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Dear Toronto: I think I've done my homework & would like your input

Hey Toronto. I've spent a lot of time reading this informative and (sometimes overwhelming) board to try and set up a few choices for five days I'll be spending in your fine city next week. To that end, I've identified quite a few places I'd like to hit up and I thought I'd just post what I've sussed out for comment and also to ask if there's anything near to my hotel that's an absolutely-don't-miss that I've somehow overlooked. Before proceeding, just a couple of notes:

1.) I'm staying at the Sheraton Centre at Queen St W and will not have transportation, so mostly I'm concentrating on stuff down that way. I realize from reading the boards that for certain things (like Chinese + Thai food) there's some better options farther away, but I'll mostly be looking for places that are in a couple mile radius from there. Not scared of a little travel, but I won't be likely to stray way north or anything..

2) Right now I live in between Providence and Boston where the great Asian food choices are fairly sparse, so I'm likely to be more forgiving on stuff like dim sum or pho etc than those of you who are used to a wealth of choices. So if things are solid but maybe not spectacular by Toronto standards, I'm probably going to be perfectly happy. It's really relative...

That said, here's the main places I want to try out. Again, if there's any real "don't miss" spots anywhere near my hotel or any local specialties I haven't found, I'd love to be clued in to that if you so choose.

--Lai Wah Heen and Rol San for dim sum downtown. These look like fair options to me for downtown, and again coming from Boston way I think these are going to look comparatively fine. It's possible we might get to Grand Chinese on the way in from the airport too, which looks pretty promising.

--Buk Chang Dong Soon To Fu and/or Ka Chi for Korean.

--Mengrai Gourmet Thai. This seems close by for my hotel, though there seems to be some division of opinion on it. (Actually, there seems to be division of opinion on lots of Toronto spots, which makes this board both interesting and hard to sort out for an outsider!) Anyone want to go to bat for another option?

--Chinatown: Mother's dumplings--this seems like a good Chinatown dumpling spot, and there was also a pinstripe princess rec. for da lu noodles which seemed worth a shot. Kom Jug Yuen for roast pork. Chinese Traditional Buns for northern Chinese and Xian pork sandwich.

--Carousel Bakery: for the peameal bacon sandwich. Right?

--Poutine: Smoke's Poutinerie? Unsure on this one, seems close and this is something I am totally novice at. Will entertain any emotional picks to the contrary that are in the area...

--Jamaican/roti--Ackee Tree. This looks fine and relatively close, though I saw a little carping about it.

--Kensington Market: seems like I should eat Jumbo Empanadas here? Will likely get here at least once and there seems to be lots of options, but that's one that keeps coming up.

--Omi Japanese on Carlton. Need one Japanese dinner while here. This one looks like it’ll do the trick and is just a couple km. Also, Ematei looks like a good place for me to get a quick izakaya lunch 5 minutes away…

--Vietnamese--Pho Phuong seems very promising, though it's a few km and may be on the outside range of what I'm looking for. Any decent banh xeo anywhere closer? Will probably also try to do the Mon Oc thing at Bun Saigon, that looks like something I've never had and won't get much chance to 'round here. Also would like pho in Chinatown if possible, but it’s hard to disseminate what people think. Pho Hung seems close, but isn’t well championed.

Indian—I love Indian food, though if I missed it here it probably wouldn’t break my heart. Still, it looks like Little India is REALLY close to my hotel which might make it a good stop for a quick lunch while taking a break from conference stuff.

Requests: Breakfast and/or bakeries: here is where I would really like some input. Not sure what is best really close to 100 block of Queen St w. I would also love opinions on any good offal or game suggestions nearby—I swear that I had found a place close that had lots of amazing charcuterie and the like, but damned if I can find it now. I should have bookmarked it. I could handle a meal or two at a higher priced place if they had options along these lines, though mostly I’ll be trying to do my employers a favor and keeping meal costs relatively low for the five days.

Anyway, that’s most of what I have found so far. Thank you all for your many posts and your excellent suggestions. It’s been fun trying to sort things out from this board, though a little exhausting at times! Hope that I’ve done enough background work on my own to garner some further input. What say ye?

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  1. Well done. You get an A+ on your homework!

    I'm wondering if you're thinking of Black Hoof for your missing charcuterie. They don't have a website unfortunately. Not very close to your hotel but still do-able.

    Black Hoof
    928 Dundas St W, Toronto M6J, CA

    1. Well done on your homework! Can't tell you how much I (and likely others) appreciate that. :)

      Most of your choices are pretty spot on. Instead of Mengrai for Thai food, though, I would go to Linda's. It's walking distance, and if you go through the Eaton Centre, you can walk inside for most of the way. Linda's is on Gould (1 street north of Dundas), just east of Yonge. Note that Linda's is really only open for dinner. The space is open at lunch, but they only serve the menu from Salad King, the casual Thai sister restaurant downstairs. Try the curry fish hot pot.

      Little India is not all that close to your hotel, so it's not really a pop out for lunch destination. I don't know that strip very well, so will have to let other hounds comment on it.

