Los Angeles Hounds Seeking Tips
Hello Toronto board! One of your compatriots, Grandgourmand, just did some stellar hounding in my fair city and left reportage that does your board most proud. I turn to you for advice, as we leave in a few days for a 6 day visit to Toronto. We will be staying in The Annex area. We would love to try the best of Toronto-stuff we can’t get in California. We will be doing restaurant eating but also will have a kitchen so recommendations for special local cookstuffs are welcome too. We are looking forward to exploring, so suggestions need not be confined to our immediate neighborhood and am sure no one will be surprised if we are less than dying for Mexican or Thai. Because we wouldn’t be Angelenos if we didn’t have some food idiosyncrasies, we eat neither shellfish (but adore other fish) nor anything that ever trod upon four legs. We eagerly await your erudite advice!
Your mention of fish and staying in the Annex made me think of Joso's. I haven't been for a while, maybe a year, but I have never been disappointed and have probably eaten there once a year for about 25 years.
The owner has 2 obsessions, cooking fish simply and well and as you will see he also adores boobs.
Check out this post re St. Lawrence Market: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/541253. That should aid you re cookstuffs. You should also check out Kensington Market.
Some good vegetarian (or vegetarian friendly) places are (and in no particular order): Fresh (theres one near the Annex at Spadina and Bloor, but I prefer the location on Queen West at Trinity Bellwoods, for the patio); 93 Harbord in the Annex; Matahari on Baldwin for Malaysian; Le Cafe Vert on Queen East in Leslieville; Jean's Vegetarian Kitchen on the Danforth near Coxwell.
I like Tabla on Yonge south of Lawrence for upscale Indian.
Kensington Market, Koreatown (Bloor around Christie); Little India (Gerrard East); Leslieville (Queen East between approximately Broadview and Leslie), and the Beaches are all fun areas to walk around in and sample local food.
Do you have transportation (or will you be relying on taxi/public transportation).
For example, we have a significant Portuguese population, but access may be tricky (depending on where you are in Annex - some parts are not well served - can you give closest major intersection). Certainly Chiado is the finest Portuguese (but stick with the less-traditional dishes, which are much lighter). Portuguese Churrasco chicken is also highly recommended - but these are again, smaller places with sometimes difficult access.
Fiesta Farms is a great shopping place - but again access may be an issue depending on where you are actually staying. I also expect many recommendations to be posted along Harbord - but same access issue.
The Joso recommendation is good food - but certainly the decor is way out there. Also may be challenging for access and prices are on the 'special occasion' budget.
Daunting as it may be for native L.A.ers, we are dependent on public transportation but not averse to taxis. We are staying near Bernard and Spadina if that makes any difference. Don’t think we’ve any Portuguese in L.A. at all, so that’s a must try. Roti sounds fab too. The boob guy at Joso's just admires from afar right? Not up for any hands on appreciation this trip. Can’t believe the swift and helpful response I’ve had. Thanks so much..
re: Layne Murphy
You're going to be staying a comfortable walking distance from Harbord St., which, between Spadina and Bathurst, has several very good restaurants:
- Harbord Room: bistro-style menu, may be a bit meat heavy for your needs
- Messis: reasonably priced fine dining with a pretty side patio
- 93 Harbord: upscale, Middle Eastern-inspired cuisine
- Boulevard Cafe: casual Peruvian with a great side patio
- Dessert Trends Bistro: casual, airy bistro with some Asian-influences. I particularly recommended it for lunch and brunch
- Splendido: this is a break the bank dinner spot, but if you love fine dining, it doesn't get any better than this. They will happily put together a vegatarian or pescatarian tasting menu for you on request.
I agree - all of these can be walked to in about 20 mins. In particular consider Splendido (think Providence in LA), which is the best fine dining we have to offer (15 mins walk). Chiado is a little tougher (you'd have to change streetcars) - take a cab. And a pile of money - it can get expensive.
Dessert Trends is now DT Bistro Patisserie (same location 20-25 mins - it's the furthest of those listed). And LIVE (which I mentioned earlier is only 5 mins- if you like raw food). Joso's is only 10 mins. Also less than 10 mins is Le Paradis - a French Bistro that's heavier on meat choices but still recommended. Also for breakfast/diner, People's Food on Dupont just west of Davenport is non-greasy. Almost right opposite that (again Dupont just west of Davenport) is Food Depot Supermarket which will be your closest place to shop for provisions (not as good as Fiesta Farms but still good). They feature a fair amount of organic and health foods and are open late.
re: Layne Murphy
Thanks for the props. I had a great time in L.A.
The recommendations so far are good, because they're not as represented in L.A. (i.e. Portuguese and Carribbean). Chiado, I have yet to experience, but from what I've read on this board the best high end Portuguese in North America.
