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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?!

                  1. IMO, the best Thai in the neighbourhood can be found at Evergreen Thai. Huge portions, great prices, and MUCH fresher and tastier than Salad King.

                    Evergreen Thai
                    175 Dundas St W, Toronto, ON M5G1C7, CA

                    1. Seconding (thirding? fourthing?) Yueh Tung as a good choice for Chinese food in this area.

                      9 Replies
                      1. re: Pincus

                        Thank you so much everyone for these recommendations. I'm really excited to try Yueh Ting, am thrilled I can still get my roti on at Coconut Grove and have never had the chance to have a greasy brunch at the Senator, so I'm looking forward to that a lot, actually!
                        One last question- does anyone know a decent place to have a drink in the neighbourhood?

                        1. re: mia_wallace

                          i live in your old area and work in your new area so i think i can say if you are looking for a drink place with the same feel as the ossington bars/pubs...look no further than the imperial pub!
                          its a 5 min walk from yonge/dundas and its got that total dive feeling, while still being comfortable. head upstairs to the "library". there's a fire place and some comfy couches to sit on while you sip a beer.

                          1. re: coronah

                            Thank you Coronah! This is so great, someone I know was just mentioning the library when I was explaining the dilemma of my new area. That sounds perfect, I just need to have a relaxing (but not generic pub style) place to unwind in my area. I really appreciate the recommendation!

                            1. re: coronah

                              ^^ I've only ever been upstairs at the library pub, and now that I see the menu, Coronah-can you (or anyone else) comment on the food?
                              5 kinds of poutine(nacho, Italian, la belle nation??) as I'm always one for good pub grub, I'm intrigued!

                            2. re: mia_wallace

                              Hope you have better luck at Yueh Tung than I did. Possibly my worst meal in the past 12 months.

                              1. re: estufarian

                                They've gotten on the Hakka bandwagon? I have always just gotten the Cantonese-style dishes there, I could understand where you could have a lousy experience there with something besides those. My experience with their cuisine is it has been pure Canton, so unless they actually got a skilled chef in this style, they are not going to create a good meal in Hakka style.

                                I will have to drop by again and see if the place has recently dropped the ball in what I consider their main strength...

                                1. re: Pincus

                                  My bf's family goes there for small family parties (like a table for 10). They order Yeung Chow fried rice - boring, sweet and sour fish - fluorescent red, crispy chicken - dry, tofu and fish hot pot - oily, seafood chow mein - gloopy and a host of other dishes... I've been there several times in the last 5 (quite possible more) yrs and haven't ever liked it.

                                  1. re: Pincus

                                    They've always been Hakka, at least for quite a few years. The first time I went was with someone who raved about their mongolian chicken.

                                  2. re: estufarian

                                    Probably how much one enjoys YT comes down to what one orders. Most people I know enjoy the fish, tofu and vegetables dish---it's got a very nice variety of veg (3 kinds of mushrooms, brocolli, and others) and the sauce is kind of addictive--or so I've found it. I don't order that one as much now since the fish is batter fried (but still, I know many who find it tasty). I also like the chicken, veg and cashews (I sub tofu for chicken) and I sometimes pay the additional $1 for more Chinese greens--and get a nice mix of other things thrown in. I usually ask them to make my dish spicy and they usually remember and add in green chilies--which doesn't make it, you know, REALLY spicy but it adds a nice flavour. Sometimes we also order a plate of spinach with garlic or watercress with garlic--it's always good.

                                    So really, my love of YT comes down to the above dishes. And I'm super-addicted to those dishes!

                              2. red charcoal on dundas has some tasty burgers with some interesting toppings as well:

                                6 Replies
                                1. re: coronah

                                  Thanks again everyone. Update- I tried Yueh Tung and had their hot and sour soup and chili chicken and really enjoyed both. The shrimp in the hot and sour soup were plentiful but tasted a little bleh, which was the only complaint. I'd definitely go back.
                                  I adore Coconut Grove, it's so cheap! It's maybe not world class food, but I like their curry chicken and their hot sauce is yum.
                                  Does anyone know of a place nearby with excellent veg. food? My bf's mother is visiting and she's a vegetarian, we're looking for some place this evening.

                                  1. re: mia_wallace

                                    How about Le Commensal?

                                    655 Bay St, Toronto, ON M5G2K4, CA

                                    1. re: LTL

                                      They're vegetarian with a really wide range of dishes, but I'm not sure they're "excellent". I brought a friend with a sensitive stomach twice, and both times he had the runs afterwards. Later I read on this board that their food is trucked in from Montreal so it's not the freshest.

                                      1. re: Teep

                                        Some of their specialty dishes are, I think, made in the kitchen (like the "meatballs" that were made from grains and nuts, I believe). I used to go to Commensal a lot because they used to vary the food available from day to day. Now it seems that the variety has been cut down drastically and so I don't go nearly as often.

