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Toronto's Signature Dish?

This is a topic which has been bugging me for some time. While most big cities around the globe have a signature food or dish that is known to be "from that city". For example; London has Fish & Chips, Philadelphia has it's Cheese Steak. Chicago has Deep-Dish style pizza, and Montreal has smoked meat and bagels. I can go on for a while, and I'm sure you can think of many other city-signature foods. But what does Toronto have to offer? We have so many different cultures here that it's hard to pin one dish that could be called Toronto's own. There is lots of great food here, but we need that dish we can call our own. I think it's too far gone, and will never happen. I do find it a joke somewhat that even small cities in Canada have their own claim to fame like "Halifax style donair" or even Ottawa with their beaver tails but we still don't have one, what does that say about us? Thoughts?

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  1. Peameal bacon sandwiches, and it's time we had them on Toronto streetcorners, too! While it's a pork sandwich, it was important in our history, and many tourists talk about it after a delicious, inexpensive encounter at the St. Lawrence market.

    If the Toronto councillors ever get more variety into street food (next year, they say), the city could become known for a wide variety of ethnic foods from carts. But that is still in the future.

    27 Replies
    1. re: jayt90

      Man, I like that idea of the peameal bacon sandwich!

      1. re: Bobby Wham

        This was the first thing that came to my mind. Judging by what I read it's pretty uniquely TO and a damned fine sandwich at that.

        You do realize the food police won't allow uncooked meat in the cooler of a street vendor.
        Maybe they need to invent a solar powered cooler.


      2. re: jayt90

        Yes! Peameal bacon sandwich, the perfect Toronto food. Good answer, jayt90!

        1. re: jayt90

          I've lived in Toronto for almost forty years. In all that time, no prospective first time visitor ever mentioned their hankering for a peameal bacon sandwich as a reason to visit Toronto. Perhaps it wins by default, in that (once here) you might miss these sandwiches after moving away. Since I don't eat them, I can't comment on their deliciousness. But I don't see these as a genuine "signature dish".

          I really thought about this question, and it left me feeling gloomy. If I leave Toronto, there is no specifically local food that I will especially miss.

          Even in this Mickey D era, many communities have unique local foods that people make pilgrimages to eat. Think Montreal (smoked meat, bagels, and steamies), New York (pastrami, bagels, hot dogs, and pizza), Philadelphia (cheese steaks and pretzels), New Haven (pizza), Cincinnati (chili, Graeter's ice cream), Chicago (hot dogs, pizza, and Italian beef), Kansas City (BBQ, pan fried chicken). Even Buffalo (wings, hot dogs, beef on weck).

          I could go on and on. In the US and Canada, in big cities and rural hamlets, there are signature foods. Jane and Michael Stern ("Roadfood") have built a successful career writing about them.

          I've found many of these local specialties disappointing. Cincinnati chili was a letdown. I think steamies are yuk. But people travel to communities to try these foods.

          There are many delicious foods in Toronto, but I can't think of any Toronto signature dish.

          1. re: embee

            It's not the type of thing that TO would promote. Too home grown.


          2. re: jayt90

            I'ved lived in TO all my life and I've never heard of peameal bacon sandwiches....

            1. re: hippotatomus

              Take off, eh! Never heard of a back-bacon-on-a-bun? You hoser...
              Coo-roo-coo-coo-coo-coo-coo-coo. Just kidding. Peameal bacon, back bacon--pretty much the same thing, eh?

              1. re: Yongeman

                Peameal bacon and back bacon are distinctly different. If they were not, then Irish bacon or Canadian bacon (U.S. style) would pass for peameal bacon. Those two products are smoked, drier, and cut from the smaller tenderloin of the hog.

                Our true peameal bacon is juicy, tender, and unsmoked, from the 'strip' loin of the hog. Each piece is larger in area than back bacon, and the taste is quite different if thick sliced and slowly grilled before joining a crusty roll, tomato, and all the trimmings.

                1. re: jayt90

                  Isn't Irish bacon brined or cured (i.e. not smoked)?

                  I thought peameal bacon was just "Canadian bacon" rolled in peameal. Whatever the case, it makes a good sandwich.

                  1. re: grandgourmand

                    Here is a description of two smoked back bacons, Irish and Canadian. The difference seems to be the part of the loin used.http://www.recipetips.com/glossary-te...
                    Peameal bacon is a fresher, juicier version, but unsmoked, as in the Real Canadian Bacon product: http://www.realcanadianbacon.com/pork...

