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Aug 1, 2007 04:03 AM

Unique to Toronto/Canada


I'm visiting Toronto for the first time in August for a weekend of exploring the city. In my research about the local dining I'm finding the choices to be so diverse. In an attempt to narrow down my options I'm looking for recommendations of dishes or local favorites that I'd be hard pressed to find living in Boston and/or the States. An example would be poutines. Never knew about those until I visited Montreal, now my occasional cravings bring back fond memories of the visit.

I'm pretty much open to any type of food, but for the most part I'm a carnivore.


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  1. The unfortunate thing about Canadian cuisine is, apart from Quebec (poutine, tourtiere, tarte au sucre, etc.), and Newfoundland (seal pie and Screech), there is little that we can truly call "Canadian". Sure, we provide millions of gallons of Canola oil, but that really isn't a meal, is it? Our maple syrup is way better than Vermont's, but again, it's a condiment, not a national dish. So here's what I'd suggest:

    Toronto is multi-cultural in the extreme, so take advantage of that. Wander along the Danforth to enjoy Greek cuisine; check out St. Clair W. for Italian hole-in-the-wall spots; visit Bloor & Christie for Korean; King Street W. for a variety of upscale restos; and, especially in August, if you get a nice evening, a wander through Yorkville/Cumberland is always rewarding, especially if you top it off with a drink from the Rooftop bar at the Park Hyatt at Bloor/Avenue Road.

    I would recommend the only quintessential Canadian food, the butter tart, but that would only start off another holy war as to whether they should include raisins or not. (Of course, they should, but the heretic community is both vigorous and vociferous.)

    8 Replies
    1. re: KevinB

      What about a good breakfast and peameal bacon of you have never had it.

      1. re: itryalot

        I'm gonna suggest a trip around St.Lawrence market, have a peameal bacon sandwich, pick up some salmon jerky & maybe some maple the bonus of just getting to cruise around and see what else you might find...good times!...Jamie Kennedy's Wine Bar is in the hood too, pretty much couldn't fine a bad dish in there & he does some crazy things with poutine to boot!

      2. re: KevinB

        Thanks, Kevin. Your recommendations are exactly what I am looking for. During my stay I plan on and doing alot of "tasting" so the street tips are appreciated, epecially since I will need to walk this food off.

        And since my travel partner doesn't like raisins, I'm looking forward to trying the butter tart both ways. Any paticular place known for these?

        1. re: KevinB

          if the weekend you're coming happens to be Aug 10-12, you can visit the Taste of Danforth festival for big crowds, cheap food and lots of world options!

          1. re: KevinB

            Ironically, George Brown College offers a course on "Canadian Cuisine". The dishes explored include:

            Discover Canada's culinary identity! Experience regional ingredients and recipes from the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic coasts, and all points in between. All aboard for this transcontinental, gastronomical adventure. Be prepared to cook, taste and sample what makes our great country unique.

            Recipes in this course may include the following:
            - Atlantic Salmon and Cod Cakes - Turnip Gratin
            - Newfie Berry Roly-Poly with Vanilla Sauce - Corn and Crab Chowder
            - Cottage Cheese and Oat Biscuits - Baked Atlantic Salmon with Apple & Tomato Relish
            - Roasted Breast of Duck with Rhubarb Port Sauce - Maple Syrup and Rum baked Beans
            - Savoury Onion and Sage Custard - Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
            - Warm Potato and Onion Salad - Buttermilk Bannock
            - Succotash Pudding - Medallions of Turkey with Wild Rice & Saskatoon Berries
            - Baked Artic Char with Crabmeat and Pine Butter - Baked Tomato with Cornmeal Crust
            - Apple, Raisin Sponge Pudding
            - Stuffed Pork Chops with Goat Cheese Chestnut and Red Wine Reduction

            Regional indeed and, unfortunately, no mention of butter tarts, with or sans raisins!

            1. re: JamieK

              I dont see where the irony is, but THANKS for the info!

