South Floridian visiting Toronto
I live in Miami and am spending July in Toronto and will be staying at Lowther and Huron Streets. I have never been in Toronto before. Will not have a car and will use public transit and taxis to get around. I like all cuisines especially Asian. Am looking for non tourist local places. Love dim sum and pho. Enjoyed the pub grub in London. Any real pubs in Toronto? Also really like Greek and Middle Eastern food. Any great bakeries and non franchise coffee shops? Would prefer walking distance but don't mind a hike for great food.
I am sure this question has been asked many times but any help would be appreciated and will gladly reciprocate with South Florida restaurants.
Well, we can start off with these recent threads from another visitor, there are some helpful comments there. Hope you have a great chowish time in Toronto!
Toronto food tour--the big payback
Dear Toronto: I think I've done my homework & would like your input
Definitely check out Chinatown, which is just due South of you. Just South of College along Spadina (with a boundary of one street West and East) you will find many Chinese delicacies. Just West of there you will find Kensington market, another Ethnic market (just North of Baldwin). Those are all within 30 minutes walking distance of your place. The Dim Sum in Old Chinatown isn't as good as New Chinatown, which is at Hwy 7 or Steeles in Markham/Richmond Hill/Scarborough, but many have said Rol San is passable to pretty good (I myself have never had the pleasure of trying it yet) and it's in the Old Chinatown near you. There is also a few pho places on the Chinatown strip. The standard Pho 88 chains, and a few others if you search the board: Xe Lua, Pho Hung, etc. They're all along Spadina (except for one), but if you wander you should be able to pick one that suits your taste. I believe Pho 88 recently got a makeover, so it may be a bit more approachable than the rest. Xe Lua might still be undergoing renos (last time I visited they were still in the midst of it all).
Head up to Bloor and walk from Yonge going West until you hit Christie Pits. You'll find a bunch of little eating areas between those two points. Make sure you head North when you hit Bay to find Yorkville, a high-end dining area with some bakeries and higher-end grocery stores like Pusateri's and Whole Foods. Continue West to find cheap Sushi and Korean restaurants at Spadina. Continue further West and you hit Korea Town. There you will find lots of Korean eateries and grocery stores.
Take the Subway then to Danforth on the Bloor line and you'll get into Greek Town. You'll find a large stretch of Greek restaurants. Maybe an expert in that cuisine can chime in and give suggestions. Patches35 suggested Kalyvia - I haven't tried many restaurants in the area unfortunately.
Take a subway/bus up to Mt Pleasant or Bayview and South of Eglinton to find all the bakeries you need.
Good luck and have a safe trip!
Another great little strip within easy walking distance for you will be Harbord Street. The Harbord Bakery has some great stuff, and Dessert Trends offers more sweeties. I understand that the newly opened Chabicou has some pastries (and lotsa cheese), but I've not had the chance to visit yet. Also on Harbord are some great bistro-ish spots... 93 Harbord (middle eastern and in a really nice setting!), the Harbord Room, Loire, Tati, Boulevard Cafe... all of which are charming local spots, and many of which will have patio space come July.
Second the recommendation for Pho Hung.
Cafe Bar Mercurio will be very close to you and has great coffee and some good house-made Italian pastries. Also good for light lunches and has a pretty side patio for people-watching. www.barmercurio.com
My choice for Greek is the Parthenon, but I think most of those Greek spots on the Danforth strip are more-or-less the same and tend to be good and satisfying if you're in the mood for Greek but not actually great. Still, fun area of town and definitely worth the trip.
Pubs... I'm not saying it's the greatest spot, but the Madison is going to be right on your doorstep and it's cozy enough if you just need a local watering hole.
JamieK's links are both good, especially the second.
I lived in Coconut Grove and South Miami for six years before coming to Toronto. There are far more foods to enjoy here. Fine dining is probably better in Miami. Avoid South American and Mexican food here. (And probably Portuguese as well.) They are stronger in Miami. In fact I would avoid all places that are totally meat orientated such as Steak houses - unless you suddenly get a hankering. Miami has a total dearth of decent Indian restaurants. Various threads here will point you at suitable ones. Just avoid the AYCE buffets.