                    1. re: jayt90

                      Having lived in Toronto my whole life, I'd never heard of 'Canadian bacon' until travelling in the US. As far as I know, peameal bacon and back bacon are pretty well interchangeable here in 'the Great White North'. They're not smoked, but brined or pickled. Have a Labatt's Blue and chill.

                      1. re: Yongeman

                        The odd thing is, Canadian bacon in the U.S. is smoked. It is quite well known that way at Peter Luger and Wolfgang's.http://www.canadianbacon.com/

                        1. re: jayt90

                          Not the Canadian bacon I've ever had.


                2. re: Yongeman

                  Peameal bacon, back bacon. I've heard of it. but peameal bacon sandwiches being Toronto's signature dish?... I would hardly say so. If I think HARD and dig from distant memory because I don't pay much attention to peameal bacon/back bacon/ham etc etc... I myself have only see those at farmer's markets and such and maybe you can get peameal bacon at the grocery store.. but the places I go to.. there are never any huge honking signs screaming "Peameal Bacon Sandwiches".. this is about Toronto... not signature dishes of farmer's markets in Ontario.

                  1. re: hippotatomus

                    Do you get to St. Lawrence Market much? At Carousel bakery, they sell the peameal bacon sandwich. Love it or hate it (not sure how many haters out there), it's a classic Toronto sandwich. Hell, they even have a signed picture from Emeril and Catherine Zeta-Jones testifying to the goodness of the sandwich.

                    1. re: grandgourmand

                      Emeril and Catherine are living in Toronrto? I need a personal chef and a personal trainer. Got their numbers?

                      Seriously, the point is well made that one does not see "Peameal Sandwich Served Here!" plastered in a diner window every two blocks here as one is likely to see "Le Smoked Meat", "Hot Dog Stimmé" and "Poutine" advertised in Montreal, for example.

                      A local specialty should be up-front, not hidden in a basement.

                      1. re: mrbozo

                        By that rationale, street meat should be the Toronto dish.

                        1. re: mrbozo

                          Just for the sake of argument, though, many of these so-called "local specialties" are, in fact, rarely eaten by actual locals. Deep dish pizza comes to mind - many Chicago natives will tell you that it's just for tourists, and that their idea of Chicago-style pizza is actually very different. Peameal is at least something you don't generally see outside Ontario, and thus it makes it into guidebooks as something visitors should try when visiting Toronto. And, love it or hate it, they do, and leave our fair city thinking of it as something they would only get here.
                          It may not be advertised in the windows, but it is part of the classic diner lineup around here, and it IS in the grocery store - I always find it at NoFrills, right across the aisle from the refrigerated fresh noodles and dim sum buns. And I think THAT'S the true culinary signature of Toronto.
                          If we could just get portuguese har gow a la peameal grilled on the street to catch on, then maybe we could all agree...

                          1. re: Wahooty

                            portugues har gow a la peameal sounds good...but, should be stuffed into a roti and then grilled.

                            1. re: grandgourmand

                              gg, you make an excellent point. I stand corrected. ;)

                          2. re: mrbozo

                            But part of this problem is that WE are Toronto. We don't put up big fancy signs saying how great we are. We might offend someone.
                            Also, if PB on a B were to make it to street level, things would most certainly change.


                          3. re: grandgourmand

                            Actually I worked at Jarvis and King for four months and frequently went to the St. Lawrence Market for lunch. I knew there were sandwiches but I had no desire really to have them.

                          4. re: hippotatomus

                            Every year since I was a kid (and I am closer to being a senior now than a child) we would go to the CNE - and we would always have back bacon on a bun. No, I would not call it Toronto's signature dish - to do that would ignore all of the wonderful multiculture dishes our fair city has to offer. To ignore it though would be an sad oversight.

                      2. re: jayt90

                        We don't have Canadian bacon in Canada. We have peameal, frying pork and, er, bacon. Nothing against a nice smoked loin of pork mind you, but it ain't bacon.

                        1. re: mrbozo

                          That really sums it up succinctly!

                        2. re: jayt90

                          OH YEA! Where do I sign the petition to make this happen! The signature TO dish.

                        3. toronto style pad thai?


