dining options for visitor
I will be visiting Toronto for the first time on business this week and am trying to identify interesting dining options. I will be attending a conference at the Convention Centre and staying at Pantages and Hotel Metropolitan. I live in Seattle where I'm able to get plenty of Thai and Viet options so I'd like to sample some of the ethnic options that reflect Toronto's diversity and options that emphasize food grown locally (but I'm always open to stellar noodle houses). Mid-range is preferable. Any good bars to check out would be appreciated as well. Thanks.
IMHO, there aren't any very good Thai or Vietnamese restaurant in the Toronto area. In the area you're staying, you might consider Salad King at Yonge/Gould which is not bad Thai and inexpensive. If you're staying at the Metropolitan, there's a pretty good Chinese restaurant for fine dining called Lai Wah Heen inside the hotel, but it's expensive. Also interesting is Globe bistro which specializes food with local Canadian ingredients.
Not sure what type of bar you're looking for but if you're into the trendy scene, walk west to 314 Queen West, the Ultra or taxi to the Drake Hotel lounge at 1150 Queen west. If you're looking for an interesting wine bar, try Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar at 9 Church St. For beer, the Wheat Sheaf is Toronto's oldest bar or for variety there's the Bier Market at the Eplanade just west of Church.
Yes, I was looking for options other than Thai or Vietnamese.
I'm definitely interested in Spanish, Portuguese, Greek and eastern European options. Heard about Chiado and looked at the menu, it's rather expensive, do you think it's worth it?
The bars mentioned by syoung sound like good options.
Chiado is worth every single penny! Yes, it is pricey, but absolutely worth it.
To address the cuisines you mention by name.... Spanish is so-so in this city, but Torito is Kensington Market ($10 cab ride from the Convention Centre) is quite good and a lot of fun. (I'm waiting for a certain CH to weigh in with "there is no authentic tapas in Toronto". Ignore that - Torito is a good experience, regardless.) For Greek, the best, to my mind, is Avli on Danforth Ave near Chester. The rabbit pie is essentially a rabbit stifado under a crust - superb. Their wine list is great for rarely seen Greek vintages. "Other East European": for Polish, Cafe Polonez on Roncesvalles is my go-to; for Hungarian, my fav is Mr Hungarian in Newmarket (distant), but on a recent posting, someone mentioned a new place, Elizabeth, at Yonge and Davisville (not certain - verify that!) that has a very good pedigree. I don't know anything about the ethnic composition of Seattle, but I like Ethiopia House (Irwin Ave. - just north and west of Yonge and Wellesley). There are a couple of Somali restaurants, as well (neighbouring cuisine, but very different)... Hamdi on Carlton Ave.
For bars.... C'est What at Front and Church Sts has a great selection of microbreweries, and often has live music. The Rex Hotel is not so interesting for beers, but has some very good live jazz.
I have two ethnic resto suggestions. The first is for Greek food at Mezes on The Danforth which is the Greek area of the city and worth a walk around. We think Mezes is the best but everyone has their own faves on the strip. I love their whole black sea bass (sea bream really). The second suggestion is Tabuleh, on Yonge Street north of Davisville, for Middle Eastern, well actually my Lebanese friends tell me it's typically Lebanese. Great apps, notably the fried eggplant which is lemony and garlicky, crispy on the ouside and creamy inside and their fried tomatoes which are sweet and garlicky. Their babaghanoush is also delectable with their warm whole wheat pita and I recommend their whole fish too, though my husband always enjoyes the lamb rib chops. I think their rice which is studded with fried, caramelized onions is amazing.
I think Chaido is exceptional for fresh fish but it is extremely expensive.
Enjoy our city!
Both are casual, mid-range in price, not high end.
A bit of a Mea Culpa... I always forget to mention Senhor Antonio. It is more informal, but I don't think that you would be suffering any downgrading of quality. I think, if you're interested, that you still have full access to the wine cellar. It is expensive, but if you're a wine nerd, you'll be able to purchase things not generally seen outside Portugal.