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Jan 10, 2007 03:28 PM

Jewish Restaurant - anyone?

Toronto has a big Jewish community but I've never been to or heard of a Jewish restaurant. Is there such a thing around? Or do most dine at home? I'm curious to try. Any recommendations?

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  1. One of my alltime favourite places is "Jerusalem" on Eglington, west of Avenue Road.

    I dunno if it's strictly "Jewish" by ownership but it sure is by customer base.

    Great! food.

    6 Replies
    1. re: orangewasabi

      Jerusalem is not Jewish-owned. I believe it is owned by Palestinians. The food is very good, but it is not "Jewish" food, nor is it typical Israeli food - it is more like the foods one associates with Lebanese cuisine.

      1. re: FlavoursGal

        The Jerusalem now located in Nymark plaza has gone way down hill. Even the last few years at Leslie/Finch produced blah experiences. For middle eastern cuisine, the places I frequent most are Tov-Li, Sababa, and Armenian Kitchen. Interestingly enough, they are each owned by different cultures.

        1. re: dlw88

          I've never been to the Jerusalem up north. I've only been to the one on Eglinton, and it's consistently good.

          1. re: FlavoursGal

            The people running that one on Finch Ave responded that they are another branch of the one on Eglinton, when I asked about 6 years ago. But in fact if you ask the one on Eglinton, they will say they are not associated in any way.

        2. re: FlavoursGal

          I believe they are chirstian palestinian

          1. re: apetimberlake

            Jerusalem Don Mills (the buffet) and Jerusalem Eglinton (sit down only, white table cloth hummus) now share a web site. There seems to have been some sort of reconciliation in the family.

            The family is Christian Arab from Lod, which is in a country called Israel.

      2. Generally, Jewish dining is what other's would consider delicatessen (smoked meat, bagels, blintzes, etc.). Here is a good thread:

        Historically, Jews were settled all across Europe (until WWII), so Jewish cooking strongly resembles most Eastern European cooking.

        I prefer Bagel World on Wilson West of Bathurst for my deli fix. Others will tell you Centre Street Deli for smoked meat (true that) or Yitz's on Eglinton West of Avenue Road or Pancer's (much debate about that spot).

        Hope that helps.


        1. I am sure embee will help out here. But there is a huge difference between food common to Israel and Jewish Style food.

          For jewish style food and culture (patrons, wait staff) you are generally talking deli. I recommend Centre Street, Bagel World and Kiva's. To me those are the most pure to the jewish style and patrons. You will feel like you are in a movie when you eat at Bagel World or Kiva's. It can be very interesting people watching.

          Personally I would say try Centre Street for the great smoked meat and fries and anything else on the menu that appeals to you.

          Then for another experience choose either Bagel World or Kivas as they are pretty close in their offering all the way around. When at either one, you will want to enjoy a bagel despite what Toronto bagel naysayers say. A fresh twister from Kiva or Bagel World is a treat - NOT TOASTED. Throw on some salty butter or cream cheese for the full experience.

          6 Replies
          1. re: deelicious

            Toronto Jewish culture food = Sunday brunch at Free Times Cafe. This is as close as you can get. It's located on the north side of College just west of Spadina.

              1. re: dlw88

                I've been to Free Times a couple times and was sorely disappointed. I'm always amazed by the line-ups they get and the good press. The first time I went I actually had to send my coffee back (a first for me, even after years of travelling and certainly my share of coffee drecks). The latkes were hard as rocks, and everything was generally of poor quality. The second visit turned up a flavourless hummous, and frozen, cubed veggies in my cous-cous. Oh, and cold pita fresh from the bag (likely from the Dominion down the street).

                I really wouldn't take Free Times as an example of either Jewish or Israeli food.

                - Lea

                1. re: Canada Eats

                  I agree it is inconsistent. But to somebody wanting to experience that type of food, I thought "it couldn't hurt". Personally I don't eat there anymore. It was SO much better before the world found out about it.

                  1. re: deelicious

                    I eat there often and love it. I've never had the problems that Lea reports.

