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Your perfect food day Toronto to Niagara

My birthday is coming up and my husband and I have decided to take the day off from work and have a fun day of driving around (weather permitting!) and eating at places we haven't been. We live in Hamilton and would be prepared to go either from Hamilton to as far as Niagara and back, or from Hamilton to as far as Toronto and back, because obviously we'd want to do some visiting/shopping wherever we go.
Can anyone come up with a good "foodie" itinerary, including breakfast, lunch, dinner, and maybe some afternoon goodies?
We're open to all cuisines and we aren't atmosphere snobs, so all suggestions are welcome.
Thanks in advance.

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  1. Okay I'll go first:

    Brunch at Studio Cafe in the Four Seasons, shop in Yorkville, dinner at either One or Pangaea.

    Breakfast at Zoulpy's, meander the St Lawrence Market for foodie gifts and a lunch of pork sandwich (bifana) from Churrasco, shop at The Eaton Centre, dinner at either Mengrai Thai or Weezie's.

    354 King St E, Toronto, ON M5A1K9, CA

    1221 Bay Street, Toronto, ON M5R 3P5, CA

    One Restaurant
    116 Yorkville Avenue, Toronto, ON M5R 1C2, CA

    82 Ontario Street, Toronto, ON M5A 2V3, CA

    Zoulpy's Deli Restaurant - duplicate
    244 King St E, Toronto, ON M5A, CA

    1 Reply
    1. re: Googs

      Second option in particular is totally up our alley. Thanks so much. Will report back to CH on what we end up doing - b'day is end of month, so suggestions still welcome.

    2. Happy Birthday, foodiemommy! I'll give my best push for Niagara. It's a little tougher here, because a lot of the restaurants are closed at least 1-2 days a week, and often closed for lunch on Saturdays and Sundays. Your itinerary may change based on the day of the week that you visit.

      I would suggest that you head directly to Niagara-on-the-Lake. For breakfast, I'll suggest a few options:

      -For something upscale, the Charles Inn http://www.charlesinn.ca

      -For a delicious cafe, Willow Cakes & Pastries http://www.willowcakes.ca/index.html. This would also be a good bet in the afternoon.

      -For eggs, eggs, and more eggs in a quality family-style place, The Little Red Rooster at 271 Mary Street is great. Silks in Virgil (Hwy 55 at Creek Road) is also a good bet.

      Spend the rest of the morning enjoying the shops in NOTL. After 11, head to a couple of wineries (Lailey, Reif, Stratus, Niagara College Teaching Winery, and Coyotes Run are a few of my favourites). Don't miss deLuca's cheese shop on Hwy 55 near Stratus (bring a cooler to take home some great cheese and locally-cured meats).

      For lunch, stay in NOTL and try:

      -Stone Road Grille http://www.stoneroadgrille.com/index.... . A local favourite that has received wide acclaim, and with good reason. Go here if it is open.

      -The Epicurean http://www.epicurean.ca/ has a great salad, soup and sandwich counter at lunchtime.

      -Chef Tony deLuca opened the Old Winery Restaurant http://www.theoldwineryrestaurant.com/ earlier this year. They have wood oven pizzas, salads, and lighter fare at lunch in a beautiful, open-kitchen dining room.

      In the afternoon, if you are still in NOTL, have a pint at the Olde Angel Inn http://www.angel-inn.com/. It's a centuries-old, haunted tavern.

      As the afternoon comes to an end, drive down the Niagara Parkway toward Niagara Falls. Stop at the wineries along the way. If afternoon tea is your thing, I've heard good things recently about the Queenston Heights Restaurant, http://www.niagaraparks.com/dining/qu..., but I have not been there myself since the days that it was no more than a tourist trap. The view down the Niagara River is stunning.

      Drive along the Parkway to Niagara Falls, then head up Clifton Hill and work your way to Lundy's Lane. The Factory Outlet mall might be worth a stop. If you head west on Lundy's Lane it becomes Regional Road 20. About 15 minutes from the Falls, you'll hit the village of Fonthill, and Zest Restaurant http://www.zestfonthill.com/Index.html for dinner (closed Sunday and Monday). I live in Fonthill, so I've been there dozens of times, and I have to say I have never had a bad bite of anything there. I was at a dinner with clients in Toronto last week, and several of them had been to Zest and proclaimed it to be their favourite restaurant. These are people who eat out in T.O. all the time, too. It is simply a superb place, and certainly one of my favourite restaurants anywhere. I would suggest a reservation, and note that they will be closed the first week of January.

