Do-not-miss dining: Toronto
I will be visiting Toronto from New York City in late April for a conference and am looking for your do-not-miss recommendations for dinner and lunch. We'll be at the Sheraton but are willing to travel as long as the food is absolutely delectable! We're looking for a range of prices and cuisines so please don't censure your thoughts.
Thanks in advance!
Here are a few I think are great.:
- Lai Toh Heen (at the Metropolitan hotel) has the best dim sum - http://www.metropolitan.com/menus/lwh...
- Sushi Kaji - if you like Japanese its the place to go.
- Susur - this is pricey but the tasting menu is amazing. Will need to book way ahead of time...if you cant get in you could try Lee - its next door...not comparable but interesting
- The Real Jerk - best Jamaican food Ive had
It's "Lee Wah Heen" at the Metropolitan Hotel on Chestnut St., but you are correct that they have the best Dim Sum downtown. It's all high-end Hong Kong style, shrimp based as opposed to pork based, it inventive and yummy.
Susur is a trip. The tasting menu is the way to go. I also had a lot of fun and good food next door at Lees.
Don't eat Sushi in Toronto. They just don't get it right. Save that for a visit to Vancouver and go to Tojos or drive to Whistler and try Sushi Village. They are the best there is.
I agree that you must go for Toronto's strengths. Portuguese comes to mind, but I usually do the small funky places. Grilled sardines, roast suckling pig, Caldo Verde have to be tried. Chiado might be it.
Also one lunch must be at California Sandwich, 244 Claremont. Veal done right, spicy olives, sausages and brio chinotto are about all they offer and all you need to try for a memorable experience.
To say that Matahari Grill is the only 'do not miss' place in Toronto is overstating it, and not just by a little. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with Matahari Grill (good upscale Malaysian cooking), but to put it over places like Susur, Lai Wah Heen, Senses and Splendido and a bunch of others do them a huge injustice.
re: Bordeaux Girl
It's the only place of the places that I've personally eaten; the restaurants you mention are completely out of my price range as a grad student, and of what I can afford, MataHari is leagues above anything else. I'm sure you're right in that the places you suggest are better... I only wish I had the money to be able to confirm that myself ;-).
Since you are coming from one of the best restaurant cities in the world, there will not be a lot that you can find in Toronto that you can't find in NYC. Having said that, there are some wonderful dining experiences to be had in TO.
1. High-end Portuguese. Chiado is probably the best Portuguese restaurant in North America. The specialty is incredibly fresh seafood flown in daily from the Atlantic, but I strongly recommend also asking for the bar menu, which has lots of wonderful Portuguese nibbles (including a wonderful blood sausage made in house). If you've never had fresh sardines, this is the place to try them. You will see references on this board to Senhor Antonio's Wine Bar. This is theoretically the sister restaurant to Chiado, but in reality they share the same space and you can ask for both menus.
2. Caribbean. My favourites are roti and Trini doubles. Lots of discussion on both topics on this board. My favourite roti are from Gandhi.
3. Perigee. My favourite fine-dining restaurant in the city (with Splendido running a very, very close second). Dinner as theatre -- you sit next to the sunken kitchen and get to watch and interact with the chefs as they prepare your dinner. Chef Riley comes to your table to explain each course. Chef's menu only, 5, 6 or 7 courses. Located in the beautiful Distillery District.
Lots more possibilities that I'll let others supply. Enjoy your trip and please report back!
I miss Caribbean food so much, it just sucks out here (Whistler). I make it my self mostly.
My favourite spot (14 years ago) was Bacchus Roti on Queen West. Old Granny Bacchus made every thing from scratch and when she died, her son & daughter in-law followed her recipes exactly. They were one of the 1st to make boneless goat curry for the rotis, so the cab drivers could eat it while driving. Every roti item had it's own unique flavour - goat, chicken, beef, lamb, potatoes, green beans, eggplant, chickpeas, spinach - the roti parathas were always cooked to order, with the crumbly yellow peas in the middle, the doubles were always cheap and filling and the Pineapple tarts were good enough to dream about.
Damm, I gotta find a place like this soon or I'm gonna spend a month making it all my self.
I have never been to perigee, but Splendido does it right. Wow what a great restaurant, it get's my vote for best dinning experience in Torontol
Susur is also a great restaurant, and maybe his food is something that is a little out of the ordinary (and fantastic) and so worth a visit- but beware as service can be very average. I would not recomend it on any Saturday night. You probably don't need to book more than a day in advance. The tasting menu's are amazing, but not for everyone. Don't be afraid to order a-la-carte.
Not sure what you mean by "distinguishes itself". While it may not fall into a specific category, or be in the running for a Michelin award, I think the Rushton succeeds in all areas - delicious food, great, lively atmosphere, and a great bar (we love eating at the bar), but at a reasonable price, and without the pretention. Please tell me when the tasting menu craze is going to end. Ugh! Oh, and the Rushton is also fun. I think it was Chris McDonald who owned Avalon who said that Toronto isn't interested in fine dining anymore. Not that fine dining isn't appreciated, but I think the masses are speaking, and they're telling restauranteurs that they want quality at a reasonable price without the formality or fuss. The Rushton is always super busy, which usually means they're turning over their food inventory which means you won't be tasting the moldy cheese from the bottom of the bin in your pizza - like I once had at Filipo's across the street. Never again. Do they make pizza at Rushton? Not sure... The Rushton owner(s) are the guys who own Ferro across the street. They strike me being as pretty serious about success and their business, but there's something about them that says that they're also very serious about food, so I trust them and their product until proven otherwise. I don't think Toronto foodies are very forgiving of a restaurant that starts to compromise its product. I'd be interested in hearing more about what you mean by "distinguishing itself" if you have time. Thanks.
well, l guess i mean that it is a great neighborhood joint but I wouldn't travel from my hood (mt. pleasant and davisville) to go- I just don't endorse it as *do not miss dining*, particularly for someone from NYC.