      For lunch, you could walk up to Baldwin Street for some good options (maybe a 10 min. walk?). Matahari has pretty decent Malaysian food, and Yung Sing is a tiny Chinese bakery where you can pick up baked Chinese buns stuffed with savoury fillings for about a buck each. A bit closer is Village by the Grange (on McCaul near Grange), which has a food court with a bunch of cheap (and "meh") options -- the one that stands out is Manpuku, where they have takoyaki and some basic Japanese noodles and curries. Another cheap and cheerful lunch option is to walk west on Queen St. and go to Kim Moon Bakery (north side of Queen) for lots of sweet and savoury Chinese pastries. They also have a dim sum menu you can order from, but the ready-made display cases has plenty of options to keep your tummy happy.

      The charcuterie spot you're thinking of is probably Nota Bene. Hugely popular on this board, so if you do a search, you'll get lots of reviews. And yes, it's VERY close to where you are staying -- 180 Queen St. West. The other big charcuterie spot is Black Hoof, but that would require a short cab ride from where you're staying.

      Sorry, I don't have any breakfast options for you within walking distance. I'm sure others will chime in with recs.

      Good luck on your chowhounding while you're here. Please do report back afterwards!

      3 Replies
      1. re: TorontoJo

        thanks to you + Jamie K. Black Hoof was the one I was thinking of.

        I have Little India as being right up Queen St W. (#255) a bit. Is that not right?

        1. re: passing thru

          Little india is about 2 blocks west from your hotel 5min walk.. so I do not know why people are giving you grief... I like it there for their Lunch Buffet...

          1. re: OnDaGo

            Ah, sorry, I thought he meant Little India as in the neighbourhood, rather than the restaurant. Yes, the restaurant LIttle India is very close to the Sheraton. The neighbourhood Little India is not so close.

      2. No website for the Hoof, but Grant, the chef, has a great blog:


        Your list looks pretty great - very well researched.
        You could try Pho Pasteur, in Chinatown, but only for the pho. There are some other things they do well, but none better than their pho. If you're going to Bun Saigon for the Mon Oc, they also have a pretty decent Banh Xeo.
        Ematei is also great for dinner, as well as lunch.
        I would not say Little India is close to the Sheraton Hotel at all. There are a couple of decent indian restaurants close to you, though: Dhaba and Babur. Of those two, I personally think that Dhaba ( http://www.dhaba.ca/ ) is the better one.
        For charcuterie, there are three options: Atelier Thuet, Cava, or the Black Hoof. My choice would be The Black Hoof. I think Grant's doing some really interesting and tasty stuff with animal bits and he's certainly passionate about it, as I'm sure you can tell from his blog. Go early, though, to avoid the hipster crowds. Sit at the bar and enjoy one of Jen's interesting cocktails.
        As for bakeries/breakfast near the Sheraton, I'm not sure. Let me think about it... Well, if you're wandering over to St. Market anyways, have the breakfast sandwich at Carousel. Then you get your peameal bacon and an egg! The Select Bistro is not too far from you, and is open for brunch on the weekend: http://www.leselect.com/

        Ahhh, you're talking about Little India, the restaurant! My mistake, I thought you were talking about our "South Asian Bazaar", aka "Little India". Gerrard Street East, between Greenwood and Coxwell, which is certainly not near your hotel, has numerous Pakistani, Indian, Sri Lankan restaurants, cafés, videos/DVD stores, clothing shops, and electronic goods stores catering to the Pakistani Canadian communities located in this neighbourhood. It is home to one of the largest South Asian marketplaces in North America, second only to the Punjabi Market on Main Street in Vancouver.

        Also, I prefer the dim sum at Bright Pearl over dim sum at Rol San. It's a more quintessential dim sum experience, as well, imho.

        And I would definitely check out Smoke's Poutinerie, particularly if you've had a few to drink. Just get the regular poutine, don't bother with anything fancy. Also, just downstairs from Smoke's is Burrito Boyz, for another ginormous and tasty late night treat.

        4 Replies
        1. re: redearth

          I have enjoyed dim sum at Rol San and the Bright Pearl. Aside from any difference in food (though I must admit I can't say with conviction I find one better overall than the other), the experience is quite different, and so this may affect your decision, passing thru.

          Rol San is less traditional in appearance, plus you order dim sum off a paper menu. Bright Pearl feels more like a traditional Chinese restaurant, and you select dishes from passing carts. In the latter case, however, you can also stop one of the servers and place an order for something if you don't see it coming around on a cart. At Rol San, the dishes tend to arrive at your table hot, whereas at Bright Pearl, that may not be the case, depending on how long it's been on the cart. In most cases, you can avoid cold dishes, because you will see the cart is now mostly empty, or there's a hodgepodge of unsold dishes, and you can just avoid them and wait for another cart. One clear advantage to the carts is that you can see what you're getting before you accept it.

          Also, passing thru, I don't see the appeal of Mother's Dumplings. It's a hole in the wall, where you can buy inexpensive dumplings in a run-down, basement-ish atmosphere. Suits young people who are looking to get the most food for their buck. Definitely not the kind of experience I would suggest is representative of dim sum.