      To get back to The Hammer, stay on Hwy. 20, and either take it all the way to Mud Street (the Linc), or take Victoria Ave. (Hwy 24) up to the QEW about 8 kms west of Fonthill.

      5 Replies
      1. re: Gourmando

        This is great, I'm going to save it for the day I get a chance to do an NOTL tour. Thanks.

        Stone Road Grille
        238 Mary St, Niagara-ON-the-Lake, ON L0S, CA

        The Epicurean
        84 Queen St, Niagara-ON-the-Lake, ON L0S, CA

        Charles Inn
        209 Queen, Niagara On the Lake, ON L0S1J0, CA

        Willow Cakes
        242 Mary St, Niagara-ON-the-Lake, ON L0S, CA

        Little Red Rooster
        271 Mary, Niagara On the Lake, ON L0S1J0, CA

        Virgil, ON, Canada

        deLuca's Cheesemarket
        2017 Niagara Stone Rd, Niagara-ON-the-Lake, ON L0S, CA

        Old Winery
        2228 Niagara Stone Rd, Niagara On the Lake, ON L0S1J0, CA

        Olde Angel Inn
        224 Regent St, Niagara-ON-the-Lake, ON L0S, CA

        Queenston Heights
        14184 Niagara River Pkwy, Niagara Falls, ON, Canada

        1469 Pelham St, Fonthill, ON L0S1E4, CA

        1. re: Gourmando

          Oh yes, I've heard of Zest but never been. Thanks for the rec.

          1. re: Gourmando

            @ Gourmando.... I live in Fonthill too!

            1. re: missmouse

              Aren't we lucky, missmouse! I had takeout venison osso bucco and risotto from Zest tonight. The lads even dressed it up with a little foie gras topper as a Christmas treat. I am so spoiled some days...

          2. If you're in Niagara, maybe hit up a winery or two that specializes in ice wines. Inniskillin does winery tours, the content of which is contingent on the season. Might be fun!

            NOTL might be okay at this time of year, but I find it to be a little kitschy and touristy. I prefer the Beamsville, Vineland, Jordan areas.

            And another vote for a bit of meandering around the St. Lawrence Market.

            Maybe also check out JS Bonbons or Soma for a little truffle and hot cocoa break!

            Have fun and happy bday!

            1. http://www.chowhound.com/topics/433004 is an account of a romantic weekend i spent in niagara this summer

              if it's open (not sure if it's seasonal), i would highly recommend stopping at the Coach House Cafe at the Henry of Pelham winery. http://www.chowhound.com/topics/432993
              lovely lunch with yummy antipasto, etc.

              i would be remiss if i didn't mention dinner at On the Twenty http://www.chowhound.com/topics/432986

              happy exploring!

              1 Reply
              1. re: LemonLauren

                I'm pretty sure the Coach House Cafe is only open during the summer, but the Chef who oversees it, Erik Peacock, has a great restaurant in St. Catharines called Wellington Court.

                On the Twenty is also excellent.

              2. This is great! I think we are leaning towards going in the Niagara direction this time - husband likes to support the folks in Niagara, especially in the winter.
                Can't wait to try the Toronto food itinerary, too, though!
                Will report back end of the month.

                5 Replies
                1. re: foodiemommy

                  Although not has picturesque as NOTL, Port Dalhousie is worth a visit either on the way to or from NOTL - Treadwell's is great for lunch or dinner, http://www.treadwellcuisine.com/, and Anna Olson's place is great for a snack, dessert or take something to go http://www.olsonfoodsandbakery.com/.

                  1. re: mtj

                    I love Olson's, and I had a superb lunch at Treadwell earlier this week:

                    -Pingue 24-month prosciutto with shaved pear, parmagiano, lemon "confit" and arugula

                    -Cabernet Flour Gnocchi with fall mushrooms, truffle oil, Ermite bleu

                    -Crab "BLT" on brioche with Niagara Gold cheese and pancetta

                    -Hand-cut chips with rosemary sea salt

                    -A delightful melted cheese on baguette surprise from the kitchen

                    -Pecan bourbon butter tart with parsnip (!!) ice cream

                    Laughing Stock red and a Daniel Lenko late harvest helped to ease things down.

