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May 28, 2008 07:40 PM

One (mon)day to eat

Ill be in town in june for a wedding and while my time will be quite occupied for most of my stay i think i will have a majority of my last day in town (a monday) to do some exploring, and i wanted to solicit ideas for a good, chow-centered day of fun somewhere in Toronto.

It will likely be my giflfriend and myself, were adventurous and would love to do something that is both typically torontonian (?) and an example of something(s) which are done particularly well here.

We wont have a car, so places that are transit-accessible are pretty much required, though were not opposed to walking a decent way and or taking a cab if something really warranted it. Ideally we would find ourselves in a neighborhood with lots to look at and a couple of really chow-worthy stops for a multip-part lunch sampling of the best of what there is to eat.

Thanks, in advance, for any and all tips/ideas.

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  1. If you're downtown, I'd suggest walking (or a streetcar) to Dundas and McCaul, and at least checkout the outside of the Art Gallery of Ontario, where, on a warm day, you'll see people lounging on the Henry Moore bronzes outside. (It's worth going inside too, if you're into those arty things, but that's not about food). Continue west to one of Toronto's many Chinatowns. Kim Moon Bakery on the north side near Huron is considered one of the best - try the BBQ pork or curry chicken buns, and the egg tarts. Across the street is a Chinese BBQ spot (the name escapes me) where you can get great BBQ or roast pork, among other things. A small chunk of either makes for great munchies as you wander along. There are many fruit and vegetable shops offering the weird and wonderful (lychees, rambutan, mangosteen, etc.) which might make a great snack back in your hotel (pack a pen-knife in your suitcase). Continue heading west to Spadina, and turn north. You now have a choice of more Chinese, Vietnamese, and Thai spots. Pho 88 is considered one of the best for Vietnamese "noodle in soup". There's a large building on the southwest corner of Spadina and College that has some good dim sum places on the upper floors (not as good as Lai Wah Heen, but also not as damaging to your pocket book). Keep walking north to Nassau Street, and head west again. You are now at the northern edge of the Kensington market. Head south on Augusta to Baldwin, and back east a block, then south again on Kensington. You'll find all kinds of fruits, cheeses, breads, meats, etc. plus some funky shops, ice cream places, and coffee houses. Just a great place to wander on a warm June day!

    In the early evening, a walk along King Street West will let you find some interesting spots. Just north of King on Duncan is the Whistling Oyster, which has great early evening appetizers - I love the coconut shrimp! Farther west, there are many great places to dine - stroll past till you reach Spadina to see them all, and then turn back to pick one. (BTW, avoid Wayne Gretzky's for food - it's quite pedestrian. Fun atmosphere if you're a sports fan, and they've got your game on, but don't eat there.)

    Enjoy your stay!

    22 Replies
    1. re: KevinB

      I would heartily endorse the Chinatown/Kensington chow walk. The only changes I'd make to KevinB's suggestions are: 1) not sure if Pho 88 is the same anymore - I stopped in last fall and it had been totally renovated and modernized, new ownership and the pho wasn't nearly as good; and 2) in Kensington, make sure you stop in for some papusas at Perola's, a small grocery store on the east side of Augusta, just north of Baldwin, and definitely stop for a great latte at Louie's, the little shack on the corner of Augusta and Baldwin - one of the best people watching corners in the city. In fact, if you're up for another coffee later on, head back up Augusta to College, cross the street and walk west for a few blocks to Manic - best coffees in the city, IMO. Have fun!

      1. re: peppermint pate

        I think that Perola's no longer makes pupusas. But Emporium Latino does. (I'm pretty sure they are different stores, no? Gosh, I hope so, otherwise I sound really silly.) To tex.s.toast, Emporium Latino is tiny and easy to miss, but it is right next door to Jumbo Empanada.

        1. re: TorontoJo

          I think you may be right about Perola's TJ - do they still have churros and plantain or have they shut down the kitchen completely? And I hope I'm thinking of the right place - for the millions of times I have been there, I somehow have a consistent mental blip when it comes to Perola's and Emporium Latino.

      2. re: KevinB

        I was also going to suggest a similar Dundas/Spadina/Baldwin stroll, perhaps extending the Baldwin part east of McCaul (or doing that loop first, before heading towards Spadina - the Wah Sing pastry shop on Baldwin is a highlight). One correction - the 'building on the SW corner' certainly isn't at College. Did you intend to write Dundas (or some smaller street)?
        The King St stroll is less exciting for me - mainly touristy venues.