          That said, I must admit I went once a year and a half or so ago, and I haven't been back since (and don't plan on going back). They could have undergone many changes since, so I hope more knowledgable diners will post their thoughts on this choice.

          1. re: Full tummy

            Yeah, I agree on both counts. I recommended Bright Pearl over Rol San simply because of it being a more quintessential dim sum experience, what with the carts in the spacious banquet hall... In my experience their dim sum has been slightly better than Rol San's, but not so much so to recommend it on that basis alone.
            Also, I've never been impressed with Mother's Dumplings. I find them bland and boring, to be honest. You can find much better northern style dumplings at Asian Legend and Chinese Traditional Buns.

            1. re: Full tummy

              im not much of a fan of MD these days, the prices are higher and higher and i smell like the food after i leave. also the dumplings are now average. but the handmade (be sure to get the handmade ones!) Da Lu noodle soup is still excellent. so just stop in for the soup, skip the rest.

              1. re: Full tummy

                Mother's Dumpling is not dim sum. It's northern Chinese dumplings, dim sum is popular in southern China (ie. guangdong, hk). Besides, just because dumplings are cheap doesn't mean they're not destination eats.

                I think there are better dumpling spots uptown, but Mother's Dumpling does make a mean veggie steamed dumpling.

                I would suggest you bypass all these generic dim sum places and stick w/ your research, Lai Wah Heen. You will not find anything remotely close to its quality where you live. It could well be the best dim sum you can get in N. America. LWH is definitely a destination restaurant for Toronto. Especially if you've never been to Southern China and want to taste authentic high end dim sum w/o the pricey airfare.

                Pho Phuong's pho isn't so great, their other dishes are much better. For pho in Chinatown, it's Pho Pasteur, nobody else comes close.

                I highly suggest the trek to Black Hoof, it has given Toronto's culinary scene a breath of fresh air.

                The restaurants closest to you worth frequenting would be Nota Bene and Ematei.

            2. My only additional suggestion would be to try Ivory Thailand for Thai. I've been there probably more than a dozen times in the past year and it is just fantastic. The thing I love about it is that it is always consistent - no worrying about who is in the kitchen that night :)

              If you have time during the day, I would also suggest Gilead Cafe for a quick lunch or some pastries. It's a bit out of the way (Corktown) but worth it each time I've gone. I think they are only open during the day...

              On another note, Smoke's is just ok as far as poutine goes. I know you've probably read all of the threads on it, but the main issue (for me anyway) was the gravy. It is a bit...gelatinous, shall I say. That being said, the pulled pork version wasn't half bad otherwise.

              Enjoy your visit!

              2 Replies
              1. re: sam_1

                I am speaking purely from what I've read on this board, but I'd guess that Caplansky's would be a better bet for poutine than Smoke's, with the added bonus of Montreal-style smoked meat sandwiches. Granted, it's a tad less optimally located compared to Smoke's. It might take a cab ride to get there, or a good map and a day-pass for Toronto's transit system, but it's not an unreasonable hike for you, if you have the time.

                1. re: sam_1

                  Closer alternative to Gilead would be Hank's, which is the same format as Gilead. They remodeled one of the dining rooms at JK Wine Bar's Church St location into a cafe.

                2. i'm not an asian food specialist like these folks, but I will ditto the rec for Matahari Grill, and applaud you for doing your back-work! st. lawrence is worth it for the experience, if not the actual food as well. sample the mustards!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: LemonLauren

                    I'm a huge Asian food enthusiast, and I also concur with the recommendation for Matahari Grill. Mengrai was good when I last lived in Toronto, but I would choose a visit to Matahari over it any day.

                  2. Amazing! You've definitely done your homework and it certainly looks like you've got a great list going.

                    Jumbo Empanadas is a great neighbourhood spot for a casual lunch in Kensington.

                    I second the suggestion upthread about stopping in at Yung Sing bakery on Baldwin. It's just a little bakery, but oh it's good - such soft bread. You could also grab some sesame balls from Kim Moon Bakery in Chinatown if you're around there & looking for a snack.

                    The only removal I might suggest is Mother's Dumplings. I found the filling a bit bland and the wrapper on these really thick and doughy - a real disappointment, especially considering all the good things I have heard about them.

                    Little India (the restaurant on Queen) is a good, solid bet - nothing extraordinary, but it's really can't-go-wrong Indian.

                    Hope you have a great time! Be sure to send along a post-trip report! Love to know what you think.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: thora

                      Agreed.. mother's dumpling isn't really anything special.

                      but not agreed on Little India.. the first time I had it it was phenomenal and it still is everytime I go. I just can't get enough of their butter chicken. I think on another post there might have been a mention that it was a tad sweet, but I think it's just right. My SO who normally doesn't like things that are too sweet really enjoys it as well.

                    2. I live in the area and Little India and Trimurti (right beside Little India) are my go-to places when I need an Indian fix.

                      Ema tei is great for dinner or lunch - although the focus is less on sushi as they have a very limited roll selection. If you go, try the black cod.

