HOME > Chowhound > Ontario (inc. Toronto) >


Mid-Range, locally slanted dinner recs?

Hi Hounds,

My husband and I will be headed up for a long weekend in Toronto, and we're looking for mid-range places (mains $20-$35) where we can get a great meal. We've been to TO a few times, and have done the Scaramouche/Perigee/Canoe routes, but this time, we're going on a tighter budget, so we're trying to dial down the dining, go with more neighborhood/low-key spots. We're into eating locally at home, and I know Toronto has a few spots where that's an emphasis (Globe Bistro, Crush), so if you've got other rec's, I'd love to hear them.

About us: we're around 30, rather adventurous eaters, and we love good beer (can't drink wine, so good wine lists are lost on us, but lots of bonus points if there are great taps!). We'll be staying on the water near St. Lawrence Market, but we're big fans of the Metro and not adverse to hiking it a few blocks, despite the cold. And I'm sure we'll end up spending time around Kensington Market, if anyone's got some can't miss quick lunch spots, too.

Thanks, and I promise reviews of anywhere we end up!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. For beer, I reluctantly recommend C'est What. The food is awful but they have an impressive beer selection. They brew their own, but aside from their Coffee Porter, I think their brews are not very good. As well, Beerbistro is in that neck of the woods. I've never been but I'm sure their selections are good. One of my favourites around that neighbourhood (which I love) is Starfish. Great seafood, especially oysters. It ain't cheap tho

    3 Replies
    1. re: air621

      Actually, I think Beerbistro is a really good rec. Not so much with the local side of things, but the beer list is good, all of the dishes incorporate beer (and have suggested pairings), and the price range is right.

      If you want to continue the beer theme, head north to Volo or west to Smokeless Joe's. I'd pick either one over C'est What.

      Beer Bistro
      18 King St. E, Toronto, ON M5C 1C4, CA

      587 Yonge St, Toronto, ON M4Y, CA

      Smokeless Joe
      Toronto, ON, Toronto, ON , CA

      1. re: Wahooty

        Beer Bistro is definitely a great rec. Excellent food (though no particular emphasis on local) and beer, and is in your 'hood. Bear in mind that it gets very busy; I've been a walk-in on a few occasions and been unable to get a table.

        You're also near Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar (Church just south of Front), which fits within your price range and emphasizes local food (not sure about the beer though - always have wine there). You'll notice a lot of posters on this board have found that it's going downhill, but that hasn't been my experience (though I'm not a regular, so I might just have been lucky). You also might want to check out JK's cafe, Gilead Cafe (near King and Parliament), for lunch. I finally went there for the first time last weekend and wasn't as impressed as I expected to be, but other CH'ers generally seem to enjoy it.

        Weezies (King, west of Parliament) is also not too far from you, and it gets rave reviews on this board, though I've never been so can't personally attest to its greatness. Also, not sure about the local food aspect.

        There's a restaurant called Veritas (King just east of Sherbourne) that's near you and that does have an emphasis on local food. I heard from a friend that it's quite good, but have never been myself, so can make no promises! It doesn't really get mentioned much on this board, either positively or negatively, so you'd be one of the first to educate us all...

        Finally, if you're into seafood, you might want to check out Starfish (Adelaide and Church). Great seafood, and some interesting beers (including an oyster beer that's there own microbrew, if memory serves me correctly).

        Have fun!

        1. re: torontofoodiegirl

          Veritas is a project of Brad Long's, of Restaurant Makeover & ACC fame. I haven't been but have seen him display some of the produce he grows himself and uses in the restaurant. Looks interesting to me.....

          I second and third the suggestions for Black Hoof, also Caplansky's (for lunch). IMO, these two are the best things to have happened to Toronto's restaurant scene in 2008.

          The taco ladies at the back of Perola's Supermarket on Augusta in Kensington. They're only open Fri-Sun and close by 6pm, it's literally just a stand at the back of a bodega kind of deal. The conchinita pibil and barbacao consomme are tasty, their 3 salsas packs a great punch. Finish it off with a Mexican Coke (no not the sniff sniff kind) in a glass bottle, match made in heaven.

