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NYCers Wkd Trip, Must-Eats?

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middyboo Jun 4, 2009 07:52 AM

Hi there!

First off, let me say that every time I've visited Canada, the food has been great. We've been to Montreal & Vancouver - generally the food is very well constructed and has amazingly fresh ingredients. In Montreal, we ate at Au Pied du Cochon and it was one of the best meals of my life. I've heard that we must go to Toronto for a long time. We are finally coming for a long weekend in mid-August. We're staying at the Westin Harbour Castle (1 Harbour Square), but I'm willing to travel 20-30 minutes in any direction for a good meal. I work in publishing in NYC, so I don't have a huge budget. I'm looking for the best I can get at below or around $80/pp (including alcohol & tip).

I'm looking for:
-Unique specialties to Toronto
-Sushi
-Great meal w/live music (I know...this one's always hard to find)
-A relaxed alcoholic brunch
-Excellent cheap lunch spots near Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art (any other museum suggestions?)

Thanks so much, CHers!

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  1. t
    tjr RE: middyboo Jun 4, 2009 08:11 AM

    This sort of thing has been discussed several times recently, here are some links:

    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/625007
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/620822
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/618105
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/619392

    As for specialties, I'd imagine peameal bacon sandwiches at SLM, Caplansky's for smoked meat, etc. There was a long thread about Toronto's signature food item, but it wasn't really too consistent.

    If you're from NYC, there are a lot of things that NYC does better than Toronto. I wouldn't say Toronto is a sushi haven. Zen is probably the best you'll do in Toronto for your price range.

    I guess for food and live music it would depend on what type of music you like. If it's jazz, or rock, or something, the choice of place would be completely different. Perhaps you could clarify here so that we could help you.

    I've enjoyed the brunch at School, but I'm not a brunch fanatic.

    You could do Caplansky's for lunch near the MCCA (it's less than a 2km walk). Other galleries/museums include the AGO and the ROM.

    3 Replies
    1. re: tjr
      l
      LemonLauren RE: tjr Jun 4, 2009 07:26 PM

      AGO > MCCA

      1. re: LemonLauren
        grandgourmand RE: LemonLauren Jun 5, 2009 12:22 PM

        If you're into deli meat (e.g. Katz's) Caplansky's is a good comparison. If you go to AGO (art gallery of Ontario), you can take a nice walk through Chinatown, then Kensington market (eclectic), then College St. (italian) then end up at Caplanksy's. Or, eat somewhere along the way. all your options on this route are pretty cheap.

      2. re: tjr
        t
        towkay RE: tjr Jun 9, 2009 06:34 AM

        check out the different food stalls in the St.Lawrence market.. Go along with the queue for peameal bacon. Or how about lunch in a winery in the Niagara region, about 1 1/2 hour drive from T.O.

      3. Splendid Wine Snob RE: middyboo Jun 4, 2009 08:16 AM

        For a relaxed alcoholic brunch I would do Celestin or Le Select. Both very civilized and pleasant environments with great food. The brunch at Harbord Room has been getting great reviews but I haven't been.

        SWS

        4 Replies
        1. re: Splendid Wine Snob
          l
          LemonLauren RE: Splendid Wine Snob Jun 4, 2009 07:26 PM

          oh yes Harbord Room! and if the patio weather is happening when you are here, lovely!

          1. re: Splendid Wine Snob
            a
            acd123 RE: Splendid Wine Snob Jun 5, 2009 11:53 AM

            If you want a good brunch with a GREAT Caesar in town, go to the Swan on Queen W W.

            1. re: acd123
              Splendid Wine Snob RE: acd123 Jun 5, 2009 11:59 AM

              I tried to go once, was waiting at the door quietly and politely (it was busy), and was treated very rudely by a server who swept by and said "nothing available" and walked away. Ok then, no thanks!

              1. re: Splendid Wine Snob
                a
                acd123 RE: Splendid Wine Snob Jun 5, 2009 12:04 PM

                Try again. I've never had a service problem there. And fresh horseradish in the (extra) spicy Caesar. Yum. And the competent hangtown fry makes it worth the wait.