            2. re: KevinB

              from Quebec poutine,
              from Montreal smoked meat
              from toronto peemeal bacon
              from NFLD cod tongue (and cheeks)
              Niagra Ice wine chocolate

            3. About a month ago there was an extensive thread on the topic. You can search for it, and read through it, but KevinB, I think, represents the consensus. Canadian cuisine, as such, doesn't exist - it's just a collection of regional cuisines. That said, since you self-identify as a carnivore, game is something pretty Canadian, and more restaurants are including game on the regular menu. As well, horse! Excellent, lean, similar to beef, but slightly sweeter. For horse, La Palette and Batifole are the two go-to places in Toronto.

              However, I denounce KevinB for his morally bankrupt inclusion of raisins in butter tarts. He faces a firey afterlife. ;-)

              11 Replies
              1. re: hungry_pangolin

                Wow, thank you itryalot, Recyclor and hungry_pangolin. I'll search for the previous thread.

                I'm a big fan of all breakfast sandwiches. Don't know what peameal bacon is, but I'll find out.

                And that's what I'm talking about! I've honestly never heard of that being an option on any menu.

                1. re: urban_myth

                  Peameal bacon is what I see referred to as "Canadian bacon" on US cooking shows...

                  Check this link out, pretty much tells all:


                  1. re: Recyclor

                    Peameal and US-style "Canadian bacon" are not the same. See this thread for further discussion:


                  2. re: urban_myth

                    If horse doesn't scare you, then you should check out Canoe or North 44. Pricey, swakyt, yes, but as uniquely (upscale foodie) Canadian as you'll find.

                    Canoe Restaurant & Bar - 66 Wellington St

                    North 44 Restaurant - 2537 Yonge Street

                    1. re: LemonLauren

                      Thank you. All these recommendations are going to make the next two weeks at my job really drag. In my mind I'm already gone.

                      1. re: urban_myth

                        Have a Bloody Caesar somewhere as well, preferably before noon.

                      2. re: LemonLauren

                        Not quite sure why these two suggested places are related to the horse suggestion. Neither serves horse (although they do serve some venison along with many other places). Also both are most noted for business dinners rather than gourmet (or even carnivorous). So both of these are expensive and off-track!

                        1. re: estufarian

                          i feel somewhat confrontational defending my post at all, but - related to horse because the diner evidently doesn't shy away from meats that are off th ebeaten track, venison included, which the aforementioned establishments serve. as for business vs. gourmet, that's really a matter of company. i know many couples who have had romantic dinners at north 44 in particular, but i'm sure they do also do a business crowd. i stand by the rec on them being unique, but admit, and did before, that they are pricey places.

                          1. re: LemonLauren

                            Sorry - didn't intend to be confrontational - just pointing out to the Poster that horse wasn't served (IMO your post implied that people who liked horse would like the two places mentioned, which are an entirely different category from the places which do serve horse - at least double the price).
                            Absolutely I welcome your participation (whether we agree or not). If we all agreed on the best places then probably neither of us would be able to get in, because they would always be full! But at the same time I am also able to disagree - but I intended it to be over the restaurants - not to impugn your taste in any way and if I did offend it was totally unintentional.

                    2. re: hungry_pangolin

                      As I noted, this is a holy war akin to Windows vs. Mac, Leafs vs. Canadiens, and
                      charcoal vs. propane. Here's the latest Chowhound thread on the topic, which includes lots of places to try them out:



                    3. Love the Caesar sggestion TheNurse! How come we don't suggest those to visitors more often? Grab one of these very Canadian drinks while hanging out on a patio in one of the great people watching neighbourhoods like Little Italy on college or Greektown on the Danforth, urban myth.

                      If you are considering a bit of a wander, some good neighbourhoods that are interesting and close together would include Queen Street West (starting at Spadina and West) for funky clothing stores and bars, Kensington which is a mix of all types of ethnic takeaway restaurants and markets (lunch there to go on great Empanadas at Jumbo Empanada or sit down for incredibly good value modern tapas at Torito), and then you are right next door to Chinatown.

