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Oct 6, 2008 03:40 PM

Toronto Food Tour

Hey Tdot peoples. I need a favor. My friends and I are going on a road trip to Toronto. I promised them exquisite food even though I really don't know where to find it, I just adore TO! I had the idea of trying the food of each of our ethnicities - Jamaican, Chilean/Jewish, Polish/Russian, Chinese and Korean. What do you think of these places and do you have better suggestions? Mostly looking for cheaper authentic hole in the wall stuff

Jamaican - Planet Crystal, Albert's, Randy's or Ackee Tree.
Chilean - Jumbo Empanadas
Polish - Cafe Polonez
Korean - Sejong, Bun Ji, Sariwon or Yummy BBQ (prefer a place in Koreatown)
Chinese - Wah Too Seafood Restaurant ( Once a favorite late night haunt for me. Prefer a place in Chinatown and not fancy)

Is there any Jewish Canadian food that can't be passed up?

I'm also a huge fan of Shawarma and Falafel so I want a good place for that. I hear Lawrence West is the place to go, but if I can't make it out there I'd appreciate a suggestion downtown. Pickled turnips are a must.

I'm also looking for suggestions in Greek Town, Little Portugal and Little India ( or any good Indian resto.) Any other superb ethnic recommendations are welcome, especially if spicy . mmm

Is Memphis Style BBQ any good?

For our big splurge I'm going to try get reservations at Scaramouche, Canoe or North 44. Are those good choices? And is 360 at all comparable to these foodwise or just overpriced and touristy?

Thanks in advance. I can't wait to have Tim Horton's mochas again. Its been too long.

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  1. Oh and if anyone has any food suggestions for London, ON. I am really in need. The only place I can remember being any good was Barakat (middle eastern).

    1. Okay, for "Jewish Canadian," you might try Caplansky's in the Monarch Tavern - do a search, and you'll see it's been discussed at great length on the board. He does a unique kind of smoked meat, borscht, matzo ball soup, and sometimes knishes.

      For shawarma and falafel, it's Lawrence East you want, not West. Between Pharmacy and Warden, there are tons of shawarma joints, better than anything I've had yet downtown. My favorites are Farhat for lamb shawarma or falafel, and Ibrahim if you like lots of good veggies/salads in your shawarma (chicken or beef). Downtown, I like Sarah's for falafel (Bloor, east of Bathurst).

      13 Replies
      1. re: Wahooty

        while i've enjoyed my lawrence east shawarmas... my easy to get to and equally delicious alternative would be a doner from doner and kebab house just south of gerrard on yonge, east side. for a couple bucks more you can double up on the meat and you won't be able to close it but it's even more fantastically meaty. all the sauces are made in house and wonderful.

        nasr though is just a haven of grocery delights if you make it out to lawrence east. arz doesn't do it for me as i find the quality of the prepped food much better at nasr. deliciously wonderful lahmajun.

        i might lean more towards west indies than specifically jamaican. love patties from carribean queen more than anywhere else thus far. this would be by bloor/lansdowne.

        not sure what your area is like but id be tempted to also get some yugo/serb food if it's not available where you're from. someone recently posted about bosna cafe which for some reason i've always known as bosha and they're just so tasty. get a cevapi (tender fingers of hand rolled sausage like bits with a smattering of white onion and a chewy fluffy bun, perfect for a beer night) or some burek to take home!

        skip any bbq here, it's really not worth it and last i recall 360 was definitely just a tourist haunt.

        1. re: pinstripeprincess

          The Donair Kebab House plate is certainly delicious (forget the skimpy-ish sandwich), but alas, I believe the pickled turnips are missing from their repertoire.

          Head instead to "Best Shawarma Place - Turkish Cuisine" on 668 Yonge (btw Bloor and Wellesley) for an awesome hefty sandwich, complete with turnips, tabbouleh, and the like.

          As far as Lawrence East goes, when I went to Farhat they were out of the lamb, and the chicken sandwich was merely good. I preferred Ibrahim's across the street with their more extensive menu, superior toppings, and the fat succulently dripping down both the chicken and beef spits. Still, Best Shawarma Place is at least as good. However, there are many other spicy ethnic options (Sri Lankan, Indian, Hakka, Szechuan, etc.) in the area so you may want to head up there anyway.

          Another vote for Jumbo Emps, and Albert's (oxtail, curry goat) for Jamaican. There's a lot of support for Mengrai Thai on Richmond east of Yonge,

          1. re: Chester Eleganté

            Chester, I have come to avoid Farhat as I find their meat to be too dry and too bland (even though they seem to be the only one in the area that I know that serves lamb).