                      I would also suggest Japango for excellent quality sushi. I've never been to Omi so I can't compare but Japango is significantly closer to your hotel at Dundas and Elizabeth St. I personally wouldn't consider Omi to be within walking distance (in the winter) but it would be a very short cab ride.

                      I frequent Pho Hung for pho, although I'm sure others have different favorite places. I love the pho and the chicken curry, number 14 or 15.

                      Nota Bene would be a great, close by option for a more upscale dinner.

                      Definitely get to Manpuku in the Grange for udon - I usually do take out for a quick dinner but it would be a good, cheap lunch spot for you.

                      122 Elizabeth St, Toronto, ON M5G1P5, CA

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: foodio

                        There's also Island Foods in the same food court as Manpuku - get the boneless chicken roti!

                          1. re: redearth

                            Island Foods is by far the best roti in town. Don't bother with Ackee Tree.

                        1. wonderful research! while i and others appreciate it, you're really doing yourself a great service by being so thorough. you're getting great detailed info from others to really help direct you to where you should go.

                          just a few more thoughts:

                          dumplings - the prices have gone up and up and up at mother's dumplings and their value premise has been lost. part of their appeal was actually the basement atmosphere (which chinese traditional buns also has but is much much dirtier) and the homey feel... it reminded me of my grandparents kitchen. the only thing worth getting there anymore is the da lu noodles... and then only if they have the handmade noodles. you may have to insist on this because there have been a couple times where they claim they don't have it but when i impress on them that it is the only reason i am eating there... hand made noodles suddenly appear. for downtown (and you know this is the caveat) i would say that asian legend is your best option for items like xiao long bao and the beef onion pancake roll (just make sure they cook it enough! raw dough sucks). the menu though of the downtown location has many more cantonese dishes on it though and so you'll have to wade through it a little more carefully.

                          st lawrence market/carousel bakery - i have not had good experiences with the peameal bacon sandwich and i don't like them either. so my alternate suggestion for st lawrence market would actually be the portuguese chicken shop very close to carousel. the chicken is some of the best i've had in the city (juicy, nicely seasoned) but the bifana is a unique and delicious sandwich that is truly greater than the sum of its parts. get it with everything!

                          jamaican/roti - ackee tree is more of a sit down situation... i haven' tbeen recently so i can't comment on it exactly but i'd be tempted to go to the island foods in the village by the grange that i think is actually closer to you. you're more likely to be able to get doubles here and i think that is a really unique snackish like item that you should really try. the style of the ones at island roti tend to make me think they're more guyanese style but i can't say that for sure. it's just a very laymens opinion here. i tend to prefer what i think is a trini style.

                          japanese - while talking about village by the grange... manpuku is a very interesting option but their broths tend to be weak and so i'd stick to the gyudon and onigiri. the takoyaki is tempting but if you've ever had the real stuff you'll know there is a long way to go on this... it's a bit grainy, not enough octopus and not quite the right batter flavour. i would grab onigiri as either a quick cheap lunch of to carry around for quick snacks. they're cheap and cooked and come with the awesome seaweed wrapper so the nori stays crisp until you're ready to eat. while i like omi, i think it needs to be stressed that his strength in his fusion/korean style dishes and that the omakase is really the way to go. if you don't like spicy (chili sauce, sriracha) then mention it! it's part of his signature flare to some of the dishes and unexpected, i'd say, if its your first time.

                          vietnamese - i can't say enough about pho phuong. i recently had a bahn cuon dish and was really really happy with it. the only things i haven't been as keen on are their hue and their pho, but even then they're quite tasty.

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: pinstripeprincess

                            Onigiri at manpuku is very bland with a miniscule filling. It really is just a grilled ball of rice and the only seasoning is soy sauce. I wouldn't go to manpuku. I really liked the idea of Manpuku.. but when I actually went to try it was sorely disappointed. It was just bland.

                            I would also pick Asian Legend over Mother's Dumpling..

                            Buk Chang Dong Soon Tofu --> if you want soon tofu..
                            Ka Chi --> if you want pork bone soup!

                            1. re: hippotatomus

                              i'm surprised you found them that bland, it's been quite the opposite for me. the rice i've received in an onigiri from manpuku is well mixed with bonito, sesame seeds and soy sauce.. if not one more ingredient as well. the filling is a bit sparse but the rice was definitely not bland.

                              1. re: pinstripeprincess

                                Nooo.. no bonito or sesame seeds for sure... the rice was brown when it arrived so maybe it was already mixed with soy sauce but i just assumed it to be browned. Actually .. if i had to pick i would just pick those ready made rice balls wrapped in the plastic packaging.. at least the filling is yummier in those! But just as an fyi, they only had tuna that day so maybe I was just unlucky.....

                                1. re: hippotatomus

                                  i think we might be talking about two, not entirely, different items.

                                  onigiri as i know it is ready made rice triangles with plastic packaging. they seem to only have the tuna filling (though i really thought one time it was salmon) and the rice is full of bonito, sesame, etc. the rice is not brown.

