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Winterlicious GOOD portions?

Since winterlicious bookings are coming up, I just wanted to know which restaurants people have had good experiences with who dont skimp on portions and service?

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  1. We haven't gone to a lot of Winterlicious (or Summerlicious) restaurants, but found both the Boulevard Cafe (last winter) and Batifole (summer) to be very good.

    2 Replies
    1. re: SusanB

      Overall, 'licious ha been fairly negative:

      Tutti Matti: very good food and friendly service.
      The Old Mill: food wasn't bad and service good
      Centro: poor food. Service good
      North 44: so-so food. Service good. Horribly overpriced drinks.
      Pangea. Dreadful food and absolutely terrible service.

      1. re: SusanB

        We went back to the Boulevard on the weekend for Winterlicious and again had a really good dinner. They didn't have the appetizer tamales on the menu (and I love tamales), but they more than made up for it with their take on the shrimp cocktail. All 4 of us ordered it. Served in a martini glass, with chunky guacamole and 3 large spicy shrimp with thin strips of crispy tortilla - it was totally delicious. My husband had the Peruvian seafood stew for his main, I ordered mahi mahi and our friends both had the lomito. All 4 of us were very happy with our choices. (There were 3 other fish on the menu, as well as a chicken dish.) 3 of us had key lime pie for dessert, 1 had flan. The dessert serving wasn't large, but after all the other food, it was more than enough. I also had a couple of mojitos - very strong mojitos so I probably should have stopped at 1!

        I really like the Boulevard. I hadn't been there in literally a couple of decades and after last year's Winterlicious, we went back last summer for my birthday dinner. I don't think they participate in Summerlicious and the patio was packed.

        We're going to Batifole next Wednesday.

      2. My experiences at both Winter and Summerlicious have been generally good. Service is usually comparable to regular times, and the portions have generally been decently sized as well. I don't think I've ever felt as if I was being served inferior portions due to the promotion.

        Best experience: Acqua - both the food and the service were fantastic.

        Worst experiences: Filet Of Sole (good service, but horrendous food) and Czehoski (unbelievably bad service, so-so food).

        14 Replies
        1. re: gregclow

          RE: Filet of Sole. Went there for Winterlicious a couple of years ago. This was one of our first experiences with the event and I really enjoyed it. The food we were served was very good, as was the "Winterlicious" wine they served. I'd go there again.

          1. re: sierramum

            Filet of Sole I believe closed down....not too long ago

            1. re: MissKMM

              Thanks for the heads up, MissKMM. I guess I won't be going there again after all, lol!

              1. re: sierramum

                One place I make sure to go to for both winterlicious and summerlicious is Fred's Not Here. Great menu, lots of choices. i believe that Fred's and the Filet have the same owner.

                1. re: debtrav

                  thats funny b/c just below someone said it was terrible. What kind of experience have you had in the past?

                  1. re: hungryabbey

                    Fred's was great 15 years ago. Freds has very poor recently. It's a big menu with many cooks, so you might get a good meal on occasion, but you would just be lucky. It has been a blah resto for a long time.

                    Fred has closed three of his other places, including Filet of Sole. Maybe Fred is actually there now and it has gotten better, but I wouldn't bother. They usually have a fixed price menu option on all of the time anyway.

                    1. re: embee

                      fair enough. Thanks for the warnings everyone, definetly wont be choosing that one as a top winterlicious pick

                    2. re: hungryabbey

                      Just had lunch at Fred's and it was great. We made a dinner reservation for Sunday and can't wait to go.

                    3. re: debtrav

                      Yeah, we found Fred's surprisingly good when we went there a couple of 'liciouses back. I remember the lobster bisque in particular being quite good. Based on my experience at Filet of Sole, I'm glad to see that the owner closed it down in favour of concentrating on Fred's & The Red Tomato.

                      1. re: gregclow

                        I went to Freds with my friends last Summerlicious, the service was average but the place was packed. As for the food, the food was excellent (it was sort of like a factory atmosphere with the same plates coming out of the kitchen!). But the portions were of good size (filling), especially liked the steak, they did it exactly the way we wanted it. I'd definitely go back there! (It was for dinner by the way, for 25 bucks, great deal)

                        1. re: sexyaznboy

                          my first licious experience at fred's was pretty good. lots of options, nice plating, great portions but it all fell apart for me this past summer.

                          the food was so ridiculously greasy, overcooked and heavy that i cannot recommend it anymore for a 'licious event. by no means am i expecting culinary excellence... but the drek i ate was horrific and i wish it upon no one else. i ended up eating what i could find edible on my plate and left this ridiculous pile of "chinese noodles" stewing in it's own drippings. someone at my table did have the steak and it was the best thing had, i'm still not sure that says very much though.