I won't get into a prolonged discussion regarding what Toronto diners now want and don't want, as I don't think the OP is particularly interested.
Love the Rushton. The Rushton and Ferro are no longer associated (they were until last year). It is a consistently good place with a vibrant atmosphere, but not sure I'd go out of my way to eat there if I was from NYC. HIgher on my list would be:
Caribbean food - roti esp. as mentioned prev. Worth a trip to the small places to try some.
Cantonese Chinese - Lah Wah Heen is pretty unique in NA and might be better than many places elsewhere
Portuguese - VERY hard to get great Portuguese elsewhere in NA
I would rec. JK at the Gardiner for lunch b/c they take reservations, it's near the ROM, and is a lovely experience food-wise and design-wise. It is very "Canadian" - Canuck wines, eclectic food, all well presented and tasty.
Other upscale places with truly unique offerings would include: Susur, Splendido, Scaramouche, and sometimes Canoe, North 44
For other cheap eats, I would look for some Middle Eastern small places - there is some pretty good stuff around. Ghazeli's comes to mind and I am sure there are posts on other places.
Things to completely skip in TO (e.g.NYC better for sure): Greek food (only Montreal and NYC have "real" Greek food in NA, IMO), most traditional French food, Italian restos, steak houses. PLEASE don't eat at The Keg!
I have been a 'foodie' all my life, having eaten in food mecca capitals all over the world from Hong Kong, Tokyo to Paris, London, Milan, Madrid to NYC, San Francisco etc. In my humble opinion, I believe NYC offers the 'Best and Most Varied' overall food/restaurants collection in North America EXCEPT when it comes to top notch " Cantonese Chinese Food". From Dim Sum to the simple Won-Ton noodle and rice congee to Wok stir-fries to Banquet style high end cuisine, the best of NYC are still a few notches below what the best of Vancouver and/or Toronto can offer. As a result, if distance is no object, I would recommend making a special trip to either Scarborough or Richmond Hill and try out some top notch Cantonese food there. A few eslablishments that immediately come to mind include 'Fantasy Eatery' ( Finch/Midland), Jade Dynasty ( Leslie/Finch), O Mei ( Highway 7/ Valleymede) etc.. I also concur whole heartedly with TorontoJo when it comes to sushi in Toronto. Sushi Kaji, though great by Toronto standard, but why bother when NYC offers the like of Masa and Nobu?! I guess the same can be said about French/Continental restaurants. Splendido, Perigee, Scaramouche etc are all great ' Toronto' establishments, however, when compare to Michelin stalwarts like Bouly, Daniel, Jean George, Le Bernadin, Alain Ducasse and Per Se. What can I say?! except, may be the price. Anyways,when it comes to food quality versus value for money, I would definitely rank Toronto #1 in whole of North America!!
re: Charles Yu
A few ideas that jump to mind...
In the downtown core you'll see lots of hot dog carts on street corners, often under yellow awnings in this cold weather, they all sell virtually the same product, only the available toppings (usually 10 or more including onions, sauerkraut, hot peppers, multiple mustards, ketchup, etc.) and skill of the griller vary slightly, but they're all great - typically $1.99 Canadian for a jumbo dog and $2.99 for an excellent sausage - hot italian or polish are usually available, both are great, char-grilled crackling skinned smoky goodness!
Also on Front Street, in front of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, and entrance to Skydome & the CN Tower there are typically a number of "chip trucks" that make great fresh-cut fries. Typically HUGE orders, and since you're in Toronto, you have to try them the way the locals do, with either salt & malt vinegar or they will happily cover them in gravy for a little extra $ (Toronto-style "Chips'n'Gravy").
If you're lucky they'll even douse them with gravy and cheese curds to create a ooey-gooey-melty-messy Canadian delicacy called Poutine (properly pronounced 'pooh-TIN', typically mispronounced pooh-teen). My fave trucks are the one with "Proudly Canadian" on the back panel-doors and the big-loud-fun guy inside (ask him about his 'Shower-Boy' musical group) or the black letters on white truck called Don-Juan (check out how he handles the red-hot fries direct from the fryer with bare hands!).
Low-brow, but awesome, is California Sandwiches' killer italian veal sandwich - huge thin melt-in-your-mouth breaded veal cutlets on fresh soft-but-crusty italian kaiser rolls, with an authentic garlicky italian tomato sauce and your choice of sweet, medium or shockingly hot green peppers for free, and cheese, mushrooms, sautéed onions for a little extra. The italian steak, chicken cutlet, and meatball sandwiches are all great, too, but veal is the specialty of the house, line up to order it, and a bottle of italian Brio soda pop to wash it down, at the counter, find a table and eat some heaven. Yummy! Tiny little place among residential houses one block north of Dundas in Little Italy - 244 Claremont St., 416-603-3317 http://www.californiasandwiches.com/c...
Rose Café - Considered Vietnam’s answer to the sub sandwich, the "banh mi" at Rose Café is better than anything you’d find at Mr. Sub. Served on a baguette, it combines dense pâté, barbecued pork, chopped cucumber, fresh carrot, leaf lettuce and cilantro sprigs. Though it’s clearly one of the city’s great sandwiches, it’s unclear how this east Chinatown café makes a profit; as said delight costs only $1.50!! 324 Broadview Ave., 416-406-9906.
