Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Ontario (inc. Toronto) >
Feb 12, 2008 08:37 AM

Special bdy outing: Seeking upscale food but casual atmosphere: advice needed!

It's my birthday next month, and my husband has agreed to take me out to whatever restaurant I choose (price not an issue) as long as he doesn't have to wear a suit. :-)

Advice welcome! I'd love to try a new "upscale food" restaurant ... we don't tend to go to many because of the suit factor, so almost any suggestions you have will be new to me, I'm sure.

Our current favourite restaurant in Toronto is Café Pleiades (fantastic food but you can eat there in casual clothes without feeling out of place), but I'd like to go somewhere new for my birthday.

Suggestions VERY much appreciated!


  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. The original comment has been removed
    1. I don't think there are too many restos in Toronto where jacket and tie are actually required (hmmm, might be an interesting thread in itself). Mr. Rabbit was a rather catastrophic dresser before his Reformation, so we've been to all sorts of nice places with him in cargos and t-shirts (not that your husband's situation is necessarily this dire).

      We recently had dinner at Colborne Lane and it's elegant but still has a casual-ish vibe and the food is upscale, imaginative and very good. (I think Mr. Rab was actually the only one in a full suit). JKWB is another really reliable favourite where the food is upscale (and not killer expensive!), but the atmosphere still relatively casual.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Rabbit

        Thanks so much for this suggestion! I checked out the website and it looks fantastic. I also like your food blog! What is JKWB?

        1. re: inkygirl

          JKWB is Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar. It's a semi-casual place, but has a nice vibe so you'll see people in everything from jeans to "dress up for the theatre" attire. Small plates meant for sharing (nice for an intimate birthday) and a great wine list. He tries to locally source as much as the food as possible.

          1. re: TorontoJo

            Thanks so much for the info, TorontoJo!

          2. re: inkygirl

            JKWB loves salt. In fact, their berkshire pork with mustard and green cabbage should be in the Guiness Book of Records for the saltiest dish on the continent. Be forewarned!

        2. Some favorites I would suggest...

          -JK wine bar, always a mix of people and attire from t-shirts to ballet goers
          -Coca, anything goes and I always have fun there, I'd stick to the area in and around the bar, though some have had service issues
          -Blowfish, a button up shirt and "nice" jeans is the norm
          -Tomi-Kro, a button up shirt and "nice" jeans is the norm
          -Globe Bistro, though I noticed it's getting panned today, last time I was there someone was wearing a Ramones t-shirt
          -Niagara St cafe
          -Foxely...really cas'

          ...come to think of it, I don't expect to have wear a suit to anyplace, I probally would to Scaramouche, Susur or the like, but just for the fun of the whole have tons of options...

          Happy B-day...enjoy!

          1 Reply
          1. re: Recyclor

            Thanks so much for these suggestions! And for the birthday wishes. :-)

          2. Yep, I agree with everyone else, there are very, very few restaurants in Toronto where a suit feels required (and even those places, you'll see many men without suits). I think the only places I would place in this category are Splendido, Chiado (at least on the "old world" side), Scaramouche and Truffles. So I think your options are wiiiiide open.

            Since this is a special occasion, I like Rabbit's suggestion of Colborne Lane. Just make sure that when you reserve, you ask for a two-top along the sides of the room, rather than the communal tables in the middle. Or you could splurge and reserve the chef's table off of the kitchen.

            1 Reply
            1. re: TorontoJo

              Oh! Thanks so much for the extra tip re: reservations.

            2. An update: Thanks so much for all the suggestions. Based on the recommendations (and esp. the blog post by Rabbit)! above, I've just made reservations for Colborne Lodge. I'm so excited! :-D Also intrigued by some of the other places mentioned, so I'm going to nudge my husband into trying those as well sometime ("the folks at say you don't have to wear a suit, even...").

              Thanks again. :-)


              8 Replies
              1. re: inkygirl

                Not trying to change your mind.
                Colborne Lane is a unique experience in Toronto and their wine list is as good as the one at Cafe Pleiade (with much higher prices). (Tongue firmly in cheek).
                But if you check my profile you'll see that Cafe Pleiades is also one of my favourites in Toronto, so maybe you'll consider the following for another special occasion. Of course, nothing will deliver the value at cafe Pleiades, or the comfortable 'family' atmosphere:
                Globe Bistro - also mentioned above. haven't tried the latest menu (criticized on this Board) but have never been unhappy every time I've been.
                Fat Cat Bistro: sort of an upscale version of Cafe Pleiade (without the clutter). Obviously more expensive (what isn't) but some excellent food also.

                124 Danforth Avenue, Toronto, ON M4K1N1, CA

                Fat Cat Bistro
                376 Eglinton Ave W, Toronto, ON M5N1A2, CA

                Cafe Pleiade
                557 Mt Pleasant, Toronto, ON M4S2M5, CA

                1. re: estufarian

                  Thanks again for these suggestions. Colborne LN didn't work out (after leaving several messages asking them to confirm my reservation, they never called me back) so I've made a reservation at Globe Bistro instead.

                2. re: inkygirl

                  Hope you have a great birthday... please do report back and let us know how it goes... Rab-bit!

                  1. re: Rabbit

                    Do you know if there's anything up with Colborne Lane? I left a message shortly after posting my query on Chowhound (including my name, date of reservation, number of people, request for a non-communal table, and my phone number) but didn't hear back. Called during business hours recently and got the answering machine again, asked them if my previous reservation had been made, gave all the relevant info again, asked them to call back. They never did. :-(

                    I think I'm going to give Colborne Lane a couple more days, will try calling once more, but if I still don't hear back I'm probably going to opt for somewhere else. I'm wondering if something's wrong with their answering machine? Are they still in business?

                    Or maybe they're just so busy that they don't need my business. :-)

                    1. re: inkygirl

                      They are certainly poor at returning phone calls. I really like the food and service there, but I would understand if you didn't want to give them your business after all that effort!

                      1. re: Food Tourist

                        I gave it one last shot and haven't heard back, so just cancelled my reservation (if it was ever made, that is).

                        1. re: inkygirl

                          Really bad story for Colborne Lane... sorry to hear about this experience. Hope you find a fabulous alternative for the celebration!

                          1. re: Rabbit

                            I still hope to try Colborne Lane sometime since it's gotten such rave reviews. But I left three messages (including trying to call when the place was open but just got the machine) with info about the reservation I wanted to make and asking that they call me back to confirm, but never heard back. Called once more to cancel the reservation and explain why I was cancelling, still didn't hear back.

                            I've made a reservation at Globe Bistro.

                            Thanks so much, however, for your help! It was much appreciated. :-)