Dual Request for Toronto Chow
I am looking for two distinct sets of Toronto recommendations.
First, I will be in Toronto in early May for business. Then, I will be accompanied by two realtive foodies and we need recommendations for both lunch and dinner places. We love all food types and would like one or two really nice dinners, but the others don't have to be particularly fancy....just high quality, chow-worthy places. In fact, we love the local joints that might otherwise be missed if it weren't for sites such has this.
Second, my husband, young daughter and totally uninspired (from a food perspective) in-laws are driving to meet me when my conference has concluded. We will then be spending 3-4 days in the city. I will need some recommendations for kid-friendly, casual type places. The in-laws live an die by chains, but we'd love to show them that there is more to life than fish-n-chips, burgers and chicken sandwiches. This might be the place to accomplish our goals....with the proper recommendations from my fellow chowhounds of course!
I vote yes to Gallery Grill, Rosebud, Le Select, Jamie Kennedy, and yes, even Milestones and Il Fornello :-)
I say no to Thuet, Terroni and Trevor, all of which are overrated IMO. No to the Hothouse!
I agree with Juniper on everything, except I had the opposite experience at Niagara St Cafe. About two years ago, I had a good dinner there with three other people, amidst the mismatched chairs and casual service - and was shocked when the bill came. I can't remember the total, but I *think* it was over 300 dollars pre-tax and -tip, which struck me as a bit rich for the experience.....
And I confess myself mystified by the raves for Tutti Matti and the Roxton, which I see a lot here on CH. I've gone to TM twice, only to back out - it just never SMELLS good, which puts me off. (Doesn't smell bad, but I want garlic and roasting meat and onions, yum.) Plus the eighties banquet hall decor doesn't help.
And is the Roxton the fuchsia place with small windows filled with dying plants - the one that looks like a gentleman's club from the fifties?
Sell me on both of these, please......
Fuchsia? Umm no. But it does have a series of blue "diamond" lights on the outside (there's no sign). And I would never describe it like a gentleman's club from the fifties. More like a local hippie hangout with a very relaxed vibe, cosy atmosphere, no attitute, with a fantastic mix of music that's just at the right volume level. Imagine, a place in Toronto where you can actually hear each other talk!
It's not a place you go to be seen, nor to get top notch food. I go there to get away from the Toronto scene if you catch my drift.
For a special lunch, definitely head to Jamie Kennedy at the Gardiner museum (across University from the Royal Ontario Museum @ Bloor). It's Canadian cuisine and wines at their best - eclectic selections well-prepared in a lovely atmosphere (a huge loft-like room on the top floor of the newly opened gem of a museum specializing in ceramics).
For an adventure with the whole family in a kid-friendly atmosphere (everyone brings their kids to dimsum!) , dimsum on Sun AM at Lah Wah Heen. That'll challenge the in-laws taste buds!
I second Terroni on Queen, Rosebud and Thuet.
I personally had the worst meal and dining experience at Niagara Street Cafe - so I can't recommend it....may have been an off night.
Torito - Spanish Tapas - in Kensington Market is great (just got back from dinner there tonight and, as usual, it was excellent) - heads up that they only take reservations for 6 or more.
Trevor (Yonge/Wellinton) for a nice meal or casual drinks/snack. Great mini Kobe burgers on the bar menu - that they will serve you in the dining room upon request. Love the beef cheek and goat cheese nachos too.
Le Select Bistro (Wellington west of Spadina) is a beautiful restaurant for lunch (good french onion soup and frites) and ideal for a big group/family - and the patio is now open.
Tutti Matti at Spadina/Adelaide (for your work pals) or Ferro (for your family) on St.Clair West for Italian.
I have 2 kids under 4 so I will try to help you out in that department.
Mill St Brew Pub in the Distillery District is extremely kid friendly, it has a good brunch and good pub food (excellent sweet potato fries) and the area is neat to check out.
Il Fornello is a very kid friendly chain with good pizzas, pastas, etc. Nothing mind blowing, but it should satisfy everyone in your group and there are locations in some nice neighbourhoods for walking around (the beaches and the Danforth come to mind).
Along the Danforth there are a number of Greek family restaurants.
Hothouse on Front street at Church is another good family restaurant, again you won't be wowed but if you stick to simple dishes it will be good.
When we are travelling with our kids and we want to go out for a nice, fancy dinner we just go a little earlier than we usually would and then we don't have to worry about disrupting other diners. And of course we take them outside or to the washroom if things get too noisy.