        1. re: estufarian

          Just a note that I'm pretty sure the Chinese pastry shop on Baldwin is Yung Sing, not Wah Sing. Love that place -- it got me through grad school...

          1. re: TorontoJo

            You're right. Yung Sing is at 22 Baldwin and that's what I meant. Wah Sing is at 47Baldwin (hence my confusion).

          2. re: estufarian

            Yeah, I was going to add that - I believe the building KevinB is referring to is the one at Dundas. And I second the rec for Yung Sing - I prefer their egg tarts to those at Kim Moon, as I prefer the flaky crusts to the cookie-like ones. Lots of other good things at Kim Moon, though - definitely worth a stop on any grazing tour.

            1. re: estufarian

              Oops.. you are correct, it's Spadina and Dundas. Thanks buddy!

            2. re: KevinB

              Great itinerary from KevinB! I would just say that King St. West is full of tourist-y spots between Spadina and University, as that is the theatre district. But if you go West of Spadina, there are some nicer spots: Brassaii (great patio tucked into a courtyard), Lee, Rodney's Oyster House, Toshi Sushi, etc.

              In Kensington Market, stop in Emporium Latino, a small grocery store, and go all the way to the back for cheap ($2.25!), yummy pupusas made fresh to order. If it's a hot day, Moonbeam coffee shop serves apple cider slushies that are really refreshing.

              Back in Chinatown, you could try banh mi, a Vietnamese sub that usually runs under $3. Or you could head over to Huron, a very small side street running North off of Dundas, and pop into Mother's Dumplings for great handmade dumplings or noodles.

              Enjoy Toronto!

              1. re: KevinB

                The Art Gallery of Ontario is closed for construction right now.

                1. re: paper_bag_princess

                  Oh, foo. Too bad; they do have a nice collection. Well, it gives our Texas friend an excuse to return!

                  1. re: KevinB

                    the name is unrelated to my location, actually, im coming in from southern california, though a smaller (non-LA) part where access to both good dim sum and non-mexican latin food is lacking. As such i appreciate all guidance on the dim-sum and chinese bakery fronts as well as pupusa recommendations.

                    on the non-solid foodstuffs front (ok calling beer a foodstuff is perhaps stretching it) im only passingly familiar with canadian beer - and the mass produced stuff at that. should i find myself at either a bar or store with a good selection of more craft/micro brewed local stuff is there something(s) i should look out for. id much more prefer whatever is typical/the best of the local bunch than something that fits my tastes (which run away from the super-hoppy pale ales for which california is known).

                    1. re: tex.s.toast

                      If you check out this recent thread (hope I've pasted the link correctly), you'll see a number of rec's for places with good beer selection: - if you're looking for a "locals" upscale pub atmosphere, I like Rebel House and Allen's. Both have great patios if the weather is warm. The LCBO at Summerhill (in a converted railway station) has a pretty extensive selection of beer - not sure if it's any more than the local Brewer's Retail store, though. I've lost track of which of the microbreweries have now been purchased by the larger beer companies but some of the names to look out for are Steam Whistle, Mill Street, Creemore and Cameron's. I'm not sure how extensive a selection you will find here of beers from microbreweries from other parts of Canada but I'm sure some of the local barflies can chime in on this.

                      1. re: peppermint pate

                        And if you have a chance to visit the Distillery District, you can pop into the Mill St. Brewery and get free samples of their coffee porter, tank house ale, stock ale and one more, I think (maybe their organic beer?). The coffee porter is well worth trying, as it's very unique. They make the porter with coffee beans from Balzac's, an organic coffee roaster and shop also in the Distillery District. It is totally different than the Cali pale ales you refer to!

                      2. re: tex.s.toast

                        If you like pilsner, Steam Whistle is located down by the CN Tower in the old roundhouse building - even if you don't like pilsner, it's a neat spot to pop into and have a look around. They'll give you two free samples, and always have local art on display. If you want a wider variety of free samples, I second the Mill St. rec if you can make it down to the distillery (Brick St. Bakery and Soma Chocolates are excellent Chow-worthy stops here as well).
                        Beerbistro and Volo both have good beer lists and a variety of beers from Ontario and Quebec (and Belgium, and Germany, and...well, you get the idea). I happen to like Unibroue quite a bit - a Quebec brewery that does some Belgian-style ales. Both of the places I mentioned have some Unibroue varieties on their lists, and the LCBO in Chinatown (Spadina and Dundas) seems to carry a few if you want to pick some up during your grazing tour. :)

                        1. re: Wahooty

                          im familiar with a few of the Unibroue products which are available in some shops down this side of the border.