                                  there is a second dish that they probably have, yakionigiri, ie grilled onigiri which i have never had. they may make this with differently seasoned rice, but i can't say for sure as i have never had this dish from manpuku usually because yakionigiri doesn't appeal to me.

                                  does that clarify? i usually get my onigiri to go and it is sometimes ready made and sometimes made on the spot for me (which leaves it delightfully warm!) but always with the plastic wrap and seasoned rice.

                          2. A couple of more thoughts...

                            If you want really good peameal bacon, I would hop on the Queen streetcar and go east to Bonjour Brioche for breakfast (just past Broadview, at DeGrassi St.). BB gets mixed reviews on the board, mostly for service issues, but I love the food, and the peameal I've have there is better than any other place I've tried (which, to be fair, is not that many places). It's thick cut and juicy, not thin and dried out like I've had in other spots. The daily quiches and tarts are always a good bet at BB, as is the crazy rich baked french toast, which is made from yesterday's croissants and breads, soaked in cream and egg overnight and baked to order. Note -- cash only.

                            If you do go to Jumbo Empanada, save some room and go next door to Emporia Latino and head to the back, where there are a few ladies making tasty Central and South American treats in a tiny kitchen. I don't know if they are still making pupusas, but they are awfully tasty little snacks. Load up on the hot sauce. A combined visit to Jumbo Empanada and Emporia Latino should set you back under $10 total.

                            6 Replies
                            1. re: TorontoJo

                              The roast beef sandwich at Bonjour Brioche is also killer. Also, I think you're gonna wanna head east on the Queen streetcar to get to BB... ;)

                                1. re: redearth

                                  Get the fig tart at bonjour brioche! SOoooo delicious.
                                  I tried the roast beef sandwich and found it a bit dry and the taste just doens't have the wow that the fig tart has.

                                  1. re: hippotatomus

                                    You must of just got a bad one.... I've had their roast beef sandwich countless times and every time it's been fantastic. Always best when fresh, but also dynamite when taken home and warmed in the oven. I take my roast beef sandwiches very seriously, and Bonjour Brioche's is one of the best! Gee whillikers I'm gettin' hungry!

                                    1. re: redearth

                                      Maybe I'll try it agaaaiin.. but that's only if they are out of the fig tart.. But the bread really was very dry.. LIke the kind of dry that scratches up the insides of your mouth. The fig tart on the other hand.. so light, flakey and delightful to eat!

                                      1. re: hippotatomus

                                        The bread that it is on is their ficelle, I believe, or demi-baguette. One of the best in the city, IMO. I hope your next experience is a better one.

                              1. I agree- your selections are good.
                                Definitely wander up to Kensington and Baldwin Street.

                                I'm sure you know this, but you will have the Queen Streetcar at your doorstep and the subway is accessible from your hotel, so you can hit the neighbourhoods that are a bit more interesting and that have good food.

                                Definitely Kensington and Baldwin.
                                For bakeries- head east to Bonjour Brioche, or west to Clafouti.
                                For Dim Sum- Lai Wah Heen absolutely. Also, you can walk down to the Pink Pearl in Queen's Key at Harbourfront- nice to be on the water- especially if the weather is nice.
                                (My second choice would be Dynasty at Avenue Road and Bloor. You can combine that with shopping and/or the museum/a stroll through U of T. It's about a 30 minute walk from your hotel or a 5 minute subway ride (it's about 2.5miles).)

                                I personally find Bright Pearl to be a little, well...disgusting IMHO.

                                for bakeries/breakfast, hop on the streetcar and head east to "Bonjour Brioche" (might be busy on a weekend, though) or west to "Clafouti" and then walk back along Queen.

                                As for cost- the Canadian dollar just closed at under 78 cents, so you'll get a nice discount on all the prices and keep your employer happy.

                                Bon Appetit!

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: meld_la

                                  Just a minor point -- it's 2.5 kilometers to Avenue and Bloor, not miles. A reasonable walk on a nice day.

                                  1. re: TorontoJo

                                    that's true! 1.5 miles not 2.5.
                                    I'm not usually up so late...

                                    1. re: meld_la

                                      Something you missed - st. lawrence market on saturday morning
                                      Breakfast recs in the area - an almond croissant from Le Gourmand (spadina/queen, just south of queen) and cora's for a fruit crepe with custard (neither are mind-blowing, but both are very satisfying).Coras is on bluejays way

                                2. Hey hey
                                  What a lovely list of food spots you've compiled! I feel so lucky to live here, where we have such good food.. multicultural, gourmet, innovative, comfort.. you can find anything and everything here.

                                  My suggestions....

                                  -Dim Sum. Definitely PEARL at Harbourfront. Growing up having dimsum all my life, this one tops the list. Dynasty at Bloor/Avenue is good too. A less pricey and more 'authentic' experience would be Rol San on Spadina.

                                  -Breafast / Bakeries. For breakfast, my favorite spots are 1) Brassaii on King St at Spadina and 2) le petit dejeuner (King St. East, around Jarvis St.) and 3) Bonjour Brioche - already mentioned. Clafouti is hands down one of my favorite bakeries .. get there early to snap up the croissants!