                                        In any case, I wouldn't have described the food as "great" but I decent most of the time. And healthy. Certainly not a cheap meal but if you've never been there before and you like vegetarian food in general, some of the dishes are fun to try. For instance, I was very partial to the buckwheat/sweet potato dish but after eating that a few times a week, even I started to get tired of it.

                                        1. re: Ediblethoughts

                                          Oops. Should have prefaced my response by adding I've never actually been there. I remember reading a few positive things about it a while back and I thought I'd mention it since I know it's in the neighbourhood (I work two minutes away from there).

                                  2. re: coronah

                                    ^^Coronah- re- red charcoal-no kidding! On my list of places to hit next time I'm in that neighborhood!

                                  3. . . .

                                    655 Bay St, Toronto, ON M5G2K4, CA

                                    1. I've worked in that area for close to 10 years and I have to agree with other posters that it doesn't have the character of your old 'hood. Sorry...

                                      To add to the other suggestions:

                                      Metropolitan hotel - amazing dim sum in the restaurant upstairs and best cosmopolitan I've ever had in the ground floor bar.

                                      Green Onion - not a bad alternative to Salad King etc. and the lunch special is one of the best deals on that strip of Dundas.

                                      The Village Idiot - nice little pub; Dundas and McCaul

                                      Ice Cream Truck - the same little old man has been parking his ice cream truck in front of 393 University Ave. in the summers (Mon-Fri) as long as I've been there, and no word of a lie - he's the best at what he does.

                                      Village by the Grange food court - (Dundas & St. Patrick) as far as food courts go, not bad. The roti place in there (I've forgotten the name) is quite good.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: TK72

                                        The roti place in the Village by the Grange food court is called Island Food(s), I believe. I like their rotis as well.

                                        I like Avenue near University and Dundas. Great sandwiches and salads, although I think they could lower their prices a little. It's a small place and ventilation is not the greatest, but the place looks really nice. They serve illy coffee too.

                                        I've read quite a few negative reviews about Yueh Tung but I actually love their Mongolian chicken and spicy fish.

                                        Normally, I shun Japanese fast food places but there's this one at the Atrium food court which offers this really cheap chicken teriyaki lunch special. I can't vouch for the rest of the menu and the authenticity of it, but that chicken teriyaki's really tasty.

                                      2. Asian Legend for soup dumplings. YUM.

                                        4 Replies
                                        1. re: Mintycake

                                          I've never been to Asian Legend, but I will try it.

                                          So, I tried another Chow-recommended restaurant in the neighborhood, Spadina Garden, and am not sure what to think.

                                          I ordered the chili peanut chicken after reading really rave reviews as a lunch special today, and was kind of grossed out by it. The heat was nice, but I found the whole thing WAY to sweet. The sweet, dripping dark sauce plus the fried/oily nature of the chicken wasn't what I was picturing at all. The large hunks of green pepper throughout didn't really do anything for the dish.

                                          I just had a friend who's traveled China extensively tell me that Spadina Garden is great Szechuan restaurant, is there something that might be less sweet and more savoury/spicy? I don't mind a bit of sweetness to balance flavour, but a hugely sweet meat dish won't top my charts.

                                          What's the crispy ginger beef like? I found the hot and sour soup to be pretty good though...still up in the air.

                                          1. re: mia_wallace

                                            I love the curried shrimp--though it is quite oily. I usually spoon the food out onto the rice to get enough curried sauce to be tasty but to avoid the majority of the oil. But the flavour is very addictive; it's unlike any other curry I've had anywhere else. (I also ask them to sub broccoli for the green peppers.)

                                            The homestyle tofu is my second fave dish--spicy and salty with very little sweet.

                                            (I have friends who love that peanut chicken but, yeah, not my cup of tea at all.)

                                            1. re: mia_wallace

                                              Not a fan of Spadina Garden. I always thought that the food catered to non-Chinese palates.

                                              For good dim sum, definitely would go to New Treasure which is a block west of Spadina Gardens.

                                              1. re: Zengarden

                                                Thanks Edible, I'll try the curried shrimp + homestyle tofu, they both sound good. Great idea to sub the broccoli for the g. peppers!

                                                Zen- New Treasure is the restaurant in the basement, I think it's a couple doors west of a Starbucks, right? A friend told me they've had excellent dim sum there- I've ordered a soup dish and a meat/veg dish to go from there once, which were actually both v. good. I think the slight shadiness/obscurity of the entrance stairwell somehow throws me off and usually sends me searching for food elsewhere. I will go in for dim sum.

                                                On a side note- still love Yueh Tung. Judging from some of the mixed reviews, I really do think it's about what you order there. Some of the dishes sound a bit overdone/greasy, but I've enjoyed a really well-done, light chicken dish with veg. and cashews, I think their hot + sour soup is lovely (apart from the fact that they don't devein their shrimp, which sort of mars the taste, I'm thinking of just getting the veggie one next time or asking for no shrimp), their shrimp pakoras are guilty and delicious, as are their chili chicken and manchurian chicken. I just tried the manchurian chicken tonight and as heavy as it is, it was delightful.