Montreal-Style Bagels are unique, addictive and come in a dizzying array of flavours - some of the best come out of the wood-fired ovens of Bagel House ( http://www.torontolife.com/guide/food...) on Bayview Ave., right next-door to a fantastic Beer-Burger-(Great)Fries&Hockey-on-the-tube joints that happens to be owned by fallen-hockey-hero Marty McSorley's, ( http://www.mcsorleys.ca/ ) which is just a block down the road from Toronto's only genuine Buffalo-Wing place which is actually a branch-office of one of the best-of-the-best in Buffalo - Duff's Wings.(http://www.duffsfamouswings.ca/home.html) *NOTE* This trendy-cool, family-friendly upscale, but laid-back little strip of Bayview Ave. (a block or two south of Eglinton Ave.) is also a neighbourhood that's fun to window-shop and browse the eclectic stores.
Brewpub anyone? - Excellent spot for a little history with your beer is the Steam Whistle Brewery a shot walk from CN Tower, Skydome, Air Canada Centre and not too far from Harbourfront, it occupies a former railway roundhouse and brews a really great light pilsner lager in distinctive green bottles, and you can grab a cold one and a sandwich and I think they still do tours with all the info about the brewing and the railway steam locomotives.
REAL Pizza? - check out Massimo's Pizza - my older forum entry here: http://www.roadfood.com/Forums/topic....
Something different? THE best Greek food outside of the Mediterranean is in Toronto's Greektown, I love Astoria's souvlaki, Avli www.avlirestaurant.com, and Lolita's Lust (yes, that's the name, just a restaurant-bar, nothing untotoward going on) but every place is exceptional and unique - and many are open til 3am, 4am and later! This is where lots of cool younger Torontonians go to dine and socialize after the club, after the party. http://www.greektowntoronto.com/about...
All You Can Eat Sushi? Yeah, that's right, all you can eat! And not a buffet with pre-made nori wilting away, we're talkin' made-as-you-order sushi, maki, temaki and even sashimi at suppertime, plus teriyaki, tempura, donburi, and a variety of japanese treats, all for one fixed price. Yes, I go often, and yes, I'm sure they are now questioning the wisdom of this business model as I devour slab after slab of buttery raw salmon, thinly shredded teriyaki beef, tempura shrimp and veggies, and loads of handrolls, futomaki, etc. Yeah, ok, it's not a good as Nobu in NYC, or the best-of-the-best in Toronto and there's no Toro tuna belly on the menu, but it's excellent, fresh, and for about $20 (the price of about 10 pieces of top-shelf sushi/sashimi in this town), I get a lot of variety, and a lot of food. Maison du Japan http://www.restaurantica.com/restaura... or Ten-Ichi Sushi http://www.ten-ichi.com/
More Upscale? How about a nice steak dinner in a cool place? The Keg Mansion is a medium priced steakhouse, the flagship location of a fairly large chain (think Outback but MUCH cooler and more sophisticated, with much better food) but this location is in a mansion built in 1867, the same year Canada was founded, and formerly owned and lived-in by one of Toronto's wealthiest families. The steak is quite good, especially the Keg baseball sirloin, or try the Steak Oscar which is topped with seafood and hollandaise sauce. If it's busy, grab a table in the bar on the second floor, they'll serve you anything from the full menu there, too. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keg_Mansion or http://en.kegsteakhouse.com/locations...
Really-really high end, price-be-damned? Susur ( http://www.susur.com/susur.html ) is the tasting-menu king of toronto, generally listed among the Top 25 or Top 50 restaurants on the planet, this is food that's almost too beautiful to eat, but do eat it, it's spectacular, and North 44 ( http://www.north44restaurant.com/ ) is top notch world-class with a contemporary Canadian flare. ...or old-style super-premium supper club steakhouse? Harbour 60 ( http://www.harboursixty.com/ ) is excellent, as is Barberian's - old-school wood-and-leather steakhouse authentic and unchanged since the 1950's, this is where Liz Taylor and Richard Burton got engaged in 1964 http://www.barberians.com/
Saturday morning? Get up early? Grab a cab to the St. Lawrence Market http://www.stlawrencemarket.com/ one of the 25 best markets in the world, according to Food & Wine magazine, and see all the fresh fish, fresh fruit & veg, meats, pasta, dried foods, bakeries, and great little sandwich and specialty shops, definitely grab a breakfast-brunch-lunch peameal-on-a-bun sandwich (if you don't know what a peameal-on-a-bun is, trust me, it's a Toronto tradition - get one! You'll thank me.) Carousel - Peameal Sandwiches, also try - Caviar Direct - Smoked Salmon, Musatchio's - Veal and Eggplant sandwiches,
Alex Farms - Cheese .... Pictures: http://www.showmetoronto.com/toronto_... or
Beautiful Day? Spring-Summer-Fall? Harbourfront! http://www.harbourfrontcentre.com Everything from a walk along the lake to glass blowing demonstrations to ice skaing to antique markets to live buskers on the street, then hop on the cheap passenger Ferry to Toronto's Centre Island off the "coast" of Toronto, the islands form a protective ring around the harbour and offer great walking, a beach, cafe's, a public pool, paddle boats for rent, a kids area with mini-rides and a a petting zoo, great spot to follow the instruction to "Please Walk ON The Grass!" and enjoy THE BEST view of the downtown Toronto city skyline. pictures: http://www.boldts.net/TorCi.shtml or http://www.boldts.net/TorWi.shtml
Like Heights? CN Tower? Sure, why not? It's the tallest free-standing structure in the world (something like TWO empire state buildings stacked on top of each other or something) and it has a glass floor!! Kinda pricy to go to the observation deck, but I'm told that if you go to the bar at the top and buy a drink, there's a side entrance to the observation deck :-) The rotating restaurant at the top, called 360 is incredibly romatic place to watch the sunset, or the city lights at night, and happens to be where I proposed to the ex- Mrs. Yeah, I know, but the tower was where it started all romatic and wide-eyed, not where it ended! http://www.cntower.ca
No visti to Toronto is complete without a walk or drive along Yonge Street - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yonge_St... - Toronto's main street and ofter called the longest street on the planet, starts at Lake Ontario and goes to the Arctic. And in Toronto it's always busy, full of shops and Theatres and people and restaurants and it's fun (and safe) to stroll anytime of the day or night, especially from Queen Street north past the Eaton's Centre and Dundas Square, or if you're a marathoner walk all the way up to Bloor Street, (ok, I drive it or take the subway up instead) but at Yonge & Bloor turn west and walk two or three blocks - this is where you'll find Toronto's version of "5th Avenue" with high-end fashion, Cartier, Saks, Wm. Ashley, Birks, Holt Renfrew, Bvulgari, Plus the Four Seasons and Park Plaza, etc. (and one small street north is Yorkville, formerly Toronto's answer to hippiedom's haight-Ashbury distict, but now home to the uber-exclusive t Gallery of Ontario, because that would mean less time to eat!