                          the service however, was delightful.

                          1. re: pinstripeprincess

                            OK, I have to ask: what possessed you to order "Chinese noodles" at Fred's Not Here?

                            1. re: estragon

                              it was the side to the duck three ways. greasy overcooked dry duck with a pile of gross noodles listed as a "chinese noodle salad"... i was really hoping there was a salad.

                              1. re: pinstripeprincess

                                mmm...I had the calamari as an appetizer which was a decent sized portion, grant it there could have been more. I didn't think it was overly greasy, and had the steak and frites for the main course and it was done well, the chocolate cake was very good but again slightly smaller than I expected, then again, I shouldn't stuff myself silly anyways! LOL

            2. thanks for the suggestions guys. any more? There are soo many restaurants doing it, I just dont want to pick a not so great one

              1. Hmmm... Waterlicious and the Bummer in the Summer... I won't go to either of these events any more because it is so annoying watching patrons who expect servers and restaurants to have ample tables for them, serve heaping portions (even though the food/labour costs during this time mean that many restaurants barely break even) and then order water with their meals (not a crime, I don't drink either right now, but really the servers kill themselves with way overbooked sections and the expectations of all diners...) On two occasions I watched as diners really screamed at two servers (different restaurants) because they felt they were receiving inadequate portions. The servers were gracious and had bussers bring extra bread and spread to the table - what else can they do? The diners then left no tips... This hardly seems fair. I'm glad to hear that some people really genuinely appreciate how hard the staff at restaurants work at these difficult times... Just another opinion on the matter.

                1 Reply
                1. re: cchrish

                  oh no I do completely understand it from a servers perspective. I too, have done the job and no matter what people think, it is NOT easy. I defiently do not expect heaping portions no matter where I go as I think this is probably a good deal. Im just wondering where I can get the BEST deal ;)

                2. My experiences from the last round:
                  Good (great menu, great service, adequate portions): North 44, Auberge du Pommier
                  Not so good (small portions, left hungry): Zucca
                  Bad (snooty service, food inadequate on all counts): Thuet

                  Overall, any Oliver and Bonaccini restaurant is a good bet. McEwen (North 44, Bymark) seems to take the event seriously as well.

                  As for the rest, I don't condone bad customer behaviour for any reason, but if restaurants are really "barely breaking even" (as cchrish says) and resent it, they don't have to take part. It is, after all a voluntary program.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: estragon

                    My experience with Auberge du Pommier last winter was different -- indifferent, gluey food, and forgetful service. Canoe, on the other hand, was spectacular in every way. Hard to get a reservation, but worth it!

                    I'm always surprised when restaurants see this as an opportunity to dish up indifferent food to large numbers of people. It would seem to defeat the purpose of introducing your wares to a public who might later return and spend some money. Surely it's important to put your best foot (and food) forward.

                  2. Regardless of any Winterlicious promotions, restaurants should not skimp on portion size. Nobody should leave a restaurant hungry after a 3 course meal!

                    The way the restaurants should account for the lower prices is by adjusting the menu & ingredients - that's why you only have a limited selection. If the restaurant is good, you will still have a delicious meal, even though you may not eat the 2 lb. lobster or the kobe beef.

                    Of course the dishes offered should still be reflective of the cuisine and quality one would normally get from the restaurant, after all, the main goal of the promotion is to entice diners to return during normal pricing periods.

                    While some restaurants (either conciously or unconciously) unfortunately do use the prix fixe as an excuse to let the standards of their food and service slide, I would think it's rare to go in and get 3 courses that aren't worth $25 or $35. (You'd be hard pressed to pay less for 3 courses at Kelsey's or Joe Badali's type places....) It's not a rip-off. So enjoy yourself, order wine if you normally do, and treat the staff with respect.

                    1. Sometimes what I do, if you have time, is to look online at the restaurant's regular menus and see if they serve some of the same foods on the Winterlicious menus. Last year I went to Bymark and a few of the mains were similar to their regular menu which is a good incentive for going to the restaurant because you know you'll be tasting something that they would normally serve and you know you're getting good value.

                      1. It is stupid for a resto to skimp on these events and leave patrons unhappy. Why bother participating at all under these conditions? The purpose of these events seems, to me, twofold.

                        - It gives people a chance to sample an expensive place at a more reasonable price, and possibly become a regular in the future (which seems, to me, the main point).

                        - It provides the opportunity for folks who can't really afford the place to have a special treat and good memories.