                          1 Reply
                          1. re: HarryLloyd

                            That was my immediate thought, too: ketchup pad thai.

                          2. It has been bugging me too. This is hogtown. I think we would be doing ourselves a disservice to suggest anything but pork. Peameal is high on my list too. There are a lot of talented chefs using a lot of local porkbelly. Anyone want to organize a "Porkfest" and invite local chefs out to give their best interpretation of piggy? Oink oink.

                            1. An apple fritter and a double-double?

                              1. I think a lot of visitors love Toronto's "street meat". Not that it's anything really to be proud of but when I am outside the city it's the one thing that I hear over and over again.

                                1. Toronto Pie: http://www.recipezaar.com/173371


                                  I've never seen any restaurants serve Toronto Pie, and I've never tried it, but it's the only dish I've heard of that is Toronto's very own.

                                  For me, Italian-style veal sandwiches, beef patties and pasteis de nata (Portuguese custard tarts) are Toronto foods. Toronto does them well and they can be found throughout the city. Although they can be found in other cities/countries, they aren't too common in other cities in Ontario. In fact, I often make a special trip to a bakery to pick up a dozen pasteis de nata to bring people who live outside Toronto.

                                  1. There are many versions of peameal bacon, not all in sandwich form, all over Toronto. Here are some Chow threads: http://www.chow.com/search?search%5Bq...
                                    Some places of note are the Drake (on a plate), Gladstone, Ken's at the Weston market, and the George St. diner. Carousel at SLM is said to be quite variable.

                                    When I mentioned peameal bacon sandwich as a Toronto Signature dish, I knew pork would be a problem as it can never be kosher or halal. But it is part of our WASPish history, and not found often outside of S.W. Ontario.

                                    There is also a minor problem explaining what peameal bacon is: as nearly as I can tell, it is a sweet cured pork strip loin (brine, spices, and potassium nitrite) with a small layer of fat, rolled in corn meal. It is not Canadian bacon (cured and smoked pork tenderloin).

                                    I suspect the peameal bacon sandwich will become more popular, perhaps even a signature dish, when vending carts are allowed to cook it, perhaps next year.
                                    It will be unpopular with vegetarians and those who avoid pork, so perhaps it will be a signature dish by default.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: jayt90

                                      Pork BBQ are signature foods of NC and TN. They aren't kosher or halal there and they don't really care. It's not vegetarian/vegan either.
                                      This is part of TO's problem. Trying to be all things to all people. It's a noble idea but completely impractical.
                                      Aside from the fact that there's nothing to say that there can't be more than one signature dish.


                                    2. Excellent thread and excellent discussion.

                                      I was talking about this very topic to friends on a broader level.
                                      That topic being: Toronto's inferiority complex.

                                      Seriously, why can't Toronto just do things Toronto style and stop trying so damn hard to copy and be like everybody else?!

                                      Toronto has Manhattan style townhouses, nestled next to Montreal style apartment buildings neighbouring Condos that are named after landmarks in California, Vegas, Miami, London etc.
                                      It's so painful.
                                      Toronto is the greatest city on earth, so start acting like it.

                                      Personally I think one key strength is Toronto's diversity, and this has spurned some tremendous fusion between cultures and generations.

                                      For example I believe a signature Indian Toronto dish is Butter Chicken. Most South Asians never had this dish growing up, but somehow/somewhere in Toronto this dish has taken off over the past 5-10 years. It's now widespread.

                                      I'm sure there are some Asian, Italian and other signature dishes that have arisen over the past decade as well.

                                      A second strength is our produce and agricultural background.

                                      Usually something becomes trendy when it's copied and duplicated. But that doesn't really happen in Toronto because of our diversity. The population is just too dynamic and not homogenous enough.
                                      A place like Kitchener-Waterloo has a tremendous German population and it's signature event is Oktoberfest.

                                      Anyways...good discussion. Looking forward to hearing others.

                                      7 Replies
                                      1. re: pakmode

                                        Toronto is a bouillabaisse which tastes better sampled rather than defined.

                                        1. re: mrbozo

                                          I think you've got the essence of Toronto here, mrbozo. Because of the vast diversity, and our willingness to trying new things, Toronto can't have a signature dish--it has adopted many.

                                          1. re: mrbozo

                                            Okay, here's what I'm thinking for TO's signature dish.