          I suggest you order a Waupoos cider at Beer Bistro.

    2. The two requests are a challenge to match. The best beer selection is probably at Volo (587 Yonge). I've only eaten there once, so I will withhold judgment, but you will probably find better restaurants.
      You will be walking distance from Esplanade Bier Markt (58 Esplanade), also a great beer spot, but food reviews are mixed.

      If you are particular about finding the best restaurants, they will not match the beer selections of these. Consider splitting the drinking and the eating locations.

      1 Reply
      1. re: maple99

        forgot to mention, Volo does offer (sort of) local cheeses, from Ontario and Quebec mainly

      2. La Palette in Kensington right on the College streetcar. Excellent and extensive beer menu, great atmosphere, fab French food.


        1 Reply
        1. re: Edith S

          This place looks great, and I'd never heard of it. And it's open Sundays! Probably be checking this out...Thanks.

        2. Thanks for the great suggestions!

          We're very accustomed to spliting our beer and food consumption (I wouldn't let a single morsel past my lips at our favorite local beer place), so it looks as though we'll be heading that route in Toronto, as well. We've been to C'est What and JKWB, but Beerbistro sounds like a good find. I'm also very curious about this Oyster Beer torontofoodiegirl mentions...interesting.

          Anyone have any suggestions for places open Sundays for dinner? That's my current challenge since it's a tough time and most seem to be closed. Anyone been to Torito? (I know it's not local food, but that's cool with us...the local thing is more an interest, and it seems like we can easily get that Saturday night).

          Thanks again!

          3 Replies
          1. re: RosemaryHoney

            Two places with very good, fairly local, food and great beer are just a subway ride away. Rebel House, just across from Rosedale Subway station on Yonge, focuses on Ontario beers and does interesting food. Abbot on the Hill, west side of Yonge just south of Woodlawn by the Summerhill station, focuses on imported beers and is somewhat more ambitious for food and decor.

            Both do roast beef dinners on Sundays and serve food fairly late.

            Rebel House
            1068 Yonge St, Toronto, ON M4W2L4, CA

            Abbot on the Hill
            1276 Yonge St, Toronto, ON M4T1W5, CA

            1. re: preppycuisine

              mmm yes, 2nd the Abbott - lovely atmosphere!

            2. re: RosemaryHoney

              Torito is a great spot! Reasonably priced Spanish tapas and they have great sangria (not sure if you still consider that wine!).

            3. A interesting newish place you might consider just for the experience (especially if you like meat) is The Black Hoof, which focuses primarly on charcuterie and has been getting rave reviews (haven't been myself yet). They have a few beers on tap and a few local items. Open on Sunday as well.

              1 Reply
              1. re: JamieK


                Black Hoof
                928 Dundas St W, Toronto M6J, CA

              2. Surprised nobody's mentioned Zucca yet. Local and seasonal are more than just expressions there. They actually do a complete change of menu unlike others I can think of. As for taking the metro, it's just one block south of Eglinton station on the west side of the street. Easily manageable walk no matter what the weather. Numerous pubs nearby. Hopefully someone who knows them better than I can point you to beer nirvana at Yonge & Eglinton.

                2150 Yonge Street, Toronto, ON M4S 2A8, CA

                2 Replies
                1. re: Googs

                  The Bow and Arrow is down the street (closer to Davisville) and has a great selection of Canadian beers on tap. I'd pop in for a drink after dinner though - my experiences with their food haven't been great.

                  1. re: torontofoodiegirl

                    The Bow and Arrow has closed for "renovations".

                2. While I can't promise on the food, the Cloak and Dagger (College, west of Borden, east of Lippincott, right by Kensington Market) has a great draught beer selection (lots of micro and local stuff) and is a funky little place to hang out. And hey, it's right by Kensington Market and close to some very nice places on College in Little Italy and resto row on Harbord street.

