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Visiting Toronto, desperately seeking advice!

My husband and I will be visiting Toronto for about 5 nights, this is our first visit to Toronto. I am a great foodie who's been starved of good restaurants for a year and have a lot of catching up to do. We'll be at the Marriott downtown on Yonge, so I need suggestions within a reasonable radius, as husband will be at meetings until pretty late. We are not looking for cool places, good food and ambience come first..

Please can you suggest somewhere not too pricey but with superb dimsum.
Ditto for really good portuguese alcatra, thai food, modern western food with clean flavours, and really fresh well-prepared seafood in a casual atmosphere.

I desperately need to hang out at european-style cafes with cosy ambience and good coffee, soft seats, and magazines. Husband needs somewhere with good beer/wine and ambience, not too much noise, to hang out in during evenings.

Good shopping spots where I can buy all those foodie bits and pieces to take back with me (spicy sausages, various spices and pastes, massa malagueta, the stuff to make the milk curdle so I can make my own fresh portuguese cheese, pat├ęs, maple syrup, chinese/SE asian ingredients, good coffees and teas sold by weight, great cheeses, etc. etc.

A friend suggested I ask for help from all you foodies, thanks in advance!

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  1. You will be relatively close to both the St. Lawrence Market (go early!), and the Kensington Market. Your concierge should be able to direct you.

    1. Are you staying at the Marriott Bloor/Yorkville (on Bloor) or the Courtyard (Yonge and College)... note a huge difference, but significant enough for quick, in-the-nabe dinner recs??

      1 Reply
      1. re: Rabbit

        Good point, Rabbit. I belive I'm at the Yonge/College Marriott (475 Yonge Street ).

      2. I'll take a stab at a few of these:

        Seafood: Starfish, Adelaide @ Jarvis. Wonderful, fresh oyster selection, fabulous prepared fish dishes, frites to die for.

        Thai: common thread on this board is that Mengrai Thai is the best in the city right now--I'll let someone else sell you on that.

        Modern Western food: I love Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar, on Church at Jarvis, small plates concept, organic, seasonal.

        Husband evening: Roof Bar at the park Hyatt, Avenue/Bloor. Cozy. Fireplace. Well mixed cocktails. Spiced nuts. Yum.

        Asian Ingredients: Closest would probably be Chinatown, on Spadina between Dundas and College, there are 4 or so large grocery stores on the east side. Farther out would be T&T on Cherry Street, massive superstore--if you have wheels, would be an interesting trip.

        Second St. Lawrence and Kensington--you can visit Kensington at the same time as Chinatown.

        A good resource for Toronto is the places tab at the top of this board. It will give you addresses, and links to what we've been talking about.

        Have fun!

        8 Replies
        1. re: Minnow

          WELCOME TO "HOG TOWN"-OLD YORK
          Look for a Timothy's European Style Coffee shop. It's a Canadian chain with exceptional atmoshere, cafeine beverages, music, reading material and friendly folks.
          Don't miss the Timothy experience while in town.
          A taste of Toronto.

          1. re: fruglescot

            Try the Timothy's at SE corner of Bay & Queen...on the ground floor of the Bay....comfy seats!!

            1. re: T Long

              Sorry, you're sending the OP to a chain coffee shop? In a city full of so many other options? Sheesh!
              For a little taste of Middle Europe, go to the Coffee Mill (99 Yorkville), Toronto's original Hungarian cafe, where the waitresses are old enough to remember the tanks of 1956. Have a palascinta with your coffee. Bring your own magazine. You won't regret it.

              1. re: estragon

                Hey Estragon, this Coffee Mill, it doesn't have a cake called "lublab" or "lubdab" does it?

                1. re: moh

                  Sorry, the word is "ludlab", it is a pastry involving sour cherries. Apparently there was a place in MOntreal called Coffee Mill that was Hungarian, and served amazing Ludlab.

          2. re: Minnow

            A hearty 2nd on all of Minnow's suggestions. One thing though... As much as I love the Roof Bar at the Hyatt, the Consort Bar at the King Edward Hotel is a wee bit closer to her hotel. Either way, martinis all around!
            http://www.starwoodhotels.com/lemerid...

