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Jun 27, 2007 12:55 PM

Visiting Toronto in August

Hi all,

I'm visiting Toronto in mid-August and could use some restaurant recommendations. I was there a couple of years ago on business and dined at Bymark -- I thought it was fantastic!

Ideally, I'm looking for casual/casual upscale spots in the downtown area (staying at the Sheraton Toronto Centre), preferably with patio/outdoor seating. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated!

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  1. Hey beb31,

    Not sure what you are looking for but here are a few new places since you last visited us (In no particular order of preference):

    1. KULTURA on 169 Queen Street East. Asian "tapas" style sharin g plates with lounge/ bar downstairs and dining upstairs. Beautiful building!!! Cool staff and great cocktails.

    2. COCA on 783 Queen street west is a cool funky Spanish Tapas Place with a good vibe and roof-top patio, laid back wine menu (tasting samples provided via 2, 4 and 6 oz. pours), as well as some great cheeses, olives and other Spanish Fare

    3.AMAYA a New Indian Place that opened up last week on 1701 Bayview Avenue south of Eglinton. Great wines by the glass and even some great sake. (Not downtown - but if you have time and like Indian - worth a trip).

    4.RODNEY'S OYSTER BAR on 469 King Street West (Back Patio). If you love oysters and want to try some funky local beers - then definately check it out. More casual, but you will have a very good time!

    5. KI on Adelaide and Wellington (Big Patio). Food is OK but the scene and bar area is a fun trip. Order small plates and try some great chilled sake and wines. Full sushi bar and fun if you're into people wathching (Thursday is the primo night).

    Hope this helps,

    Good luck and enjot T.O


    3 Replies
    1. re: Toshiro

      Toshiro -

      Thank you for the suggestions! Kultura, Coca and Amaya all sound very intriguing (always up for good Indian food). And although I'm not a big fan of oysters, funky local beers are right up my alley. :-)

      1. re: beb31

        Hi beb31, if you like oysters, I would suggest Starfish....great vibe to the place.
        I would also add Mistura to your list. Neither one have patio's but the are still great spots to visit nonetheless. Enjoy your visit!!!

        1. re: millygirl


          I'm not a big oyster fan, but I checked out Starfish's website and it looks like they have a little something for everyone (the arctic char filet on a dungeness crab cake sounds absolutely delicious). Mistura also looks like it has a great summer menu (and the atmosphere looks spectacular). Thanks for the recommendations!

    2. You might also consider Beer Bistro (King, east of Yonge Street) - nice sized patio, (obviously) a great choice of beer and some happy tummy food...and while Waterside Bistro (Front Street) is in no way high end chow, it does have a lovely patio (waterside actually) and is a nice place for lunch...if by chance you are able to wander a little bit - if you jump on one of the Ward's Island Ferry you will find a really special patio at The Rectory Cafe (I hope it's still there, I didn't visit last summer).

      A lot of people talk about the great patio at George on Queen East - I have eaten there twice (not on the patio though) and agree that the food is pretty spectacular..definitely higher end. The roof-top patio at The Fifth also gets great marks for sexy patio vibe, but I don't love the food or the service (others on this board may disagree)

      1 Reply
      1. re: redhead

        Hi redhead,

        My tummy would be definitely happy with the Beer Bistro menu -- their appetizers sound amazing, especially the Black Truffle Falafel Poppers and the Berkshire Pulled Pork Quesadilla. Thank you so much for the recommendation!!!

        - Brian.

      2. Hey,

        I've been thinking about this because I have a friend from Boston coming this week and want to show him some Bymark (ie. egotistical celebrity chef) quality food but at not so expensive prices.

        I will probably take him to:

        Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar (fresh food, very casual, supports sustainable fishing...): it's a small plates and wine pairing style restaurants; I like most of the dishes although a more hearty eater might not like the small plates style.

        Lee (again, small plates style) is a much cheaper alternative to Susur's main restaurant, although if you were willing to splurge on Bymark and are adventurous, Susur's Tasting Menu is probably one of the best I've had: the Black Cod or Sable Fish are on the menu at either make sure you get it.

        Thuet is good also, although I haven't been in months...they are opening a new patio:

        The one caveat I would add about the Beer Bistro (which was a place I used to meet my old colleagues from work on a semi regular basis; food is great but not super challenging) is that sometimes, depending on the day you go and the number of people you're with, the line up and wait can be a real pain in the butt...the last time I was there, I waited 2 hours to get a table to sit at.

        You have a ton to choose from! Have fun!

        1 Reply
        1. re: 46ntwo

          Price and quality at Lee and Susur is in proportion. So you pay much less at Lee, expect a much lower quality.

