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Jun 2, 2008 06:35 PM

Family Reunion - 8 Adults

My brothers, sisters and spouses meet every year in a city for a family reunion. This July, it will be Toronto.

Our reunion will last four nights and we would like to have dinner in a different restaurant every night. We will all be staying near Eaton Center, but we can go to any restaurant near public transportation. Most of us are budget-conscious. We would like good food but not high prices. For example, pizza would be just fine -- good pizza, that is. We enjoy restaurants that are not too noisy to be able to hear each other. Wine is a must! One member has an MSG allergy, so that eliminates Asian food. A good seafood restaurant would be nice, and maybe a steakhouse. But again, we need to be budget-conscious. We also like to eat early -- about 5 PM. We are in our 50's and 60's.

Do you have any suggestions for us? Thank you in advance!

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  1. Budget conscious is a relative term, give us an idea of your price range and I'm sure you will get more responses.

    3 Replies
    1. re: paper_bag_princess

      Gee, I don't know what the prices are in Toronto. Is is possible to have a meal for under $20 per person, not counting the wine?

      I also forgot to mention that one night we will be going to a play at the Distillery, so it would be nice for our dinner that night to be nearby.

      Thanks for your help.

      1. re: CruisePrin

        You could do the Mill Street pub for your Distillery night for under $20pp. The Boiler House is another option but more expensive

        Distillery District
        55 Mill St, Toronto, ON M5A, CA

        Mill Street Brew Pub
        55 Mill St, Toronto, ON M5A, CA

        Boiler House
        55 Mill St., Toronto, ON M5A 3C4, CA

        1. re: JamieK

          Actually, Mill Street Pub, etc, are okay for convenience sake if you want to eat right in the Distillery District, but there's a place a few blocks north, within walking district, that has great food at great value called Weezie's. Unfortunately, no website. They open at 6pm, which is a great time to go because it's not that busy. Search for comments or click on the place link for related threads -

          354 King St E, Toronto, ON M5A1K9, CA

    2. I think it's a mistake to assume all Asian restaurants use MSG; I'd ask.

      If you're price conscious, and want steak, the Keg offers decent steaks at reasonable prices. The Keg Mansion at Jarvis and Wellesley is nicer than the version at the Esplanade, and offers great roast beef as well.

      The Red Tomato on King West has an interesting menu, lots of small dishes for sharing, and it won't break your bank. It's downstairs from "Fred's Not Here", which is slightly more formal and more expensive.

      19 Replies
      1. re: KevinB

        I did e-mail one Asian restaurant that seemed to be highly recommended, and the chef responded. She said that they do not add MSG to anything, but that many Asian ingredients come with MSG already in them, so she could not guarantee that there would be no MSG. Too bad -- I love Asian food, but I don't want to take any chances with the person who is allergic.

        1. re: KevinB

          The Keg won't be under 20 a person especially with wine. You're looking at 20-30 for an entree plus wine.

          Mill Street Brew Pub already mentioned is the cheapest in the Distillery District. It gets some high praise on this board but I have had some of the worst service I have ever had in TO and didn't enjoy the food that much either.

          1. re: KevinB

            I have to disagree with The Red Tomato. I was there over a year ago and it was absolutely disgusting. Awful, re-heated frozen food that had the taste of freezer burn and bad service also.

            Re the Boiler House mentioned JamieK's post, I've been there for work functions, and while it's a cool space, the food is very mediocre.
            I would stick to Mill Street Brew Pub in that area.
            It's a chain, but within your parameters, I would suggest Il Fornello for pizza. I believe the closest one to your hotel would be the location on King, west of University.
            You won't find good seafood within that price range.
            Another option, which is an "upscale pub" is Beerbistro on King, just east of Yonge. You can get decent mussels and steak frites, etc. there.
            I'm at a loss for suggestions within those parameters. I'll try to think of others though.

            1. re: pescatarian

              I've only eaten at the Boiler House once, but I agree with pescatarian that the food isn't stellar. It also doesn't come cheap, and if you're going to splurge I would highly recommend doing it elsewhere. Archeo is a more reasonably-priced, non-pub option in the Distillery District, but I haven't eaten there so I can't comment on the food. Anyone else eaten there??

              I agree with peppermint pate (below) that your options will be far more limited if you try to keep to an under $20 budget, but it can be done. One of my favourite bang-for-your-buck (both food and wine) options is Le Paradis, a lovely French bisro around Avenue and Davenport (on Bedford). The only drawback for you is that it's not right near a subway stop, but it would probably only be about a 10 minute walk from the subway. I also second the reccos for Terroni, Tabule and Beerbistro.