                        Why not produce the best meals you can, using ingredients that make sense at a price point? There really is very little correlation between great food (a function of the chef's skill) and expensive ingredients. I remember one extremely expensive meal in Washington DC, replete with lobster, caviar, and aged beef tenderloin. It was, overall, a great meal. But the single item I remember vividly 20 years later was ravioli filled with a squash puree.

                        When lower-end restaurants go into these promotions, I've often found that the fixed meal is NOT actually cheaper than the regular menu prices. In this case, the promotional menu should be REALLY special. When expensive places participate, the menus often don't sound very interesting. Putting these experiences together, I've rarely been tempted to go.

                        Getting back to the original question, I had a meal at Batifole during Summerlicious that was excellent -- the food, the portions, and the service.

                        Another place in Leslieville, Toast, posted a menu that seemed to far transcend their typical offerings. We didn't get to go, as they had sold out, and there were no reports on Chowhound or elsewhere, so I don't know whether they did it well.

                        But, on the whole, the menus didn't sound interesting for the prices asked. Note that if you buy an "Entertainment" book (I think it's about $37), you can get 2 for 1 deals at quite a few good places (and many ordinary but decent ones) from the regular menus and at virtually any time. Perhaps this promotional method would be better for many of the restos.

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: embee

                          hmm good point embee! thanks for the tip about entertainment

                          1. re: hungryabbey

                            The Entertainment book is nowhere near as good as it used to be. Most good downtown restaurants dropped out long ago, and with only a few decent options, it's usually more trouble than it's worth.

                            1. re: estragon

                              It's true that there are fewer really high end places than there used to be, but I still find it a good value. Dinners at a couple of places we'd go to anyway, or one discounted purchase at Super Pet, pays for the book (which we buy as a fund raising thing anyway). Everything else is a bonus.

                              I was thinking more specifically about lower cost restos getting more promotional value from one of these "twofers" than from one of the "'licious" promotions. Quite a few very good humble establishments are represented. (Zorba's comes to mind. They even offer an ongoing discount after the coupon is used.)

                              The book serves its purpose in that we've tried new places we just happened to be around and found them good enough to return at regular prices. They don't know you are using a coupon, so you get the same food and service as anyone else. By definition, there is value. At some 'licious participants, there clearly isn't. It reminds me of Taste of the Danforth. Once a venue for places to promote their wares at bargain prices, it has become, for many, a venue at which to gouge.

                              If you needed to eat around Roy Thomson Hall anyway, last year's Entertainment book was a bonanza.

                          2. re: embee

                            the Heat was on last night with Mark McEwan and they did a show about Winterlicious (how timely), but I found it interesting from his perspective as i very much enjoyed my Bymark Winterlicious experience a couple years back - service especially.

                            he saw the event as a way to provide a treat for those who could otherwise not attend his restaurant. while his menu isn't utterly complicated, the food was absolutely tasty. additionally, he mentioned that it was a great experience for a chef to truly prove their mettle. on the show, two chefs were vying for sous/junior-sous positions.

                            i'm always on the fence about winter/summerlicious... but i think that as long as you pick the restaurants that truly care about food and not their bottom line or publicity, you'll be fine.

                            1. re: pinstripeprincess

                              I, too, saw the show and happened to enjoy my last year's Winterlicious experience at North 44 very much. Unfortunately, it seems that Bymark and North 44 are not participating in Winterlicious this year.

                          3. as a PSA can I just ask that if you are going out for Winterlicious, do not bring a can of pop in your bag to share with your dining partner while waving away the wine list. I. swear. it. happened.

                            3 Replies
                              1. re: nummanumma

                                Good grief................ People who do that give normal diners a bad name!

                                1. re: nummanumma

                                  Not as bad as a person who asked for hot water and a lemon and proceeded to pull out thier own tea bag...

                                2. Went to Pony in 2005 and decent portions, but rude service. Bloom in 2006 left us hungry and needing to eat a real dinner after. It was delicious, but smaller than appetizer-sized food.

                                  1. I didn't want to say it, but the Savoy looks pretty good. Has anyone been for either licious previously?

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: dlw88

                                      i agree. looking at all the menus, Im thinking Savoy is one of my top picks..

                                      1. re: hungryabbey

                                        Have not been to Savoy for a licious event or regular dinner, but did have a private corporate function there in December and the food and service was great! That is saying a lot, considering it was a buffet style set up, and the scallops were still plump, tender, succulent and tasty, despite sitting in one of the those heated covered metal things. It really made me want to back for a proper sit-down dinner there. Can't say enough about how nice the staff was.