                  1. After reading all these recs, I feel like we'll have to extend our stay!

                    I'm wondering if anyone can attest to the food at Volo, Beerbistro, Fat Belgian, or Mill St Brew Pub. My husband has now narrowed the beer-drinking locations down to these few, and it looks like we'll be meeting up with friends for at least heavy appetizers, if not a full dinner, and I'd like to make sure we're getting decent food. I've seen positive reviews of Beerbistro's food...just wondering about the others, which have less info around these boards.


                    11 Replies
                    1. re: RosemaryHoney

                      Beerbistro definitely has the best food of the bunch. I'd probably rate some of Mill St. offerings next, though significantly lower (though the sweet potato fries are tasty!). Volo is definitely not known for it's food, though you'd be safe ordering a nice cheese plate there. I'm not so sure about the Fat Belgian, but I think it's pretty standard pub fare.

                      The atmosphere at these 4 places are all completely different, too, so I don't know if that plays a role in your decision! BB is the most upscale of the bunch.

                      1. re: TorontoJo

                        Based on my experiences, I agree that Beerbistro is the best for food, and Volo is great for cheese and beer but I don't think the menu jives with the beer selection otherwise. I haven't been to the Fat Belgian either, but the Mill St. Brew pub has great beer and really boring food. My first (and thus far, only) visit there did not have me itching to go back - standard chain-brewpub kinds of things. You can also get some of the Mill St. beers at both BB and Volo, although not the full selection.

                        1. re: Wahooty

                          although the Distillery District is a nice place for out-of-towners to visit, so perhaps a beer at Mill St but not a meal.

                      2. re: RosemaryHoney

                        I've been to all four — and Veritas, too (upscale sports bar IMHO) — and wouldn't eat again at any of them. The beer? No problem! I don't get the love for Beerbistro. Great beer selection, glorified and pricey pub grub, but the suits seem to like it.

                        1. re: RosemaryHoney

                          You might also went to consider a hamburger at Allen's. It's ground in house so you can order it medium rare. They have a pretty good selection of beer too.


                          1. re: aser

                            I agree with the Allen's rec. Local food from reputable farms (also wine, which perhaps your guests might like to try) and a great selection of beer. Honestly, I don't love the service here, but the burger is great as are the rest of the local ingredients especially beer (and whiskey!)

                            143 Danforth Ave, Toronto, ON M4K1N2, CA

                          2. re: RosemaryHoney

                            i agree with Edith that the food isn't really all that great at any of these joints. I can't remember any of my meals at these places! I would totally hit up Volo though. AFAIK right now it's the only one with cask ale?

                            I found Fat Belgian and its neighbor Smokeless Joe's to be really really expensive for beer. I've much rather go to Volo. And if you go Volo on a Monday night it's $5 pints! :D

                            1. re: CoffeeAddict416

                              I agree. If the OPs love beer, Volo is the place to go. They have a really good selection of local brews on tap and wide selection of international bottled beers as well as cask beer. Ontario and Quebec cheeses as well. The staff and owners are quite knowledable and love to share what they know.
                              (click on the beer icon in the top left corner for beer menu


                              587 Yonge St, Toronto, ON M4Y, CA

                              1. re: CoffeeAddict416

                                OK, I take that back (partially). The burger and frites are better than most at Beerbistro. They serve the frites in a cone-shaped metal stand lined with a napkin with good mayo and dijon. You can get them by themselves I think for $5 or so. The mussels, however, are hit and miss. Big portion, eat half.

                              2. re: RosemaryHoney

                                One of the nice things at Mill Street is the beer sampler. 4 of their brews in small glasses. My partner and I really enjoyed that aspect. I can't remember what we ate, but it was tasty enough - not a place I'd go out of the way for to get food, but certainly did the trick...

                              3. Isn't this always the problem? Places that have great beer selections are lacking in the food department. Sigh...

                                Would anyone mind summing up the atmosphere at these places for me? I was going to overlook the mention of atmosphere, because it isn't TOO much of a concern for this meeting with friends (very new to GTA), but the idea of loud suits scares me! Ahhh! We'll be going to whatever beer location we choose on Saturday evening around 4:30-5pm, and our main goals are drinking good beers on draught and talking with our friends, whom we haven't seen in over a year.