        2. If you're looking for something Bymark-esque, I would recommend Red's (quite near the Sheraton). The chef, MIchael Steh, is young and he's fantastic... perhaps destined to be a star? The place does attract a financial district crowd, but it's not stuffy. Bar scene has a buzz, and they do have a streetside patio. But most important, my recent meal there was fabulous You can search for my review or check out their menu at

          Otherwise, I'd definitely endorse JKWB and Starfish, and both are a 15ish minute walk from the Sheraton (although neither has patio space). I like Mistura too, although it's a $10-12 cab ride from the hotel - and I find it can seem a little stuffy.. upstairs at Sopra is more casual and fun, but again, there's no patio at this space. The patio at Vertical is fun to hang out and near the Sheraton, but I've only been drinking, so can't really report on the food... their appetizer menu looks good. It's a bit of an oasis (

          1 Reply
          1. re: Rabbit

            What about Vertical? Apparently they have an awesome patio. Food is supposed to be good as well (I'll know next week...). It's in First Canadian Place.

          2. Thuet is easily the best restaurant in Toronto pound for pound if price is no object (though its cheaper then some of the options listed here), if you want something Asian try Blowfish (can hit it on an off night but usually the best asian food in town).

            If you want to save some cash or bring your own wine; I really highly recommend Cava (modern Tapas thing) (the most underated restaurant in Toronto, owned by the former executive chef of Avalon) or Tutti Matti (best spag house in town).

            14 Replies
            1. re: Fidel Gastro

              thuet has become an increasing disappointment for me. sometimes he hits it on the head but for the price i'm paying he should be much more consistent about it especially when it comes to basic bistro food.

              bread fantastic but apparently he applies the same techniques to his croissants which are dry bready things. he's even shrunk their size now and as far as i can tell is still charging the same price. not worth it.

              a raw seafood trio app was delightful and well balanced but at nearly $20 i would have loved more than a toonie sized portion. completely utterly disappointed with his liver.... just truly terrible because it was absolutely drowned in an overly salted and spiced brown sauce that it was just inedible. i tried to satiate my palate with the creamy polenta taking up the large majority of the plate... but when you pour your gross sauce over the whole thing it's difficult to get a piece not sauced at all. awful.

              skip on coca, over priced and over cooked. your best bet for tapas in this city without blowing a huge buck would be torito. they've been getting better with each consecutive visit and the worst i've had of the bunch i would still call good. one favourite by far is the smoked trout and avo salad and the chocolate flan. cava is not worth it. rather expensive their housemade charcuterie was a let down... bland bland bland. most of it was pretty dull overall with a few successes. one dish in particular was just a vile pairing and it's really sad because i love sweetbreads normally.

              i'd pick starfish over rodney's any day. the atmosphere is much better and while you dont' get presented with a list of 40 oysters you might want to try.. their selection is nicely picked. the chef is great and while the flourless chocolate cake and creme brulee will look horribly out of proportion from each other.. it'll be the richest most decadent cake ever.

              beerbistro is a fantastic pick. get a reservation. it's so close to the financial district it is easily an after work drinks place that might lead to dinner and hence long wait times. their food isn't amazing amazing but the chef is quite good when given free range. stay away from the lobster quesadillas.

              as much as i love jkwb and would still instruct you to go there... i'm finding their slipping a bit these days and things aren't as well matched as before. still much better than most of toronto and it's a wonderful space to stay in. definitely get a cheese plate, you'll pretty much get quebec's finest and it's really fantastic. you also can't walk away without having the frites.

              no new options are crossing my mind right now but you'll definitely do well with those choices.

              1. re: pinstripeprincess

                maybe its just bad luck, I've never had a bad meal (or even a mediocre one) at Thuet, and Cava overpriced? my brother and i go there for a light dinner and often spend less then $25 bucks each (no drinks)

                1. re: Fidel Gastro

                  it's overpriced when the quality just isn't there and i didn't find cava impressive in the least. it wasn't terrible but a lot of things just didn't completely work for me and portion to price it doesn't seem worth it. a lot of the dishes are over $9 and the heartier ones much closer to $15 if not more.

                  my meal there was easily $90 inclusive of a couple tasting sized drinks. at that price point i've been much more satisfied at other restaurants. i also didn't appreciate that the waiter was upselling us left right and centre...

                  perhaps chris macdonald just doesn't do it for me... avalon a few years back was another huge disappointment. ridiculously small portions all served utterly cold.

                  1. re: pinstripeprincess

                    I guess its just preference, I rap on the service and price of Canoe all the time (for what it is) and yet alot of people swear by it.