The breadth of cuisine of both areas are defined by the immigrant population. There are far more choices here. So you should consider Korean, Ethiopian, Sri Lankan, Cambodian / Malaysian, Indonesian and definitely Chinese. While there are a number of Vietnamese places in Miami, there are far more and better ones here. If your taste buds have been honed on Miami-Dade Pho then you will not be able to put a foot wrong. Strangely, there are far more Caribbean restaurants here of every flavour - except Cuban. You can drill down to Trini, Bejan, Guyanese or whatever. There are a stack of Middle Eastern restaurants of every type. Lebanese, Jewish, Iranian / Persian etc. If you want Greek - go to the Danforth - there must be 50 of them there. (Restaurants that is - not Greeks).
There are also some cultures here that are almost absent in Miami. Things that spring to mind are Tibetan, Somali, Polish. If there are a bunch of you then consider a Russian buffet-meal at somewhere like Moscow Nights.
Public transport, while not great, is far better than Miami. A combination of subway and bus will get you anywhere. Get yourself weekly passes.
Coffee shops are all over the place including non-franchise ones. These are the ones with an eclectic armchair selection. For a franchise type place that doesn't feel like one then Timothy's is the best.
Pubs - somehow they are different here to the UK. Most are pseudo-Irish, but there are a few exceptions such as the Dora Keogh on the Danforth which is real Irish.
Great suggestions. I second what you said. My dad's side of the family are all from/live in Miami-Dade. We're of Jamaican descent and Paulustrious' is right by saying that the West Indian food here - save Cuban - is leagues beyond what you can get in Miami.
West Indian area of the city - Eglinton West. Starting from Allen Expressway going West to Dufferin, you'll find a handful of Jamaican 'spots' peppering this strip. Randy's (best beef patty), and Raps (great late night Jerk Chicken) are all long this strip. Word of warning: night time is a great way to experience this area because all the drums come out and shop owners Jerk right on the sidewalk consuming the street in plumes of smoke. But it is a poorer and traditionally bad part of town so just be smart and safe. Not like you'll get mugged...but just be careful.
Coffee Shops - Depending on where you are there are a handful of great indie coffee shops. Mercury, Manic, Lit, Cherry Bomb, Niche, Dark Horse, to name a few.
If you like Chinese and you want non-touristy, I suggest go to either Kings Noodles or Mothers Dumpling. Kings Noodles is one of Toronto's longest standing Chinese Restaurants. It's pretty much an institution. Mothers Dumpling on the other hand is a hole in the wall haunt where you can gorge yourself on a variety of different dumplings and not have it break the bank. Be prepared for lines though as this place is tiny and is usually always packed.
As someone who has lived in both FL and Toronto I will agree with some of the above. Chinese for example is really poor in basically the entire state, and really is a strong point in Toronto. As far as Greek is concerned the Danforth is one of the better collections of Greek restaurants in North America, a board search will give you a good rundown also, but Mezes is my personal favorite. You will have an excellent time eating if you focus on alot of what was mentioned above.
With that being said though I will have to strongly disagree about Caribbean food in Toronto. Yes there is probably a better collection of Trini and Guyanese options in Toronto, but to say that everything outside of Cuban is better in Toronto is really incorrect. Haitian, Dominican and Puerto Rican are all done very well in South Florida and are lacking in Toronto. Being Jamaican as well myself and growing up with a mother who is well regarded as a Jamaican Chef I think that Jamaican food is also stronger in South Florida, I have always found the options in Toronto to be mediocre at best and Vaughn and Oakwood are really littered with some pretty bad restaurants.
re: Matt H
It's odd, but I was thinking primarily of English speaking Caribbean - so I have to agree with you about Haiti, etc. However we will just have to disagree about Jamaican. My Toronto-Jamaican experience is pretty well limited to the Scarborough area. I cannot argue in terms of authenticity because I've only been to Jamaica about 6 times. But in terms of what I have enjoyed Toronto has been better.
Additionally, South American foods are better represented in SF, especially Columbian etc. However,
Different experiences, different opinions, one of the best things about this board! My main point to the OP is that with the variety that Toronto has there is really no need to focus on Caribbean since that is something that they can easily find in South FL. When they can spend their time eating Chinese, Indian, Middle Eastern, Greek, etc..
The main reasons why I think South FL has better Jamaican food though are firstly the Jamaican population is larger (2nd largest outside of JA-NYC 1st), many of the ingredients used in Jamaica are grown locally in SF, there is a more consistent and affordable trade route between JA-SF, so more access to goods and ingredients used in Jamaican cooking back home and when it comes to Jerk you can cook outside year round in the drum, which is really the only way to get real Jerk. I have always found JA food in Toronto to be slightly lacking in authenticity (ie: how many of the Jerk stands on Eglinton use real pimento wood? I can think of 8 off the top of my head in SF)