                    Simply a great meal.

                    1. re: Gourmando

                      Thanks Gourmando. That lunch sounds wonderful - tasty and creative. Recently I started a thread in which I was looking for opinions on Olson's. I went for the first time, and my review is on that thread.

                      1. re: foodiemommy

                        I saw your review about Olson's, foodiemommy, so that's why I steered you around Port Dalhousie this time ;-)

                        1. re: Gourmando

                          Very clever! We will go back to Olson's, too. I'll report back on the 29th.

                2. BREAKFAST
                  If you're heading westward I can recommend a good breakfast spot. It's a trucker's stop just off the QEW at the Beamsville turnoff. Just go west a bit towards Beamsville after you exit the turn off ramp and it's on your left. I can't remember the name but you can't miss it. Typical trucker's food and plenty of it with fresh brewed coffee a perking out its aroma as you eat. I haven't been there in some time perhaps someone else knows the place.
                  .A happy birthday to your hubby. Enjoy the day.

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: fruglescot

                    thanks fruglescot, great tip and i'll be sure to pass it on to people travelling through our area.

                    1. re: foodiemommy

                      So you're not considering it for your special day, Foodiemommy?
                      Perhaps you were looking for something a little more high profile than a trucker's stop and good old bacon & eggs?

                      1. re: fruglescot

                        hi fruglescot - i'm from northern ontario and there is nothing more special than to me than a truck stop - especially one with good pie. but i've decided to have breakfast at home before heading out - i'm in the mood for longaniza, a filipino sweet cured sausage that you can't get at truck stops, eggs, and fried rice with garlic, tomatoes, and onions. then we'll head out for the day, smelling of garlic! :-) the place in beamsville, we will check out when we take visiting friends out for breakfast!

                        1. re: foodiemommy

                          Not unless that truck stop is in Manila, Foodiemommy
                          I'm hip to Longaniza-sweet! Got some in the freezer right at the moment Good choice for a unique breakfast. My gf is a Filipino and has intro'd me to it. There is at least one place here in Toronto that cures it here along with other Filipino specialty meats and will actually deliver it to your door? How far up north.are you?

                          1. re: fruglescot

                            hamilton. grew up in the north. married to a filipino. i like the food more than he does!
                            don't want to get too far off topic lest the folks at chowhound be displeased, but would love to know more about the meat places.
                            maybe you can start a thread, as i don't think there's much on filipino food.

                            1. re: foodiemommy

                              I'd heartily second Treadwell in Port Dalhousie. It's incredible and showcases local producers and the best wines Ontario has to offer. For a casual, but yummy lunch and the best lemon merangue pie I've ever had, try The Pie Plate in Virgil.