Based on my experiences eating out with a 2 year old and (almost) newborn, I second Mill St Brew Pub as a good kid friendly location. Since it's a brew pub they also have great beer (which makes it a good destination for adults). 7 Numbers on the Danforth is also another good place to eat with kids. It's a fun, funky place (in a mismatched chairs and cutlery kinda way) and the waiters love kids. The food is good , but definitely not upscale, italian. I will also cast my vote in favour of Terroni on Queen as a good place to eat with kids. These restaurants meet my criteria of being both kid-friendly without being kid-centric (i.e I would actually eat there without my children)
I also find that weekend brunch is a great option for eating out with kids in this city. Many places which don't seem too kid friendly at dinner don't seem to have a problem with kids at brunch.
For an "adult" meal, I don't think anyone's mentioned Cava yet. Definitely one of my current favourites...
Some great recs so far (yay for Dessert Trends!). A couple of more:
For lunch: Gallery Grill at Hart House on the University of Toronto campus. No one from out of town would ever discover this place. Gorgeous setting, excellent food. http://www.harthouse.utoronto.ca/hh/page.php?id=FOD03
For dinner: The Rosebud. It's small and wonderful, so make a reservation.
For your in-laws, Dessert Trends is a beautiful place for lunch. The food is probably more adventurous then they are use to (oh no -- quiche!), but I can't imagine anyone being unhappy there. For a casual, kid-friendly place, head to the Mill St. Brew Pub in the Distillery District. Classic pub food with a few higher-end twists. Great beer, too. http://www.millstreetbrewpub.ca/ And as a bonus, you'll be in the Distillery District, which is fabulous to wander around before dinner. The Sandra Ainsley Gallery (art glass) is always an eye-opener.
I second the Niagara Cafe
Amuse Bouche, althought that may be more of a romantic spot than a 'friends/colleagues' spot.
Thuet, and get the cassoullet
Omi sushi for omakase
For lunches, Cantine on Avenue road
King Noodles in Chinatown (Dundas/Spadina) for wonton noodle soup that is some of the best around and cheap
Hong Fat BBQ at Huron/Spadina for the ultimate 'dive' chinatown place... the best bbq pork i've ever had, with rice, greens and soup for $4.25 per person at lunch!
For decent chain type places, I've always found Milestones to be the better of a not so ideal lot. For a great experience with either your colleagues or family, Terroni on Queen Street has great rustic Italian; there are a few other locations but the one on Queen combines with a great atmosphere.
I don't have kids so I can't really help you out for your second request, but for the first request I would recommend the following:
The Roxton (I am always of two minds when it comes to promoting places like this since I also want to be selfish and keep this little neighbourhood gem to myself!)
On SE corner of Harbord and Roxton
Definitely off the beaten track, and it helps that it's such a hip little place and the food is a great value. Mains come in around $12 and the menu changes regularly, featuring comfort food like shepherd's pie, juicy burgers, and some pretty tasty glazed ribs.
Harbord at Brunswick
Great for weekend brunch and weekday lunches. They were supposed to start serving dinner again soon, but not sure if that's started yet. Food is always a unique blend of European continental style cooking with Asian flavours - the chef is good at balancing those two things to create some very enjoyable food. Oh, and leave room for the desserts. They are very eye-catchingly beautiful, but they taste just as good. My favourite is the hazelnut chocolate tart - the most buttery I've had the pleasure of enjoying in recent memory.
Niagara Street Cafe
Niagara south of King
This would be the second time in a day I'm naming this place in a chow post, mainly because it is off the beaten track but is a great value in terms of quality of food for the price you pay. French-style cooking, well-chosen wine list, and competent service.
King and Victoria
Not quite "off the beaten track" but a great place for after-work drinks and food. Beer selection is extensive, and the menu features beer in the recipes and recommendations on beer pairing with each dish. Food is French bistro stuff, service is competent, atmosphere is very lively, especially if there's a hockey game on.
Other "off the beaten track" places for less formal eating:
Mother's Dumplings (Huron north of Dundas) for Chinese dumplings and their dai lan noodles in broth
Tacos el Asador (Bloor at Christie) for Salvadorean pupusas (don't bother with the other stuff on their menu)
Big Burrito (Augusta and Nassau) for mission-style yummy pulled pork and also yam burritos
Jumbo Empanadas (Augusta and Baldwin) for good empanadas (there are other empanada places in the area that have a greater selection of fillings but they generally skimp out on the amount of fillings, so I much prefer Jumbo Empanadas to the others)
Oh crap, you KNOW you're just not supposed to tell anyone about the Roxton!! How am I supposed to keep going as a regular if you alert fellow hounds?! ;)
All kidding aside, the Roxton is truly a local hoodie fav. definitely NOT for scenester types, and the owner and kitchen staff are completely down-to-earth.
re: Splendid Wine Snob
None that I know of, but here's a link to the Toronto Life write-up:
Just as an aside, the food is simple (nothing spectacular), but comfort in style. And it is the ambiance in combination with the great people working there that make it special. It is a neighbourhood joint. Oh yeah, and they play by far the best music in any place in the city. Very good vibe.