              Also, if the evening is nice and you want to enjoy a nice patio with higher-end pub food, you might want to check out the Rebel House (on Yonge around Summerhill) or Allen's (on the Danforth).

              Enjoy your visit!

              1. re: torontofoodiegirl

                I third Terroni but with most pastas and pizzas between 13-18 dollars or so you'd be pushing your budget once you factored in tax and tip.

                However, the food is awesome and you'll be guaranteed a great meal.

                1. re: torontofoodiegirl

                  I personally don't understand the Terroni hype. I've been there multiple times and I have failed to be impressed. Dry, dry pasta and almost no toppings on the pizzas (one basil leaf on the whole margarita pizza? CONSISTENTLY??) and pastas. Desserts are just as bad. The one time I ordered dessert there, I had one lady finger at the bottom of a tiramisu the size of my hand, and had it not been in a ramekin, I'm sure it would've been everywhere since the creamy layer was just a watery mess.

                  That said, dollar for dollar, I'd rather stay home and eat Michelina's. SERIOUSLY.

                  1. re: pinkprimp

                    Hi pinkrimp - I'm definitely one of the people that rec's Terroni a lot on this board. For me, it's not empty hype - I have eaten at Terroni more than any other restaurant in this city - at least 50 times - and for me, there is no place that combines quality ingredients, tasty food, friendly and fun atmosphere and great value as consistently as they do.

                    The salads are fantastic - ricchia, giugiulossa, fagiolo - freshest ingredients, very flavourful. And I really like the pastas - I forget tha names but the ones with the lamb ragu, the rigatoni with zucchini, cherry tomatoes and bocconcini, the spaghetti al limone, lasagne, etc. - all homemade and all great, fresh and tasty. I've never had a dry pasta experience.

                    Now the pizzas - I will agree that the pizzas have become less consistent. They used to be perfectly thin-crusted, crispy pies with lovely toppings but I have sometimes recently found soggy middles and sparser toppings. It probably also varies a bit between locations - I'm at the Balmoral location the most, though I've recently had a couple of very good meals at the new location.

                    I really like that they're expanding their menu options more with trios of bruschetta, interesting antipasto offerings and a rotating selection of wines, many by the glass - you'd be hard-pressed to name a restaurant in this league with a lower mark-up on wine than they have.

                    The icing on the cake for me is a welcoming atmosphere for kids which suits my current lifestyle well.

                    So is it a perfect place? No. Are the pizzas sometimes less than wow? Yes. Is it better than Michelina's? Well, no comparison in my books. For me, it's worth all the praise I've ever given it and then some and for that reason, I'll continue to recommend it to others.

                    1. re: peppermint pate

                      I need to admit that I've only been to the Adelaide location (it's close to my apartment), and I agree that it's a cool, fun atmosphere and there isn't really anything like that, really, in downtown Toronto. BUT I still need to say that I've never had anything that made me go "WOW!" (the way it deserves, from all the praise and recs it gets)

                      To each their own tastes? :-)

                      1. re: pinkprimp

                        Of course - that's what this board is all about! Maybe try a couple of the dishes I've suggested and perhaps even one of their other locations? I agree that the new space is great - looking forward to seeing the big patio.

                        1. re: peppermint pate

                          I love Terroni as well. However, it is somewhat more adventurous Italian. For those who are used to the East Side Mario's, Joe Badali's version of Italian food (and I'm not saying that is the case with pinkprimp) may not find a lot on the menu they like.

                          I am of Italian descent, my father was born there and I grew up eating authentic Southern Italian food cooked by my father and very Italian grandmother, I can say hands down I have not had any other Italian food in this city or otherwise that comes close to Terroni with respect to authenticity, including high end places such as Sotto Sotto.

                          I do have to add that while I like their pizza its not my favourite, I prefer the pasta dishes, I have never had one that's dry. However, pasta is served in Italian homes not completely doused in sauce as is the case in some restaurants. Also, some of the pastas such as the Spaghetti al Limone don't come with a heavy sauce, just lemon juice, olive oil and cheese. Some may find that dry, I certainly don't.

                          If you want to be wowed by a dessert at Terroni, try the Flourless Chocolate Cake. I can't get enough of this cake.

                          1. re: paper_bag_princess

                            I love to eat everything and to try new things. You are right, it's not that it's "too adventurous" (I love the IDEA of their dishes) but it's the execution that disappoints me. I do like L'Unita though I'm not sure that's a similar style to Terroni?

                            I suppose it could be because I am still wooed by Batali's beef cheek ravioli with balsamic reduction at Babbo! The most flavourful, wonderful thing.