                                        1. re: balthazar

                                          oh good thanks for the advice! I think i will probably end up there for one of my winterlicious picks

                                    2. Also, i know some people have posted negatively in the past, but how is Freds not here? Because their winterlicious menu has SO many options (and as someone with a particularly picky eating companion, this seems like a good option if the food here is good). Anyone been lately?

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: hungryabbey

                                        Went to Freds not Here for Summerlicous '05. The entire table was very underwhelmed my their meals. My favorite part of the evening was the drink I ordered. I recall ordering the steak and fries and my steak was overcooked. I would not go back.

                                        1. re: camp1980

                                          I try to avoid that touristy stretch of King as a rule. Generally disappointing and overpriced.

                                          1. re: AmandaEd

                                            hm I suspected this much. thanks for the tips!!

                                            1. re: hungryabbey

                                              btw, Fred's Not here has a $25 two-course menu, so I've never gone for a -licious event there as you can get a similar deal any day. Quality-wise it's not bad, but nowhere near the top. I've chosen it a few times with unadventurous eaters as it has a bit of everything so everyone is happy.

                                      2. Had good experiences at both Batifole and Celestin for Summerlicious. The food, portions, and service were all good. It's a great way to get sample these two restaurants since the are a bit out of the way for some. Do try Celestin if you have a chance and check out this TL article:


                                        Went to Pony 2 years ago for Summerlicious and the food was good but the service atrocious (very friendly but they kept getting things wrong & then they forgot to make someone's meal but everyone else got served! They apologized but didn't offer to give the forgotten hungry person anything complimentary either, despite that his dinner came after the rest of us had all but finished). Went back to Pony for regular dinner another time and there was no problem.

                                        1. Last summer I went to Southern Accent and the BF and I were hurting by the end of it and couldn't finish dessert -- although for him, it was because the jambalaya was too spicy. I had the hush puppies, the cracker catfish, and the bread pudding. No complaints. The service was very friendly and we got a patio seat.

                                          I also went to Trapper's and the service was very good. The food was also good, but what stood out for me and the girls was the salad with poached pears.... unfortunately, it isn't on the winterlicious menu.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: Amber

                                            We went to SA last nite- service was excellent- although we waited almost 20 min for desserts- pecan tarts- but when they finally arrived they could have just kept it- cold, store bought taste. Why bother.

                                            Portions were irregular-( if you didn't order the too spicy jamalya you went hungry) & reminicent of cafeteria style plating- just thrown on. Oysters weren't bad but slightly fishy (now my nose *is* notorious for being overactive.)

                                            Apparently the salad was good according to one of our group.

                                            Don't see why people rave at the decor- losts of dust, and bare staples. Someone needs to go through there in the daytime with the lights on & clean up.

                                            1. re: Amber

                                              Had the Winterlicious menu at Batifole last night. Excellent value, very nice mains (chicken or fish, both done in the oven, in the dish they're served in, with sides of frites and salad), but disappointing dessert (we both had the savarin, which was dry and didn't have much flavour; the other option was -- what else? -- crème brûlé). Overall, we were very happy, though, and left full.

                                            2. Generally, we had mixed experiences with Winterlicious and Summerlicious. We skipped out on Summerlicious 2006.
                                              The best places with good food and good service:
                                              1) Kit Kat on King street
                                              2) Across the Road on Mount Pleasant
                                              3) Monsoon on Simcoe
                                              The worst places with so-so food and crap service:
                                              1) Fred's not here
                                              2) Filet of Sole (no kidding it closed down)
                                              3) Wildfire
                                              We are trying out Beerbistro, Smalltalk, and La Maquette this time around. Any feedbacks?

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: LK1975

                                                I went to La Marquette couple years back for Summerlicious.. it's been a while so I can't recall in full detail what the menu was like. Overall, the food was okay but the service was pretty crappy. There was missing silverware when we sat down, server took a long time to come to us even though his section wasn't full, we asked for a spoon he gave us a fork etc etc.

                                                I'm generally understanding at these 'licious events and was with a few friends so we just chatted it up and ignored the service. I remember having a good time (mainly due to the passerby jesting with us). If it matters to you, the decor is pretty nice.

                                                1. re: Peechie

                                                  I have been to La Maquette a few times and have always had the same experience. Place beautiful; prices high; food dull; service not up to the prices. Note that these visits were not during 'licious events.