Party Animal? Toronto's Club and Entertainment district is untouchable, second only to NY and LA. Even if you're not into dancing the night away with the party set, it's a great people-watching drive along Richmond St. from University to Spadina and back along Queen Street west. In addition to all the super-chic dance clubs, this is also the zone where you'll find the world famous Second City, and Wayne Gretzky's Pub, and Playdium, and Yuk-Yuk's Comedy Club, and Jeff Healey's Blues and Jazz Bar, plus Hooters and The Red Devil BBQ and a bunch of other watering holes. http://www.torontonightclub.com/maps.htm
OK, that's more than enough for now!
* some of my picks above, and a bunch more are listed here: http://www.nowtoronto.com/food/eatcheap/
Welcome to Toronto, and enjoy!!
Hmm... I have to disagree with a few of your recommendations.
1. Toronto's street dogs are fine for a hungry commuter or student in a pinch. But to actually go out of your way to get one? Seems like a wasted chow opportunity.
2. All you can eat sushi may be a novelty, but even the best places are of so-so quality. Once again, seems like a wasted chow opportunity. Go to Japango for a good value in excellent sushi. Or go to Sushi Kaji for a major splurge. But once again, our visitor is from NYC, where there are so many top-notch Japanese restaurants that nothing here will be of particular surprise.
3. I'd be hard pressed to recommend the Keg to anyone in Toronto, let alone a visitor. A chain restaurant with mediocre food in a nice building is still a chain restaurant with mediocre food (particularly mediocre once you venture outside a plain steak).
Just my $.02 on the tips.
Toronto Hot Dog carts are some of the best anywhere, but praising them only underscores the City's appalling street food scene.
Front Street "Fries" trucks - please refer to hot dog carts above.
California Sandwiches' killer italian veal sandwich - Yes, yes, yes!!!!!!
Tiny little place among residential houses one block north of Dundas in Little Italy - 244 Claremont St., 416-603-3317 http://www.californiasandwiches.com/c...
Vietnam’s sub sandwich, the "banh mi" should be tried by anyone from a city lacking good Vietnamese Food as should a steaming bowl of Pho. Is New York one of those cities?
Good bagels are a must anywhere, though you gotta go to Montreal for the best Montreal Bagels.
Brewpubs like the the Steam Whistle Brewery are common in New York, but if you are in the neighborhood....
REAL Pizza? - Massimo's Pizza is my choice if I have to have a beer or glass of wine. If Brio or a coke will do, Bitondos on Clinton is still the best.
THE best Greek food outside of the Mediterranean is in Toronto's Greektown. I agree. Mezes, Ouzeri and many others are worth checking out.
All You Can Eat Sushi? God help us. It even sucks in Vancouver. Go big or stay home. Eat Sushi in Toronto at your peril.
The Keg Mansion ???? Please don't recommend this to anyone. It's too embarrassing! Your other suggestion of Barberian's is much better.
Susur, Jamie Kennedy at the Gardiner, North 44 are great choices but the best would be to arrange a day trip to Michael Stadtlander's Eigensinn Farm Singhampton Ontario, Canada. This is one of the top 5 restaurants in the World. Period.
St. Lawrence Marketon a Saturday morning; absolutely!
Harbourfront, CN Tower, Yonge Street, only if you stop for good Shawarma along the way, otherwise leave these for the tour guide books.
Toronto's Club and Entertainment district is great for any twenty something whose priority os how much alcohol they can consume in one evening while looking trendy for the babes. As for Chowhound quality food, it's a wasteland.
If you are staying at the Sheraton then I would have to recommend walking right across the road to the Blue Chip Truck instead of going to Front St. Excellent fries and the gravy is free. If you are feeling up for it I highly recommend the poutine with salt and malt vinegar on top.
Just watch out for the birds in that area. They will walk right up to your food and help themselves, lol.
Wow, a big post but no mention of chinese food in Toronto ?.....
I agree with other people on this thread. Since you have all kinds of top notch restaurants in NYC except high-end chinese restaurant, I suggest you go to "Lee Wah Heen" at the Metropolitan Hotel too, may be try out their shark fin soup and abalone, those are exotic ingredients and some of the greatest chinese dishes in my opinion, or dim sum for lunch.
http://www.metropolitan.com/menus/lwh... - scoll down to the shark fin/abalone section.
Or if you have a car, go to Casa Imperial Fine Chinese Cuisine at Warden and Steeles for dim sum or dinner. They are many other chinese restaurants which are also good with a lower price tag in Markham/Richmond Hill area.
re: Charles Yu
In defense of my suggestions, among all the one-upsmanship going on...