            For me, Ibrahim has set the standard in the area for the last while because of their flavour and the juiciness of their meat (beef and chicken only). I think they use caul fat to keep the beef moist....

            Recently I have become addicted to Shawarma Empire. Their hot sauce is awesome, I haven't tasted anything like it on a shawarma, ever. It's like they use a harissa with curry mixed into it. I am totally addicted. The last couple of times I went, there were lineups out the door and people were ordering 4 and 6 at a time. They have a different spin on a shawarma, but totally worth checking out. They are also one of the few that have remained at 2 for $5.99 while most others have gone to 2 for $6.99 (chicken & beef).

            1. re: Dr Butcher

              Thanks for the tip, I noticed Empire as well as I was driving by. I'm generally rarely in the area, but I'll stop by next time if I happen to be around.

              1. re: Dr Butcher

                Shawarma Empire is the one I go to as well. Consistently good and I stress consistent. You order the same shawarma each time you get the same shawarma each time. Not sure why that's so difficult for others. A very nice couple run the place. They keep the place clean and they stock interesting drinks. I've tried quite a few places up and down Lawrence. Shawarma Empire seems to be the only one to get all the elements right.

              2. re: Chester Eleganté

                sigh... that's true. lack of pickled turnips does bother me sometimes but the sauces are too tasty to give up. i generally find my sandwiches to be quite hefty but will need to check out this best shawarma place... it's certainly not much farther off.

                ha! i don't get it.... farhat used to be dripping with fat succulence for me but my last trip or so it's been a dried out mess. i probably should stop recommending it based on my nostalgic leanings.

                googs, this shawarma empire certainly sounds like a new contender. consistency is just so impossible in toronto.

                1. re: pinstripeprincess

                  Yep, Shawarma Empire is very consistent. Could be that they have a high turnover of their food. It's busy every time I go.

                  Farhat does have excellent sauces, but their meat is just so-so most of the time.

                  Shawarma Empire has it all, a little different flavour profile from a traditional shawarma but very good. Make sure you ask for it spicy. It's not really all that hot, but does give you a slight tingle....

                  1. re: Dr Butcher

                    So I made a detour the other day back into the Lawrence East area and happily ran into two gems. Stop one was the aforementioned Shawarma Empire. I ordered a falafel sandwich and a chicken/beef mix sandwich to get the scope of their offerings.

                    Firstly, the pita used is different from the flat Arab bread common to most of SE's neighbours; rather, it is of the spongier round pocket variety (prevalent in the Palestinian and Israeli interpretations), also reminiscent of the (Moroccan) King Falafel version, albeit larger. I quite like this shape and style, as it gives some nice chew to the noticeably fresh pita (though not overly so), and it performs better in holding its contents. In contrast, the thin wrap is more liable to fall apart, while, say a Me Va Me canoe-shaped pita is just over the top, and often a huge mess to eat.

                    Moving on, the falafels are freshly and expertly made, crispy on the outside and a vibrant green and redolent of spices on the inside. The toppings are standard, but as the good Doctor opines, the hot sauce is something special. Likewise, the chicken is very solid, and the beef is one of the best around. Overall, excellent sandwiches all around, and the smaller size allows you to finish two in one sitting without feeling like you've gorged yourself.

                    Good as the Empire was, the find of the day was the neighbouring sweet delight known as the Patisserie Royale. Embee brought this pastry shop to attention awhile ago, and I must say that the wares are just fantastic, and potentially very addictive. The baklawa comes in four kinds: pistachio, walnut, cashew, and almond, all excellent. Balaurieh with the white lined dough and rosewater, rocks. The various pistachio varietals, each with their unique twistings, providing different spins. I love the maamoul - date, walnut and pistachio, and the similarly composed kabriges madd and its layer of marshmallow.

                    The main thing is that although the pastries are decadently rich and buttery, they are not nearly as sweet as most of their counterparts, a huge plus in my book. Very nice and helpful girl at the counter as well. I've been diligently working away through my stash since then, and I can't wait to go back for more.


                    Shawarma Empire is located on the southeast corner of Lawrence and Pharmacy, while Patisserie Royale is on the southwest corner of Lawrence and Pharmacy.