                    I usually split 5 dishes at Cava for 2 people, I tend to go for the lighter ones just because I like them better, so $50-60 with a beer for two. I guess if you had cocktails or wine and 6 of the heavier dishes it would add up fast.

                    I'm suprised you mentioned the waiter upselling you as one of the things I like best is the coaching you get from the waiters about which dishes they think you will like best (especially once you have been there a couple times).

                    Ok, I'm gonna stop since I'm starting to sound like a Cava fanboi and thats kinda lame. I was just surprised as yours is the first negative sentiment I have heard regarding a restaurant I feel is Toronto's current sleeper hit!

                    1. re: Fidel Gastro

                      Fidel, exactly my sentiment. I was going to chime in about Cava, but I thought people might be tired of hearing me go on and on about it; especially when no one seems that impressed with it. It is my favorite restaurant right now- i think it is totally impressive.

                      1. re: Fidel Gastro

                        I'm with the princess on this one. Very disappointing on three separate occasions (only went the third time because friends were going to Spain and wanted to try Cava). All three times have been around $100 per person (YES, PER PERSON) and just not worth it.
                        Also note: this is a winebar - I judge it on that basis and it doesn't compare favourably on price or quality with other places that are in the same marketplace (JKWB, Coca, Fat Cat, Kultura, etc).

                        1. re: estufarian

                          coca just plain stinks, in my opinion. I've gone twice and wasn't happy either time. Obviously we have different guidelines!
                          I just went back to cava for lunch to make sure i still feel the same and i do! Agree to disagree i guess.

                          1. re: nummanumma

                            I enjoyed both Coca and Cava but for very different reasons. I thought Cava really excelled with some dishes, including the "Sardines Two Ways", the beef cheeks, or the grilled octopus that had four of us at the table melting in our chairs. (Also, I wasn't upsold while I was there.)
                            The food at Coca is not of the same caliber, but It's the best place in the city to explore Spanish wines (on a budget). It helps that they sell wines in "taster" sizes, and that the wines are quite accurately described in the wine list. I wrote at longer length about the highlights in their wine list here:

                  2. re: pinstripeprincess

                    My experience with JKWB was...boring.

                    Went with a bunch of foodies, with high expectations I suppose (with all the hype surrounding him), and it was a total disappointment. Over-salted and bland. And I don't go to places just cause they look nice.

                    Funny, everyone goes on about his "frites". They're FRIES for goodness sake! This is not rocket science high end cuisine.

                    And I would sooner spend my money on purchasing fabulous Quebec artisanal cheeses from Nancy's Cheese (at Harbord Bakery) and eat them at home while enjoying some great wine and better company.

                    1. re: Splendid Wine Snob

                      perhaps, but they are good fries for when you're looking for a carbo load and considering that bread is an extra expense at jk it's a great alternative. not everyone does good fries... i suggest them as much as i suggest the fries at batifole, it's a great accompaniament to the rest of the meal.

                      i've enjoyed my meals there with regards to the food experience and have only a couple times at most received overly salty dishes. this seems to be growing as a regular complaint but it's not something that often happens to me. i've hardly found the dishes to be bland and would recommend the heavier fattier dishes overall as they're fantastically rich.

                      i think you're also missing a point here... they're visiting from out of town and askign for places to eat OUT at... taking cheese back to wherever they are staying wasn't exactly something they were asking for so it's a perfectly valid suggestion.

                      so where would you suggest them to go otherwise?

                      1. re: pinstripeprincess


                        My point regarding the cheese and fries is that it's not a reason for me to go to a restaurant.

                        In terms of recommendations (of similar style and in no particular order):

                        1. Fat Cat Wine Bar (Roncesvalles)
                        2. Caren's Wine Bar (Yorkville on Cumberland)
                        3. Crush Wine Bar (on King-fantastic wines by the glass, wonderful, warm, attentive service, but I admit I haven't yet tried the food).

                        Fat Cat and Caren's serve great food (although there was a recent thread regarding a bad salad that Rabbit received at Caren's), and have lovely patios.

                        1. re: Splendid Wine Snob

                          for a restaurant that changes their menu fairly frequently, i can't very well tell anyone what my favourite dishes are there. the two dishes i can easily claim to always be there and always be good are the fries and the cheese plate.

                          i'm finally heading over to the fat cat bistro tomorrow and am excited to try it. i hear they supply the wine bar directly for meals so the difference won't be night and day.

                    2. re: pinstripeprincess

                      I was very pleasantly surprised by the oysters at Starfish. Simply fantastic.

                    3. re: Fidel Gastro

                      Best asian food in town ??? Blowfish is Japanese Fusion. It is fusion food, not asian food...........