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May 7, 2009 06:02 AM

First time in Toronto and Ottawa


I'm coming over to Canada for the first time next week from the UK and I was hoping to get some dining recommendations for Toronto and Ottawa. We're on a bit of a budget so i'm looking for more the low to mid price range and we're not at all fussy eaters so anything goes. Also, can you guys recommend anything typically Canadian that we have to try during our visit? We're staying on Guigues Ave in Ottawa and York St in Toronto so anywhere nearby or within reasonable walking distance would be good.
We're also going to Quebec and Montreal and I'll post in the Quebec board about that but if you guys have any tips....

Thanks a lot for your recommendations!

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  1. I suspect you may not be getting a lot of responses because your request is fairly general...

    Can you clarify at all what low to mid range pricing means to you? My experience has been that food in the UK is way more expensive than here, so your mid-range may actually get you into some more upscale restaurants here in Toronto! If you let us know what sort of price range you're looking for we might be able to guide you better.

    One Canadian specialty you should definitely try while here is poutine (french fries with cheese curds and gravy), though you should try that in Quebec over Ontario.

    While in Toronto, I'd suggest going for a walk in the Distillery District (a lovely historic district with lots of galleries, etc.) at snacktime and go to Balzac's for coffee and/or Soma for some yummy homemade chocolate. You might also want to head to St. Lawrence Market (especially on the weekend) for a peameal bacon sandwich (a Toronto specialty) or a big, gloppy (yummy gloppy), veal sandwich -- or, if it's a nice day, to pick up some picnic makings. Both St. Lawrence and the Distillery District will be a bit of a walk from the area you're staying, but it's not too far if it's a nice day.

    Some of the best inexpensive options near where you're staying can probably be found on Queen West (ie. west of University) -- you can find a number of cheap and cheerful sushi joints around there, as well as some Indian lunch buffets that are very reasonable (though, being from the UK, you'd probably not be enthralled by our Indian food).

    You should definitely eat some Chinese food while in Toronto, because we have a lot to offer and do it well. That being said, I'm not a good person to turn to for advice. Check out posts by Charles Yu for advice on Chinese options, or do a general search; there are tonnes of posts.

    Hope you enjoy!

    1. In Ottawa you will be walking distance to the Byward Market which is just a few blocks southeast of Guigues Ave.

      There are a number of good affordable dining options there.

      Might I suggest Black Cat Cafe:

      There is a very good quintessential Canadian restaurant in that area called Domus, but it is a little more pricey:

      Havn't been there in a few years (I live in Toronto, used to go to Ottawa all the time for business) but it has been around for a while and was always good when I went.

      2 Replies
      1. re: JPJ

        Oh, I had a lovely lunch at Domus when I went. Lots of light in there. Here's the photoset from 2006: Sorry, no menu shots - it was before I started to shoot those. I just remember the mushroom puree I had was quite good. And according to my photos, so was the maple salmon!

        --- - food. is. love.

        1. re: JPJ

          The Black Cat is no longer in the market, it is on Preston Street in the south part of little Italy.

        2. the key with travelling is to try things that are unique and representative of the best any given city has to offer. Toronto is a mecca of international flavours, and does some better than others. I did a trip to the UK recently and ate a lot of amazing Indian, middle eastern, seafood and vegetarian in London, so I wouldn't go hunting for that in Toronto.

          For truly budget-friendly eats, your best bets are Utopia on College for burritos, wraps and burgers, MEzzetta on St. Clair West (not near anything touristy) for Middle Eastern, and any numbe rof places in Chinatown that I am not super familiar with if you fancy Asian food. If you like Korean, for example I am sure a few other CHers will have more recs for you.

          Well that gets you started. Let us know if you have any specific questions.

          for a special lunch with a local food focus, for what i consider to be a slightly more than affordable price, I would check out the Jamie Kennedy restaurant at the Gardiner Ceramic Museum. It is very close to the ROM and UofT and the Royal Conservatory of Music should you be stopping by there.

          for an amazing experience in Malaysian cuisine, I would recommend a dinner at Matahari on Baldwin St. It won't break the bank, and there are some amazing ONtario wines on the menu for great prices, to boot. Not everoyne has had great service there, but I liek the ambiance myself.

          For other affordable-ish dinners, you can do no wron gwith th enumber of places that offer prix-fixes on weeknights, such as Sidecar on College or the Corner House on Spadina. Neither of these are near your hotel, but if the weather is nice, College (Little Italy) and the Annex can be fun places to explore, and the COrner House is near Casa Loma which is another common tourist destination.

          A comment form me would not be complete without a rave mention of Harbord Room, which although the dinner price may exceed what some consider reasonable, is by the far the ebst I'll ahve in the city in the last 16 months. Great buzzing vibe, mixed clinetele, and a menu of classics with just enough modernity to make it exciting, and it is so carefully prepared and served. You will need a reservaiton , but you will not be dissapointed.

          39 Baldwin Street, Toronto, ON M5T 1L1, CA

          Corner House
          501 Davenport Avenue, Toronto, ON M3R 4R6, CA

          Jamie Kennedy Gardiner
          111 Queens Park, Toronto, ON M5S, CA

          577 College St., Toronto, ON M6G 1B2, CA

          Harbord Room
          89 Harbord St, Toronto, ON M5S1G4, CA

          1. I would also request that you give an indication of price ranges so we can adequately guide you.

            For Ottawa - I would reccomend Sweetgrass (Aboriginal). It's in the Byward Market area. Perhaps as Canadian as you can get. :-) For an inexpensive lunch, Brown Loaf Bakery on Elgin street near Somerset - take out only.