Shakespearean in Toronto seeks food help!
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.
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.
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.
Here are a couple of older threads that you might find helpful:
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.
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.
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.
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
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.