On the Carribbean (i.e. Roti), you should really check that out. I'll refer you to one of the posts on this board:
Many names pop up, but Island Foods is reliable (1182 King Street West). If you want chicken, it's nice, as are the veggie options such as channa (chick peas) or potato. Another is Gandhi Roti, where you can order more interesting veggie fillings, although it's not a true Caribbean place.
Aside from the above, foodie stops should include St. Lawrence Market. There's a farmer's market open only on Saturdays that is nice, but coming from CA, nothing special. However, the main market should be interesting and if you're into cheese, some good choices available.
And Toronto's primary streets have ethnic associations. College St. (not far from the Annex) is Little Italy, which makes for a nice stroll, between Bathurst and Ossignton (get a fish sandwich at the Fish Shop). Also good at night for lounging and drinks. Danforth is Greek Town. another good walking tour. Get off at Broadview subway and walk until it stops amusing you. Sip an Ouzo and eat some mezes. Spadina is Chinatown. Not sure what Chinatown is like in LA, but I've been to SF's and ours is less touristy and more food-focused. Gerrard St. East, that's Little India. It's very interesting, but smaller and less conveniently located (i.e. by public transit).
I could go on, but you'll get plenty of other recommendations. Enjoy your visit.
for fish and and more uniquely toronto, definitely head to chiado on college. high end portugese. known for their excellent fish as well as great wines & service.
if you scan the toronto board you will quickly discover that st. lawrence market is the place to buy ingredients if you'll be cooking at home (it's closed on sundays) and of course kensington market is a must see....lots of great, cheap nibbles in kensington.
I heartily second (third?) the recommendation for Chiado. Spectacularly fresh Atlantic fish flown in from the Azores and Portugal every day and the most amazing Portuguese wine list.
If you like Indian, you can have a wonderful meal at Tabla. I highly recommend the fish xacutti, eggplant bharta, palak paneer and chana masala. Even the rather unorthodox hummous and garlic naan is a pretty tasty way to start the meal.
For Middle Eastern, Tabule has a wonderful fish and vegetarian choices. Whole, fried fish, saucy garlic tomatoes, fried eggplant and the most addictive flash fried cauliflower make a great pescatarian meal. The fattoush salad is great, too.
Both Tabule and Tabla are in midtown/uptown (depending on who you ask!). You can either drive or take the Yonge subway line. Tabule is about 4 blocks south of Eglinton station. Tabla is a bit a longer walk from Lawrence station. If you drive, you should save room for dessert and go to Il Gelatiere or Hollywood Gelato for the best gelatos in the city.
I would be remiss in not recommending that you try roti while you're here. Roti is a curry wrapped in a thin flatbread, sort of an Indian burrito. There are two styles available here: West Indian (primarily Trinidadian) and East Indian. For the latter, Gandhi is the way to go. For the former, Ali's seems to be one of the more popular choices. The good news is that they are both on Queen St. only a kilometer or two apart, so you could get one of each and compare! Both have multiple vegetarian and chicken options. At Gandhi, I recommend getting a chicken and cauliflower roti, spiced medium to medium-hot (unless you have a very high tolerance for spice, in which case you could ask for hot).
ETA: Gandhi is closed on weekends this summer, so plan accordingly. :)
- You might want to try the 'Terroni's' here and see how it compares to LA.
- Really good sushi is much harder to find here than LA, 'Japango' and 'Kaji' are general favorites.
- 'Fresh' is a very popular vegan/vegetarian spot, though I'm not a fan.
- I second St.Lawrence Market, nothing quiet like it in LA.
- There are some really great Indian spots here. 'Dhaba' is one of my favs and 'Amaya' is very popular.
sushi - i don't think it's worth even trying here vs LA just because of our overall lack of quality and skill. some of the top places are sinking (i refuse to go to japango anymore) and kaji isn't just about sushi but a delicious all around japanese omakase. the real star would likely be hashimoto where you would get the attention of a chef that is supposed to be among a specially trained group of 50 from japan. oh! but the only exception might be the "sushi pizza" which i had imagined originated from california but other posters seem to report that this might be a toronto thing. i hope you like mayo ;)
fresh - they certainly do take the concept of vegetarian to a new level but their execution is poor overall. to mask the fact that you're often eating tempeh and less flavourful protein substitutes, they slather everything in an unnecessarily pungent miso sauce or put together a ridiculous combination of strong flavours. the only thing i like their are the interesting burgers (usually a combination of grains, nuts and tofu)
fressen - this is vegan and gets some great reviews. they're tapas style so it's more of a fun free for all of tastes. they also do brunch if you're interested www.fressenrestaurant.com
doner - not all that different from a shawarma, my favourite doner comes from house of doner and kebab on the east side of yonge st somewhere in between gerrard and dundas. DO NOT go to little house of doner and kebab with the gigantic sign, this place is much more unassuming and further north. they make everything in house (all the delicious and fantastic sauces) and their chicken is juicy, a little crisp crusty on the outside and probably one of the best things i've ever eaten in this city.
