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AGO Eats

I need a recommendation for somewhere for lunch on Saturday, near the Art Gallery.

No real limit on pricing but don't care for things like pho shops and not keen on going for Chinese or Vietnamese food.


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  1. Baldwin Street, two blocks north, between Beverly and McCaul, has a number of decent (though not spectacular) restaurants to choose from, including Italian. There's also the area on Queen St to the south of the AGO. I don't really have any favourites in that neighbourhood, but anything that looks decent on the outside should be fine.

    1. art square? right across from the ago, well the renovation side, and has some nice crepes, juices, teas and illy espresso drinks. i enjoyed the tuna crepe with their "thousand island dressing" salad because it ended up being a nice vinegar based dressing.

      not too impressed with the truffles.

      1. Cafe LaGaffe on Baldwin is excellent, also, Sage and Mangiacake on McCaul are good too but not really sit down places.

        Also on McCaul is Midi Bisto, which is nice

        1. Wow... can anyone recommend something slightly further afield then? I looked up some of these and they don't appeal -- we'd like to linger over lunch a little without having an endless 'coffee' crowd coming in or sitting on top of one another.........

          1. Well- if you go to the east side of the AGO & walk across the street there's the Grange, with it's numerous takeout stands. Don't let the immediate darkness fool you- there's great Moussaka & lovely seating areas further in. I've spent quite a few hours in there myself, huddled away from roomates & the cold ( I used to live across from the gallery on Dundas).

            Queen street is pretty slim pickings, unless you don't mind standing- the old building across from Much Music has a great selection of well-made foods for the local lunch crowd.

            It's unfortunate that you don't wish to go for Chinese- there's some really good places there- including a new Bun shop that my Korean friend introduced me to...mmm.

            What part of the Kawarthas are you from, may I ask?

            5 Replies
            1. re: EPIcureanTO

              Lakefield.............. Only the best small town in the world :)

              1. re: kawarthagirl

                Right next to Peterborough, of course (my old hometown).

                Though your river side beach beats our lake :)

                Looks like you have lots of suggestions- let us know where you go-!

                Oh- if you ever come in during the week- try the Courthouse(literally-next to city hall)

                1. re: EPIcureanTO

                  In Peterborough? The list is long and growing! There are several new places that opened in the last year and are opening soon. We have the advantage of being in the food magazine business, so we get all the intel!

                  1. re: kawarthagirl

                    No no- I mean the courthouse in Toronto Queen & University. (New places in the patch, huh? Peterborough *is* a place of restaurant high turn-over.)

                    There is a food magazine based in Lakefield??

                    I bet we can play six degrees of separation quite easily...

                    1. re: EPIcureanTO

                      I'm sure you're right... but so as not to get in trouble here, I'll leave it at that. However, if someone was to suggest that you google: lakefield ontario restaurant magazine, you would find us ;)

            2. What about Midi on McCaul, at Elm? Open for lunch on Saturday, nice french bistro atmosphere, they have a website, so you can check out their menu. they also have specials. You can sit for hours at this place - small, cozy, but you won't be sitting on top of one another.

              1 Reply
              1. re: tartetatin

                Nice but the site says not open for lunch on Saturday... Maybe another time !!!

              2. My immediate recommendation would be for Konnichwa on Baldwin. Great Japanese in a quiet environment (only a few types of raw-fish sushi though). But, I'm thinking that isn't quite what you're looking for?

                My next suggestion would be for Queen Mother at Queen and McCaul. Their strongest dishes are the few SE Asian things on the menu. But, the French bistro fare shouldn't disappoint either. They will let you linger and although they are busy and noisy for dinner, they should be quiet(er) for lunch.

                Cafe La Gaffe really isn't going to have anyone coming and going. They don't do take out. But, it is a bistro-style place though and can be 'vibrant' -- a little noisy at times. Lunch on a weekday would be quiet -- Saturday will be busy.

                Given your interest in a quieter place, I'd really suggest Gallery Grill in Hart House but their going to be closed on a Saturday. Maybe La Bodega would be good? I think they are a bit stuffy in ambiance and unadventurous in their food. But, then, I would have gone for dumplings or pho.

                5 Replies
                1. re: Atahualpa

                  Konnichwa is a ramen-ya, they serve ramen and that's probably the only thing you should order from there. I personally find their broth to be quite lacking.

                  If interested in Japanese, you can try Ematei, just a few mins walk south of the AGO. Their focus is on their cooked foods, stick w/ that. It's the closest Toronto has in terms of izakaya food, and no, "Izakaya" the restaurant is not even remotely close.


                  1. re: aser

                    Whoa! I know they present themselves as a noodles-house. But:

                    1. They have the best Unagi I've had in Toronto. Yes, I have had Kaji's (and many many more). Their tamago is also very well done.

                    2. They make really good onigiri. Especially onigiri okaka (with bonito). I can't find onigiri anywhere else I've been too.

                    3. They make a great shiso-ume roll.

                    4. While it is NOT where I would go if i wanted raw-fish sushi, the few items I have had since the started offering some (i.e. with meals or from friends' plates) have been very well done and fresh. I think they only offer a very limited selection so they can keep the quality/freshness up.

                    5. Excellent cooked seafood items, the grilled flying-fish is good as are the scallops. The black cod with miso is great.

                    6. There are several other things they get right that so many others get wrong. Namely: non-greasy, light and crispy tempura; nice zaru soba (well, the sauce is balanced -- other than Hiro on Sundays, I know of nowhere offering fresh soba).

                    Ematei might have been good 10 years ago. I haven't had a meal than was anything better than ok or good since. And, I certainly wouldn't be quoting a torontolife review to back anything up!

                    1. re: Atahualpa

                      Don't feel threatened that I was picking apart your suggestion, it was not my intention. My simple point being, I judge a ramen-ya on their ramen. If that doesn't measure up, I go elsewhere.

                      Ematei is functional for food, again as long as you stay w/ cooked dishes. The Toronto Life link was simply used to give the poster a link to a map. Take it for what it is, I wasn't citing it as "infallable proof" as you seem to think. If you disagree, then I respect your opinion.

                      1. re: aser

                        Yes, I'd go elsewhere for ramen too. Its not great Ramen. The udon soups are good, though (not as much bonito in the dashi as some purists might like though -- and I'd personally pass on the addition of wakame to the broth).

                        I just think judging a place by one dish alone when they have a lengthy menu is foolish. You're missing their best stuff. Moreover, I don't understand the argument that "that's probably the only thing you should order from there" at all. Why? It's not what they're best at and it's only a tiny portion of their menu.

                        1. re: Atahualpa

                          I prefer a place w/ limited menus that specialize in things they're good at. They know not to stretch their limits, and perfect that one dish. Ramen-ya's in Japan follow that model, they make it in the ramen world by offering a distinctive trademark bowl.

                          Most ramen-ya's in Japan serve strictly ramen, gyoza, charshu, and fried rice. The menu is deliberately limited. Whereas the abundance of choice in Japanese restaurants here is a N. American cultural issue.

                          I will give the unagi a try if I'm ever back there again.

                2. I like Peter Pan at Queen and Peter, it's nice and quiet at brunch. Pasta and regular fare.