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Casual Toronto Dinner Recommendation for six?

rlh Jul 30, 2007 06:39 AM

I'm in Toronto for a one night only at the end of the month -- rental car and staying near Pearson, but willing (more likely, eager) to drive into downtown -- with a moderately generous expense account available with group of six or so looking for great food and a fun, casual, not too noisy atmosphere -- where do you recommend?

  1. rlh Aug 30, 2007 05:32 AM

    For the group dinner, we ended up at 10 instead of 6 without enough cars to get downtown, so we went to Casa Barcelona.

    It was enjoyed by all and they took good care of us with a wide variety of solid tapas and sangria -- nothing was hugely memorable or problematic (my own very minor pet peeve is their charging for bread that should accompany gambas al ajillo for soaking up that delicious oil otherwise left behind...it did come with good olives as well). The service was responsive, warm, and friendly.

    I'd return again on my own if trying to stay within an affordable cab ride of Pearson.

    1 Reply
    1. re: rlh
      Rabbit Aug 30, 2007 06:06 AM

      Thanks for the follow-up, rlh... and I also owe you one for steering us to Central Kitchen when I was staying in Cambridge last month!

      Rab-bit!

    2. h
      Hondapendragon Jul 31, 2007 03:21 PM

      Thanks for your recs on the Boston site. Here's what I recommend for you...

      I am going to second the beerbistro rec. It is one of my favorite after work spots.

      http://www.beerbistro.com/

      The fondue is good and their Steak Frites dish is amazing.
      The only issue is downtown parking, but there are plenty of "Green P's" (aka public parking lots) around and there's always street parking too.

      Another place that people rave about in Toronto is the Jamie Kennedy Winebar (or JKWB). Food is really good (make sure you try the poutine) and the wine pairings are bang on... but again, parking may be an issue.

      http://www.jkkitchens.com/v2/restaurants.html

      My last rec is for Mistura which is in the trendy Yorkville area. It might not meet your casual atmosphere criteria, but I like the food a lot.

      http://www.mistura.ca/

      Good luck with your choices and have a great time!

      3 Replies
      1. re: Hondapendragon
        rlh Aug 27, 2007 07:51 PM

        It wasn't the dinner for 6 (which may be even larger tomorrow evening) ,but I just returned from dinner at JKWB -- Monday night was a good time to try it -- street parking in front and immediate seating at the chef's table.

        The wine pairings were truly excellent and the food was really great as well, especially the tomato salad, the scallops with chorizo, and the Fanny Bay fried oysters with fennel. Only the poutine was salted to the point of unpleasantness for me. Dessert of roasted figs and honey ice cream was a great, light finish. Everything coming from the chef's stations where we were sitting looked and smelled amazing -- I hope to get back to try the short ribs and entrecote, and maybe the duck leg and th octopus as well.

        Thanks for the recommendation! It was perfect.

        1. re: rlh
          nummanumma Aug 28, 2007 06:03 AM

          that's great- funny, the salt thing at JKWB seems to be a dividing line for many of us- a lot of the dishes, i'm so pleased not to have to ask for salt at all- but many people feel that the food there is just too salty- personal preference I guess. I wonder if a lot of people have virtually worked salt right out of their diets?

          1. re: nummanumma
            rlh Aug 30, 2007 05:28 AM

            I LOVE salt in all shapes, sizes, and flavors, and can't imagine working it out of any serious eating or cooking that I'm doing -- but this was more like a mistake on the poutine (like maybe 5x the salt I'd expect), not a preference thing -- I'm pretty sure on this.

            I probably should have just asked the chef in front of me whether it was intended that way and it probably would have been changed, but I was distracted by all the other goodness coming at us.

      2. rlh Jul 31, 2007 07:53 AM

        This is really great -- thanks for all of the thoughtful responses.

        For the record, this request would be a challenge in Boston as well (I haven't been to Beehive but need to soon -- given this request here, I'd probably recommend Silvertone early for dinner but after happy hour subsides, or maybe head to the B Side Lounge or Christopher's in Cambridge -- if there were suburban tolerance in the group, I'd choose Za in Arlington, hands down).

        I'll report back on our choice following the late August visit. Thanks again.!

        1. thought_for_food Jul 30, 2007 06:52 PM

          There's also 7 Numbers, either on the Danforth or Eglinton:

          http://www.sevennumbers.com/

          It's been mentioned several times on this board: good food in a fun and casual (and somewhat, but not overly loud) atmosphere. It has upscale(ish) food in a non-fussy setting. Service is usually very friendly, too.

          1 Reply
          1. re: thought_for_food
            l
            LemonLauren Aug 28, 2007 04:39 AM

            7 Numbers makes me think of Terroni, either the St. Clair or Queen W location - good food, lots of foodie and non-foodie options, great atmosphere and patio optional, but the snag is they don't usually take reservations...you could call since you're a group, tho.