                            But OMG never, ever, ever EVER would I eat at East Side Mario's.

                            1. re: pinkprimp

                              I don't think you can compare Babbo with Terroni - Babbo is a special occasion place, with prices to match, and widely considered one of the favourite spots in NYC. I think Terroni is closer in atmosphere to Batali's Otto restaurant but if I was trying to find an even closer comparison, I'd say 'inoteca in the LES.

                                1. re: pinkprimp

                                  Glad to hear you wouldn't eat at East Side Marios!

                                  What dishes have you had at Terroni that you were disappointed with? I love the Gnocchi Alla Simi which is with tomato sauce and topped with fresh ricotta. The Spaghetti al Limone which I already mentioned is great too. I also love the Mezzo e Mezzo platter which usually comes with various meats and cheeses and nuts which they switch up on occasision. But the quality of the meat and cheese never disappoints.

                                  1. re: paper_bag_princess

                                    From the times I've been, I've tried bites of, or had, the margarita pizza (where is my basil?!), paperdelle (TERRIBLE. dry, and with maybe two tablespoons of the homemade sausage and three little pieces of mushroom), grilled calamari (this dish wasn't bad, actually), the rigatoni (sauce tasted like it was out of a can), caprese salad (wasn't horrible, was alright), the panini (pedestrian), C't Mang (?) pizza (passable), and the horrible mess that was the tiramisu.

                                    Maybe I'm just being difficult?!! lol

                                    1. re: pinkprimp

                                      Sounds like you have had a good sampling. Not sure what locations you have been to, personally, I think the Queen Street one is the best.

                                      I don't think you're being difficult, you're entitled to your opinion of course. There are lots of places on this board that get rave reviews that I think are meh.

                                      1. re: paper_bag_princess

                                        As mentioned, I've only been to the Adelaide location. Apparently the one on the street-starting-with-B (blanking...must be sitting too long at my desk lol) is better. I will give other locations a chance before swearing Terroni off forever.

                                        Out of curiousity, what are some of these "meh" places for you?

                                        1. re: pinkprimp

                                          Mill Street Brew Pub in the distillery. Horrifically bad service and almost equally bad food.

                                          The cookies at Le Gourmand.

                                          Mistrua was ok, not great...liked Terroni Same with Sotto Sotto.

            2. If you like Thai food, may I recommend Ivory Thailand? It's on Church and Adelaide (right by the Eaton Centre) and it says on the site, "Of course, no MSG is ever used" It's my favourite Thai place in Toronto, by far.

              2 Replies
              1. re: pinkprimp

                "Right by the Eaton Centre?" A good 15 minute walk perhaps. Best at lunch weekdays $12.95 ayce buffet.

                1. re: Edith S

                  I go to school at Ryerson and I live at Queen and Church and it's only a five minute walk, on a bad day.

              2. In answer to your question, yes, you can eat for $20 a person, without wine (or tax or tip) but in the restaurant world, it definitely puts you at the lower end of the price range and therefore limits your options. Lots of great street snacks (Chinese buns, papusas, dim sum, roti, etc.) in that range but less places to relax over a decent meal. If you're comfortable inching up your price range a bit, at least for one or two meals, you will have many more options.

                You may want to get your Italian fix at the new Terroni downtown - the space is lovely and with a group of 8, you could ask for one of the private rooms (reserve now!) - the first room on the right is nice and it would allow you to hear conversation while eating some antipasto platters, thin crust pizza, pastas, etc.

                I agree that msg is a non-issue in many "Asian" restaurants - I've never even known it to exist in Thai cooking (though I could be wrong). On that note, you might want to try the prix-fixe dinner at Linda's, an upscale Thai restaurant that sits above Salad King, right near the Eaton's Centre. I've eaten off their regular menu but estufarian recommended the prix-fixe dinners for $30/person that sounds like tremendous value.

                Other places that may be in or close to your price range - Tabule (Middle Eastern), somewhere out on the Danforth for Greek food (Christina's? Ouzeri? Lambros?).

                One other thing to note - for those restaurants that open for dinner only or close between lunch and dinner, the vast majority don't open for dinner until 6. If you'd like to eat at 6, you should definitely call ahead and probably focus on restaurants that stay open throughout (anywhere on the Danforth, Terroni and Tabule would all be open at 5).

                Have fun with your sibs - I think it's a lovely tradition.

                1. For a nice seafood dinner near the Eaton's Centre I would recommend Adega Restaurant on Elm St. Portuguese with mains $15 - $30, lots of seafood on the menu. Not sure of their hours but know that we went there before a show so they were open by 6 pm.