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Shakespearean in Toronto seeks food help!

  • d

Hello, Torontonians! I am coming this week to Toronto for an academic conference and am looking forward to visiting your gorgeous city. It has been ten years since I was last in Toronto, so I'm sure the city's foodscape has changed signficantly. A few questions:

I love street-food, take-away, etc. --are there any items that Toronto serves/features that are difficult/impossible to get elsewhere?

How about bistros and trattorias?

Also, I am going to be with a crew that likes to knock back a (quite) a few pints -- pub/bar suggestions would be welcomed.

Oh yes, not that this is board-appropriate--but if anyone wanted to sneak in recommendations for good bookstores, please go right ahead...

We are staying near the University of Toronto, but I'm willing to travel far and wide for food (and drink (and books)).

I live in San Diego (home of the fish taco and insanely fresh fish and produce year-round) and will gladly return the favor suggestion-wise for any of you coming this way.

Cheers!
Dr. K

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  1. If you like trattorias, you need to go to the Little Italy/Little Portugal (they are adjacent) sections of town. You'll see businesses that have Portuguese/English and Italian/English signs (even the grocery stores and drug stores)
    A great place to just walk down the block looking for food and drink. I'll have to look up the street that is a good place to start, but I found some AMAZING croissants that way. It was as if I'd stumbled into a patisserie in Paris...run by a French native and with great pain au chocolat!! Most croissants made here are too dense and heavy. He was just putting them in the window, and was not officially open, but I happened to stumble in as he was waiting on a fellow countryman, so he couldn't exactly refuse, although he kind of rudely mentioned his opening time (then don't open the door and sell stuff to people). Still very much worth the attitude.
    Spadina is pretty active at night, but it might just be for 20somethings (that's how old I was when I was last out there). So is the Danforth (Greektown).
    There is also an Indiatown and 2 Chinatowns. You can keep your tummy very full in Toronto. Just buy a copy of Frommers so that you know which streets are which neighborhoods. You really can't go wrong with the food there.
    And the weather should still be quite pleasant.
    Hmmm, well, you can probably save a few dollars on some Canadian made ice wine (the Niagara wine region is just south of the city). Poutine is technically from Quebec, but you can get it all over Ontario too, and in my opinion, the best poutine is at KFC.
    Just be prepared for awesome, authentic ethnic food, from a whole host of countries. My favorites were Laotian and Sri Lankan, just b/c they are options that you don't see that often.
    Sorry to be so generic...I used to live in the Detroit area, and went to Toronto a couple of times a year, but I haven't been to some of these places in a while, and having been to Toronto in a year, and I'm not sure if the places I knew are the same. And mostly, we just picked places by going to the different ethnic neighborhoods and wandering around.

    1 Reply
    1. re: nicthommi

      Where is this Patisserie you speak of? Would you happen to know if they have a website up yet?

      Chow!
      HL.

    2. Welcome back to Toronto! Sadly, street food is sorely lacking here. BUT, if take out suits you, then you must go to the St. Lawrence Market (closed Sunday/Monday) and have either a veal (or chicken) and eggplant sandwich at Mustacio's or a peameal bacon sandwich at Carousel Bakery. Both are in the South building. Mustacio's is on the lower level. Can't recall about Carousel.

      Or head to the Kensington Market neighbourhood and sample all the great cheap ethnic offerings there -- Trini doubles, empanadas, pupusas, organic ice cream, etc. There's a great long thread on KM on this board somewhere. I'll see if I can dig it up and provide a link.

      Baldwin St. between McCaul and Beverly (right near the University) is a treasure trove of restaurants. For cheap, cheap, cheap take out, go to Yung Sing Pastry Shop for $1 chinese buns filled with curried beef, veggies, or bbq pork.

      BeerBistro http://www.beerbistro.com/ is a great place to knock back a pint or three and have some good food, too. Fabulous beer menu, including most of the local Toronto microbrews (try a coffee porter from Mill St. Brewery). If you want more of a pub atmosphere for drinking, try House of Parliment or Rebel House. Irish Embassy is fun, too.

      Savoy Bistro is lovely. Other great, more casual bistros include Batifole and La Palette (in Kensington Market). At La Palette, you can order "Quack and Track" (not on the menu) -- duck and horse.

      Oh, and the U of T bookstore is beautiful and wonderful.

      2 Replies
      1. re: TorontoJo

        Here are a couple of older threads that you might find helpful:

        http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

        http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

        Also, I should clarify that the St. Lawrence Market is an actual building (with a second building open on Saturdays for a farmer's market). And Kensington Market is a neighbourhood -- roughly bounded by Augusta to Spadina, College to Dundas.

        SLM's web site: http://www.stlawrencemarket.com/

        BTW, roti is something that is not native to Toronto, but I find few other cities offer them. Think a curry burrito. Toronto offers West Indian and East Indian versions. The best EI version IMO is at Gandhi on Queen, just east of Bathurst. The best WI version is always up for discussion. Just do a search on "roti" and you should come up with a very long thread about this topic.

        1. re: TorontoJo

          I second Gandhi Roti! Totally unique!