                                            We start with a basic red sauce. Add curry paste, five spice, herbs de Provence. Add boerwurst sausage, gefilte fish kabobs, holy trinity, beansprouts, Vegemite and potatoes. Serve over Spackle and top with cheese curds and caviar. Piri piri and Chimichuri on the side if you want to liven it up.


                                            1. re: Davwud

                                              You forgot the back bacon. 'Nuf said.

                                            2. re: mrbozo

                                              Wow, that's deep, can I quote you on that?

                                            3. re: pakmode

                                              I agree! Can we please rid Toronto of NY steaks?

                                              1. re: bjinyyz

                                                What is this supposed to mean?

                                                NY Striploin is the just the cut of steak, and personally my favorite cut (unless I can find the rare Kansas Cut Striploin)

                                            4. It's too bad the pizzarola died off, it could have been a contender.

                                              2 Replies
                                                1. re: HarryLloyd

                                                  It was developed a long time ago by a local pizzaria. The basic concept was that a pizza was folded and rolled so you got basically two tubes linked on the bottom with all the toppings inside. I believe the guy applied for a patent on it. Unfortunately, I also think he is long out of business and no one picked up on the concept.

                                                  I was being a bit tongue in cheek, but they were actually quite tasty. The crust wasn't so thick that you felt like you were chewing through a bread roll to get to the gooey goodness inside, and it was really nicely browned all over. You could cut down the middle and give one piece to each of two hungry people. They were good cold too.

                                              1. As a soon to be visitor to toronto i find this thread quite interesting. Whenever i visit a place i like to get an idea of what types of foods are typical of that area and/or are done well in a particular region. For example, last week in Los Angeles i made sure to seek out some good sushi, authentic thai, cupcakes, pinkberry (i swear its not all hype), donuts and pastrami. These, to me are both representative of things LA does well, and things that are generally typical of the diet of many angelinos. Clearly thai food is not native to los angeles (though you could probably argue crazy fusion sushi is), but it is still something that I want to get when i am there because it is common and better than can be found in most places.

                                                As a first time visitor to Toronto what types of foods should i seek out that are typical of the food people eat in that they are more common, or generally better in Toronto than other places? So far im thinking both Caribbean food and good falafel are on my list.

                                                12 Replies
                                                1. re: tex.s.toast

                                                  Cantonese food, particularly dim sum.

                                                  1. re: merlot143

                                                    I'll be visiting from santa barbara, known more for its beaches/weather than anything to emerge from a kitchen, but i do love me some dim sum.

                                                    Im attending a wedding over a long weekend in town and will likely have my schedule tied up substantially by festivities for most of my trip.

                                                    Is there one place to go to get The. Best. Dim sum in toronto? is there an area where it would be relatively feasible to do a dim sum crawl of sorts? Is there a particularly style or specific dish of dim sum that is more common/well done in toronto that i should look out for?

                                                    1. re: tex.s.toast

                                                      The absolute best is at Lai Wah Heen in the Metropolitan Hotel. Some consider it overpriced, but I've yet to find higher quality.
                                                      A crawl is difficult, as you'd have to line up each time for the better places.

                                                      1. re: estufarian

                                                        ahh, sounds something like Yank Sing in SF (highly controversial, very expensive and somewhat "refined" dim sum)

                                                        i had meant to include in my last post that the day i would most likely be available to do this would be a monday, which is, i know, a day that some (many) restaurants close if they are operating on 6 day schedules.

                                                        In SF many sit down dim sum places also do a take-away bakery type operation, it was these that i envisioned as part of some dim sum crawl.

                                                        if the logistics for this dont pan out, is there a food item/area where one could go for a few hours in the middle of a monday with an empty stomach for some general amusement and a wide variety of good grub and a sense i had tasted some good toronto flavor?

                                                        1. re: tex.s.toast

                                                          I really encourage you to start a new thread if you want any interesting responses to where you can go on a Monday for some good eats in Toronto. Hope you have a good chow time!

                                                          1. re: JamieK

                                                            An excellent suggestion. Now i fully expect a helpful answer in the correct location. Just kidding. But seriously, if you feel like answering:


                                                      2. re: tex.s.toast

                                                        Hey there -- I'm from Santa Barbara too (or at least I lived there a few years as a student)!