doubles - a west indies treat, they are fluffy pieces of fried dough (called bara) with a channa mix spread between them. delicious. island food does an ok job of it but i also don't mind caribbean palace on bathurst just south of bloor. you could also get a roti here with a variety of options though i'm not as keen on their roti.
shopping - st lawrence market is fun and all but i appreciate the variety i get at fiesta farms (it's a couple blocks north of christie station so not as much of an access issue as estufarian is mentioning). near that strip of bloor but west-ier would be PAT, a korean grocer that will often cover any korean/japanese needs. i personally enjoy chinatown and find kensington often too full of schlock pushers selling me rotten food at expensive prices. mind you herbs are usually found for the best price there.
were you the starter of that thread? i've pretty much never been on the west coast so i can't speak from experience at all. from what i gathered from that thread it seemed as if there are some similar concepts, ie fried rice patties with fish on top but not quite the assemblage that we've got here and passes as "sushi pizza". mind you i never order it.
As other posters have noticed, Fresh is a good vegetarian choice, but as another poster has suggested I suggest you head for the Queen West location and its patio for the single reason that every one of the Fresh locations is absolutely deafening if you eat indoors. The sound levels are insane - I don't know how they achive that! Makes me feel like somebody is slamming an axe into my skull. Sort of counter-intuitive if you're a vegetarian no? Terroni is the same noise nightmare in all locations, so eat on their pretty patios instead. Queen West (near Fresh) or downtown on Adelaide. Great pizza, but beware they have a snotty "no substitutions" policy.
On Harbord St. in the Annex I'd recommend 93 Harbord for middle eastern food. Nice room, great service and above all great food! Lots of veggie stuff.
For fish, I agree with Chiado as the best in the city, but pricey, so a trip on the subway over to Pantheon on the Danforth for greek style grilled fish might suit you. And give you another neighbourhood to sample. You could have dessert and coffee at Athens Pastries.
Don't waste your time going to Little India - instead, in your area, try Masala something (sorry, can't recollect the name) but it's between Ossignton and Christie on Bloor and is supposed to be amazing, as is Meroli close by, for South Indian food, which if you haven't experienced it is quite something - you have to have a masal Dosa!
Hope you enjoy your visit!
I misread the JamesJT post above - thought he was referring to LIVE (not Fresh). However, LIVE - which is in the Annex may be worth checking out. Mostly raw food (although a few items are cooked) and mostly vegan. They also have a back patio. I find them expensive for what you get, but most menu items are extremely creative and it's definitely worth a visit.
Something different now:
I would suggest getting awesome fish and chips (IMHO) from Chippy's: a takeout only place near Queen & Bathurst. It is across the street from a great park for a picnic and next to one of my favorite bookstores in the city, Type.
Also, for great homemade ice cream, try Greg's at the corner of Bloor and Spadina. Their Marshmallow Roast and Coffee Toffee are to die for. PS. I used to work there, so I know the secret to the Marshmallow flavour.
But before the ice cream, walk south on Spadina and you will get to two great pizza joints: Cora's and Papa Ceo's. Get a slice from each and then report back here which is better; that debate has stumped Torontonians for years. Continue walking down Spadina to Harbord. Turn right on Harbord and you will soon see Harbord Bakery on the south side. Some of the very best baked goods in the city. In particular, try the Challa (a deliciously sweet jewish egg bread).
Absolutely make Chiado one of your "good" nites out. They do an amazing whole grilled fish and fabulous fresh grilled sardine appetizer. Mmmmmm. You'll need a reservation. Not sure if they have Portuguese custard tarts, but if they do - save room and go for it. You'll be happy you did.
Also, if you are looking for something different, try Little Tibet on West Queen West. I love their vegetarian momos (dumplings) I prefer the fried, but the steamed are good as well. They always serve it with a very fresh salad and a homemade dipping sauce that is like Tibetan salsa.
Queen st is great to wander. Get a day/weekend pass for the TTC (Toronto Transit) - a very good deal at $9. I think it is good for two adults during the weekend and you'll need one each for week days. The Queen streetcar goes from one far end of the city to the next. Start around Spadina and Queen and then start wandering West - away from the core - and watch the neighborhood change as you go. If you get tired or want to skip a few blocks, hop on the street car for a bit. Little Tibet is around about a block and a half before Walnut st. Also close by is Clafloutis, a nice place to stop for a cappacino and a dessert.
I'm not as sure about the East side of the city, but that is where the Beach is and I'm sure other hounds can chime in with reasons to go east on Queen st.
The whole street end-to-end definitely offers a view to the good, the bad, and the ugly of TO in every way. More good than anything else though.
864 College Street West, Toronto, ON M6H 1A3, CA
Little Tibet Restaurant
712 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M6J1E8, CA