            1. re: Googs

              The Consort Bar is nice... but the TVs are distracting, and the spirits selection is poor. I'd stick with the Park Hyatt.

            2. re: Minnow

              Some of JKWB's food is too salty. Stayed away from the hanger steak as it is heavily over-salted. Otherwise, atmosphere is ok with fair pricing.

            3. Welcome welcome!

              For dimsum, use the "Search this board" feature above - not my expertise, but something is done well here.

              Modern Western Food with Clean Flavours - Can we say enough about Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar? IT's small plates, but the flavours are really innovative with an homage to Canadian treasures. Also, for seafood I love Quince. It's uptown from you, but accessible by subway. They prepared whole fish in a wood-oven. Lovely atmosphere mixes casual with romantic and hip.

              i am not sure for Cafes, but 7 west off Yong st on Charles or Cafe Nervosa in Yorkville are both nice ambiant locales with lots of nooks and crannies (and big chairs if I recall correctly!)

              As for shopping look NO FURTHER than the St.Lawrence - there are amazing cheese stores, butchers, fish purveyors, a great spice store in the basement, bulk stores, and (I'm told) amazing fresh pastas and sauces. Just don't go on a Saturday, unless you can get there early, because it gets really busy. if you want to really talk to the vendors, go another time, and plan to spend a good 2 hours exploring. You'll definately find maple syrup here too.

              T&T is totally amazing for Asian goods. They run a shuttle bus on the weekend from downtown, and you can get dim sum there too! Search the board for more info on that.

              Have fun and enjoy!

              -----
              Quince
              2110 Yonge Street, Toronto, ON M4S 2A5, CA

              Jamie Kennedy
              9 Church St, Toronto, ON M5E1M2, CA

              St. Lawrence Market
              92 Front St E, Toronto, ON M5E, CA

              7 West
              7 Charles St W, Toronto, ON M4Y1R4, CA

              Cafe Nervosa
              75 Yorkville Ave, Toronto, ON M5R1B8, CA

              T And T Supermarket
              1 Promenade Circle Thornhill ON

              2 Replies
              1. re: LemonLauren

                I just wanted to add a comment about St. Lawrence Market on Saturday - it is actually my preferred time to go. It can be crowded - I agree with LemonLauren - however, on Saturday there are two markets open, the 'permanent' market in the south building (which LemonLauren described - it is very fun to visit), and the farmer's market in the north building. At the farmer's market you'll find butchers (including a great place for sausage), vegetables, fresh herbs, game meat, cheeses, baked goods, jams and preserves. There are tables outside this building on Saturday as well - there is a vendor where I regularly buy my maple syrup.

                By the way, on the ground level of the south building (at the southeast corner) there are also artisans who set up tables with art and crafts. I also really like this corner of the building (inside I mean) - there is a shop selling all types of sprouts, a shop selling a range of hot sauces, a bakery and two foodstands I like: one sells Greek food, the other sells great Italian sandwiches.

                1. re: Toronto_food_guy

                  i'm a little too lazy to skim through all the posts thus far... but in case you didn't know, all of SLM is closed on Sundays. so definitely do not plan to try to go then. i love the chaos of saturdays.

                  plus, while utterly simplistic... i think the portuguese chicken at SLM is some of the best in the city and you might as well get a little if you're going to be there.

              2. Dim sum: definitely try out Lai Wah Heen and/or Grand Chinese Cuisine. The former is in the downtown core; the latter in Mississauga. Both are stellar places for dim sum - pricey, but well worth it.

                Western Food: I second Jaime Kennedy, also Lee is worth trying out in my opinion (King St. West) for some great Torontonina fusion at a reasonable price.

                Shopping for food: St. Lawrence is great; Kensington Market (South of College, just West of Spadina) is another place to look - definitely grungier, less polished, but fun nonetheless and right next to Chinatown which is always a good time.

                -----
                Lai Wah Heen
                108 Chestnut St, Toronto, ON M5G 1R3, CA

                Lee
                603 King St W, Toronto, ON M5V1M5, CA

                Grand Chinese Cuisine
                655 Dixon Rd, Toronto, ON M9W1J3, CA