1. Lai Wah Heen was already mentioned, not going to do any better than that in TO.
2. He specifically asked for all prices and cuisines, and let's face it, no-one is going to eat at Susur and Lai Wah Heen for every meal, so some cheap but solid options are a good idea, too, and The Keg is MUCH better than Outback, which are as a result slowly dying off here in Canada, but thriving and popular stateside.
3. EVERY visitor I get from the USA loves hot dogs, and they ALL rave about toronto's dog carts, which are a nice change from the typical boiled weenie carts most cities are used to.
4. As mentioned, he's not going to do any better than Nobu in NYC for creative, awesome sushi, so for about the same price as one Dragon roll or a half dozen morsels of tuna, you can have a big feed of a variety of teriyaki, tempura, maki, temaki, nigiri, etc. And let's face it, fresh salmon is fresh salmon, regardless of how much you pay for it :-)
New Ideas -
Dim Sum is a great idea, though - if you want cheap and cheerful, but great quality, with the traditional chinese Dim-Sum carts where you can pick each dish individually after taking a peek, go to Markham/Scarborough - Ruby Chinese (corner of McCowan and Finch) is a solid choice with a funky low-brow mainland china atmosphere - great Har Gow and Siu Mai, seafood specialties, and awesome sticky chinese bbq pork on rice.
I was going to recommend The Whistling Oyster for happy hour, but just discovered it's closed down, too.
If you have any favorite foods or are looking for something unusual, let me know, I've got a ton of other places I recommend, but I've already swamped this board with my big post :-)
Hey TT, there is no "one-upmanship" going on here -- just people expressing their opinions so that the original poster gets a well-rounded perspective on everyone's recommendations.
And one final comment re: the Keg. Saying the Keg is much better than the Outback is damning it with faint praise, and it still doesn't mean it's a place for an out of town visitor. It's like saying Harvey's is much better than McDonald's, so go eat there. Yes, they do an acceptable steak, but everytime I've eaten there and tried anything other than the steak (which I can still do way better at home), the food has been incredibly uninspiring. I banned it from my eating options years ago. Cocktails only, if friends insist on going.
cant speak for the rest, but i would like to read more of your recs. so please dont let others deter you and post them all. keep up the good work.
my rec: tim hortons. go for a coffee (order it double double like the locals) and donut. get the maple glaze for authentic canadian.
You're Welcome Hounds,
Steak.....The Tulip.....just because it is an awesome mix of 'Toronto' types and the cheapest/best Tenderloin Steak in the city...The House of Chan....would certainly rank with good steak but more costly...the clientele a different ballgame ...also consider, but this is up north a bit, The Place For Steak...it's like the old version of the neighbourhood/Sunday night Steak House..lots of family action and multi-generational, so yet again a different scene....
Let it be known! The Keg does a decent steak at a decent price. Grilled and seasoned to perfection, tasty baked potato, excellent (and hot as Sh*t) horseradish, and maybe the most reasonable wine prices in the city. If you don't like the decor at the Mansion go to the one at York and Adelaide and sit near the fireplace. But it's not "can't miss dining" (and neither is street meat or anything fried near the harbourfront).
I 3rd or 4th Lai Wah Heen as a must in Toronto. This place has to be the closest to the high-end dim sum you get in Hong Kong at 5-star hotels, in that it experiments with non traditional ingredients, etc. I say this as a person who has probably had hundreds of dim sum meals in Toronto, and LWH definitely tops every single one of them.
Are we really suggesting the chip trucks for a do-not-miss Toronto experience!?!?!?!?!? What a sad state of affairs. The best thing about the Toronto food scene is the multicultural option. Go to Bloor and Christie for Korean, Little India on Gerrard, Chinatown on Spadina or up north, etc etc etc. Of course you have that in NYC too, but that doesn't mean that its not worthwhile to see what Toronto has to offer! Just go to the ethnic neighbourhoods and pick a place that looks like its busy with the appropriate ethnic group. Can't go wrong like that!
This NY'er's favorite Toronto restaurants, that we'll go back to many times, are: Lai Wah Heen for dim sum and Chiado are consistently excellent. I too enjoy Jamie Kennedy's Wine Bar. I've been fortunate enough to visit Toronto many times and never tire of these restaurants. Still so many new places to try too.
Le Biftheque is definitely far from do-not-miss dining in Toronto, rather it is a "must miss" for good food.
Le Bitheque??!! Recommending this to a New Yorker who specifically asked for 'do-not-miss' dining experience, Man! Someone must be joking here!.The last time I ate there, the food was cold, the service lousy and the steak was tough!!!
Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar, as others have mentioned.
For perfectly prepared seafood, someone has to mention Starfish on Adelaide...
I am a relatively new Torontonian, but I have sampled many of the city's restaurants since I moved here. I am a grad student, so I don't have any recommendations for the super high-end places, because quite simply I can't afford meals outside the $40 range. The great thing about Toronto is that there are soooo many mid and low-priced options.
Here's a sampling: JK Wine Bar (church just south of front) and Lee (king st w between bathurst and spadina) have been mentioned numerous times and I have to second them; excellent and inexpensive for the quality of the food and the great service.
For French, try Jacque's Bistro Du Parc, near the Four Seasons Hotel in Yorkville, (very traditional, ie. some would say boring, but I like trad. french cuisine) and the room is very 70's Parisian. I am one of the few people who wasn't blown away by Batifole... it was fine, but not 'wow'. Very middling food, but overall a decent value. It's also a pain to get to without a car.
For outstanding cheap trad. Chinese fare Swatow on Spadina near Dundas (best General Tso Chicken I've ever tried, and I've tried it numerous times); Chinese Traditional Buns for great steamed pork dumplings (I can't remember exactly where it is, but it's right in the heart of Chinatown not far from the AGO).