                                                        Don't put down SB so much. It does have some pricey but good restaurants, and there's a lot of things from California I miss here. You'll have trouble finding a decent salad, burrito or smoothie anywhere in this city.

                                                        There is a lot of Chinese food, but nothing particularly special and for dim sum, I'd say Northern California is much better.

                                                        What is your budget like? I would second the vote for a Portuguese restaurant, since I don't think those are very common in California, especially if you like fish. Pretty much every else can be found in LA.

                                                        For Portuguese, I recommend Amadeus, which is in the Kensington Market area of Toronto. Another suggestion would be to try a Greek restaurant, since I don't think those are very common in SB either.

                                                    2. re: tex.s.toast

                                                      Definately go for Caribbean. It's fantastic.
                                                      We have a lot of Vietnamese around as well.
                                                      We do a lot of things well. It was once stated on here that Toronto does all cuisines well. Except for the ones from North America.


                                                      1. re: tex.s.toast

                                                        Another vote for Caribbean. Portuguese. Korean. Indian. Good pub (as in local hangout, not chain franchise) grub ...

                                                        1. re: mrbozo

                                                          Good call on Portuguese. I'd forgotten about that one.


                                                          1. re: mrbozo

                                                            Definitely Portuguese, there are only a few cities in North America that you can find excellent Portuguese cuisine and TO is one of them. Excellent Indian options as well.

                                                            One thing though I would specify which type of Caribbean food to seek out. Toronto has some excellent Trinidadian and Guyanese cuisine, but the Jamaican choices are mediocre at best and I would rather sample that in a trip to Miami for example than TO.

                                                            1. re: Matt H

                                                              Reminds me that the PortuGrill on St Clair W west of Dufferin is now open for business.

                                                              I would vote for roti (a Trini/Guyanese thing) except I don't think it's so unique to Toronto.

                                                        2. We also have 'Gryfe's bagels'.
                                                          Subject of many emotional threads.
                                                          If that isn't a Toronto only institution, I don't know what else would qualify.

                                                          Anyone for back bacon on a Gryfe''s bagel?????

                                                          1. There was either a Star or Globe article a few months ago calling the veal sandwich the only truly unique Torontonian food. This was because there were several places all over the city (albeit Italian, mostly) who make them and that the author of the article said that they're not found anywhere else in North America. I could go with that one. I had a North Pole veal sanguiche with mushrooms and hot peppers last week, it was amazing. I found the key to eating it without a massive mess is to eat across the cut side of the sandwich.

                                                            EDIT: I just did a Google search for 'veal sandwich'. The first 4 pages were dominated by Toronto based links

                                                            2 Replies
                                                            1. re: air621

                                                              I like our veal sandwiches, and I haven't found them in other parts of Ontario, but a very similar veal sandwich (with or without mushrooms, onions, hot peppers, sweet peppers, etc.) can be found in homestyle Italian restaurants/pizzerias in New York City (often called a veal parmigiana sandwich, veal parm hero, veal parm sub, veal cutlet parm hero, etc. rather than a 'veal sandwich' in NYC).

                                                              They're good in TO, but they are certainly found in other parts of North America.

                                                              1. re: phoenikia

                                                                Having had (and enjoyed!) both, I'd say the difference is the NY version always includes a thick cover of cheese and tomato sauce, whereas in the Toronto version, cheese is optional, and the tomato sauce is more sparingly applied, or omitted entirely.

                                                                I still remember taking newbies to the Clinton tavern, talking up the veal sandwiches from San Francesca next door, and then - when we were sure the table was completely clear of all liquids - bringing in the sandwiches. Sweet peppers for those in the know, triple hot peppers for the newbies. One poor fellow, whose mouth must have been on fire, leapt to the table next to us, asked a guy "Are you going to finish that beer?", and without waiting for an answer, grabbed it and chugged it. We were on the floor. (And yes, he bought the astonished chap a new beer.)

                                                                BTW - my all time fave is from Cammisso Bros. and Racco Italian bakery, north of St. Clair, w. of Caledonia (on Castlefield?!).

                                                            2. you would think its General Dang chicken :)

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: atomeyes

                                                                Or perhaps that dang general chicken.

                                                              2. The ''four course giant Lobster' of O'Mei is unique and unparallel in this world and should be included as one of TO's own! You won't get it in Vancouver, Hong Kong, Sydney, Singapore, Japan, China....! This was confirmed to me by foodies from LA, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Shanghai..etc.

