Toronto for non-foodie tourists
I've been asked to compile a list of restaurants for guests who will be coming in for a wedding - some from England, others from the US and middle east. These people aren't necessarily wealthy or food-oriented, but I refuse to send them to crap tourist places. I'd like to get some suggestions for reliable restaurants - maybe one from each general ethnicity and some others. Nothing expensive, please. I'll add a couple of my favourites also, but wondering what you'd recommend. Probably downtown and accessible to public transit would be best.
Nyleve, could you give a price range for what you think the guests would consider expensive?
Most moderately priced restaurants in TO try to keep their mains under $30 these days. Forte, Nota Bene, Starfish, Pastis, Zucca, Globe Bistro and Le Select have menus with main dishes in the $20-$30 range that could appeal to both conservative foodies and non-foodies. While some Torontonians might consider these restaurants to be expensive, they're considerably less expensive than what people in England are used to paying for often mediocre restaurant food. With the current exchange rate, I'd think most English visitors would consider Nota Bene, Starfish or Pastis to be reasonably priced.
For mains that are closer to $15-$23, I'd suggest places like Mezes or Avli/Lambros on the Danforth (Greek food near Chester station) or Tabule (Middle Eastern near Davisville). Avli currently is offering a $25 prix fixe at dinner time, and a $15 prix fixe at lunch time.
If they're interested in North American diner food like Cobb salads, club sandwiches, etc., I like the atmosphere at the Senator on Victoria St, walking distance from the Eaton Centre- more expensive but also more generous servings than most diners- you might be paying $10-$15 for a main at breakfast or lunch. Salad King is also close to the Eaton Centre, and good for quick, cheap and tasty fastfood Thai-better quality than a food court, most mains cost around $7-$10. http://www.saladking.com/menu_sea.html
Places like Zucca, Crush, Tati, Le Paradis have prix fixe specials, which sometimes only are offered certain days of the week.Here's a link to prix fixe specials that was posted a couple months ago, mostly somewhere around the $28-$35 for 3 courses- I'd check with the restaurants to make sure they are still running. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5864...
Yes - Mezes, Avli will go on the list. I'd like to get a good reliable Portuguese (Bairrada? Piri Piri?) and definitely Chinese and Vietnamese (Pho Hung? or what?). For pizza I prefer Libretto, so will add that to the list.
The wedding will be at our house, an hour or so outside Toronto, but some guests will want to spend a few days in Toronto before or after the event. Many of them will be young (25-30 somethings), others will be more mature. The young ones will want cheap and cheerful. The older ones will probably enjoy a bit of an adventure - something they can't get at home.
Ok, then, for Chinese - I need a good rec. Dim sum and regular. Both should probably be fairly respectable - not the kind of hole-in-the-wall I am more familiar with. But also want a hole in the wall. I think I'll put Nota Bene on the list (since it's so highly regarded, but I've never been). What bistro-ish place would be good? Indian? (I know - lots in London, but not so much in California). I'm looking for variety here - sorry to be a bit vague, it's just I feel I'm left with an impossible task and just want to give folks a range of options.
Amaya Bread Bar near Yonge & Lawrence might be a neat option for Indian- not your standard curry house, upscale atmosphere (but prices would be moderate) and they have some sort of prix fixe offered right now.
For Indian downtown, I like Maroli, on Bloor east of Christie station by a couple blocks. They serve Malabari cuisine in addition to standards, so some dishes are somewhat unusual for Toronto. The prices are very economical. It looks like a fast food restaurant inside, but the food is cooked with as much care as a sitdown Indian restaurant.
For a standard Indian restaurant, Babur on Queen W near Osgoode station recently reopened after a facelift. They offer a lunchtime buffet that's quite popular.