      2. i think the patisserie with the great croissants on st. clair is patachou (835 St. Clair ave w), or theres also pain perdu. Patachous has take out like coq au vin, and other treats. trattoria's...i know some ppl have been trashing romagna mia (106 front st east), but i like it!
        for the beer, there's always biermarkt on the esplanade (south of front street, behind st. lawrence market)...I cant remember exactly, but i think they have 300 international beers to choose from. The only problem with biermarkt is that its pretty packed on the weekends, and its standing room only in the main room.
        The distillery district is fantastic and in my opinion the most beautiful part of toronto...theres the mill street brewery in there but theres also SOMA CHOCOLATE..i guarantee you that you will not find some of this stuff anyhere else...i highly recommend that you have their douglas fir chocolate...its very unique.
        i am italian, and i would not want you wasting your time in little italy or corso italia...it is not what it used to be, and the quality of the food has deteriorated in the past years.
        I hope you enjoy our city.

        2 Replies
        1. re: icey

          Agreed wholeheartedly on the Distillery and the Soma rec. You must try their Mayan hot chocolate shot. Have it straight up, no water or milk. Incredibly intense chocolate experience. For food, stick to grabbing a sandwich or pastry at Brick St. Bakery. The sit-down restaurants in the Distillery are uniformly "bleh" (with the exception of Perigee, of course).

          However, I have to respectfully disagree on the biermarkt rec -- it's mediocre food at best. And it's a bit too meat-market-ish to be enjoyable for just a beer.

          1. re: icey

            in regards to soma - douglas fir is good, but bergamont is out of this world!

            really, what we're saying is, it's amazing chocolate and everyone has a different favourite, what an opportunity to get lots of different kinds of chocolate...

          2. Butter tarts from St Lawrence Market
            Beer at C'est What

            Ethiopian on Bloor - try Bar Nazreth

            Salt cod balls - Courtense Bakery on Bloor

            Bookshops - Nicholas Hoare - Front St, Pages on Queen,
            Book City on Bloor/Bathurst and another one on Yonge and
            one on the Danforth

            also good is Jerk Chicken, Curry Goat at one of the many Caribbean places

            1. Let me throw in a vote for the perennially overlooked Midi Bistro (on McCaul, between Baldwin and Dundas) which does a fine classic French bistro menu (steak frites, mussels, etc). Midi is tiny and unpretentious. It really is all about the food, as you can tell immediately from the shakers of fleur de sel and the pepper grinders on the tables... not that I've had occasion to use either when I've eaten there.

              As for trattorias: I don't know that this really qualifies, but you'll certainly have a great meal at Tutti Matti on Adelaide near Spadina. Real Tuscan peasant cuisine, fine antipasti and wonderful desserts (in particular the Torta di Nonna).

              Street food: Tacos el Asador on Bloor at Manning (or Clinton?). I think it's actually Salvadoran, so it may be different from the what you're used to. Everything I've had there has been so delicious I wanted to eat the plate. But then that's true of all three places I've mentioned.

              1. Thanks so much! All the recommendations thus far are right on target. I'm starting to think that the four days I'll be in Toronto won't be nearly enough...

                3 Replies
                1. re: Dr. K

                  If you're an academic staying near U of T, you'll want to visit Atticus Books, on Harbord, just west of Spadina. Trust me. It's a must. Good independent mainstream bookstores: Book City on Bloor in the Annex, Pages on Queen, and the aforementioned Nicholas Hoare.

                  Food? So much to choose from. Jumbo Empanadas on Augusta in Kensington Market. Lee Garden on Spadina. Lahore Tikka House in Little India (Gerrard near Coxwell). Hanoi 3 Seasons - best Vietnamese I've ever had - at Gerrard and Broadview. Tibetan food on Queen. Great pub: C'Est What at Front and Church, not far from the aforementioned St. Lawrence Market. It just goes on and on.

                  1. re: Dr. K

                    St. Lawrence Market area is quite pretty and fairly close by. Kill two birds with one stone by heading to Solferino for superb gelato (it's located on Wellington, just west of Yonge - http://www.alacuisine.org/alacuisine/...), and then over to Nicholas Hoare, one of Toronto's best bookstores (http://www.nicholashoare.com/). Others may be able to recommend local restaurants for a pre-gelato feast.

                    1. re: Full tummy

                      Downstairs from Solferino is the excellent Trevor. Open for dinner only, but well worth it, even on a short visit to Toronto.

                  2. ...also (my perennial post) the Rebel House on Yonge for fine Canadian microbrew beers and one of the best examples of true Canadian cuisine -- poutine!

                    La Palette in Kensington market is great--fun and funky, has an excellent beer selection, and is close to U of T, so you could walk there and stagger home.

                    And yeah, if you're in Toronto to eat, four days isn't enough. I feel the same way when I go to New Orleans...have a great conference/chowfest.

                    1. Just go to the Harbord Street strip directly west of U of T. More than a dozen restaurants ranging from luxe (Splendido) to el cheapo (Momo's). The same three blocks is also home to many new & used book stores.

                      1. The patisserie that I stumbled onto is on College, between Ossington and Spadina...sorry I can't be more specific, but it's before you get to Little Italy. I wish they'd had cards out...I'd have definitely picked up some...I'll have to backtrack at some point to find it. I was just walking down college one day because the weather was nice and I happened to run across it. I think they open around 9am, but I stumbled in as the French owner was doing business with one of his countrymen. It was so non-descript...I'd have never seen it if I hadn't been wandering past. White storefront with croissants in the window. If anyone knows the name, please let me know. It's driving me nuts...