                                                                5 Replies
                                                                1. re: Charles Yu

                                                                  you've posted about this before charles --

                                                                  how much does this dish cost? and is it enough to feed....4 people?

                                                                  1. re: ssainani

                                                                    For four people, I would ask Ringo, the chef/owner, to pick you folks a 6-7 pounder. Even at about $18-20 per pound for 'non-regulars'. its still a pretty good deal. The courses are Steamed claws with minced garlic, rice wine and vermacellis; Deep fried lobster head with Pepper and salt: Sauteed lobster tail in their house secret sauce and either Tamale fried rice or stewed noodles. Added a half house specialty free range chicken and a plate of veggies, that should be enough. BTW, they usually hand out a couple of complimentary desserts too.

                                                                  2. re: Charles Yu

                                                                    You are correct Charles.
                                                                    Our New York family couldn't stop talking about our 8 lb. Lobster "four ways".
                                                                    Said that there is nothing like it in New York.
                                                                    I don't remember the cost, but can tell you that it would cost double to feed 8 people at any other upscale restaurant in Toronto, and we had several other excellent dishes as well..

                                                                    1. re: Charles Yu

                                                                      Hey Charles, there is also Ngau Kee's three way lobster. It is also quite tasty !

                                                                      1. re: skylineR33

                                                                        Yup! You are right! Almost forgot about them especially the rum sauce version!

                                                                    2. I just posted this on a similar thread but will repost here.
                                                                      it is hard to specify a Toronto specialty, as everyone has said thus far, because toronto's culinary claim to fame is its diversity, culling the rest of the world's specialties and putting everything on the table (which, frankly, I love). So while I would want to say Trinidadian Doubles, or good cheap authentic chinese food, or a certain variety of Korean noodles, they are almost inherently not "Toronto" specialties (even if you can them better here than anywhere else).

                                                                      Three things, however, I might venture to say are "Toronto specialties"
                                                                      1) already mentioned, is Toronto street meat. I'm from New York and love my streetside Sabrett, but I think the Toronto Hot Dog (with the traditional array of toppings including Corn Relish) is my favorite hot dog....it is something I would see as distinctly Torontonian.
                                                                      2) I could be off base with this but I associate it with Toronto and that is a Brie and Avacado sandwhich. It is pretty self-explanatory. I might only think this a Toronto-food because of the amount of time and money I've spent at the Green and Red Rooms.
                                                                      3) I feel like there are types of maki or sushi that are unique to Toronto. Is sushi pizza unique to Toronto sushi restaurants? I can't say that I have ever seen it on a menu outside of Toronto. Then again, I can't really afford to eat sushi outside of Toronto.

                                                                      5 Replies
                                                                      1. re: downpressor

                                                                        I think (but stand to be corrected) that sushi pizza is unique to (or at least orginated in) Toronto. I know that sushi purists would likely say it's awful, but I love it!

                                                                        1. re: torontofoodiegirl

                                                                          Consider yourself corrected. Sushi pizza started in California.

                                                                          1. re: cowhound

                                                                            This native californian is woefully in the dark when it comes to sushi pizza. regardless of origin, what is it?

                                                                            Not that personal experience should be taken as authoritative but ive eaten quite a bit of california sushi and never recall seeing it on a menu anywhere.

                                                                            1. re: tex.s.toast

                                                                              It's a round rice patty, maybe 4-5" in diameter, deep fried (so that it gets nice and crispy/chewy and golden-brown on the outside), and topped with mayo, fish (usually salmon, but somtimes tuna and/or crab), and roe. It's then cut into 4 to 6 wedges for easy eating (though the triangular shape makes pick-up with chopsticks tricky). You can find it at many (but not all) sushi joints in Toronto. Traditional? No. Delish? Yes.

                                                                            2. re: cowhound

                                                                              not meant in a rude way at all, but can you tell me how you know it was started in california? Nobody I know from the left coast has ever heard of it, and the only people i know of who know about sushi pizza, and the only places I have really read about it, have been people referring to food they ate in Toronto.

                                                                              I would go as far to say that even if what you say is true that sushi pizza originated in Cali, it is now, today, a Toronto dish. Like the cheesesteak (which you can get at most diners/delis/take-out spots in Philly) you can get sushi pizza at any Japanese, and most "pan-Asian" spot in Toronto. And you can't really walk a block without bumping into such a restaurant.