                    1. re: Dr Butcher

                      Good call on Shawarma Empire... love that place and go there often. I have scoured the GTA for the best chicken shawarma sandwich, using several other threads on the subject from Chowhound and other forums as guides. The following is my own personal list, ordered from best to worst taste (IMO):

                      1. ShawarmaMax
                      2. Aladdin Palace
                      3. Shawarma Empire
                      4. Alex’s Shawarma (Hwy 7 and Kennedy)
                      5. Sababa (falafel!)
                      6. Soffra Grill
                      7. Yonge and Hwy 7 place… in the becker’s plaza
                      8. Armenian Kitchen (Vic park)
                      9. Nasib’s Shwarma
                      10. Gourmet Shawarma Café (Yonge @ Lawrence)
                      11. Sarah’s Shawarma (Bloor and Brunswick, very spicy!)
                      12. Johnny’s Shawarma
                      13. Joe’s Hamburgers
                      14. Bagel Nash
                      15. Mah Fah Mee
                      16. Ali Baba Shawarma
                      17. Hanna’s Shawarma
                      18. Laila’s Shawarma (Bloor and Bathurst)
                      19. Mega Wraps
                      20. Shawarma King (Eaton’s Centre)
                      21. Convenience store at Hwy 7 & Woodbine
                      22. Anoush (just south of the poeye’s plaza)
                      23. Lebanese Gourmet
                      24. Farhat
                      25. Mystery place in Abruzzo Pizza plaza on Yonge
                      26. Yummie’s (yonge and eg, lots of cabbage…)

                      For ShawarmaMax (just north of Yonge and Sheppard, on the east side of Yonge) I offer the following tips:

                      -Try it with some tzatziki and garlic sauce
                      -make sure you say yes to at least a little hot sauce and get LOTS of Tahini (their's is the BEST around... not too lemony like so many are)
                      -The best time to go is when the chicken on the spit is nice and crispy (won't be the case if they are packed with customers)

                      1. re: ShawarmaLover

               list would be..somewhat different. Biggest flip would be Anoush to near the top, especially above the brutal Eaton Centre place.

                        1. re: ShawarmaLover

                          Need to add Milo's Pita to this list.... easily the best in Toronto.

                          Milo's Pita
                          10 Dundas St E, Toronto, ON M5B, CA

                  2. re: pinstripeprincess

                    I've tried the Donair Kebab House a few times now and I have to agree it's a yummy alternative to my usual shawarma haunts. My coworkers started going long before me always referring to it as the Turkish place on yonge...anywhoo finally joined them a few months ago.....the crispy meat is delicious and filling served with the house sauces-creamy white and the excellent hot sauce. A good find I had missing out on for awhile it seems.

                    1. re: deabot

                      glad you enjoyed it! i'm finding the variations in shawarma meat too be way too high and often the better ones are inaccessible to me so this is my next best bet. just because of the house made sauces i'd sometimes say i prefer donair.... but only for the awesome sauces at donair kebab house!

                      since chester mentioned the skimpy sandwiches... i should admit that i ask them to double the meat sometimes for a couple bucks more and then it is a truly huge meal.

                2. I'm going to risk the ire of the Jumbo fanatics, who are slightly more feisty than Chelsea followers, by suggesting El Gordo empanadas, which are across the street. Flavours are more interesting, varied, and they are smaller in size, so they are perfect as a brief interlude while tasting many things.

                  Wahooty is right on Middle Eastern foods. While in that 'hood, take a stop in Nasy Foods, a Middle Eastern supermarket, with many amazing things.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Snarf

                    Is it not Nasr foods, not Nasy? NASR Foods is on Lawrence East, approaching Warden.

                    1. re: smr714

                      Please note time of posting. Spelling is optional after 10 pm. Yes, it's Nasr

                      1. re: Snarf

                        Totally agree with you about spilling after 10 pm. Cheers! :->

                  2. if you're going for cheaper, hole-in-the-wall, Sariwon is not your place as it's a higher end korean resto - having said that, i think you can do a lot better than Yummy BBQ for your money: Yummy's is (ahem) cafeteria style and quality, sorry to say - you're better off at Buk Chang Dong Soon Tofu, or To Dam Gol where portions are huge, quality superior and side dishes plenty.

                    Lawrence East is indeed little Arabia of T.O. and the Nasr supermarket is fine but finer still is Arz....i submit one take on "Jewish Cdn" food (which is subject to a multitude of interpretation): United Baker's Dairy restaurant at bathurst/lawrence...another, Jerusalem on Eglinton west of Bathurst - both are quite affordable and would offer falafel, homey soups, and shawarma

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: berbere

                      Sorry but, Buk Chang Don Soon Tofu has gone downhill... it's almost just as bad as Yummy's. And, To Dam Gol, despite the generous portions, is mediocre at best.

                    2. Yitz's deli at Eglinton and Avenue Road does a good job of Jewish Canadian food.. if you're looking for Matzo ball soup, brisket, chopped liver, bagels, etc...

                      In little India check out Udupi Palace (1460 Gerrard Street East) for spicy South Indian food; they've got some well-made dosa.