                      The St. Lawrence market suggestion for a breakfast Peameal bacon sandwich is also a great idea. There are several vendors that sell them on the West side of the market after you enter through the Front St. doors. Wander through the market and you are sure to find some other Canadian-themed edibles. On Saturday, the market expands across the street to include a great farmer's market where you will find lots of local produce and homecooked goodies. Keep in mind, however, that the market is closed on Sunday - so make this a Saturday trip. There, you are also only a couple of blocks away from the Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar which was previously suggested as a meal destination and I second the nomination.

                      The JKWB is split into a more expensive a la carte menu side, and a wine bar area. There are tables in both sections but I strongly suggest sitting in the wine bar area. The food is much less expensive and the smaller style plates allow you do do more sampling along with great wine pairings. They use local seasonal ingredients so you would certainly be eating Canadian. Food and wine are both fantastic there and, as mentioned in an earlier post, they do some fantastic gourmet poutines (last time I was there it was with Duck Confit).

                      Hope you have a great trip and report back!

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: jgloverwork

                        and don't forget about the "street meat" outside the horseshoe (queen and spadina) - great late night snack. all my new york friends prefer our street hot dogs to their own! kensington market is great too. there are a couple of great empanada places that are cheap and yummy! and a fun mexican restaurant. of course you will want names but i don't even know street names. i just go!

                        1. re: mermaidadrift

                          It's not unique to Toronto, but a good, aged Balderson's cheddar is one of the world's great cheeses.

                          1. re: ekammin

                            i further the recommendation to try some good, aged cheddar. the older the better.

                            my family lives in the states and is constantly asking me to smuggle in some good cheese. i guess our aging process differs from what you have in the states. family is not far from manhattan, so their options are much better than elsewhere in the country.

                            i am a fan of back forty cheese, especially the highland blue.

                            in toronto you can get it at the following places according to their website:
                            All The Best at 1099 Yonge Street
                            Whole Foods at 87 Avenue Road
                            Alex Farms in the St. Lawrence Market

                      2. You've gotten some great recommendations already, so I'll just make a list of things that are easy to find in Toronto that are not so easy to find in most places in the States. Some have already been mentioned by others.

                        - Portuguese grilled chicken ("churrasco")
                        - Portuguese custard tarts
                        - roti (west indian or east indian style -- another holy war)
                        - Trini doubles
                        - Jamaican beef patties
                        - peameal bacon (in or out of a sandwich!)
                        - butter tarts
                        - poutine
                        - Bloody Caesers
                        - British chocolates and flavoured potato chips
                        - overpriced wines (just had to throw that in -- you may be shocked at the price of wine here vs. home)

                        My favourite places/neighbourhoods to wander:

                        - The Distillery District (grab a savoury British pastry at the Brick St. Bakery, some decadent chocolates at Soma, and sample the beers at the Mill St. Brewery)
                        - St. Lawrence Market (which is a building AND a neighbourhood -- definitely hit the building)
                        - Kensington Market (which is a neighbourhood) & Chinatown (next street over)
                        - West Queen West (from Portland towards Strachan and beyond)

                        For very upscale, Yorkville is fun to people and car watch, and it has a small gem of an urban park on Cumberland that is always full of people. Not a very chowhoundish destination for food, unfortunately.

                        Feel free to ask about any of the above or just do a search on this board for lots of coverage. And just to help clarify a comment above -- JK Wine Bar is a distinct entity from JK Restaurant, but the spaces are connected by a lounge. Avoid the restaurant and visit the Wine Bar. Get the poutine. :)

                        So have fun and please report back on your discoveries!

                        21 Replies
                        1. re: TorontoJo

                          you could always stop in at whole foods and eat free samples for some noshing in Yorkville, or, if you feel like paying, they have a swell salad bar

                          1. re: TorontoJo

                            Actually, the cost of wine in the US is highly variable, and the assumption that it's cheaper in the US is not at all borne out by my experience. I remember considerable sticker shock in Pennsylvania and Michigan, and pleasant surprises in Chicago. A recent discussion thread mentioned Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio, and revealed that in Ontario it is $16.95CAD, whereas in California it is approximately $24USD.

                            1. re: hungry_pangolin

                              Fair enough. I'm mostly thinking about my experience with Aussie wines. A Rosemont Estate Shiraz costs around $6 in the States and goes for $15 here. It's crazy.