          2. Notorious P.I.G. RE: middyboo Jun 4, 2009 10:04 AM

            This topic has come up enough on this board and every time I'm stumped as to what a truly unique Toronto food would be that you couldn't find in NYC. I lived in NY for awhile so I have a pretty good idea of what both cities do best and the only thing aside from the usual recommendations of Cantonese and Portuguese that I can honestly say doesn't exist in NYC is this:

            Movie Popcorn.

            No shit. There's not a bad Kernel of corn to be had in this city minus the corn at AMC which is universally bad in both our cities. Now it may not be something to go out of the way for but if you're a movie popcorn freak like me then it may be worth it. Go to the Scotia bank theater and get a bag with real butter.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Notorious P.I.G.
              t
              tjr RE: Notorious P.I.G. Jun 4, 2009 10:09 AM

              You know, I've never thought of this, but it might be true!

              1. re: Notorious P.I.G.
                m
                middyboo RE: Notorious P.I.G. Jun 6, 2009 02:11 PM

                Great suggestion!!! REAL butter, you say?

                I'm amazed.

              2. d
                DLR14 RE: middyboo Jun 4, 2009 10:29 AM

                Definately go to LE SELECT for a nice boozy brunch. THE DRAKE HOTEL also does a decent one on the patio! For upscale sushi I'd try BLOWFISH. If you want a great brunch w/ live music I'd go to the DAKOTA TAVERN - it's really fun.

                1. t
                  TOFoodFan RE: middyboo Jun 5, 2009 10:17 AM

                  Having just returned from a food-filled trip to NYC, I'm again reminded that there's really nothing in Toronto that you can't find just as good or better in NYC. That's not to say that Toronto doesn't have some great places to eat, of course; just be sure you're coming at it with this in mind.

                  Asking about specialties "unique" to Toronto is always going to evoke the same cliched response - peameal bacon sandwiches at St. Lawrence Market. They're good, and pretty much the only thing you'll find here that you'd be hard-pressed to track down elsewhere.

                  One food item I don't know that I've ever found in Manhattan, but is relatively easily found here, is roti. Try the ones at Island Foods, on King St. at Dufferin.

                  For a really good dining experience using "Canadian" ingredients (lobster, game, fish, local produce), go to Globe Bistro on the Danforth. Might test your $80/pp budget a bit, but well worth it.

                  Check out Kensington Market, a cool little artsy neighbourhood of shops, which has also become our unofficial South American dining 'hood. Torito is good for tapas and atmosphere, or go to Jumbo Empanadas for a cheap and cheerful meal of corn pie and, of course, empanadas.

                  Finally, there's Baldwin Street, a short stretch full of patios where you can find food of just about any ethnicity. None of it is blow-your-mind great, but it's one of the few areas of Toronto where you'll find decent sushi, dim sum, French bistro, Italian and a Chinese bakery all within a few feet of each other.

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: TOFoodFan
                    p
                    phoenikia RE: TOFoodFan Jun 5, 2009 10:51 AM

                    It's possible to find roti in Manhattan- there's a midtown food cart selling them, and I remember ordering roti at a little upscale Caribbean restaurant on 23rd in Chelsea about 10 years ago (not sure if it's at still there). I agree that you can probably find anything in Manhattan if you look hard enough;-)

                    My guess is that Lake Erie Yellow Perch and Lake Huron whitefish (often smoked) and pickerel would be difficult to find in Manhattan. Sometimes they end up on the menu at JKWB and Cowbell.

                    I'm not a huge fan of JKWB, but it is very Toronto, and serves dishes that suit many Torontonian palates.

                    Something I have seen in TO, that I haven't seen (or ordered) in NYC is sushi pizza. It's basically 6 inch deep -fried patty of rice, served hot, topped with some raw salmon or tuna, and sometimes some gari, drizzled with mayo or some other sauce, cut into wedges. Not that I'm recommending this dish, which is mostly found in cheap/economical sushi restaurants rather than the places where sushi is taken seriously- but I haven't seen it anywhere else.

                    One thing that Manhattan doesn't have is Lai Wah Heen calibre dim sum. Even our cheap dim sum is better quality than Manhattan cheap dim sum (but if you only have a few meals in TO, I 'd suggest that you splurge on the good stuff rather than the cheap stuff).

                    I second/third the idea of Harbord Room/Globe for mid-range food that is very Toronto in its approach and style. Globe also serves Sunday brunch. Harbord Room serves some tasty & innovative cocktails- I really enjoyed my Kaffir Lime Collins a couple months ago.

