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Aug 12, 2009 07:45 PM

SF Hound Visiting TO for first time - hole-in-wall ethnic, big breakfast, good drinks, great coffee


I'll be in Toronto for a week starting tomorrow, and looking for great places that embody Toronto eating. In particular, I'm looking for great hole-in-the-wall ethnic cuisine, good places for big breakfasts, inviting bars/pubs, and great coffeehouses. Oh, and delectable ice cream.

As I'm from the SF Bay Area, I also have an appreciation for locavorishness and seasonal eating. I want to know what Toronto has to offer!

Thanks in advance.

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  1. Nazareth on Bloor. Ethiopean, and delicious. Owned by one woman who serves everyone. Only seats about 18-22 people.

    Give me a sec...I will think of more


    5 Replies
    1. re: Splendid Wine Snob

      Nazareth is still closed for renovations.

      1. re: fickle

        Then Dukem for Ethiopian, and its on the Danforth.


        1. re: Splendid Wine Snob

          Second Dukem. I still miss their kifta (raw) and their veg platter. The smells and tastes were truly a sensory overload of deliciousness.

        2. re: fickle

          Do you know when Nazareth will / has reopened? I've been told to try it out.

          1. re: Paulustrious

            Went by yesterday and Nazareth is open again. They took over the space beside it (Pam's kitchen) so it's twice as big now!

        1. re: Splendid Wine Snob

          Second Il Gelatiere for gelato- but I'd recommend sticking to the chocolate or creamy flavours rather than the fruit flavours. The texture of the fruit flavours isn't quite right, and they tend to be too sweet.

          Soma Chocolatemaker in the Distillery- interesting chocolates (I like the Cherry Bomb and the Mayan Dome), and good gelatos. If you're in the Distillery District, and you have a sweet tooth, I'd recommend the Eccles Cake at the Brick Street Bakery- better than any Eccles Cakes I've had in England;)

          Another sweet I like to introduce visitors to are pasteis de nata- Portuguese custard tarts- we have lots of Portuguese bakeries around town baking these fresh each day.

          For local ingredients/Torontonian menus, I like Globe Bistro and JKWB- both serve brunch on Sundays.

          Coffee will probably be somewhat disappointing- I know my Bay area visitors in July weren't too impressed with any coffee we ordered in TO. That being said, I like the atmosphere at Balzac's in the Distillery, the espresso freddo at Il Gatto Nero. Leslieville (Queen E) has a high concentration of coffeehouses- I like Dark Horse in Leslieville. Manic has a Clover, but I'm rarely in the neighbourhood.

          In July, I brought my Bay area visitors to Chopin on Roncesvalles, since they had never eaten perogies before, so we shared a plate of perogies, pork stew and a wooden plate. Chopin is nicer than a hole-in-a-wall. I'd consider it cheap and cheerful. Cafe Polonez up the street is somewhat more upscale than Chopin.

          I also tend to bring my visitors to the Danforth, to share an order of loukamades, and sometimes some bougatsa or galatoboureko, at Athens Pastries.

          1. re: phoenikia

            Once again, Phoenikia is right on the money!

            1. re: Splendid Wine Snob

              I have to disagree (slightly) on Il Gelatiere - although not Phoenikia's other suggestions.
              Last year Il Gelatiere was definitely the go-to place - but something's not quite right this year. Even the creamy selections have an underlying 'dryness' (more of a mouth feel) that just isn't the same. As an alternative I suggest the Toasted Marshmallow from Greg's (but only that flavour - the rest of the line is average). Also, for FLAVOUR, my favourite right now is DT Bistro (on Harbord) - it's also a take-out as well as dine-in. Their technique isn't the best (sometimes lumpy and textures vary) but amazing flavours. For Chocolate, I now recommend Xococava (again some texture issues but great flavours - and their pints are a bargain).

              1. re: estufarian

                Good to know estu-I was there last earlier in the summer and didn't notice any difference with the chili chocolate...gotta head back now and see for myself.

                1. re: estufarian

                  Thanks for mentioning that something is off with Il Gelatiere this season.

                  I was there last week, and liked the texture of the Marscarpone- didn't notice a dryness, but I'm guessing the Marscarpone would be a higher fat gelato so it might not run into the same dryness/ mouth feel problems their standard flavours are having.

                  Was not a fan of the Chocolate Soia (soy) gelato- don't know what I was thinking when I ordered that one! I do like the Tartufo gelato at Il Gelatiere when they have it- it has a somewhat gritty texture (due to ground nuts) compared to most of their flavours, the flavour is much like a rum ball.

              2. re: phoenikia

                In my opinion, I think the newer Dark Horse on Spadina makes a better product compared to their Leslieville location.

                1. re: phoenikia

                  Dark Horse is my fav location for expresso drinks and they now have a second location on Spadina just north of Queen!

              3. Walk around Kensington market-you will find many threads on it if you do a search. Sounds like it would be up your alley. And its avoided ( for the most part=hopefully forever) the encroaching mass market companies.

                Ok. There are tonnes of other TO hounds that will help with the rest...


                1. I'm going to cover the pub angle for you, since I consider myself a bit of a pubisoeur. My local is The Auld Spot on the Danforth near Chester station. They have a good draft list, decent wine selection, oysters, and the daily food specials are often surprisingly good. Victory cafe at Markham and Bloor for great rotating local draft list and honest grub. The Rhino on Queen St W. has an epic beer selection in an unpretentious, slightly grubby atmosphere. Queen and Beaver on Elm St is an upscale 'gastropub' with a great 2nd floor patio, cask ales, and comfy couches. The Local on Roncesvales for local draft, live music, and a pretty good burger. The Rivoli at Queen and Spadina for people watching on the street side patio and a very decent menu, with pool tables upstairs. Avoid any pubs with 'Firkin' in their names!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: haggisdragon

                    I second the Local, as I would Roncesvalles Ave in general. They have a good IPA on tap, which any Bay Area-ian would appreciate. The Rhino basically has a beer menu, and grubby Parkdale is lively at night

                  2. Great big breakfast at the Senator Diner:

                    I found it to be similarly good to Mama's in SF, but without the crazy lineups.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: currycue

                      Hasn't the Senator recently changed hands?

                      1. re: estufarian

                        Not as far as I know. All I know is that some years back, Rob Sniderman sold the Jazz club and kept the diner.

                        1. re: currycue

                          Just don't get the crab cakes, they're made with fake crab.