            -----
            Terroni
            720 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M6J1E8, CA

            Terroni
            1 Balmoral Ave, Toronto, ON M4V3B9, CA

          2. b
            Bigtigger Jul 30, 2007 10:51 AM

            I think Gianni Maria on St Clair W at Arlington would suit you very well - be sure you enjoy the Ravioi Piedmontese. Maria will fuss over you, there is a very reasonably-priced wine selection and you will enoy homestyle cooking in a low-key atmosphere.

            Further up the scale, Batifole, for French bistro with flair; also French bistro but with a more bohemian atmosphere and casual, less "correct" service (as the French say), La Palette.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Bigtigger
              robgm Jul 30, 2007 11:38 AM

              I, like others, have been breaking my brain trying to think of a spot. How about Czehoski?

              1. re: robgm
                e
                estragon Jul 30, 2007 12:06 PM

                Don't break your brain -- you might need it later! ;)

                Fun, casual and not too noisy... Blowfish? (OK, on the noisy side later in the evening.) Japanese fusion - great maki rolls.

                Big Ragu? Checkered-tablecloth Italian. Traditional, hearty and generous.

                -----
                Blowfish
                668 King St W, Toronto, ON M5V1M7, CA

                Big Ragu
                1338 Lansdowne Ave, Toronto, ON M6H3Z8, CA

            2. Rabbit Jul 30, 2007 09:41 AM

              1. What about the Drake Hotel?
              It's quite uniquely Toronto, close-ish to highway access, good for 30-40-somethings... perhaps ever-so-slightly Beehive-ish (to make a Boston comparison)?? Although I'm not sure how the food is these days... anyone?
              www.thedrakehotel.ca

              PS - I agree with thenurse... while this shouldn't be a tough request, I struggled with finding suitable options (I'll keep thinking... )

              4 Replies
              1. re: Rabbit
                thenurse Jul 30, 2007 10:24 AM

                I thought of the Drake a couple of times, but here is why I didn't mention it. (Keep in mind that I used to work across the street and have been many, many times, mostly for lunch):
                1. service is VERY inconsistent and often slow
                2. I think the price is steep for what you get, in most cases
                3. I would describe it as more 'hip' than 'casual', although it is pretty casual
                4. it's noisy, always.
                5. the food is also inconsistent, rarely great (IMO).

                1. re: thenurse
                  m
                  millygirl Jul 30, 2007 10:41 AM

                  How about Gio's on Queen. The food is always good, service is great and its definitely fun and casual. Sometimes it can get a little nosy but that's usually at the end of the night. We've always had good meals there and very reasonably priced.

                  1. re: millygirl
                    t
                    tartiflette Jul 30, 2007 10:46 AM

                    "Nosy"? An apt Freudian slip when describing Gio's, that's for sure. :)

                    (For the benefit of the out-of-towner, the sign for Gio Rana's at Queen/Leslie is a very large nose)

                    1. re: tartiflette
                      m
                      millygirl Jul 30, 2007 10:51 AM

                      oops, yes....pardon the pun!!!

              2. thenurse Jul 30, 2007 07:00 AM

                I find that fun, casual AND not too noisy is tough to find. Esp. the latter.
                Where are you visiting from?
                What night are you in town?
                That will make a difference as to the recommendations, as a lot of restos are closed on Monday nights.
                Depending on the night, I might suggest somewhere in the Distillery District.

                2 Replies
                1. re: thenurse
                  rlh Jul 30, 2007 08:00 AM

                  Tough to find -- agreed -- that's exactly why I post the inquiry on chowhound -- this is where the experts are - -

                  I am visiting from Boston and it will be a Tuesday night. I have been to Pearson a number of times over the past two years and found nothing memorable in terms of food -- thus the rental car this time. I have NOT been to downtown Toronto at all, so specific location details will be a big help.

                  Great, houndish food (not the usual expense account locales) is definitely the highest priority, but casual is also important as the group (of 30- and 40- somethings age-wise) doesn't include fine dining types (or budgets) -- not too noisy may not happen, but if it's possible, we'd like to have a conversation during dinner.

                  Thanks!

                  1. re: rlh
                    thenurse Jul 30, 2007 08:23 AM

                    Forget my rec of the D-District then - not houndish food, but depending on the night of the week, a cool, historic place with a great atmosphere to visit with lots of choice for mediocre food (other than Brick St. Bakery, the awesome crepe place and soma chocolate - all 'take-out' style).

                    I've been sitting here for 20 mins trying to think of a place that meets your requirements, and is *relatively* easy to get to. Here's one, I'll try and think of more.

                    BeerBistro - www.beerbistro.com. It's right downtown so you can walk a few blocks in any direction and see a little bit of downtown Toronto. Check the website for directions and/or mapquest it.

                    Wherever you go, consider traffic and parking. Both can be a pain in the a$$ at times. Parking on King might not be that difficult in the early evening, but anything can happen with traffic.

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