California Sandwiches...a MUST for a lunch bite while strolling through Little Italy. Awesome HOMEMADE chicken cutlet sandwiches (can't speak for the veal as I just feel too damn sorry for the baby cows to order it)... and CHEAP.
Hot dog vendors are fine too, I second the mention of Don Juan's above...if you're gonna eat street meat, might as well order from a character and Don Juan certainly fits the bill.
DON'T eat at Le Biftheque, it was the worst food I've eaten here in Toronto. Unbelievably bad, I ate a 1/4 of the meal and left the remainder. If you do go to the Keg, they do a reasonably good steak... I certainly can't afford Barberian's or Morton's so this is where I go if I get the rare craving.
Places that haven't been mentioned that surprise me: Gianni e Maria for excellent homemade pasta (their gnocchi bolognese at lunch...mmmmmmmm) St. Clair West (west of Christie); Oliver and Bonacini at Bayview Village (this is like Rainforest Cafe, if Emeril was at the helm... what a large family-style chain place would look like and serve if it went upscale, a booming, huge room that's always packed, you can bring small the whole family, everyone will find something to their liking, and so far, the food has never disappointed. Great fish 'n chips!)
Tacos El Asador on Bloor St West, great cheap latin american food...tacos and enchiladas are awesome.
Southern Accent on Markham St (south of Bloor behind Honest Ed's) tasty southern US/new orleans style cuisine, with the most flamboyant waitstaff you'll ever find. Lots of fun!
For a special lunch, the Gallery Grill at the Hart House on U of T campus. (why isn't this on here???? sooooo, so good... food and spectacular room).
Overall best bang for the buck: Edward Levesque's Kitchen (unbelievably good cooking, hard to describe the style, it's like home-cooked comfort food jacked up several notches with flavors that just dance on the tastebuds, and a quaint, eclectic atmosphere..very romantic). And you'll feel you're robbing them blind when the bill arrives...
Best brunch: there are so many options, and they're all so good, but my sentimental favorite is Mildred Pierce in the Arts and Design District (near Queen St W and Ossington). Great service, beautiful room. Another relatively hidden gem is Gayley's on Gladstone at Dundas W (just south of the Cadbury's factory)... more breakfasty than brunchy (ie casual vs snobby) I actually found the food a bit tastier than Mildred Pierce's at half the price.
As far as hotel restaurants go, Annona at the Park Hyatt does a nice lunch, as does the Epic bar at the Fairmont Royal York, but somewhat pricey for the portions (as to be expected in a hotel). My favorite club sandwich is at the Studio Cafe (or Avenue Bar...same menu) at the Four Seasons. Comes with a lovely salad and deliciously spiced cranberry chutney.
Best 'ladies who lunch' spot: Great Cooks on Eight (top floor of Bay department store) lovely view of city hall, tasty and cheap dishes.... NOT Holt's Cafe, snobbish service, disappointing food (what's the big deal with this poilane bread?? ) and one of the most overpriced menus I've found so far in the city. Avoid it at all costs.
I'll be trying Lai Wah Heen and Colborne Lane in the near future....will report back once I do.
Ohh...for chocolate croissants, don't miss Le Comptoir de Celestin at Manor Rd. and Mount Pleasant Ave. On a Sunday morning in spring, there's hardly a more pleasant stroll than walking east along Manor from Yonge St, and then strolling along the quaint cafes and shops of Mount Pleasant in Davisville. Worth the subway trip north!
Knowing you are from NYC, it's hard for me to give you recommendations on the high-end as there are very few places I can think of that would distinguish themselves from high-end dining in NYC. Maybe Eigensenn Farm if you can get a reservation and don't mind driving out of town. However, I think it's more the whole dining experience than the food that would take me there again. Having said all that, I also think you're better off sampling TO's low-to-mid priced dining options. I'll add some comments to Colin's above as I'm familiar with some of the dining spots he suggests.
I second Chinese Traditional Buns for great steamed pork dumplings
Unfortunately, the really good Chinese food is north of Steeles. Unless you want to rent a car or pay for a very expensive taxi, I'd pass (apart from Lai Wah Heen in the Metropolitan Hotel which is EXCELLENT for Cantonese cuisine)
California Sandwiches does make a very good chicken or veal cutlet sandwich. However, I'm guessing it's something you can get in NYC.
Tacos El Asador on Bloor St West, great cheap latin american food...tacos and enchiladas are awesome. Second the taco place. And right across the street from this place is a Korean restaurant that serves stews in stone bowls. I have no idea what it's called (we call it stone bowl). There's only about 7 items on the menu. It's cheap, tasty, and perhaps something not available in NYC? I'd recommend Dolsot Bibimbab, the Bulgogi Beef, and the Kimchee Soon Tofu (hot & spicy).
Southern Accent on Markham St (south of Bloor behind Honest Ed's) tasty southern US/new orleans style cuisine, with the most flamboyant waitstaff you'll ever find. Lots of fun!
Also near Honest Ed's just south of Bloor St on Bathurst St is the Roti Palace. Great rotis.
I have heard the Law Society Cafeteria is really good for lunch but I have yet to make it. You might want to give it a try.
Overall best bang for the buck: Edward Levesque's Kitchen ...I have also heard great things about Edward Levesque's Kitchen.
I like the Senator for breakfast for the Art Deco decor and seating at the intimate booths.
(what's the big deal with this poilane bread?? )...Poilane bread is really good when you get it in Paris but not when it's been flown across the Atlantic so that you can eat the day old version.
Even though I have yet to try it, I would think you couldn't go wrong with Colbourne Lane as Claudio Aprile is an excellent chef. The fact he didn't name the restaurant after himself suggests his ego isn't bigger than the food he's serving.
