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San Francisco Hound visiting this summer

My wife and I are making our first visit to Toronto this summer (principally to attend the Police concert) and want to experience restaurants that are uniquely (in terms of food quality, service and decor/style) Torontan (?). We'll be in town for four nights (staying at Hotel Le Germain) and love virtually all cuisines. My family is Calabrese, and from what I understand, Toronto has the largest Calabrese community in North America, so if anyone is doing "Grandma's" food well, we'd love to try it. Thanks in advance.

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  1. Once place you should follow is Globe Restaurant on the Danforth. It has been getting mixed but optimistic reviews. The chef attempts to use organic and local ingredients only, so it might give you a sense of what is in season locally.

    1 Reply
    1. re: mickeyj

      Funny you should mention Globe -- i just saw an episode of "Opening Soon" about the drama of getting that place open.

    2. It's "Torontonian" - since you asked :)

      You should check out this link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/36486...

      1. Husky, the word you're looking for is Torontonian.

        Directly across the street from your hotel is a restaurant called Rain, which gets rave reviews. Very innovative food with an Asian twist in a beautiful setting. Its only connection with Italy is through its chef/owners, Michael and Guy Rubino.

        1 Reply
        1. re: FlavoursGal

          If you go to Rain, be prepared to go out for dinner afterward. You will spend a great deal of money on beautifully prepared food and will leave hungry.

        2. Can't help on Calabrian . . . but short walks away in opposite directions you can sample the culinary magic of two of Toronto's [read Canada's] most renowned chefs: Susur Lee and Jamie Kennedy.

          Susur offers his unique Asian fusion cuisine at two adjacent venues: the formal, high-end Susur at 601 King Street West, and the casual, hip Lee next door. Try Susur for an extravagant gourmet journey of discovery, Lee for tasty appetiser sized-tidbits in a hip and modern environment (my personal favourite: you get to experience all the talents of this remarkable chef without the formality and hefty price-tag next door). Both need to be booked in advance. See description and review at:
          http://www.torontolife.com/guide/rest...

          Jamie Kennedy is a young Canadian chef committed to local ingredients; his style is eclectic, adding unexpected twists to classic Canadian dishes such as poutine (with seasoned lamb slivers on top). He also operates two locations: Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar at 9 Church Street (east of Yonge), serving tapas sized portions of a frequently changing limited menu and a diverse selection of wines from around the world by the glass; and Jamie Kennedy at the Gardiner located at the ceramics museum in Yorkville. See website at:
          http://www.jkkitchens.com/v3/restaura...

          Bon Appetit!

          2 Replies
          1. re: Nelson

            Husky, if you do find yourself at Jamie Kennedy on Church St., make sure to eat in the Wine Bar, and avoid the adjoining Jamie Kennedy Restaurant. I've been to the restaurant and was thoroughly underwhelmed. I haven't tried the wine bar yet, but Chowhounders give it an almost universal thumbs-up.

            1. re: FlavoursGal

              Second that! I've been to both the restaurant and to JKWB, and I was overwhelmingly underwhelmed at the restaurant, but the WB was fantastic!!

          2. The Rebel House. On Yonge, north of Bloor. It's almost directly across the street from the Rosedale subway station.

            Visited Starfish on Saturday for the first time and was very impressed. If you're into seafood, you'll get a good sampling of some of our finest oysters.

            If you're a chicken wing person, St. Louis Bar and Grill, The Bistro on Avenue Rd. and the Chicken Deli all have the same type of wing which would have to be considered uniquely Toronto. There is also Duff's for REAL Buffalo Style Chicken wings.

            If you're a baseball fan and the Jays are in town, there is a buffet with tables overlooking the field that seems to get good reviews. The Dome also has another bar (Sightlines) as well as a Hard Rock Cafe.

            Make sure you get to the St. Lawrence Market. Also, we have lots of ethnic stuff so if you're into food from all over the world, you'll certainly be able to find cuisines here you can't in SF.

            Anyway, enjoy your stay here and do report back.

            DT

            5 Replies
            1. re: Davwud

              What do you consider to be a Toronto-style chicken wing? Just curious.

              1. re: julesrules

                Not so much a "Toronto Style" chicken wing. It's just that the ones from Chicken Deli/St. Louis/Tom and Jerry's are all from the same cook. He came up with the recipe and since they're all in the GTA, it's a style/flavour/whatever you want to call it that seems to be only here. I've never come across any like them anywhere else.

                DT

                1. re: Davwud

                  Okay sorry wrong question, how would you describe this cook's wings?

                  1. re: julesrules

                    They don't have the vinegar twang that a Buffalo style does and there is certainly a garlic flavour to them. Probably a more tomatoey garlic chili kinda thing. I've never been able to nail it down.
                    It's been a while since I had them so you'll have to excuse me. They're really quite good. I just prefer others.

                    DT

                2. re: julesrules

                  In my (perhaps limited) experience, a Toronto-style chicken wing is any wing eaten while watching Hockey Night in Canada with Rabbit's hockey-nut father.

                  My quintessential Toronto dining experience is a pea-meal bacon sandwich with lots of hot peppers at the St Lawrence market.

              2. If you really are Calabrese, then you surely have family in Toronto. Find them and they will hook you up.

                Oh, and please don't go to the "Chicken Deli".

                Also, that is a great hotel (awesome lobby IMO). Instead of doing Rain, Second City is also right across the street. You might want to check out their latest.