                  2. re: Canada Eats

                    Have to agree with Lea, we had brunch (and an expensive one at that) last fall and it was really awful. I was extremely disappointed. DH was not impressed. I personally would never go back, nor recommend it, but that's just my opinion.

              2. On Bathurst (starting at Wilson), there are a couple of Kosher restaurants and take away counters.

                Bathurst & Wilson - Marky's
                Not too great, but they tend be open all the time

                Bathurst & Baycrest - Tov-Li Falafel
                Not exaclty "Jewish" food, but reflective of what Jews eat in Israel. They also have a selection of Kosher pizza's (I'm not a big fan, but pizza tastes differ)

                Bathurst & Lawrence
                There are several places in and around this intersection (I can't remember them all), they range from Bais Burger and the Chicken Shack to United Bakers (it has a Kosher dairy restaurant). There also used to be another Falaflel joint a bit South of Lawrence on the West side of Bathurst, but they have closed.

                As for take-away, the grand daddy of them all, Perl's, recently had a fire in their facility but they are reopening soon.

                There really isn't any specific "Jewish" food really. Since Jews have come from everywhere all over the world, the food that they eat in their homes really reflects where their roots are. Ashkenazi Jews (mainly from Europe) tend to eat the kind of cuisine you would see in Polish, German, and Russian and other Northern and Eastern European cultures. While Sephardi Jews (mainly from southern Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East) tend to have foods that you would see from Morocco, Spain, Italy, Iran, Iraq, and Turkey.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Ubervache

                  United Bakers is owned and operated by a Jewish family. It is a typical dairy restaurant (no meat) and has fantstic homemade soups, and bagels platters (a bagel and a scoop of cream cheese, tuna, chopped egg or smoked salmon) and also more traditional fare such as gefilte fish, etc. Try their cabbage borscht (only available on Fridays) or their pea soup (available every day).

                  1. re: Ubervache

                    Just a note: Bais Burger has been closed since the adjoining Perl's burned down - I think it will be a number of months before Perl's reopens; I think you're referring to The Chicken Nest, not Chicken Shack; United Bakers is a Jewish-owned dairy restaurant, but it is NOT kosher; there are still a number of pizza/falafel joints on Bathurst just south of Lawrence.

                    I think that, when people think of traditional "Jewish" foods, they're looking for Eastern European foods like chicken soup with matzo balls, gefilte fish, stuffed cabbage, roast brisket, carrot tzimmes, chopped liver, etc. These traditional Ashkenazi foods can be found at delis like Pancer's, Yitz's, Coleman's, Centre St., etc.

                    A reminder: all Kosher-certified restaurants, such as Marky's and Chicken Nest, are closed from Friday afternoon through Saturday; some reopen after sundown on Saturday night, depending upon the time of year.

                  2. Jerusalem is actually owned by ... I forget, it's either Lebanese or Israeli Arabs.

                    As others have said, "Jewish food" is a bit hard to define.
                    Bagel World, Kiva's and United Bakers are all fine dairy restaurants; sandwiches, salads etc.
                    Yitz's, Coleman's Centre Street Deli, and Pancers are all Jewish-style delis, but none are kosher.
                    For kosher deli there's basically Marky's and not much else.
                    There are numerous Israeli grills and falafel/pizza or falafel/shwarma places around Bathurst/Wilson and Bathurst/Steeles.
                    Lastlty there are (finally!) some upscale kosher places along Eglinton; Gladstones and Bistro Grande in particular.
                    Boujadi, also on Eglinton, is an awesome Jewish-Moroccan place. I highly reccomend it.

                    So, the answer is kinda that there isn't REALLY any "Jewish" food ... deli is probably the most Jewish, but it's co-opted by places like Druxy's and Shopsy's. All the others are basically Jewish versions of things. I tend to find Israeli places make better falafel than Lebanese but that's a generalization with a few exceptions.
                    It really depends what kind of cuisine you want. But you can't go wrong with Bagel World, United Bakers, Centre Street Deli and Boujadi if you enjoy those kinds of foods.