncheons

        love those tarts - but i had to move to montreal to discover them, cause i'm an east end girl.

      2. No such thing. Given that 50% of Toronto was born in another country, I don't think of anything as being particularly "Toronto" - we have a great variety of food.

        1. Most of you will laugh, but I would say "vendor dog" :)

          Alternately, the Jamaican patty is very popular.

          I actually think more in terms of produce and markets being the true wealth of Toronto: Peameal bacon, cheddar cheese, spring lamb, Ontario wines, tomatoes, corn, fruit, Kensington Market and so on.

          3 Replies
          1. re: bogie

            Yes, unfortunately I would seond this. Street meat is certainly Toronto.

            However, in our defense I do think 'typical' is hard to define for TO since we have such a great variety of different cuisines to choose from. I suppose it depends some what on what area you are looking at...typical for Little India would be quite different from a typical street eat you woiuld find in Corso Italia.


              1. re: bogie

                Different relatives and associates from Vancouver, Hong Kong have also remarked on the 'delicious large' street hot dogs. I do not get it but haven't really paid attention to the street dogs when I travel. Is Toronto really the only place that serves hot dogs the way we do? What's so special about them? The myriad of toppings? Size? Price??

              2. NC, I can believe that! And in a way, I see SB's point too...but those foods are Toronto for me, and have been for the 20 years I've lived here. All of our foods are from somewhere else -- we're a "gathering place" after all. But some of them have such a hold in certain parts of the city that, for me at least, they are a deep part of our culinary identity. They are Toronto food. (I don't like patties, or I probably would have said that too. Street dogs -- I toyed with including that!)

                1. Are veal sandwiches considered somewhat of a Toronto thing?

                  1. I'd go with the peameal sandwich too

                    1. Yah, I would have to say the peameal bacon sandwich, or a good old fashion shopseys hotdog.

                        1. re: Herb

                          Good One, I've definitely had lots of that here!

                          1. re: Herb

                            I would agree that there is no regional cuisine specific to Toronto. I've lived here my whole life and there really isn't one signature Toronto dish. That said, almost any cuisine is done fabulously here for me, that's our claim to fame. You could do a culinary world tour here in our city (Just so long as Mexico isn't on the itinerary). That's what makes Toronto such a great food town.

                            There are some things food wise that do make TO special. St. Lawrence Market is certainly one. To a lesser extent, Kensington. There are a lot of great markets in other big cities but there are loads and loads of cities that I think need one. My wife (From Memphis) just loves it because it's something she's never seen before. She can't understand why every city doesn't do it.
                            The hot dog cart vendors and the heart attack on a plate from the chip wagon.

                            All that and lousy stadium food.


                          2. Born and raised in Toronto but left many years ago. I remember pemeale bacon most of all and ----- swiss chalet chicken!! Oh - and Chinese food which was mostly gooey sweet and sour in those days. But for me Swiss Chalet and pemeale bacon above all else. I once took my very-American husband to Toronto and insisted he have Swiss Chalet - he just didn't get it!!!

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: madwrk

                              My wife took me to Huey's in Memphis for the best burger. It was the same burger as I can get in most cities, no better, no worse. I didn't "Get it" either. I guess it's more a thing you grow up with.


                              1. re: madwrk

                                I associate the barbecue chicken you get at Swiss Chalet more with Montreal than Toronto. It's basically the same as what local places like Cote St Luc BBQ or Chalet BBQ have been offering for years; Swiss Chalet and St. Hubert have spread it through their chains.

                              2. I'm gonna go with the peameal sandwich too. If not, I'd say "pub-style" thai food seems to be everywhere. Also, cheap japanese restaurants.


                                1. Hmmm- fascinating. I was recently asked this for a TV appearance and coudln't come up with ONE specific thing. Peameal bacon sandwiches sound alright- but would you say that's typciall Torontonian? I'm not so sure. Pad Thai, Portuguese food- all great (or they can be) but certainly not Torontonian in character or nature. It would be awesome if someone sponsored a contest to come up with something TOTALLY TOrontonian. I bet the entries would be varied, fascinating and some, even delicious!