Ohh...for chocolate croissants, don't miss Le Comptoir de Celestin at Manor Rd. and Mount Pleasant Ave. Also try Jules just south of Celestin. Their croissants are better in my opinion plus you can sit down and feel like you're in a French cafe. Browsing shops along Mt. Pleasant can be fun as there are some interesting independent shops along the two or three blocks south of Eglinton.
"Unfortunately, the really good Chinese food is north of Steeles. Unless you want to rent a car or pay for a very expensive taxi, I'd pass."
Actually, if you head up to Finch Station, just grab a $2.75 ticket for the new deluxe Viva buses that run across York Region. It's good for two hours for back and forth trips, and you can head all the way up Yonge, or across Hwy. 7 as far as Martin Grove to the west and McCowan to the east. Most of these Richmond Hill/Markham places are therefore quite accessible.
map and info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viva_(bu...
The stone bowl place of the verbose nature is Buk Chang Dong Soon Tofu, 691 Bloor W. Always a good choice.
The Senator has great breakfasts and lunch with an emphasis on local Ontario ingredients; in fact, before I moved to Toronto when I'd be in town, it was always the place I'd choose. Unfortunately, they close at 2 (or earlier it seems, if it's not busy) which hasn't been convenient for me lately as I work nights.
I've been meaning to try Jules for awhile now... I've heard great things about it.
Update on Lai Wah Heen: I got there sooner than I expected, as some friends and I got together for dinner yesterday evening. It was as excellent as the general consesus implies: very upscale, soothing setting, fabulous service, and very tasty dishes. I was a little surprised by both the serving size (as large as you'd expect from an informal Chinese restaurant) and the prices. Yes, you can spend a lot of money there, but there are also plenty of moderately priced entrees. The menu is huge!
Please try colborne lane, on colborne street just south of king, east of yonge
it is becoming one of the best restaurants in toronto
If you can get up to St. Clair West & Vaughn Road...Fabulous Jamaican Food at "Albert's Real Jamaican" open all hours basically but only a few counter spots to eat (best to do take-out). It's authentic...try his daily soup!! Albert is a truly great guy (plus he is responsible for us buying our Condo at Carib Ocho Rios...for which we will be forever grateful!!) Great food and nice people who will make you feel welcome when you walk in the door!
Ach, I'm in the exact same predicament, except I'm originally from Toronto, but now live in NYC. Next week, my wife and mother-in-law will be up there. In-law is an Upper East Side foodie, not difficult to please but, in true Toronto fashion, I'm desperate to show her something she can't get back in Manhattan.
Some of these posts are bang-on, but others are truly dreadful *cough*cough*Keg*cough*. I think TorontoJo was the first to declare that, being from NYC, there's not much in Toronto that you can't find at least twice as good back home. Therefore your chow destinations should be chosen based on what you CAN'T get in NYC. The overall experience will factor in much more than the actual food (which will hopefully be good too).
I can't believe nobody's mentioned Kensington Market. I have yet to find such a great, cheap array of fruit/veg and dried-goods stores in NYC (Manhattan, at least). Go to the corner of Baldwin and Kensington Streets and just explore.
Maybe first go for lunch at Pho Hung, the only Vietnamese restaurant I've seen that has an outdoor patio, very good pho with rare beef for, like 3 or 4 bucks. Or dim sum at Rol San (no carts, but you check off the dishes on a white carbon-paper slip, so everything arrives fresh and piping hot). Try to sit in the back, btw. Cantonese food in Toronto rivals New York's many Chinatowns, and IMO is more accessable and authentic.
Greektown on the Danforth? Meh. Compared to Astoria in Queens. It's good though, if you never get out to Queens. The nightlife is interesting however. Lolita's Lust (not Greek) does serve a killer filet mignon with gorgonzola/pearl onion sauce. You know. If you're into that sort of thing.
You should focus on neighbourhoods, not simply a single restaurant destination. Little Italy food is mostly bland, but you should go there on a warm weekend evening after dinner, grab a gelato (can't remember the name of that place across from the Dominion with the lineups) and stroll the strip. You won't find neighbourhoods like this in New York, that's for sure.
The intersection of Baldwin and McCall is a neat little enclave, but again, not a huge food choice. Go for the 2-lobster special at Wah Sing (see Paolo's post at http://www.chowhound.com/topics/101445). Oh, there's that amazing dumpling place on Baldwin, can't remember the name. It only has 3 seats and serves great homemade dumplings (very light and delicate, not bready 'bow' like Cantonese).
Korea town is small but lively, and Korean food, for some reason, is unbelivevably cheap. Maybe read up on some chound recommendations near Bloor & Christie Streets.
If you're there on a conference from out of town, you and a group of people you want to impress should go on a walking tour of Kensington Market before lunch then land at a huge round table for Chinatown dim sum. Or take them all to St Lawrence Market (any day but Sunday/Monday) for peameal bacon on a bun, then wander around this amazing piece of Toronto history that puts Chelsea Market to shame.
Wow, all over the place on this post...
just to add some updates to your suggestions.
pho houng closed off their outdoor patio and it's now all indoors but a lot of windows. their prices have risen and i feel their quality has fallen. i personally haven't enjoyed a pho downtown in a long long time.
i'd also skip on rol san and hit up forestview just around the corner on dundas. they have the carts and the atmosphere i love... old chinese people and families hailing down carts, saying hi to the regulars and tasty tasty food that doesn't get rolled around a few times.
Bah! No more Pho a la Fresco?! Preposterous! I guess they were spoiled by their own success.
Haven't tried Forestview, but then again I haven't had Dim Sum in Toronto for quite some time.