                                                                        2. This is going to sound low-brow and disgusting but I think that the best "famous" food we have to offer here is hot dogs/street meat -- simply because, since it is about the only thing (for now) that can be bought on the street, you have to be the best. I wouldn't try to grasp at any other straws. While we are ethnically diverse, our ethnic communities tend to live exclusively together in very different parts of the city, whether they be WASPs, Chinese, Greeks, etc.

                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                          1. re: abscissa

                                                                            Good points. Gotta love a Polish sausage with yellow mustard and sauerkraut.

                                                                            1. re: GoodGravy

                                                                              its not the street hot dog that is uniquely Torontonian its the style of hot dog. Chicago has the Chicago Hot Dog...but thats the way its prepared (Vienna Beef, peppers, tomatos, poppy seed bun, etc.). New York has its own spin on the street dog. I think Toronto has a claim to a T Dot Dog (a T-Dog?!) which would be a large sausage, always grilled (In New york, the hot dogs are almost always boiled) with a standard array of toppings (specifically corn relish and bacon bits, which I've never seen anywhere else).

                                                                            2. Toronto staples...
                                                                              In my opinion 3 things come to mind "Street Meat", West Indian, and Shwarma/Fallafel place. My friends that moved away always crave "Street Meat".

                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                              1. re: richard_song

                                                                                I'd fully agree with the street meat and west Indian, claim, but I question the inclusion of shawarma. Perhaps it's because I'm from Ottawa, where shawarmas are everywhere and often very well done, but I find that Toronto doesn't have a large number of shawarma places, and the quality usually is just so-so.

                                                                                1. re: vorpal

                                                                                  You make an excellent point. Ottawa (and Montreal) have a much better Shawarma scene.

                                                                              2. Hello...new guy here.

                                                                                The correct answer is vendor dogs. As mentioned a lot of places have their dogs, but none elevate this $4 meal quite the same way we do. Like the city itself, vendor dogs are full of variety and socially inclusive. I know a few Brazilian, Australian, Israeli, and Japanese people who have studied here and returned home with stories of the magical corn and bacon bit covered meat tubes.

                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                1. re: Everythingtarian

                                                                                  You have a point E, but street dogs in Brazil, while not grilled, can have even more toppings, including mashed potatoes (quite common), a cream cheese called catupiri, potato strings (those chip-like sticks), corn, fresh relish (tomatoes, peppers, onion, cucumber, oil/vinegar). They are quite delicious, AND a whole meal!. We make them at home sometimes.

                                                                                  1. re: Yongeman

                                                                                    Oh my goodness, that sounds stellar! Reason #4345 to go to Brazil. Hey, maybe my students were being polite when I pointed them to the sausage vendors here, or maybe they were into the grilled taste of it.

                                                                                2. I've had some pretty damn good Falafels in/around the GTA... I never thought I would enjoy a vegetarian dish, ever, call me old fashioned.. But damn, these are good.

                                                                                  1. From an interview with David miller from gremolata.com
                                                                                    Question- Is there a food that, for you, is quintessentially Torontonian?

                                                                                    Miller: Toronto is so multicultural that it is equally Torontonian to have Thai chicken curry or fresh Italian pasta.
                                                                                    For once I agree with the guy.

                                                                                    1. There is no signature dish of Toronto.

                                                                                      6 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: grilledcheese

                                                                                        Agreed. Peameal on a bun and street meat are the lowest common denominators, not something I would suggest to an eipcurious visitor to Toronto.

                                                                                        ( FWIW - Dhosa is my Toronto dish.)

                                                                                        1. re: koknia

                                                                                          Street dogs (or as I like to call them, smog dogs) are available in many cities. There is nothing distinctively "Toronto" about them. Peameal sarnie -- well, it may not be widely available in other cities, but nor so is it in Toronto. Outside St.L market and the CNE midway for two weeks/yr, I couldn't say where to get one. It is easier to find a Vietnamese sub, a falafel or a (bad) pizza slice. Toronto has always been a city that lacks a unified cultural identity, and that fact is reflected in its food. To me, the pros of this situation far outweigh the cons.

