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Feb 12, 2008 08:47 AM

Hidden Treats and Secret Gems Near Dundas and Bay?

I'm going to be moving from my home near Trinity-Bellwoods to a new place in the Dundas and Bay/University area. I love, love, love Japango dearly and am looking forward to trying Lai Wah Heen very mcuh (both are very close to my new place), but are there any great little places for brunch, drinks with friends, etc in that area? I'm spoiled right now with Musa, Saving Grace, the Press Club, Cocktail Molotov on Dundas, plus the whole sprawl of Queen West.
Are there any hidden gems and great little spots around there? I'm going to miss little businesses like Get Real, Sweaty Betty's, Foxley and Le Bar a Soup on Ossington very much, just to give everyone an idea of the type of place I'm pining to find. I'm nervous to leave all the treats of my neighbourhood, the portugese custard tarts, Cafe Brasiliano's amazing coffee in the morning etc.
If anyone even knows a great place to get coffee or a drink in that area, that would be a huge start!

Thanks Chowhounders!!!

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  1. Art Square Cafe across from the AGO at McCaul and Dundas isn't too far away. I think their crepes are a bit hit and miss but it's a nice place to sit and get some coffee.

    13 Replies
    1. re: aphie

      Thanks Aphie, I haven't been there since I stopped going to OCAD.

      Does anyone know of anything east of University? I'm pretty good with all of the spots west and around chinatown, it's just once you cross University that i get bewildered!!!

      1. re: mia_wallace

        Welcome to what I affectionately (or not) refer to as my culturally-dead "neighbourhood." Other than Japango, I can't think of one place I actually really enjoy in the immediate area. I had some excellent Indian delivery from Trimurti the other week but again, that's west of University. Salad King satisfies for a quick Thai take-out fix (and if you walk through the Atrium it's very close/warm). The new Terroni on Adelaide east of Yonge isn't far, though not close and other restaurants on the east side (like JKWB and Kultura) are a cheaper cab ride than their W Queen W counterparts. Sorry to not be more helpful. I could give you a long list of places in the neighbourhood to avoid but it's too early in the morning to be so negative. :)

        If anyone else has any better suggestions, I'm all ears!!

        1. re: caddie

          Hmm, yes rather a wasteland. I used to work at the Atrium and pretty much exhausted the possibilities. Salad King was always a standby, and Coconut Grove was a close spot for roti and other Caribbean goodies. There are a couple of cheap Chinese places nearby, but I can't recall the names -- I'm thinking they were Yueh Teng and Spadina Garden. Neither are great, but when you're choices are limited...

          Oh, and there's always the Senator Diner for good grub.

          1. re: TorontoJo

            Oh, The Senator...I keep meaning to get over there for a "too lazy to go anywhere further" brunch. Thanks for reminding me.

            I really wanted to like the food at Coconut Grove (and the little Indian place beside it) but it was just not good at all. The roti filling (I think I had veggie curry?) was painfully dry and my friend's butter chicken was all but inedible. It's cheap at least. Maybe it warrants a revisit.

            1. re: caddie

              I didn't say Coconut Grove was that good, btw! But it was the only roti option within close walking distance for me. I usually found it was better to stick with the vegetarian options there. My personal preference for roti is Gandhi, but that was too far for a quick lunch.

              1. re: caddie

                Meh, based on our experience at The Senator this weekend, I'd say you're not missing much. I don't know if you've gone yet, but if someone could explain to me what the big deal is, I'd really like to know. We found the food and atmosphere to be too mediocre to justify the prices. $11 for a small bowl of mac and cheese and a $14 cheeseburger just didn't seem worth it. Diner food and atmosphere, sure, but the prices don't reflect it...

            2. re: caddie

              REALLY? i find chinese, indian, lebanese, japanese, hakka, pakistani, turkish, korean(ish), jamaican, portugese, middle eastern, sometimes, even columbian, and many, many more! this is actually one of the better places to be located for food in the downtown core.


              1. re: HarryLloyd

                Would love to hear your suggestions...

                1. re: caddie

                  yeuh tung
                  ackee tree
                  doner kabob
                  kabob house
                  red & white
                  the gardens
                  tasty thursdays
                  city hall frie trucks
                  ayce korea house
                  salad king


                  1. re: caddie


                    come to think of it, is there a more culturally diverse area of the city?


                    1. re: HarryLloyd

                      Not to be argumentative, but Ackee Tree (if I'm thinking of the place you mean) is at Queen and Spadina - a nice walk on a nice day but not exactly "in the 'hood". And while some (not all) of the places you list are definitely good IMO, they don't have the same je ne sais quoi vibe as Musa, Foxley or any of the places the OP mentioned. Just my two cents.

                      1. re: caddie

                        There was an Ackee Tree at either the Atrium or north Eaton Centre. It closed two years ago when they moved to Queen & Spadina.

                        1. re: caddie

                          i guess i havent been down to the dungeon foodcourt below sears in quite some time. for a while they were actually running both locations so i didnt see it as a move.

                          its true that downtown core does not feel like WQW. so i guess if one wants wqw they can visit it or live there.

                          but to say the area is "culturally-dead" is the farthest from the truth!


            3. Avenue Cafe on NW University/Dundas isn't bad for decent priced sandwiches, soups, salads, etc. Mostly lunch fare, but it's definitely acceptable. Also, the little gem of a place - the cafe in the Church behind the Eaton Centre, but it's only open M-F from 9:30 - 2 pm. Great soups and daily specials.

              1. I live at Bay and St Joseph and I have to tell you winters suck for food. In the summer, I have my bike so everything is within reach. You're not far from Kensigton, you have a few options there. The portg resto has a good rabbit stew, wood oven grill has good burgers and wraps (really good). Rice and Supermarket are ok. And obviously a ton of options on Spadina. But near University, you're pretty much in a dead zone. You can get good Bun (vietnamese) at Peach Garden on Gerrard, and at Bowl (on Yonge).

                Other than that, you have to go to Church (Cumbreas), Yorkville (MBCO), and a few places on yonge (katmandu is ok, and Papaya has nice curry).

                Oh and you're very close to Balwdin, again nothing great there, but decent. I'm actually thinking of moving out west (Dundas) for thise very reason.

                1. I agree this specific area is a bit of dead area surrounded by better places. If you have a wider walking range (maybe in the summer) or if you're willing to go a few stops on transit, the options increase dramatically.

                  There is a Chinese bakery called Bakery 18 in the basement of the Atrium on Bay. I'm no expert, but I find their buns to be very fresh and less greasy than some I've had from Chinatown. Not a bad place to grab a snack if you're heading toward Yonge.

                  As gastronom mentioned, Baldwin is very close. Nothing there will blow your socks off but Konnichiwa has reasonable Japanese noodles, Cafe la Gaffe has decent Italian (even better in the summer when the back patio is open) and Margarita's is okay for guilty pleasure tex-mex.

                  A French brewpub called Les Trois Brasseurs is supposed to be opening a location this spring on Yonge just south of Dundas Square, near the Hard Rock (ugh). I'm crossing my fingers that the food there will be better-than-average for the area... a glimmer of hope for the future, maybe?!

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