                          ill look into both steam whistle and mill st. it really will depend on how may wedding festivities ive been scheduled into . . .

                          1. re: tex.s.toast

                            The big difference between the two is that Mill St is surrounded by shops and restaurants and Steam Whistle is surrounded by nothing. If time is short, it might be better spent one stop shopping at the Distillery District. Here. Take a boo:

                            1. re: Googs

                              I agree that the Distillery District is definitely worth a visit and (I suppose this is just a personal preference) I think that Mill Street makes a far superior product to Steam Whistle. Additionally, they have several options and SW only has one -- I'm particularly fond of the Mill St Organic and their wheat beer, which has a hint of orange.

                              On that note, Unibroue's Blanche de Chambly (another wheat beer) is a lovely summer beer, if you get a chance to try it.

                              I agree with peppermint pate that Rebel House and Allen's are both great pubs to hit, especially if the weather permits you to sit on the patio. In addition to a good beer selection, they both have above-average food. Beer Bistro is also a good pick for good food and beer.

                              Enjoy your stay!

                        2. re: tex.s.toast

                          Hey tex.s.toast,

                          I stumbled upon your post in the other thread. I also happen to be from SB. You might want to check out the reply I wrote there.

                          Basically, I think Torontonian Chinese food is a bit overrated. I wouldn't go out of my way looking for dim-sum in Toronto, when you'll find better fare going to the right restaurants in the SF Bay Area or LA.

                          As for Latin food, that is also pretty lacking -- non-Mexican would be slightly better than Mexican here, which is beyond pathetic. I honestly think it's too cold most of the year for people with Latin blood to live here.

                          In the other thread, I suggested Portuguese or Greek. Both are fairly well-represented here and not something you would find in SB.

                          1. re: markml

                            For chinese food in Greater Toronto area, have you been to Lai Wah Heen, Lai Toh Heen, Casa Imperial, Casa Victoria, Omei, Fantasy Eatery, Maple Yip, Regal 16, Full House, Empire Court ?

                            1. re: skylineR33

                              I lived in Vancouver and SF for two decades and can say that Toronto chinese food beats SF chinese food hands down.

                              I would highly recommend trying Skyline's suggestions (I can vouch for the Lai Wah Heen only) but I trust his suggestions based on reading his previous posts.

                              1. re: eatereater123

                                St. Lawrence Market is also interesting- lots of food vendors under one roof...might be a good place to visit and buy some tasty take home items.
                                and just to note, if you plan on visiting the art gallery during your walk-about, i think it is closed until november due to renovations.

                  2. The original comment has been removed
                    1. Hi everyone, thank you to all who wrote in with recommendations here and elsewhere. things got pretty busy and we ended up not really getting all that much time to go out and seek things out, but some notes in case anyone in the future is searching through this thread:

                      Red & White Falafel - basically adjacent to the hotel the wedding was held at with really tasty falafel and typically affable service (has anyone mentioned before just how nice people are on that side of the border?)

                      I got sent out for Mr Sub for the bridesmaids while they were getting their hair done and couldnt bring myself to order a subway knockoff, so ended up getting myself a suprisingly tasty Channa Roti from a jamaican place also on Yonge just up from college.

                      Sushi pizza was had as well - at some hole in the wall near the place we stayed. An interesting idea and im glad i got a chance to try something new and different.

                      we did end up getting out to stop at Rahier and the Toronto Bagel Shop (or some equally descriptive name) and found both to be most excellent, quite the block for carbs.

                      thanks again for all the advice.

                      As a final note, the Indian food prepared by the kitchen at the Delta Chelsea was really quite good and even managed to impress the refined tastes of many of the wedding guests visiting from india - i'm pretty sure its only available as a catering option but if anyone was to want an indian themed party or otherwise needed a hotel catered meal, everything they put out was very good.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: tex.s.toast

                        Subway is not a knockoff of Mr. Sub. Mr. Sub is Canadian and is a lot better than Subway.