                              1. re: hungry_pangolin

                                A good point about US wines. On one hand, I recall paying about $4 for a bottle of Sutter Home Red Zinfandel (a magnificent wine - identical to Italian Primitivo) in Michigan. On the other hand, I'm not surpriosed about the price of wine in California. Many people there seem quite begrudging about admitting to the existence of any wine-growing region but their own.

                                1. re: ekammin

                                  But, by the same token, I paid more for certain French and Californian wines in Michigan (not really a wine producer - yes, a few, but not many) than I did in Ontario (which aspires to become a true region). What explanation for that, in your model? I think that it comes down to a set of conditions which is, ultimately, for the consumer, inscrutible.

                                  1. re: hungry_pangolin

                                    Hey guys - it's TAXES that make the difference (in Canada) - and competition in the US. Different economic models.
                                    Canadian wines were cheaper in India (yes) , UK and Spain in recent trips than the same wines were costing here in Canada.
                                    And don't forget the 70%+ duties/fees when bringing stuff back into Canada.
                                    My problem is availability - why can't I get wines (at auction, say) that are never available here and bring them back LEGALLY?
                                    It's not the price - which I can choose to pay or not - but the access and availability. I won't describe the frustration at buying a wine for 5 or 6 years (to build a vertical tasting) and then have the LCBO skip a year or two or limit it to 1 - 2 bottle(s) per person even though advertised at 6 per person, only to change the limit without notification.

                                    1. re: estufarian

                                      LCBO is one reason to consider living elsewhere. OHIP is a consideration in staying.

                                      1. re: jayt90

                                        Maybe the taxes that make the prices so high at the LCBO go to pay for OHIP???

                                      2. re: estufarian

                                        Mostly correct, but it's also a taxation issue in the US, which varies greatly from state to state.

                                        Just to vent... I have a love/hate relationship with the LCBO, but I cannot abide the role of a certain customs broker and its close, almost conspiratorial, relationship with the LCBO when it comes to shipping wines into Ontario. Like estufarian, I don't argue with paying the taxes, just give me my damn wine.

                                        1. re: hungry_pangolin

                                          For me it is more of a hate relationship. I agree with many of the comments on bringing in your own wine across the border. I would add try moving back from abroad with even a small wine cellar. Ontario may need taxes for OHIP and cricket clubs, but duties and taxes on alcohol are excessively high vis a vis other products here and alcohol prices abroad. Compare big city prices to Toronto.

                                          Then there is the wineries with limited production won't deal with Canada, Ontario in particular, due to the paperwork, their payment procedures and other annoyances. I can't count how many wineries I've visited in places like the US, New Zealand and Australia where I heard Canadian importing horror stories--usually the LCBO. When you sell your entire stock anyways why bother dealing with the headache.

                                          As for selection, if you think being a wine lover in Ontario is frustrating, talk to the beernuts. It's shameful that Premier Gourmet in Buffalo, a city the tenth the size of Toronto, sometimes (to often!) has a better selection of international beer than the Summerhill LCBO. Heck, I had more selection of non Californian wines in a half hour drive from a San Francisco flat than I do in the whole province. Then there's internet.

                                          After all my complaints, I will give credit to the Ontario government for improving some of the regulations on purchasing and selling issues that made us look like a joke. Sunday purchasing is permitted and there is no more filling out forms to buy booze that's store in the back of the store like yesteryear. Boy I don't miss that. That said the government and LCBO could go further to reduce the nanny like liquor laws and procedures in Ontario. Then they step backwards. I couldn’t believe that they shortened LCBO business hours from 11pm to 10pm

                                          1. re: mikeb

                                            Shortening hours, and keeping Sunday hours very short, would be a union issue, and the LCBO bends before thinking of mere consumers.
                                            Surprisingly, some LCBO outlets are open on Aug.. 6 while no Beer Store outlets are open. Now there's an organization hat needs a shake up!