                                  -Pho. If you can trek it out there, try Green Turtle on Ossington. Better than Pho Hung (which is still pretty good), but a bit far.

                                  -Dumplings. A big NO to Mother Dumplings.. instead, try the soup-filled pork dumplings at Asian Legend. (you're right, the places in suburbia are better, but this is the best dumpling I have had downtown)

                                  -Other Asian: my votes also go to Matahari Grill (sort of thai/malay/indian fusion), Japango for sushi.

                                  -Markets: Yes to Peameal at Carosel at St.Lawrence!!! In Kensington, Jumbo Empanadas and Big Fat Burrito are both really good.

                                  -Poutine. If you have a chance, try the Lobster Poutine at Bymark. It is just AMAZING. One of the best things I have ever eaten! (think crispy fries, juicy chunks of lobster, and creamy bernaise sause.. )

                                  Bon Appetit! Have fun here in Toronto!

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: juneplum

                                    Wow, for dim sum in Toronto area, do you have a chance to try Lai Wah Heen, Yang's, Casa Imperial, Empire Court or Grand ?

                                  2. thanks all for the input. I've bumped Mother's dumplings in favor of Asian Legend, moved Rol San down a notch and slotted Matahari Grill and Linda over Mengrai. Will also take Japango and some other suggestions into consideration. Very much appreciate the bakery (esp. the Chinese one) recs and all the help in general. Will report back when I return!

                                    6 Replies
                                    1. re: passing thru

                                      I would bump japango for yuzu. same ownership. same sushi. more space. sushi chef is on this site more often.


                                      1. re: HarryLloyd

                                        he's actually only on this site these days and apparently tends to leave around 9pm in the evening. i'd prefer this location more so because of the sushi bar and that bruce likes to interact. i would still waver on the decision to make sushi a stop in toronto as there are few places really doing it right at all... the grand majority can't seem to do shari correctly and most of the rest are offering subpar fish due mostly to toronto's general lack of understanding of the nuances of sushi and because we're an inland city.

                                        1. re: pinstripeprincess

                                          to be honest, sushi is already fairly low on my list of options for Toronto. For Japanese I'm more interested in the kinds of things I don't at least have some options for around here.

                                          1. re: passing thru

                                            when you've got a bit of extra time i would suggest heading over to sanko on queen west. it's a japanese shop focused on food stuffs with a reasonable variety of items. i don't know what the japanese shopping is like in boston, but there are a few things here that might be fun to pick up and take home with you.

                                            one of the things that i really like there is the sakura mochi. it's pretty much got all the basics right compared to what i was getting in japan during the sakura season and is a bit of a more unusual style of mochi (whole grain glutenous rice flavoured with preserved sakura, filled with adzuki paste and then wrapped in a salted sakura leaf). they also have onigiri which is on the pricer side at $2.50 per if i remember correctly and it has more filling than the manpuku ones but is less interesting overall because the rice is quite plain.

                                            either way, ematei is pretty much what you want and your research pointed you in that direction perfectly!

                                            1. re: passing thru

                                              Not the same thing. But you might get a kick out of Koreatown (Bloor W. between Bathurst and Christie).

                                              BTW, I've heard there's a good Indian place across the park from Christie on Bloor - in an old Coffee Time-y looking place (thing is, I think I saw 2 Indian restaurants in that location - anyone know the good one?)

                                      2. Wow passing_thru -- you really have done your homework. I would totally back up most of your proposed itinerary. Bakeries: Brick Street Bakery in the Distillery District and Stonemill Bakery in the St. Lawrence Market fit your criteria... both I can vouch for. Breakfast... still looking for a great place myself. Do report back -- I hope you enjoy your visit to Toronto!

                                        1. In regards to the poutine, in my humble French Canadian opionion Smokey's isn't the best. You may have noticed on the boards a discussion on the unusual herb flavour of the gravy. If you are in that area, you might try the poutine from Craft Burger. It's on King St just west of Bathurst Ave.
                                          Oddly enough the Swiss Chalet chain also has a decent poutine.

                                          1. Good job on the homework. Too many people post the same "Where should I go" question that's already been asked 1,000 times.

                                            Make sure to leave a solid hour at least for St. Lawrence Market. I love the Carousel peameal sandwich and can't understand the complaints. Definitely sample the mustards at Kozlik's. Perhaps the best mustard maker on the planet. Make sure to check out Scheffler's as well. It's upstairs in the south market. Great selection of meats, cheeses and all things finger foodie.
                                            As has been mentioned on other thread, if you can do a Saturday morning trip, do so.

                                            Also, if you happen to see a Portuguese bakery you need to try one of the Natas. It's a custard tart that will knock your socks off. If you've never had Portuguese it would be well worth your while to try and work it in.

                                            I'm not familiar with the Jamaican spots down town but I go to Island Foods uptown and it's excellent. If you've never had Jamaican, you're in for a real treat.
                                            If Akee and Saltfish is an option, give it a go. It's the national dish.

                                            Hope you enjoy your trip.


                                            6 Replies
                                            1. re: Davwud

                                              Re: the Carousel peameal sandwich...

