Six nights in Toronto
I will continue scanning the boards as I know there have been similar questions, but American visiting Toronto next month for 6 nights, staying at Sheraton near Univ. Toronto.
Intersted in a short list of downtown-area (walkable/transit) restaurants that are local "must tries" or new, inventive, interesting places. I will likely go for two nice, upscale dinners, and others would be more casual. For the upscale places, here's the catch....likely dining alone, so need a place where a "1-top at the bar" is an appropriate approach to dining.
Thanks...looks like Toronto has a great mix of dining options.
For casual and interesting, I suggest By The Way Cafe. Good food, nice decor, unprententious relaxing atmosphere and a starting/ending point for exploring the Annex neighbourhood.
Also casual and not recommended so much for the food (sort of upscale pub food) but for the wonderful view from its patio right on the water is the Waterside Bistro, best to go if the weather is fine obviously.
By The Way
400 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M5S1X5, CA
255 Queens Quay E, Toronto, ON M5A, CA
Two places that haven't been mentioned yet, but which do great things at the bar:
The Spice Room and Chutney Bar in Hazelton Lanes. A very upscale and innovative restaurant with one of the best (with a typically checkered past) chefs in town, Greg Couillard. There are a small number of seats at the bar, and they do a special menu that lets you try many of the dishes in appetizer portions (9$ per).
Cava is a wine bar/tapas restaurant that features a fantastic selection of wines and sherries, and a fantastic selection of dishes with spanish and south american influences. They also do their own charcutrie, with daily pates, preserved sausages, dried meats.
If you get homesick for mexican, you can get tacos almost as good as Lupes at El Trompo on Augusta. Very decent margaritas, as well.
Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar (on Church St., below Jarvis, about a ten minute walk from where you'll be staying) is a great place for dining alone. It's usually pretty easy to get a seat as a single, despite the fact that it's very busy all the time. The emphasis is on food produced from local, in-season ingredients (whenever possible), and an eclectic, extensive by the glass wine selection. They also do what is probably one of the best, if not the best brunches in the city (weekends only). If you like the whole sit-at-the-bar thing (which i do, especially when I'm travelling) JK is a good place to do so... open kitchen, good atmosphere. It's also fairly reasonably priced (not a high-end night out, although the adjacent dining room is).
For a more high-end experience I second/third Canoe. It's a great spot, especially for the view, and also for excelent, sometimes outstanding "Canadian" contemporary cuisine (i.e., lots of dishes with things like wild boar, duck from Quebec, Nova Scotia lobster, local produce, etc.).
George on Queen West (between Church and Jarvis) is also really good for higher-end dining in an atmosphere that isn't stuffy. They do have a few bar tables that you could sit at, but otherwise it's primarily a dining room situation... They have a beautiful courtyard patio as well...
A true Toronto original is Susur Lee. You will not get a meal like one you will have at either of his restaurants anywhere else. Susur's twin restaurants are on King West a bit West of Spadina. The caveats though are that I'm not sure I'd be really into dining alone at his flagship restaurant, as there isn't really a proper bar to sit at, the atmosphere is a bit subdued, and it is easily one of the most expensive in Toronto. However, a great, more casual (and frankly, more fun) alternative if you want to get a taste of Susur Lee's cooking is his place next door: Lee. The food is a highly original mix of Asian cuisine styles, interpreted in part through the lens of a chef who has had extensive experience in both Western and Asian restaurant kitchens (he grew up in Hong Kong and ran the kitchens in some of the best restaurants in Singapore). Lee has a good bar to sit at, which makes the 1-top totally doable.
Perigee is also a choice that a lot of Torontonians will recommend to out-of-towners for a high-end night out. It's in a cool area: the Distillery District is the site of an old Prohibition era distillery that was a major producer of whiskey, which was smuggled into the US in the 20s and 30s). FYI that it's sometimes a bit hard to find if it's your first time in the distillery district.