                                And thanks to everyone for all their helpful info! I'm glad to know we'll have a well-informed trip.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: RosemaryHoney

                                  I find volo to be very cozy and laid back
                                  the service matches the atmosphere and is very very unhurried... almost a bit TOO ladi back but I mean I'm okay with that. It'll be a good place to chill out and not be rushed out the door. It never gets rambunctious in there so you should be okay for chit chat.

                                  C'est What hasn't been mentioned yet I think but that's another place with a decent selection of both beer and whiskey. If you can get the couches by the fireplace it would be ideal for whling the time away with friends and you're right beside the st lawrence mkt too to boot. There's alos a good LCBO close by that stocks a good selection of beer (dead guy and dogfish for example).

                                  1. re: RosemaryHoney

                                    In that case, I'd absolutely go with Volo. BB DOES get loud - it's not the best place for catching up. Volo is where I go when I want to park for a while and talk with friends. I agree that the fireplace at C'est What is also good for this, but if you can't get that spot, or if it starts to fill up, not so much. I vastly prefer Volo in just about every respect; CoffeeAddict has summed up the atmosphere nicely.

                                    Smokeless Joe's is also good for conversation any time I've been there, but less...I don't know...snuggly? It's basically an oyster bar with a very long beer list - the menu is limited, but has a small menu of soups and snacky-type things if you're not into oysters. I can't say I've found it to be much more expensive (if at all) than Volo for the things I typically order, but admittedly, I tend to get excited enough about picking my next choice that I stop paying attention to the prices. :)

                                    1. re: RosemaryHoney

                                      I wouldn't go to Volo since they're looking for a nice meal to go along their beers. I don't think you should worry much about the suits at BB since they're going on a late Saturday afternoon. It may get louder later on but they've got the good food part down.

                                      C'est What's food is decent if you are more selective. The lamburger with yam frites and tzatziki is pretty good, and the shepherd's pie is fine as well. Good choice of local beers on tap: Denison, Black Oak, St. Andre, Waupoos, Neustadt, their own brews, etc. Also located right next to where they're staying, so that's always good with this weather.

                                    2. Hello -

                                      Just wanted to come back and update on my experience. Unfortunately, we both had colds, so we didn't do as much eating as we'd planned, but we did have a couple great meals.

                                      We had a light dinner at Beer Bistro, and really enjoyed it. It was more upscale than I'd imagined - a great atmosphere that luckily wasn't too populated with the suits crowd :) We didn't have reservations, but they were extremely accomodating, and sat us along the bar at the windows, but snagged us a bar table when one opened up later (very nice of them). We'd sort of stuffed ourselves on bread and cheeses from St. Lawrence Market, and were't too hungry, but we had the house salad, which had an amazingly delicious lemon-white beer-truffle oil dressing and some nice touches, like shredded beets and pickled green beans. We also had the Belgian frites and Red Thai mussels, which were also very well prepared. Oh - and for the beer lovers out there - the Denison's Hefe absolutely lived up to the hype! Wow - fantastic beer.

                                      Our other outstanding meal was at La Palette. The place is a little ramshackle in a good way. Everything we ordered was perfectly cooked and really great. We had escargot, the chicken, and the trout. Chicken can be a little boring, but this was very flavorful, moist, and well complimented by the roasted vegetables and red currant jelly reduction. The trout was absolutely devine - really, probably the best I've ever had - and came with an amazing, full-flavored sharp cheddar and roasted tomato bread pudding. And it was 99% local! Awesome. The service was very friendly, but very slow...purposefully slow, I believe. Which was fine with us (we just asked the ever-present staff when we wanted/needed something), but I noticed others getting a little huffy about it. My ONLY complaint (and it's a very minor one) was that the lemon tart crust lacked salt. Seriously, that's my only complaint. Our total cost was $95 after tax and 20% tip, so that was a nice ending to a great meal.

                                      We also had some good eats at Veg*n (is that the name?) at the corner of Augusta and Oxford - who knew vegan muffins (or were they scones...it was hard to tell and the surly staff was not interested in answering any questions) could be so good.

                                      Anyway, thanks to all for the great rec's. I was well-steered to both La Palette and Beer Bistro.