I have to say, my problem with the old cart-pushing technique is that a) if you're not near the kitchen and they're busy, you will probably not get the dishes you want and, as a result, b) Dim Sum etiquette quickly falls by the wayside, revealing a sub-category of people: b1) "standers", people who stand up to look at the contents of the steamers on the nearest cart, b2) "lifters", people who lift the lids off the steamers to get a look inside or b3) "consultants", people who get up from their table, walk to the cart they like with card in hand and force the poor cart lady into giving them steamers without waiting their turn. Don't even think about b4): the dreaded "toucher".
i wouldn't necessarily call it dimsum-etiquette challenged myself, i personally think that's nearly what the etiquette is especially at a cheaper dimsum place. standing and lifting is their way of checking out how fresh and good looking that item is, no different than that pig or roast duck hanging in the window.
i love the loudness, the chatter, the yelling from the carts... it's just part of the whole experience
I dunno... for our family, we always relished the leisurely pace of eating the dimsum afforded. It was never about let's rush the dimsum cart lady to get something. Rather, we just chatted as we waited for our favourites to come along on the carts. If we really want something specific that was not being pushed around in the carts, we just flagged down a waiter and asked them to bring it to the table.
Also, maybe it's because my dad is a hypochondriac, but I was always taught that we should just let the dimsum cart lady do their jobs without interference. The thought of a myriad of folks poking around, lifting the lids without the benefit of sneeze guards and whatnot seems a bit inconsiderate.
I've seen some people lift lids and/or run after the dimsum cart ladies, but I wouldn't say it's the norm (at least not in my experience).
i don't disagree with that at all... dim sum is just chinese brunch to me. not an experience to be rushed but just simply enjoyed. sipping tea and all before the day gets started.
but there are those favourites that get nabbed up quick or just don't seem to be circling to your area. then i'll have no qualms about chasing them down if i'm concerned about missing them. the places i'm more familiar with i'll grab a waiter instead and ask for items i know they should have.
but perhaps i've also miscommunicated here... i only ever allow cart pushers to open up the steamers and show me what they've got. i refuse to touch any of it myself because i'd rather that other people paid the same courtesy as well.
Thank you so, so much for your thoughtful and exhaustive suggestions. All your posts have made me very excited about our visit. Thus far, I have reservations for dim sum at Lai Wah Heen, and dinners at Perigee, Chiado and Scaramouche Pasta and Grill.
I still have to make lunch reservations for a couple of days as the other days we should definitely explore the smaller places and markets that many of you have recommended.
wow, great thread!
im from los angeles, where great food can also be found. im hoping to be working on a film in toronto, and after reading this thread, im REALLY hoping i get to go! portuguese food sounds exciting. last trip to lisbon was '99! california sandwiches sounds good too.
what kind of food is susur? ther website contains nearly no information about the food. just a cheesy picture of the long locked chef and bad lounge music. im intrisically suspicious of asian fusion and find nobu totally overrated, and i found tojos in vancouver to be awful. if its in this realm ill totally skip it.
i love dim sum. how does lai wah heen rate next to vancouver dim sum palaces?
I'm at a bit of a loss when trying to describe his food as it's really unique, but I wouldn't really call it Asian fusion. At least, not in the sense where there's a need to incorporate an Asian ingredient in each and every dish. I liken it more to modern American or French (where you'll often seen global ingredients incorporated). The only slight difference is that Susur probably has a more encyclopedic knowledge of Asian ingredients than most chefs in the same genre.
See http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?s... for some pics and descriptions
Be warned about potential service issues though - search for Susur on this board to find out more on the subject
re tojo's: perhaps if i sat at the bar it would have been better. i was with relatives, so we sat on one of the plastic patio furniture sets outside and the waiter tried to hard sell us on one of the omakase courses (i found the technique very annoying, and im one of those people that RARELY complains about service, and almost never have problems with restaurants) the food that came out was really surprising as it had been billed as a top restaurant. i didnt even think the sushi was that fresh.
fyi, my favorite place to eat sushi (and i ate a lot of it in the two months i was in vancouver) was sushi sakae in downtown - the one in the burbs wasn't that good... richmond was it?)
the food that came out was equivalent to what i would imagine 60's style chinese restaurants catering to a white clientele. there were all these gloopy heavy sauces that hardly seemed japanese. i definitely wouldn't call it purist. one might call it inventive or modern, but my meal there was sub par.
Something I would suggest is Hakka or Indian-Chinese food, because I think (but am not sure) that its pretty local to Toronto.
If you want to go east, then I think people will recommend lin gardens, and if you want to go west, then I will suggest to you China Garden.
There are a lot of topics on this board about Hakka food, but I think just cause its so unusual (and SO good!) that you should give it a try. Its also very cheap and if you go for lunch i think u can do it under 10 easily.
Try ByMark. Wonderful food, inventive and delicious. They were also very accommodating, when we had a question about wine, the wine steward was out but they called him and asked for us - his recommendation was spot on. We liked it so well that in our 6 day trip we came for dinner twice.
I'm sure it's been mentioned, but I can't bother to read this whole thread - Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar on Church St. is excellent. Make sure you go to the wine bar, and not the restaurant side - it's much better.
Hey now, I gotta backup TorontoJo on the Toronto hot dog vendors. Not exactly a culinary masterpiece, and probably really unhealthy with all those mystery ingredients, but it's certainly a guilty pleasure of many locals. If you see a hot dog vendor, grab yourself a hot Italian sausage. Seriously, I've heard of way too many Toronto ex-pats craving this delicious street meat. You just can't get them anywhere else.
Mind you, not all the vendors are up to par. When I can't help myself, I run out and grab one at the NE corner of Yonge & Bay.