If you like oysters and other raw bar items, strangely enough, Toronto is a great city to get your fix (go-figure). Starfish on Adelaide St. East (near Church St.) is great, and another really good sit-at-the-bar place. Patrick McMurray, the owner, is also the Guiness Oyster Shucking World Record holder, and is an all-around cool guy. He's also got a great book that just came out that promises to be the definitive guide to everything oyster... The regular menu is also good (it used to actually be really great, but they changed chefs recently, but the food is stil solid...). Rodney's is the other major oyster bar in town.
And, for some of the best dim sum in North America: Lai Wah Heen.
For more casual options:
If you like a good, old-school Irish-American/Irish Canadian style bar, Allens on the Danforth (near Broadview, a 20 minute subway ride from Queen and Yonge) is a good place to check out. They make one of the best hamburgers in the city, and there are a number of other good things on the menu, including some decent authentic Irish dishes and grill items that are sourced from local farms (locally raised lamb, pork, etc.). A bunch of beers on tap, and the city's largest scotch list. It's pretty busy from Wednesday through Saturday nights, so the atmosphere is good those evenings.
* http://allens.to Note: fyi that the website is really, really bad. The place looks and feels nothing like what the website depicts... It's much more groovy. Reminds me of some of the better New York Irish bars...
Also, definitely check out the Ontario board for various asian cuisines like Vietnamese, Chinese, Korean as you're very close to Toronto's main Chinatown district, where you'll find lots of choices for cheap, delicious eats.
Also, Terroni on Queen St. West makes some of the best authentic southern Italian pizza you'll find outside of Italy (http://www.terroni.ca/), along other good Italian eats.
For Japanese, the two most extraordinary restaurants (and not cheap either) are unfortunately quite a bit outside of the downtown core:
Also, I haven't been to it yet, but I've heard really great things about Kaiseki-Sakura on the Chowhound board: http://www.torontolife.com/guide/rest...
Kaiseki-Sakura is on Church, near Parliament (a short subway ride away from where you'll be staying). Otherwise, most Japanese food in Toronto is what you'll typically find in any other North American city these days: ok but not exciting.
Last but not least, if you're in town on a Saturday, checking out the St. Lawrence Market is always fun, and you can get a really good Italian Veal and Eggplant sandwich at Mustachio's (on the lower level)...
I'm sure you'll be bombarded with suggestions. So I'll only offer two of my favorites in the area, which match your criteria.
For Japanese, try Japango on 122 Elisabeth Street 416-599-5557. Good makis, Japanese owned and operated, small restaurant, reservations recommended.
For the upscale dinner, try Canoe on the 54th floor of the TD Bank Tower at 66 Wellington Street West 416-364-0054. Breathtaking views of the city, superb 'canadiana' food, excellent service. If you are going to dine alone and want to be entertained by the kitchen staff, ask to be sit by the kitchen; they have a long counter overlooking the kitchen setup for patrons to dine, and the staff is friendly; the counter is by the west window, which offers the best views of the city after sunset. In my experience, after years eating at Canoe, is to avoid the tasting menus and order from the a la carte menu, where you'll find the best dishes.
Enjoy your stay in Toronto!
For the upscale dinner - Canoe is a great choice for the view. However, I think you may also want to check out the Distillery district. For an upscale dinner - consider Perigee. They have a beautiful tasting menu - Pat Riley is amazing. And you can by the kitchen as well.
For a more casual (ie less expensive place) - I would also check out beer bistro on King st (just east of Yonge) - they also have a chef's table and a really long beer menu.
I could give you other recommendations - but you didn't say what kind of cuisine you are partial to... what kind of food do you like or better yet - don't like... this city has alot of good eats...
Thanks. You guys have really come through! Apple, I tend to like modern, inventive and fusion restaurants (without being too trendy or pretentious) if that makes any sense. No particular ethnic cuisine..I live in a very ethnically-diverse city (some may not believe...Houston) where we have a huge population base of Vietnamese, Chinese, Southeast Asian South Asian as well as Central and South Americans, so I have all those cuisines covered in wonderful local places on a daily basis, therefore love to experience other cities' more local flavors or local stand-out spots. Thanks again.