                                            1. re: mikeb

                                              Alberta is privatized and the result is a huge variety of small mom-and-pop liquor stores, sometimes with up to 5 located within a 10 minute walk, that all seem to offer more or less the same selection of mainstream brands. Some of the "better" wine stores offer a very wide selection, but it's mainly skewed to the higher end. (After all, what incentive do they have to sell the lower-margin $12/bottle wines?) I have found prices to be generally higher than Ontario, which can sometimes be partially offset by sales. For example, I bought a 12 pack of Heineken this weekend for $17.99 + deposit + GST = $20 and change, vs. $23.95 at the LCBO. Bottle after bottle of what I typically drank at home is priced 1-4 bucks higher. I've seen basic Italian Pinot Grigios going for $14.99 here, vs $10.99 or $11.99 at the LCBO.

                                              Overall, I miss the LCBO. The "convenience" of having stores stumbling distance apart and open to 3am just attracts street drunks. I think most "normal" people except for deadbeats and students can afford to have a selection of stuff at home and don't feel the need to rush out to buy booze at 11pm on their way to/from the party, so they can deal with the "limited" 10pm closing time of the LCBO.

                                  2. re: TorontoJo

                                    Second the recommendation on Portuguese chicken and tarts, beef patties, and peameal bacon (don't eat much of the rest, so can't recommend per se). Unfortunately, I'm about to branch off here. I only know of a couple of Portuguese places, one in Mississauga and one not far away in the 'Bicoke. Are there any good places in the rest of the city?

                                    Also, I would add Maltese food to the list, since I don't know if there's much of a community in Boston. Certainly, Toronto's is the only one I've found in Canada.

                                    1. re: JQReid

                                      JQR, that's a good point--Maltese, I mean. I think that the community is (was?) centred around Dundas W. near the Junction, but I've never tried Maltese cuisine. What are the specialities.

                                      1. re: Yongeman

                                        Try looking up "Maltese cuisine" in Wikipedia. They have good descriptions of quite a few Maltese dishes.

                                        1. re: ekammin

                                          That's a good start, ekammin. I wonder what's common here in TO?

                                          1. re: Yongeman

                                            I know that if you driive around the Junction, every other place seems to advertise pastizzi.

                                    2. re: TorontoJo

                                      Wow, you have great food taste! so where in Toronto do we find these foods you mentioned above:
                                      -Portuguese tarts
                                      -trini doubles
                                      -trini roti
                                      Going this weekend to Markham

                                      1. re: djc

                                        Wow, you found an old thread!

                                        Hmm... I don't know Markham well, but I think you'll have to drive out of Markham to find the items you're looking for. For Portuguese custard tarts, Nova Era or Doce Minho. Both are in Toronto (Nova Era has multiple locations). For doubles and roti, I'm sure there are places in Scarborough, but none that I'm familiar with. The closest that I know of would be Island Foods on Don Mills, south of York Mills. Officially Toronto, but not that far off the highway, so pretty easy to get to from Markham.

                                        In Markham, you are in the centre of some of the best Chinese food the Toronto area has to offer, so make sure you take advantage of it!

                                        Nova Era has multiple locations in Toronto:
                                        Doce Minho is at 2189 Dufferin Street
                                        Island Foods is at 1310 Don Mills Road

                                        1. re: djc

                                          For doubles and roti, I can't help you with Markham, but as TorontoJo says, if you head south into Scarborough, you can find both at Roti Hut on Pitfield Rd. (near Sheppard and McCowan). The doubles and goat roti are excellent (I haven't tried the other rotis because the goat is THAT good), and the best I've found thus far in this area.

                                          1. re: djc

                                            The doubles and chicken roti at Caribbean Bistro (dine-in or take-out) at 2439 Yonge, a few blocks north of Eglinton, are delicious. Haven't tried their other rotis yet.

                                            The Mr. Jerk (take-out only) at the Peanut Plaza on Don Mills Road, just north of Fairview Mall, also has good roti.

                                        2. There are some great suggestions in this thread. In addition to those, I might suggest trying some Ethiopian food in Toronto. There are more than a few restaurants to choose from, and some are quite highly regarded. Perform a search to see where your preference might lie.