                                                                                            1. re: grilledcheese

                                                                                              Once upon a time, in fact not that long ago, Toronto had a very unified culture.

                                                                                              Maybe a mixed buffet is Toronto's signature dish at this moment in time.

                                                                                              1. re: mrbozo

                                                                                                I'll give you that. And everyone was eating overcooked and under seasoned beef.

                                                                                                1. re: grilledcheese

                                                                                                  Falafels and Shrawmas are montreal staple. We have to go with the Gyros. Hell, Taste of the Danforth is such a huge street festival. It has to be a Signature Dish. I think the Jamican Patty is another important staple. But what about a Club Sandwich with Peameal Bacon wouldn't that truly be a Toronto Signature Dish.

                                                                                        2. Even though Montreal has more than we do, I'm going to still probably go with shawarmas and falafels.. Why? Because although Montreal may have more than we do, they're already famous for smoked meat, bagels, and poutine among other things

                                                                                          We've got some pretty good places too, and I feel much better about suggesting a shawarma to an outside visitor than telling them to go get some street meat :)

                                                                                          1. If Zane Caplansky can continue to meet demand and make a go of his enterprise Toronto smoked meat could become the city's signature dish.

                                                                                            1. Four cheese spinach dip.

                                                                                              Every menu.

                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                              1. I think that Toronto's signature food is also our best feature: multicultural. When I was in high school some friends and I would go for 'international lunches'. We'd pick three places and we'd eat till it hurt (dim sum @ the Pacific in Scarborough, souvlaki @ Amonia on the Danforth and ice cream at Dutch Dreams - or Cuisine of India, Blue Room for Hungarian and San Francescos for the veal, olives and sausages to name but two such excursion). While I don't think extreme eating like this is particularly healthy, I do think the quality and diversity we have here in T.O. is the best in the world. To me, that is our signature and its what makes this the finest city in the world.

                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                1. re: Caplansky

                                                                                                  Well said, good to hear some Toronto pride. This is what all Torontonians and Canadians should feel about this city. We have it good if you have an open mind.

                                                                                                2. The Cheddar cheese pennies at the Rebel House.

                                                                                                  Good local cheddar, cooked into warm spicy discs, served with one of the more comprehensive lists of Canadian draft beers.

                                                                                                  1. Sushi Pizza has been popularized in Toronto. It may have been invented in Montreal, but it is well known here, more so than anywhere. And now there are sushi restaurants in every part of GTA. Here is a recent thread where west coast sushi hounds deny any connection or knowledge of sushi pizza! http://www.chowhound.com/topics/53779...

                                                                                                    I still prefer peameal bacon with tomatoes and a dill pickle slice on a kaiser as our unique food, because it's been around for 150 years, but frankly it is not as widespread across the city as sushi pizza, and won't be until the hot dog carts can carry uncooked meat.

                                                                                                    1. hey y'all. i see JayT90 beat me to the punch but i will share my findings anyway. I have posted something about sushi pizza and its availability on all three of the california boards and all responses i have gotten seem to have two things in common: almost no one has ever heard of sushi pizza and, and everybody finds it gross at first. I have enjoyed my chowhound ambassadorship.

                                                                                                      I think upon reflection, the sushi pizza is a great thing to have as TO's signature dish. As everybody has mentioned, the defining trait of TO cuisine is its eclectic and mulitcultural variety. with this, comes fusion and creation. taking the basic elements of a popular japanese dish, and arranging them as a popular italian-american standard...what could be more TO than that? besides, the rice cake kind of looks like a hockey puck. i for one am taking action, and will be here on out referring to Sushi Pizza as "Toronto Pizza" and will be encouraging my friends to do the same. it probably won't stick, but a man has to fight for what he believes in .

                                                                                                      1. Toronto's Signatire Dish is the one ( and 1 or 2 more available ) available at our silly STREET FOOD CARTS. Never bought off them, never will --- menu of precooked hot dogs, sausage, etc. Yes, for many decades we offer very cleverly and bureaucratically a better to starve than eat from a STREET FOOD CARTS menu!!! A World City, trying hard, going nowhere! The City Hall Inspectors go round and round to close down operations that have proved themselves worldwide for so many generations and cannot figure out that Street Vendors Around The World Have Been Cooking On Premises Forever!!!!! Toronto''s Signatrue Dish can only be STREET FOOD!!! Hah Hah!!!