Six nights in Toronto
My wife and I will be in town attending a convention. We need to entertain two nights and also need suggestions for two other nights when we are alone.
We are foodies living mow in Las Vegas and prior in Los Angeles, so we want to have experiences that we can only get in Toronto, No chains, no mass produced foods, no revolving touristy places, but great restaurants at fair prices of any variety.
we are staying at the Sheraton near the convention center as a reference point
Your thoughts would be appreciated. We like adventure.
Queen Mother Cafe - Laotion and bistro cuisine. Intimate back patio. Area: Queen West, lots of shopping, young, hip, relatively close to the Eaton Centre
Cafe Polonez - Polish Food. Area: Roncessvalles. European influences. Lots of independent food and clothes shops, coffee shops and pubs. Gate 401 has live jazz every night.
The Drake Hotel: Uber trendy/artsy bar/lounge with upscale food. Area West Queen West. LOTs of independent shops and bars. No chains here!
Pho Hung: Vietnamese (warning no ambience, just good food). Area: China Town. Lots of restaurants, junky shops with cheap nicknacks and some bars. Pho 88 is supposed to be really good too.
La Palette: French Bristro. Area: Kensignton Market. Lots of multi-cultural food shops and restaurants. Vintage clothing mecca.
That's a beginning. Hope it helps. I'm sure they all have websites. I don't know much about the east side of Toronto, maybe someone else can cover that in some detail.
Can't give you much help for the entertaining others, but to entertain yourself:
First hint - buy 10 TTC tokens for $22.50. From where you are, it's easy to get around, and way cheaper than cabs.
Then: take a Queen West streetcar to Ossington. On the way, you'll pass by the "Queen West Area" (University to Bathurst) which is full of great shops and restos - that area is walking distance from your hotel, so save it for a nice night in this summer of rain. When you get to Ossington, walk north. The first block is bleak, but once you reach Argyle St. it picks up. There's a great pho spot, the Golden Turtle and across the street is Venezia, a portugese bakery with good pastries and even better bread. But if you keep heading north, you'll find dozens of new restaurants (it seems like a new one opens every week). It's a very interesting walk, as there are many interior design, etc. shops that make for fun window shopping.
Another night, take the same car, but continue one stop west of Ossington. That drops you right near the Drake Hotel suggested by another poster, and again, this is a strip where new restaurants seem to open weekly. One new spot that has generated a lot of interest here is "Poutini", which makes several versions of Canada's heart attack in a box, poutine (fries and cheese curds, drowned in gravy). It's all they serve, so it's not a place for a meal, but maybe for an appetizer to share as you walk further west.
Another night, visit the Danforth. Take the subway to Bloor, and change to the eastbound trains. If you're strong walkers, get off at Broadview, and continue east. The area from Broadview to Chester is quite eclectic, and also contains Joe Allen's, a perennial fave in "Toronto's Best Burger" races. Once you get past Chester, you enter Greektown, where there are plenty of cheap 'n cheerful souvlaki and saganaki spots like Astoria, Asteria, Friendly Greek, etc. A little more expensive, and certainly more adventurous, spots include Christina's, Ouzeri, and Mezes.
Finally, take the subway north one stop to Dundas, and then take the Dundas car west. You'll go past the Art Gallery of Ontario, which has recently had a major renovation by renowned architect Frank Gehry. (It's worth a visit in its own right, if you have the time). Once you get past the AGO, you're in Toronto's initial Chinatown. (We have about 6 to 8 now, depending on who you talk to). My family loves Kim Moon Bakery, especially their BBQ pork buns. It's an enjoyable stroll, especially walking past the many fruit and veg stands offering things not usually seen in your local Mega-mart. When you get to Spadina, you can go north, where there are many Chinese and Vietnamese spots. The usual advice is if there's a line of Chinese people waiting for tables, it's usually a good bet. New Sky has a lot of friends.
That's four nights where you'll get a chance to sample some of our wide and varied cuisine, get some exercise, and experience our big-city atmosphere, but one where the pace is just a little slower (and more livable, IMHO) than Manhattan or LA. Enjoy!
Some of my suggestions would be:
- Go to Danforth Ave and walk around, have dinner at Pantheon (or any of the other places people mention here - there's actually a recent thread about the best places on the Danforth). It's our Greek area and very unique compared to any I've been to in any other city
- Ossington is a great spot, as someone mentioned here. Pizzeria Libretto is great, as are a bunch of other places - Delux, Black Hoof, etc.
- College St is Little Italy and there are some great spots there. I'd recommend Grace. While probably not anything unique to Toronto, it's a great place for a meal.
- Something that unique to Toronto, while not unique to some other cities, is Colborne Lane. Definitely get a tasting menu. Good place to entertain also, but only if the people you're entertaining are also foodies. If you're entertaining includes spending a lot of money :), then go for the kitchen table, it's a room right in the kitchen with a window out. It comes with a 15 course tasting menu and you'll spend 4 hours there. Great experience and something very different.
- You'll find great ethnic cuisine in Toronto. Try some Indian, for eg. There's a total hole in the wall called Gandhi Cuisine on Queen & Bathurst that has the most incredible roti. Good for a lunch stop for take-out.
Consider Ethiopian food. Lalibela is highly recommended on this board. I'd also recommend Little Tibet for something completely different. It's probably a cab ride for you along Queen St. West, but worth it. If you can make it up north to Highway 7 and Bayview/East Beaver Creek area, there are several good choices for authentic Cantonese. Search the Chinese and Chinese lobster threads. I also recommend either of the Hanoi 3 Seasons locations (Queen St. East or Gerrard St. East) for northern Vietnamese fare. Have something other than Pho. The appetizers, Cha Ca La Vong (bun), ginger chicken on noodles and Cha Muc soup are delish. They also do most dishes veggie if you ask. For higher end dining (ie. entertaining), I'd suggest Chiado for upscale Portuguese tapas and ultra-fresh seafood dishes.
Caplansky's may or may not be open next week. I passed by today, and it still looks like they have a lot of work to do; on the other hand, having watched "Restaurant Makeover" a few times, I'm also amazed at what can get done in a short period of time. Probably best to keep checking the website if our visiting friends are interested.