                                              Despite having spent my whole life in Toronto (30 years and then some) I only recently tried my first peameal sandwich (from Carousel). If you're into a big white bun with nothing but peameal bacon (and maybe some mustard) on it, it's great, but I have to say I was left disappointed. It was just too boring. Next time I'm at St. Lawrence Market, I'd be much more inclined to grab an Italian veal sandwich, dripping with cheese and peppers and onions. Mmm...

                                              1. re: torontofoodiegirl

                                                Don't get the plain peameal bacon sandwich -- get the breakfast on a bun! Peameal + cheddar + a fried egg + country bun = best cholesterol overload available at the Market.

                                                  1. re: torontofoodiegirl

                                                    I've had both and prefer the peameal only.


                                                    1. re: Davwud

                                                      Sure -- I like the plain as well but I guessed from torontofoodiegirl's post that she was not a bacon purist (neither am I!) and would prefer the breakfast on a bun version...

                                                      1. re: Yum2MyTum

                                                        Ditto on that one. Love the melted cheese and oozy egg. Always made fresh to order as well.

                                            2. A few years ago there was a lotta love on this board for the poutine at a blue chip wagon in front of city hall (north side of Queen across from your hotel). I don't know if it's still there as I no longer work in the area, nor can I compare their poutine to Smoke's, but it'd be very convenient and casual way to try poutine.
                                              Oh and stick to the recommended dishes at Asian Legend... I went once with picky eaters and we ended up with slop.
                                              There's a Jamaican place in the north food court of the Eaton centre that is decent, and also a not bad shwarma place in the south food court... these are not destinations either, but if you find yourself hungry at the mall.

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: julesrules

                                                Depends on what time of year and what the weather is like.


                                                1. re: Davwud

                                                  I have seen it during the winter months as there's a nice skating rink right there. Something quick and warm to grab if you're in the area. I have not tried it though. Beware, apparently there are two blue trucks.

                                              2. Fantastic list, passing thru.

                                                Sorry, I am jumping in really late in the game here and everyone seems to have already given you all the fantastic suggestions. I'd also just want to put in my two-cents to help you out. I just have a few minutes, so I’ll try to keep this short and informative.

                                                Boston is like my second home, so I know that the Asian food selection here is quite limited (except for Szechuan Gourmet, which is amazing. So I'd nix any suggestions for Szechuan Chinese food in TO) because I haven't quite found one quite as good. Cantonese fare is where we are strongest. Your research lead you to Lai Wah Heen and Grand. These are both two of my favourite dim sum places in Toronto. LWH is easily twice the price and is inconsistent at times (though many say the same about Grand's consistency - but I haven't had an issue so far and I have gone almost every week for 2 years), but if they are on their game, they're fabulous.

                                                Here are some photos to help you decide what to order:
                                                LWH: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
                                                Grand: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...

                                                LWH has a fabulous milk tart that is the best version I have tasted in TO by far. When it comes out fresh from the oven, the texture is amazing. Grand's egg tart with swallow's nest is a close second. LWH has a fantastic scallop dumpling that is good to try as well. I enjoyed the duckling dumpling there, but did not enjoy their bbq bun (very average). Though cute, the crab dumpling was too chewy because of all the legs and the thick body pouch. Grand favourite dishes can be found on the massive thread: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/557688

                                                I understand you'll be staying downtown, but it may be worth renting a car if you can to get up north to Pacific Mall or Hwy 7. There are a lot of eateries around there that are great and cheap. Let the board know if you need recs for those areas.

                                                If you're in town on a Saturday, then go to St Lawrence Market on that day in the morning. The North Market is open and features a little farmer's market with fresh produce. Nothing compared to the Haymarket in Boston (insane pricing), but there are some samples and nice local cheeses to buy there. A nice place to go for a snack. Then head to Carousel Bakery (which was on your list) and get the breakfast on a bun. I prefer this to the peameal bacon sandwich. It has a fried egg and a melted slice of cheese to make it nice and gooey. Their bagels that they have (Montreal style) on Saturday are also some of the best I have had in the city. 75 cents a piece or so. They're darker and thinner than regular bagels and I prefer them to the Bagel place at the back of the market. A nice breakfast item. Try not to be tempted by Future Bakery. I really dislike anything I have tried. They're right in the middle of the market on the main floor. On the East most entrance on the main floor (facing Front) there is a fruit market that sells fruit cups for about $1.50 each. Nice and cheap way to get some fruits in while on vacation. It's right by the door.

                                                St Lawrence: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
                                                My fave bagel: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...

                                                Further East, you could hit Gilead Cafe. That's a nice place for a sandwich/ casual lunch. Weezie's is also nearby and makes a fantastic Mac & Cheese.

                                                Gilead Cafe: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
                                                Weezie's: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...

                                                Many have suggested Caplansky's and I would also recommend it. Great smoked sandwich if you're into that sort of thing (and great Borscht). I have heard great things of their poutine and would probably go with this choice rather than Smokes. I was underwhelmed when I tried Smokes. Sadly, I enjoyed chains like NY Fries more (I know I will be hated for this comment). The fries were soggy at Smokes and the sauce way too sweet on the pulled pork. Just a warning, but once again, just my opinion.