                1. Rosa's Place on Finch serves Calabrese food, but I haven't tried it. Here's a link to the restaurant: http://www.rosasplace.com/dinner.html and a link to a listing mentioning the Calabrese connection: http://www.torontoplus.ca/portal/prof...

                  The Big Ragu has homestyle cooking that's primarily southern Italian from several regions http://thebigragu.com/home.html
                  The Big Ragu is located on Lansdowne, just off the Corso Italia on St.Clair West.

                  I've also enjoyed homestyle meals at Da Gianni e Maria on St.Clair West, but it also serves food from all parts of Italy.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: phoenikia

                    I was at Rosa's Place a few years ago. The place is very 1987 from an asthetic perspective. The food was decent. Good pasta. I don't remember anything being wow.

                  2. I'm from the Bay Area, but lived in Toronto for a couple of years before relocating back to the Bay and there are definitely things that I sorely miss. A lot of the ethnic food that they have in Toronto, you can't find in the Bay Area. Here are a couple of the things that I've searched for, but can't find in SF:

                    -authentic Jamaican/Haitian food
                    -Poutine - you don't have to like it, just try it

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: adrienne156

                      Haitian? Where is Haitian in Toronto? Are you confusing TO with Montreal? There is no Hatitian community in Toronto

                      You can get Jamaican (well, a lot of fake Jamaican) at many places in North America- what you can get in Toronto that you sure as hell cannot get in SF is Trinidadian. I have yet to meet anybody in SF who even knows what roti is, never mind where SF's best roti is.

                      Of course, the Mexican in SF more than makes up for this!

                    2. As a former San Franciscan who moved to Toronto, I call tell you that there is nothing particularly unique or different here. Toronto has absolutely no distinctive character or food. There are good restaurants, but not anything you haven't had before and probably better in SF. The only possible exception is Caribbean.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: wordsworth

                        I strongly disagree with wordsworth. I've been to San Fran a number of times and have relatives who live there and I think Toronto offers far more in terms of quality and quantity. In particular, we have an abundance of excellent Chinese and Italian restaurants that are considered top notch in the world. San fran is caught in a time warp when it comes to Chinese food. I would consider chinese restaurants in "San Fran" old world.

                        1. re: wordsworth

                          Wordsworth! I absolutely disagree with your take on San Fran vs. Toronto. The food in Toronto is 1000 x better than San Fran and I think that you have not visited enough restaurants to come to the same conclusion. Don't get me wrong, I love visiting my family and friends in San Fran, but the food is mediocre compared to Toronto's selection.

                        2. Do check back with us closer to your trip. Police are here in July and I know that there will be great summer-eating opportunities that I just can't process now because I'm in winter-cocooning mind.

                          Some initial thoughts -
                          - you might enjoy walking up Spadina (through Chinatown) and through Kensington market. Jumbo Empanadas at Kensington is a great, little lunch spot (so is Rice Bar).
                          - Some think the Distillery district is too tourist-y, but I think it's a lovely summer walk - and the Mill Street Brewery has great, local microbrews.
                          - Amuse Bouche, which is not too far from your hotel, has a delightful summer patio, food is excellent, and it will feel like a neighbourhood "secret".
                          -Drinks at the Drake patio will also be very Toronto (West Queen West is all Wallpaper-hip right now, but don't let that turn you off)... and then head up Dovercourt to Julie's ((Cuban) for dinner al fresco under all the pretty little lights - also very neighbourhood).

                          1. Husky, I'm sure you will enjoy Toronto and what it has to offer. I love San Fran but in my opinion, i think you will be pleasantly surprised with our selection and prices are reasonable for what you get. It sounds like you might be looking for some home cooking. I would consider a couple of places in "coso italy". Here are some good mom and pop italian eateries in TO, (La Bruschetta Restaurant,1317 St Clair W, followed by ice cream at La Paloma. Also there's Marcello's on St. Clair and Dufferin (good portions, reasonable priced and friendly staff.) Make sure to get there early, there's usually a line up. They don't take reservations. You might want to try Mildred Pierce for dinner or brunch. If you want top notch chinese food, I suggest "Le Wai Heen" at the Metropolitan. Happy eating.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: hanc

                              Just a minor clarification, hanc is referring to the neighbourhood known as Corso Italia. It's the original, older Italian neighbourhood on St. Clair West, distinct from the newer, hipper Little Italy along College St.

                              1. re: TorontoJo

                                If you are in Toronto on a Saturday, do make a point of visiting the St. Lawrence Market at Front and Jarvis streets. It is a fantastic market, one of the best in the world. The north building is the farmer's market, with fruit and veg, locally produced cheeses and similar foodstuffs. The south building has butchers and fishmongers, more cheese and deli places, bakeries, and interesting food stalls. Lots of people like the peameal bacon sandwiches that you can get on the main floor. In the basement, Mustachio's does very good veal cutlet or eggplant sandwiches. Personally, I like their western omelet sandwiches.

                                The market is a lively and fantastic place.

                            2. I don't know precisely what is Calabrian cuisine except for complex sauces and multigrain round bread, but I do know where to find wonderful Italian food and that would be in Brampton which is a north west suburb. If you don't rent a car, then I would suggest taking the GO bus or train. I think the train runs only in rush hour, so it might be wise to take the morning train, have lunch and then take the evening train back. My husband and i live in Scarborough, but regularly drive the 45 min. to Brampton to get our fix. Our favorite restaurant is La Campagnina on George Street just north of Queen, close to the GO station. If you go there have their appetizer of Avocado and seafood. We often go there just for that and the bread with a nice bottle of wine.
                              Pat