                  2. Well, 'hounds, the birthday has come and gone, and here is my report. Didn't get as much done as I had planned, but that's often the case with a baby in the house!
                    We were a bit late getting started, so I decided to forego the home-cooked Filipino-style breakfast and get on the road. Looking forward to that longaniza tomorrow. Before we left for Port Dalhousie, we went down to a Portuguese bakery on James St. N. in Hamilton and grabbed a couple of those delicious grilled cheese sandwiches they do on the fresh Portuguese buns and some espresso. Yum. Not sure what the place is called - I think it might have changed names since last time I was there - it might be called "Ole". Anyway, it's on the east side of James North - it's painted sort of a rusty orange colour inside, and there are tables on one side.
                    Now, as you read my review of Treadwell, remember that I chose the place, and sold my husband on going there (rather than to Toronto or somewhere else in Niagara) after reading all the reviews and speaking with offline hounds whose opinions on food we value. I really, really wanted this to be the best lunch ever, or at least the best one I'd had in a while!
                    We arrived at Treadwell at around 1 p.m. We were welcomed warmly and seated at a nice table at the back. My husband started with the gnocchi. It was a lovely purplish colour thanks to the crushed grape skins (Wampole grapes?). I don't recall what the sauce was, but it was creamy, and I think there might have been blue cheese in it. I had tomato soup. The serving of soup was so generous that I didn't even get through half. It was good, but perhaps I should have ordered something more adventurous, like the beet salad with chevre. My husband said the gnocchi was good but a bit overdone (read: too soft).
                    My husband then ordered the poutine with Cumbrae's corned beef, cheese curds, and red wine reduction. The presentation was a bit impractical, as it was served in a high, narrowish bowl, with the curds on the bottom so that it was nearly impossible to get a forkful with meat, cheese, fries and sauce. The corned beef was heavenly - just what you would expect from Cumbrae's. I can't wait to go and buy some to eat on its own!!!The curds were not squeaky, but I thought they were better than what one usually gets on poutine around here. My husband did not like the taste of the curds very much. Maybe I'm too hick, or maybe I lived in Montreal for too long, but I really didn't "get" the red wine reduction. Frites were unremarkable and cooked too long, in my opinion.
                    I had the "chips and fish" - whitefish in beer batter with chips and a malt vinegar mayo (not a homemade mayo - I asked - probably Hellman's, which I like, but in a nice place, sorry, but I expect the restaurant to make it). Chips were thick, and served in a paper cone placed in a glass. They were properly crispy on the outside, and soft on the inside. Once again, though, cooked too long. I don't know what else to say about the fish except that it was not good - way, way overcooked. My husband thought the fish tasted good, but I just could not get over the dryness of the fish and the over-fried batter.
                    When it came time for dessert, I actually suggested to my husband that we claim we had to leave suddenly and then move on to Anna Olson's place. Now, for those of you who saw my earlier post on my visit there, you'll recall that I felt "underwhelmed" by the desserts and thought the breads were the highlight. Still, by this point, I had little faith that the desserts at Treadwell would be half as good as Olson's, which is just up the street. My husband convinced me that we ought to stay, if only to give the place a chance (and to provide 'hounds with a complete review!). We ordered coffees, a walnut bourbon butter tart with parsnip ice cream, and sticky toffee pudding with date ice cream. Unfortunately, the overcooking trend continued. The "sticky toffee pudding" (huh? no toffee, no sticky anything! wtf?) was dry because of overbaking. The date ice cream was quite delightful, but not a dessert-saver. I enjoyed the filling on the butter tart, but the crust was really overbaked and had an almost burned flavour. Parsnip ice cream was lovely and spicy. If you are going to eat there, and I'm not saying you should, I would suggest that you order just the ice cream for dessert.
                    The wine list is excellent, as so many have rightly said, and my husband enjoyed his wines, although I doubt that the sommelier/owner would have been too happy about the server telling us, "Sorry, I really don't know much about wines".
                    I have never contacted a restaurant "after the fact" to comment on my meal. I just haven't returned. In this case, however, I will be contacting the owner to let him know how disappointed I was. I'm just glad we didn't go for dinner.
                    We decided to go back to Hamilton by 5, despite my husband's protests, because I missed the baby and wanted to relieve our childcare provider. Right now, I am relaxing at home, eating pizza from the big orange box, and I'm sorry, but it's the tastiest thing I've had all day. Well, maybe not as good as that grilled cheese this morning...

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: foodiemommy

                      May we inquire as to the cost of your day of food travels/travails?

                      1. re: fruglescot

                        Good question, fruglescot. Probably about $8 at the Portuguese bakery, for two espressos, two grilled cheese, a bottle of gassy and a bottle of flat water. Add a few bucks on to that for the friendly young woman who brought us our sandwiches.
                        Lunch at Treadwell was about $120 including wine (I abstained), taxes, and tip.
                        Pizza delivery was $28 plus a tip for the delivery guy.
                        For lunch in the area at a similar price point (not cheap, not ridiculous - $15-16 for mains) and in a similar atmosphere (Lake Ontario view v. Welland Canal view), I have had better luck at the Lake House.

                        1. re: foodiemommy

                          Sorry you had such a disappointing lunch, foodiemommy. I think contacting the owners is a good idea. It sounds like something was really off; when I had the gnocchi a couple of weeks ago it was perfectly cooked, as was the butter tart. Anyone can have an "off" day, but consistency is crucial to a fine restaurant's reputation. And nobody should have gotten in the way of a perfect birthday!

                          I am really puzzled by the mayonnaise; the only thing that I can think is that some chefs draw a line when it comes to taking the risk of serving a diner anything with raw eggs in it.