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interesting, mid-priced dining downtown?

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I don't know Toronto at all but will be visiting for a conference for several nights at the beginning of September. I'm hoping fellow hounds can help me find several good dinner spots, particularly reasonably near the Metro Convention Center. I'm looking for whatever any serious food nuts think of as really worthwhile eating, in pretty much any cuisine--all varieties of Asian, European, anything distinctively Toronto, etc. I have no animus against elegant places but care far more about exciting food than service, decor, etc. My big constraint is that I'll be dining out with assorted friends from the conference, none of whom is nearly as obsessed with restaurants as I am. That means they probably will be grumpy about going far outside the zone of the Convention Center (a few minutes or miles, but not, more, I suspect), and they'd probably be more so if it were to be to spend an extravagent amoung of money . So mains under $30 is probably a must, $25 even better. Despite what I've just said, though, all do like food and are pretty adventurous in what they'll eat. I don't need save and boring, just reasonably near and not outrageous prices. I've searched the board a bit already, but Toronto's huge, I have no sense of its geography, and it's been a bit bewildering. I happily post to assist hounds in the cities I know and love, and am hoping some of you can do the same for me: tell me what's impressive and exciting! Thanks a ton.
P.S. If there is something in this area that you think might just blow me away but is more expensive, I guess you should let me know--maybe on one night I'll have a willing dining partner.

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  1. ONE MORE THING: I also need to pick a place within a short walk of the convention center for a midweek lunch. The group may be as big as 10 people (we could sit at 2 tables), and it includes grad students, so it needs to be moderately priced. Anything that fits that and also would be enjoyable? (Asian? Anything?)

    1. It's all chain restaurants around the convention centre, none are really that good. Walk a few extra mins and you can get to chinatown.....

      This post covered the same topic as you.

      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/635258

      1. A few ideas in the general vicinity... Nota Bene, Le Select and Tutti Matti are each about a km away from the Convention Centre (about a 10 minute walk). A wee bit farther (maybe a 15 minute walk) is the Beer Bistro. All would be at an appropriate price point for your group (though at Tutti Matti you might have to stick with pasta rather than meat entrees to keep it under $25).

        1. One of the top restaurants in Toronto, Canoe, is an 8 minute walk from the Convention Centre. It's pricey and I recommend it only to address your "P.S.". The view is gorgeous and the food delicious.

          Here's a map:
          http://maps.google.ca/maps?q=metro%20...

          and a link to the restaurant's website:
          http://www.oliverbonacini.com/canoemo...

          Enjoy Toronto!

          1. Agree with torontofoodiegirl's recs of Le Select (French Bistro- Wellington W), and Beerbistro (King, east of Yonge). Le Select has a $19.95 prix fixe steak frites: http://www.leselect.com/menus/steak-f...

            Brassaii (Contemporary/Continental -King W), Crush (gastro pub on King W), Nami (Japanese-Adelaide east of Yonge), Terroni (Italian-Adelaide location-east of Yonge), ), Forte (Contemporary Bistro, Bay and Adelaide) and Biff's (Bistro-Front east of Yonge) are within a 12-15 minute walk of the MTCC (or 5 minute taxi ride), and have at least the majority of their mains in the $25 range.

            They are all worth the walk or short taxi out of the MTCC area IMO.

            1. If you're looking for decent sushi, Takesushi is not far (it's at Yonge and Front, which is a 5 min walk east from the convention centre): http://www.takesushi.ca/

              1 Reply
              1. re: pescatarian

                Agree Takesushi is a good choice for decent sushi. Might want to allow closer to 8-10 minutes for the walk, if you aren't exiting through the north-easternmost exit of the Convention Centre.

              2. Thank you all for your suggestions, and for useful links to other threads. I will definitely check out Takesushi for my group lunch. For dinner, one follow up. From the suggestions here, I am particular drawn to Nota Bene and Tutti Matti. One thing I did not make clear,though, is that we can go by cab for 10 or 12 minutes, so my range is perhaps larger than people thought. I have also had recommendations for Zucca, and have read enthusiastic postings on it. Given the need to choose, what do you think of Nota Bene vs. Tutti Matti vs. Zucca?

                5 Replies
                1. re: professor chow

                  IMO, Nota Bene is going to be a much better experience than Tutti Matti, which generally seems to get recommended because it's a decent option in an area lacking decent options. Nota Bene, on the other hand, is one of the better restaurants in the city.

                  Zucca may be a bit further afield than you group may want to go. From the convention center, it's at least a 15 minute drive (maybe more during traffic).

                  A nice mid-range option is Sidecar, in Little Italy. Good food, good value, excellent cocktails, fun neighbourhood.

                  1. re: TorontoJo

                    Agree that the convention area is one of the worst parts of T.O. to look for good food. You're better off grabbing french fries from one of the vendor trucks on Front St. If you have some time in the early morning or lunch, it might be worth the $10 cab ride to St. Lawrence Market for lunch and to look around (www.stlawrencemarket.com) it is also on Front street, but quite a way east of the centre.

                    Also worth the cab ride:

                    www.theprague.ca
                    Swatow restaurant on Spadina (just north of Dundas
                    )www.legourmand.com

                    and I've heard good things about Ravi Soups on Adelaide, which should be a 10 minute walk or so away.

                    Toronto is very grid like. The lake is the furthest south and most streets either run north-south or east-west. Once you figure that out, the geography is pretty simple. Plus you have one hell of a big landmark in the CN Tower!

                    1. re: TorontoJo

                      Agree, Nota Bene is memorable.

                    2. re: professor chow

                      Nota Bene for sure. Zucca is uptown definitely more than 15min cab ride from the Convention Center. For Asian cuisine, try Mengrai Thai for very good authentic Thai food, Hanoi 3 Seasons for good Vietnamese, and Lai Wah Heen for Chinese (Cantonese).

                      For that "willing dinning partner" one night, try C5 at the ROM or Scaramouche a bit further north for high end fine dining. Canoe is also good as someone already mentioned. None of these are "wow" restaurants per se, but they're a few of the best we have to Toronto today.

                      -----
                      Lai Wah Heen
                      108 Chestnut St, Toronto, ON M5G 1R3, CA

                      C5
                      100 Queens Park, Toronto, ON M5S, CA

                      Scaramouche
                      1 Benvenuto Place, Toronto, ON M4V 2L1, CA

                      Mengrai
                      82 Ontario Street, Toronto, ON M5A 2V3, CA

                      Hanoi 3 Seasons
                      588 Gerrard St E, Toronto, ON M4M1Y3, CA

                      1. re: syoung

                        Scaramouche is truly exquisite and also has a great view. Don't know if their lobster menu is still on but it was superb.

                    3. Thanks again for all who sent tips. I wish I'd had the opportunity to follow up on more of them. I ended up going with a group of grad students to Take Sushi (good place, though a bit expensive for students), and having dinners at Nota Bene and Side Car. We thought Nota Bene was great (fine atmosphere and every dish other than an over-battered soft shell crab appetizer was terrific), and Side Car was a pleasant, appropriate choice for a friend who wanted a place with moderate prices. One night I also went farther afield with a group that didn't mind taking a cab ride out to Cava. Had another fun and excellent dinner there. Before going, I read a fair amount of criticism of Cava on this board. I find it not very justified. and it is true that the prices are not a bargain (especially for drinks), but most of the 15 or so tapas I sampled were really good (particularly liked the cuttlefish, the jamon tortilla with octopus and romesco sauce, and the quail with pork belly) there's a great diversity of choices.