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: cookbook

                                    Aah! But we did!
                                    I’m showing my age, but back in the days when food was just being discovered here, there was a Saturday morning radio food show, hosted by Jim White (if the name isn’t familiar, he was one of the most influential ‘media’ people we ever saw and heard). He was one of the brains (or palates) behind the original President’s Choice product line too, and also many of the copycat Colas we still find. An amazing palate and now based in California.
                                    Anyway, when Epcot centre opened there was (may still be) a Canadian Pavilion, and Jim tackled them, ‘on air’ about their ‘Canadian’ dishes being served. The outcome was a contest to find the ‘Great Toronto Dish’ which Epcot agreed to introduce provided it could be kept warm on a steam table (!!!!!). Before the day was out, Jim had co-opted the mayor as a judge and one of the airlines as a sponsor to fly the winner to Florida.
                                    Unfortunately, my entry was disqualified as politically incorrect (Jim told me later it was his favourite, but there was no way he could submit it to a panel including the mayor).
                                    And the winner was (pause for trumpets or your choice of instrument): A cheddar cheese and back bacon with spicy Mayonnaise on a bun – served with fries (of course). The genealogy was:
                                    Cheddar Cheese to represent Canada
                                    Back bacon to represent Ontario
                                    Spicy mayonnaise to symbolize the multicultural background of Toronto – Thai, East Indian, West Indian etc.
                                    The sandwich became a regular item at Fran’s Restaurant for a while, then disappeared from that while remaining as a lunch special before finally disappearing (before Fran’s followed suit). I regularly ordered it – it was pretty good.

                                    1. re: estufarian

                                      So...What was the politically incorrect entry?!

                                      1. re: estufarian

                                        Jim White was an ACE indeed. First time I came to Toronto he was a food critic for the star and then moved to Dave Nicolls' co. "President Choice' as a food consultant. Anyways, What I associate Toronto with is street foods like 'roasted chestnuts'. I have seen them in other places before but never in an extent as in Toronto. Toronto's chestnuts vendors gave the downtown area an interesting character and of course an incredible scant especially on a cold winter day. Nobody in this thread mentioned chestnuts, so I am not sure whether the vendors are still there or not.

                                        1. re: estufarian

                                          NO kidding! That's amazing! I did not know any of this and thank you for sharing- most sincerely! I'd order this sandwich if it was still around- sounds really tasty. What, as squeaks asked, was your "politically incorrect" entry that was a favourite in Florida? I'd love to know. Thanks again- this was fantastic! Gracias most.

                                      2. As a happy Toronto tourist I can say you have some great local beer there, I also like the variety of steamed mussel broths (and the good steak frites and seafood). One of my favorite cities to visit.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: steinpilz

                                          But this is my point stein. We don't have one thing like bbq in KC, Memphis, NC or chili in Cinci or Texas. We don't have crabs like Baltimore. We have a veritable buffet of foods here. We have great seafood, steak, Indian, Portuguese, Greek, Italian, the list goes on and on. That's our signature. Not one specific thing.


                                        2. Yes, we have a smorgasbord here, I agree, but in every major north american city, most local specialties are extensions of an immigrant's contribution: muffuleta, smoked meat, lobster roll, bagels, italian beef, etc. This being said, after 12 years of being a happy and proud Torontonian, in my opinion, the following foods can be called Toronto specialties:

                                          Italian sandwiches (veal, sausage, meatball, etc)

                                          Street hot dogs

                                          Churrasco chicken

                                          Gryfe's bagels

                                          Peameal bacon sandwich

                                          Donuts every street corner(not as frequently found in Montreal and almost non-existent in Vancouver)

                                          Toronto's unique corned beef (as opposed to Montreal smoked meat and New York pastrami)

                                          Jamaican beef patties

                                          1. How about those Tiny Donuts from the EX.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: nmhinch

                                              Just had them at Wonderland for the first time. Goodness they are but good.

                                            2. Here's a brand new take on Toronto's multicultural flavour...Kultura Restaurant on King East by Jarvis... They call it "trans-ethnic tapas", or social dining. Excellent food, beautiful decor, great staff...well worth a try!

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: TOfoodie

                                                Thanks for the tip TOfoodie! :)

                                                After I read your post, I did some research for Kultra and it seems like a fun and exciting dining experience (http://www.kulturarestaurant.com/). I was wondering how much a typical appetizer, main, and dessert would be...?

                                                Review 1:

                                                Review 2:


                                                1. re: thegreatfoodhunt

                                                  Actually the dishes are not ordered in the traditional appetizer, main, and dessert manner. The dishes tend to come out when they are ready and each plate is meant to be shared among your group. Dessert is also to die for and does come at the end of the meal. I would say that each dish averages $10 each. So a table for 2 could order say 6 dishes and a bottle of wine for about $120 total.