                                                Smokes: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
                                                Caplansky's: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...

                                                Distillery District is worth checking out for sure. It's fun and the surroundings are beautiful. They have a few bakeries and a chocolate factory (Soma) that are worth checking out. The hot chocolate is tasty at Soma (spicy). Many have also recommended a bakery called Sweet Escapes. I haven't had a chance to try them, but have had their gelato and it's quite good.

                                                Liquid Chocolate; http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
                                                Soma: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...

                                                If you're in the area, go to T&T on Cherry St. It's like Super 88 in Boston, but on a larger scale.

                                                T&T site: http://www.tnt-supermarket.com/big5/i...

                                                Linda’s is great and in your area (and on your list). Right near Eaton Centre and Dundas Square. They have a reasonable prix-fixe, but I loved their fish hot pot, which TorontoJo recommended. It was a real standout dish for me. Their Beef Penang was very good as well (and filling). While you’re there and if you have room afterwards, grab a waffle at Wanda’s Belgian Waffle. Great little snack for under $3.

                                                Wanda’s http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
                                                Linda’s http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
                                                Linda’s #2: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...

                                                Nota Bene would be my rec for high end if you have space in your budget for it. It’s very reasonable with high-quality ingredients. I would think you could get something similar in Boston though for a similar price. I do love their charcuterie platter though and I know you were looking for one.

                                                NB: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...

                                                If you have a car, it might be worth checking out Mt Pleasant/Bayview and Eglinton. They have some great bakeries in the area and some butcher shops. Nice for wandering on a nice day. Stop by Hollywood Gelato if you’re up for something cold. Bakeries in the area include Celestin’s Comptoir (name has changed since), Jules, Rahier (not my favourite), Patisserie de Cignone, et al.

                                                Here are some photosets: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...

                                                In Chinatown, there’s a fruit smoothie place that blends up fresh Jackfruit, Durian, and many other exotic fruits for you for under $3.

                                                Smoothie: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...

                                                I would take a walk up Philosopher’s Walk in U of T if you have a chance and stop by for lunch at Gallery Grill

                                                Gallery Grill: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/594615

                                                If that’s not for you, maybe afternoon tea at C5? It’s a wonderful space during the afternoon. Check hours before going.
                                                C5: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/566251

                                                I believe Korea Town may have been on your list, but it’s just a bit West of C5 on Bloor. (TTC stop Bathurst/Christie) or about a 15 minute walk. They have a bunch of eateries there as well.

                                                Hope this helps you out a bit! Do let us know if you need anything else. That’s all I can think of off the top of my head and I have to go, but will hopefully check back before your trip out to Toronto. Have a safe trip!

                                                Cheers and Happy Eating!

                                                1. Picked a lot of our favorites! Well done!

                                                  I will go to bat for Pho Hung on Spadina. They have a very tasty rare beef pho #2 and vegetable pho #c14 or 15 (i think) and amusingly efficient service (notice how they give you only one napkin!). One word of warning: besides the pho, much of the other items are to be avoided. Though if you are deciding between pho and pork bone soup from ka chi (right around the corner), I would have to say ka chi is more unique, albeit heavier. A pork bone soup might hold you over for a whole day!

                                                  If you are on Spadina & Queen. Perhaps grab an incredible chocolate chip walnut cookie from Le Gourmand. They also offer nice breakfasts, but might be a bit too far of a walk from your hotel.

                                                  Ematei is a personal fav, I would agree that some of best items on the menu are cooked like Tempura Udon, Karubi (grilled beef on skewer - order with salt), Fried Chicken Bone (Mmm and just $1). They have some specials at lunch, but dinner there is more fun and I think tastier.

                                                  Asian Legend is pretty corporate fare... think a less westernized pf changs. if you go, the only thing worth ordering are the soup dumplings, which are pretty tasty. Avoid Mother's Dumplings, it is a dump and the food is sub par.

                                                  For a higher end dinner, head to Nota Bene. It is superb and I think a great value.

                                                  LWH is a great experience and very well prepared. I think Rol San's dim sum is very comparable, but definitely not the same experience decor wise. I would go for Rol San over Bright Pearl any day, think about it: do you want cold cart dim sum or piping fresh?

                                                  Matahari is very nice. Works equally well for dinner or lunch.

                                                  Chinese Traditional Buns has potential but every dish was way too salty the time I went.

                                                  At Jumbo Emp, go for the *beef* empanada or the corn pie if you are very hungry. They also have a delicious salad.

                                                  Caplansky's is a bit of a trek, but quintessential, so if you're in the mood for a meat coma... it is a winner.

                                                  Kozliks Mustard in St. Lawerence Market, their 'double C' is a great take home. And you can nibble on the best peameal bacon right there for free. If you are doing lunch in SLM, I would also strongly rec the Portuguese roast chicken and a custard tart.

                                                  If you are craving Indian, Gandhi Roti is much more unique. It is mostly a take out joint, but you can eat in at a couple tables.