                                              2. I tried Smalltalk for lunch/brunch last year and had some really pretty impressive eggs florentine. Seekers after poached eggs will know that these so often turn out to be disappointing - and hard-boiled. These were perfect. The service was somewhat confused, and we had to sit at a precarious improvised booth that moved and was a little scary. But all in all worth it.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: voracious

                                                  Smalltalk is inconsistent and seems to have a problem keeping good service staff. However, their prices are very fair and the food CAN be excellent. They seem to really care about their customers and have a surprising loyalty program given the price point. We like the place despite its occasional failings.

                                                2. Rosewater Supper Club did a glorious Winterlicious last year -- service was very special, food was great, and they let us look round the place afterward. Never made us feel as though we were just there for the cheap meal. Oyster Boy was average, and the Winterlicious menu was a little limited.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: jhg152

                                                    Wow, I'm impressed, that's one of the first positive reviews I've heard of a Rosewater Winterlicious experience. I'm glad that you had a great time, I'm sorry to say that it was the worst experience in my dozens of winterlicious/summerlicious experiences. I guess they listened to the feedback, because when I went about 2 years ago, the service was indifferent/ non-existent, the portions were tiny and the food was lukewarm. They made me feel like I wasting their time, and I obviously haven't been back since. Has anyone else found that they've improved?

                                                  2. My best 'licious experience so far has been Fat Cat - fantastic food, great portions, and great service. I found Auberge also to be great, we appeared to be treated like normal patrons. My worst experience has been at Foccacia - we were stuck up in the top room (bland looking, minimum decor), the service was poor, and portion sizes were a joke!

                                                    This Winterlicious I want to try Corner House for sure. I haven't looked through the rest of the menu's yet though.

                                                    1. has anyone been to Lolas steak bistro? for a licious event or otherwise? Their winterlicious menu sounds pretty good with alot of options. Any advice?

                                                      3 Replies
                                                      1. re: hungryabbey

                                                        See the following thread before deciding:


                                                        I haven't actually eaten there. The greasy/filthy windows surrounding their entrance put us off. (Seems that they would clean them regularly given their location directly behind the grill.)

                                                        1. re: embee

                                                          eek, thank you for reminding me of that post. I now do recall reading it. Sounds pretty unprofessional

                                                          1. re: hungryabbey

                                                            the *hot steaks and sexy wines* or whatever that's written on their sign seriously puts me off.

                                                      2. I have from good source that North 44 will not be participating this year in winterlicious. FYI.

                                                        1. Correct, North 44 are definitely not on the list. Neither this year is Bymark.

                                                          1. I had a horrid experience at Bloom during Winterlicious 2005... service was abysmal. Indifferent and patronizing server with insulting portion sizes... I'm not sure why when we asked for butter for the bread we were denied? In contrast, Truffles as well as Old Mill Inn was amazing with great cuisine, service, and winelist. I believe that this promotion program is a great way for restaurants to promote themselves to the city and the surrounding areas, but many do not look at the big picture but at the short term fiscal gains/losses.

                                                            1. Precious dinner portions at Beerbistro's Winterlicious menu. Went there tonight -- friendly somewhat rushed service. Chintzy servings from appetizers to entrees to desert. Mainly well-prepared, but we were underwhelmed by a "Oh so precious" vibe to dinner. Having eaten there in the past (non Winter- or Summer-licious), I would say that their Winterlicious portions are tinier!

                                                              1. I've done about a dozen Winter/Summerlicious meals. My best and worst:

                                                                Olivia's at 53 - I took a group of 12 last week for the $25 dinner and everyone was very happy. Portions were fair.
                                                                Lalot - very tasty, lovingly perpared, great service, well worth $25. I thing the portions were reasonable, too.
                                                                EDO - all I remember was that Kobe beef burger: drooool. Portions were small, though.

                                                                Indian Rice Factory - just read my post about last night's dinner...
                                                                The Drake - bland food, hostile service
                                                                Southern Accent - can't expect perfection for $25, but bagged salad and soggy dessert?

                                                                1. We are a true blue 'licious family! This time around we've tried these places so far:
                                                                  Fat Cat - great food and good service
                                                                  Signatures - great food and service
                                                                  Lure - Good food, so-so service
                                                                  Five Doors North - fun place, good food and service
                                                                  Far Niente - good lunch and service
                                                                  Courtyard Cafe - staff have bad attitude (made me feel second class), dirty place, okay food, bad desserts, not worth the price and aggravation.

                                                                  Also, the so called high end restaurants are letting it get to their heads. Even with my front of the line AMEX booking advantage, I never go through to Canoe on the first day. And on the second morning, they're fully booked already. I got all this through voicemail - they couldn't even be bothered to answer the phone. I will be skipping these so-called high end restaurants in the future.