Dining alone in Toronto
I'm in town for business and I love to explore local restaurants even when it's by myself. Would love some recommendations for some good food, in a nice setting that doesn't make someone eating by themselves feel extremely out of place.
Would prefer it to be near either the Park Hyatt in Yorkville or the Westin Harbour Castle by the lake if possible.
If you have any favorites, please let me know. Cuisine wise, I'm very open to all. Would love to try something that Toronto is well known for!
Definitely Jamie Kennedy's Wine Bar - it's about 10 minutes walking distrance from the Westin. Sit at the bar and watch them cook. JKWB features local products in season, menu is small plates so you can sample a few different things. For the most part it gets very good reviews on this board and it's very friendly to solo diners.
In Yorkville (trendy neighbourhood, but with not-ideal food choices), I would go with Caren's Wine Bar, Bar Mercurio (Italian), Pho Hung (Bloor Street) if you wanted a quicky dinner (great pho/Viet), Sopra (jazz bar at Davenport... perhaps a little romantique, but I think the room is cool enough that it would be OK eating alone, plus you'd be distracted by the entertainment), I don't hate the Bloor Street Diner (reliable, reasonable, and fine for eating alone), also the bar at the Four Seasons always feels good, if you have to drink alone.
At Harbourfront, my picks would be Harbour Sixty (steakhouse, great bar for solo dining - but be warned that this place is expensive), Starfish (seafood in the St. Lawrence - fun to sit at the bar and watch oyster shucking), Crush on King West (has that big California resto feel, but fine to sit at the bar alone), Pizza Rustica (casual Ital and great thin crust pizza on Wellington), Amadeus (Adelaide and York... Bavarian beerhaus, big space, but often a little on the empty side - great, hearty German food).
Just my opinion, but I wouldn't want to eat alone at JKWine Bar. The restaurant is fab - one of my favourite in the city, but I tend to think of it more as a "date" place. It's a small plate menu, so when everyone else is sharing and picking and cooing, I would feel left out going solo. However, I reiterate that food-wise, great choice.
my experiences at jkwb range quite a bit although i don't ever recall doing it on my own... but for the most part there's actually a fairly limited number of couples "cooing" at the bar and i'll often see friends hanging out more so. many people also don't share which doesn't increase the whole intimate atmosphere that a solo diner may dislike.
i've also found other patrons at jkwb to be fairly friendly and have gotten into conversations with them... you just gotta be open ;)
I often dine alone and have done it for many years, everywhere from the cheapest greasy spoons to high end restaurants. I can't recall ever being made to feel out of place for being alone. Maybe I'm just oblivious to the attitude, but I'm actually wondering if there really are still places where a solo diner is out of place. Where have people experienced this in Toronto?
I by no means meant to imply that the service would be sub-par for the solo diner. I agree with you, idnas, that we're pretty much beyond the days where table-for-one means back of the room or beside the kitchen door.
Still, I do dine alone quite often, and I think there are places that are more and less fun to be eating alone. I was only stating my opinion that JKWB wouldn't be a place I would choose to eat-by-self (don't like small plate dining alone). But many people are reporting quite the opposite, and it is a great place - don't let me dissuade.
Lots of great recommendations here. I'll just throw in my vote for Starfish, JK Wine Bar and beerbistro. I'll also throw in a recommendation for Senhor Antonio's Wine Bar for fantastic Portuguese small plates and wines. It's the sister restaurant to Chiado.
It won't be right for Kamibear, but I do love to sit at the bar at Terroni on Queen. Always have to stop, and appreciate that it is what I imagined sitting at a restaurant bar by myself would be like when I was a kid. Also, a nice place to sit and draw, write or read while you eat.
Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar is pretty good for solo dining in terms of atmosphere ..it's always informal and friendly, and every time I go I usually meet and talk to someone interesting because the tables and barstools are so close together. The food is not great, however... good, but not great. I've tried the 'famous' JK fries/poutine treatment on each occasion, and I've never gotten the hype. They're far too salty which overpowers the flavors of the other elements in the dish (on one night chorizo sausage and oka cheese, eg) which I would personally prefer to taste. I usually order 3 dishes, and about 1 in 3 is 'wow' factor.
A similar place in vibe and menu is Colborne Lane in behind the old King Edward Hotel. Only been once, and it is very expensive compared to other small-plates places (like JK) but the food was overwhelmingly good.
On a completely different note, try Jacque's Bistro du Parc. It's been around since the 70's and it looks it. Peeling gold-tone wallpaper, Regency style charis... it's not hip OR cool. But the service is genuinely friendly, impeccable and the pork tenderloin is one of the best meals in the city...finish it off with a tarte tatin (the real deal). What amazes me is each time I return, I order the same thing, and it's always consistently good. There's something to be said for not changing stuff around constantly when there's no need to fix anything.
Wish Bistro ( I think it's the corner of Charles and Yonge) is hip and the food is always surprisingly good. Surprisingly, because I find most food snobs diss it. Yes, the atmosphere is over the top South Beach cool, and if you go late it's noisy as hell, but for me it's all about the food.
Two other places that offer good value at both lunch and dinner for the quality: Pangaea on Bay just north of Bloor, and Far Niente in the financial district near Wellington and Bay.
Further afield, you might consider Leslie Jones and Edward Levesque's Kitchen on Queen St East within a few blocks of each other.
If ever you need reliably good food-- but not close to exciting or creative-- late at night, try the Avenue bar at the Four Seasons hotel. For more interesting creations, the Studio Cafe upstairs always has a 3-course prix fixe dinner that's reasonably priced, and the best of any hotel food that I've tried in the city.
For simple fresh and delicious pastas, as Macallan18 noted, Bar Mercurio is a solid bet too... and easy to get to from anywhere, just near U of T by the St. George subway station on Bloor St.
For strictly lunch spots, Great Cooks on 8 (8th floor of the Bay Dept. store on Queen) beats Hart House and Holt's Cafe, for value and it has a great view of the ice skating rink in the winter.
Many good selections have been recommended. One more: try the tapas at the bar at the Spice Room and Chutney Bar in Hazelton Lanes. Fantastic food at reasonable prices in one of the premier locations in town.