Caribbean food might be another cheap and cheerful option. I like the roti and doubles at Caribbean Bistro north of Eglinton station on Yonge. Irie is the city's upscale Caribbean restaurant with a neat patio and a hipster crowd on West Queen West- mains are still under $25, and some of the food is fusion rather than traditional, and the prices are about double what you'd pay at a regular, non hip Caribbean restaurant like the Real Jerk (Queen E and Broadview) or Ali's in Parkdale.
I wasn't impressed with my only dinner at Bairrada (seemed like the food had been under the heat lamps for too long) & haven't tried any other Churrasqueirra lately.
I've been pretty disappointed with economical dim sum in Toronto lately. I was a regular at Rol San for years, but really haven't enjoyed my last couple meals there, although it probably would still be the first place I'd visit in Chinatown (and it's better than anything in Chinatown East at Broadview & Gerrard).
For good dim sum south of Steeles, the choices are basically Pearl Harbourfront (I've never been), Lai Wah Heen or Lai Toh Heen (deluxe, could easily cost $30 plus per person) and Cha Liu (tiny/dainty portions, expensive relative to what you'd get in Markham for $20 per person, but good, with a convenient location at Yonge and Eg, and nice contemporary tea cups and serving dishes). If your guests are willing to travel north of TO, my favourites are Yang's on Bayview near Major Mac and Empire Court in the Hilton on Hwy 7 in Markham. Nice atmosphere, and innovative dim sum that usually runs around $20 per person when I've visited, depending on the number of dishes and which dishes are ordered.
viet - Pho My Duyen (my fav), Que Ling (banh cuon, bun bo hue), Tien Thanh, Pho Phuong (broken rice, not pho), Pho Linh (again banh cuon, bun bo hue), Pho Pasteur (pho only! meat quality is iffy for pho, but great broth).
chinese burbs - Yang's (ds), Casa Imperial (ds), Empire Court (ds), Grand Chinese Cuisine (ds), Graceful Vegetarian (ds), Emperor (ds), Dragon Boat (ds), Dragon Dynasty (ds w/ carts), Northern Dumpling Kitchen, Omega 3, Jim Chai Kee, Big Joy, John's, Big Mouth Kee, Omei, Ambassador (ds), Golden Court (ds), Peaktop, Fantasy Eatery, Maple Yip, 369, Magic Wok, food courts in Chinese malls, the list is endless....
chinese downtown - Xam Yue (seafood), Mother's Dumplings, King's Noodles (wok hey good all around). It's mainly Cantonese food in Chinatown. I've omitted Lai Wah Heen because it's too expensive.
mid range - Batifole, Weezie's, Harbord Room, 93 Harbord, Loire, Nota Bene, Zucca, Beer Bistro, Black Hoof
I know that's a daunting list.......
*ds = places w/ dim sum for lunch, but they also serve reg dishes at dinner.
Thank you very much. I'm going to have to skip the Chinese burbs, sadly, because I suspect that once the relatives return from the wilds of the countryside where I live, to the civilization of Toronto, they won't be travelling north again. My experience with English folks - sorry to generalize - is that they think a 30 minute drive on a highway is a million miles away.
But the downtown list is great. I'll include everything on it.
My suggestion for tourists is always to offer them something they can't find back home, also what Toronto is strongest in. This happens to be ethnic food, especially Chinese and Korean, which happens to be affordable too.
Then again, this all depends on how adventurous their palettes are.
for the young folks, I concur with Amaya Bread Bar and Harbord Room - a great food experience can be had at either spot, neither is too scary or inaacessible, both have a great buzz feel and fun music and clientele, etc.
if they want really cheap and awesome, they should definitely hit Utopia on college, particularly if the weather is patio-worthy!
for a special meal without breaking the bank, 93 Harbord is great, and although we have not enjoyed the service there of late, Corner House has a lovely locale and a prix fixe on now, too - they can check out Casa Loma, our closest thing to a castle like the brits know all too well, and then enjoy a lovely evening there. it is too bad there is not much in the are of Zucca worth tourist attention, but another option would be a nice lunch at JK Gardiner on a downtown museum or UofT outing.