                    1. re: phoenikia
                      JamieK RE: phoenikia Jun 5, 2009 11:39 AM

                      Lake Erie Yellow Perch is sometimes (no now) on the Globe Bistro menu too! In fact, the Globes beer-battered version was #52 on Toronto LIfe's 2007 100 Tastes to Try Before you Die list.
                      http://www.globebistro.com/

                      http://www.torontolife.com/features/e...

                      -----
                      Globe
                      124 Danforth Avenue, Toronto, ON M4K1N1, CA

                      1. re: phoenikia
                        m
                        middyboo RE: phoenikia Jun 6, 2009 02:10 PM

                        Thanks very much for the Yellow Perch rec, Phoenikia & JamieK. Will definitely check out Globe's version. YUM!

                      2. re: TOFoodFan
                        k
                        KevinB RE: TOFoodFan Jun 7, 2009 01:23 PM

                        Oh, please. Even my Chinese brother-in-law who lives on Long Island knows the Chinese food in Toronto is much better than New York's.

                        1. re: KevinB
                          Matt H RE: KevinB Jun 7, 2009 08:44 PM

                          I second this. As someone who has lived in both cities NYC Chinese pales in comparison to Toronto and Markham/RH. Whenever someone from NYC asks what they should try on their trip to Toronto I always say Chinese and Portuguese. The rest I agree does not match up to NY.

                        2. re: TOFoodFan
                          Matt H RE: TOFoodFan Jun 7, 2009 08:47 PM

                          A quick trip out to Brooklyn will give you many great Roti shops. Personally I would never send someone from NYC to Toronto to try West Indian food, the variety and quality in Brooklyn cannot be matched in Toronto.

                        3. c
                          currycue RE: middyboo Jun 5, 2009 10:59 AM

                          Also, if you have a choice, the Westin might not be the most convenient area to stay food or anything wise, unless you plan to spend a lot of time at Harbourfront Centre. Try staying somewhere between Bloor and Queen West (of University)

                          1. p
                            phoenikia RE: middyboo Jun 5, 2009 12:58 PM

                            Sopra has good food and live music fairly often.
                            Here's a link to their calendar: http://www.sopra.ca/events.php

                            Is there a particular type of music you'd be interested in?

                            There's also a bluegrass brunch at the Dakota on Ossington- but I'm not sure how good the food is.

                            -----
                            Sopra
                            265 Davenport Rd, Toronto, ON M5R1J9, CA

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: phoenikia
                              pinstripeprincess RE: phoenikia Jun 9, 2009 07:13 AM

                              the food at the dakota is pretty sad... though the experience of the brunch is interesting. i think best had when you go in a larger group because they just bring you a gigantic platter with everything all piled up. at least with many you can pick and choose what you want and someone else will inevitably eat what you don't like.

                              overall i don't feel that sushi is a worthwhile event for tourists. what we have accessible to most tends not to be very high quality. if you are interested in a more korean japanese fusion take i would consider omi but it's certainly not a specialty in our city.

                            2. m
                              middyboo RE: middyboo Jun 6, 2009 02:14 PM

                              Thanks so much for all the suggestions! I promise to report back.

                              To clarify, I like jazz/alt rock/and classical. Though I've seen bluegrass live and it's been a lot of fun.

                              Also, we are locked in at the Westin due to a really awesome rate. We've already booked for August.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: middyboo
                                aser RE: middyboo Jun 8, 2009 12:30 PM

                                It's best to keep meals and live music separate. There are lots of live music bars you should frequent. The Rex and Gate 403 are both bars that feature live jazz every night.

                                If you're in town on the last Friday of the month, I suggest you check out Elizabeth Sheppard at Gate 403.

                                http://www.elizabethshepherd.com/

                                http://www.gate403.com/

                                http://www.tomauger.com/cgi-bin/valzC...

                              2. g
                                gastronom RE: middyboo Jun 8, 2009 12:44 PM

                                I can tell you as a persian, toronto has pretty damn good persian. Try Pomegranate on College, get their special, or fesenjoon. Hard to beat and fairly priced. There are a few other places but they are uptown in the not so pretty neck of the woods

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