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Weekend TO visit-recommendations for party of one?

a
annettesan Nov 9, 2009 08:28 AM

I'm looking forward to spending next weekend in Toronto. I'll be staying downtown, although I don't mind taking public transportation to restaurants worth the trip. Any recommendations for brunch and great places where a solitary diner will feel comfortable?

Also, how bad does downtown get during the Santa Claus parade?

  1. v
    Vinnie Vidimangi Nov 9, 2009 08:40 AM

    Do you want :
    (a)ethnic
    (b) good grub
    (c) hipster
    (d) chi-chi yup-yup
    (e) fine dining
    ?

    How high are your standards? Where are you from?

    VVM

    13 Replies
    1. re: Vinnie Vidimangi
      a
      annettesan Nov 9, 2009 10:30 AM

      I'm from Pittsburgh...not to complicate matters, but I'd take any of the above. I assume fine dining is best done in pairs or groups, so maybe not that. As for ethnic, not too into Italian, but Vietnamese, Filipino, other Asian, Mexican and other Hispanic cuisines sound good to me.

      My standards? Um, clean place, half-decent neighborhood, not a chain restaurant -otherwise, I'm easy. (PS If there's a great place that's a bus ride away, and you know of any interesting shops/sights nearby, I'd love to hear.

      1. re: annettesan
        t
        topvoice Nov 9, 2009 10:36 AM

        Near Bloor/Spadina and the Santa Claus parade--Future Bakery for coffee and warming up with a pastry, BMV for some decent book shopping to pass time, warm cider and light meal @ By the Way cafe or the best Indian in that nabe--Mt. Everest--amazing Nepalese and Indian offerings, and spiced to your preference, love that place. All on Bloor between Spadina and Bathurst. If you want to try veg Fresh on Bloor is chic, loud and vegetarian. Pizza to rival your 'burgh zas is only and I repete do not go to Terroni unless you want to see and be seen and drop a wad of cash--is Neopolitan thin on Ossington Pizzeria Libretto. Welcome Iron City visitor! :-)

        -----
        Pizzeria Libretto
        221 Ossington Ave, Toronto, ON M6J, CA

        1. re: topvoice
          a
          annettesan Nov 9, 2009 11:54 AM

          Thanks so much!! I love your city...thinking of checking out Granite Brewery - the menu doesn't look like much, but the beer sounds good. Any good brewpubs?

          Your recommendations sound great, topvoice!

          -----
          Granite Brewery
          245 Eglinton Ave E, Toronto, ON M4P, CA

          1. re: annettesan
            g
            Gary Nov 9, 2009 03:03 PM

            The beer at the Granite is good, I particularly like the Peculiar Ale, though it's a strong flavour. The food there is very plain, however, and the location is a bit out of the way, as it will require both a subway ride north to Eglinton Station and then either a bus ride or longish walk east to Mt. Pleasant.

            In the downtown core there are currently two brewpubs. The Mill St. Brewpub is in the Distillery District (touristy, but worth checking out if you like historic architecture) and there's a French/Quebecoise chain brewpub called The 3 Brewers at Yonge and Dundas (http://www.les3brasseurs.ca). Both have beers that I quite enjoy and passable though not chowhound-quality food.

            Neither are really brewpubs, but you might also like C'est What for a vast selection of all-Canadian microbrews, and the Beer Bistro for more upscale food that is both made and paired with imported beers.

            For general food tips, definitely check out Chinatown (Spadina from about Queen up to College) and Kensington Market (South of College between Spadina and Bathurst) for "ethnic" eats. The Chinatown leans towards Vietnamese these days, and Kensington has a Latin/Carribean vibe, though you can find pretty much anything there. The St. Lawrence Market is right downtown and is definitely worth a visit, especially on a Saturday when the North farmer's market is open, along with the regular South market which is open every day Tue through Sat.

            As for the Santa Claus parade, I personally find it a pain in the butt with many road closures, crowds, kids, and cranky cops directing traffic. I'd aim to explore a part of the city away from the parade route until it ends (it's just a late-morning early-afternoon thing) unless you really want to see Santa.

            Enjoy the city! The core is very walkable, and the TTC subway and streetcars are clean and safe and will probably take you 99% of the other places you need to go.

            -----
            Beer Bistro
            18 King St. E, Toronto, ON M5C 1C4, CA

            Distillery District
            55 Mill St, Toronto, ON M5A, CA

            St. Lawrence Market
            92 Front St E, Toronto, ON M5E, CA

            Mill Street Brew Pub
            55 Mill St, Toronto, ON M5A, CA

            C'est What
            67 Front St E, Toronto, ON M5E1B5, CA

            Granite Brewery
            245 Eglinton Ave E, Toronto, ON M4P, CA

            1. re: annettesan
              Wahooty Nov 9, 2009 03:30 PM

              I'll echo some things Gary already said. Granite has good beer, as does Mill St. If you need to eat at one, I'd go with Granite, but frankly, I'd just stick with the beer at both places and go elsewhere for your meal. If you don't want to go all the way up to Granite (although if you're into baked goods/pastries, that neighborhood is an absolute must), you can get some of their beers at a couple of other places around town - I believe I've run into them at Volo and C'est What. Mill St. is in the Distillery District, a pretty good grazing neighborhood - Soma has lovely chocolates, a spicy Mayan hot chocolate shot, and a bicerin that I might sell my children for if I actually had any. Brick St. Bakery has good sandwiches and excellent eccles cakes for taking with you while you wander. And I always think Bergo Designs is a neat shop to browse through for interestingly designed kitchen stuff (although they have more than just kitchen things). There are other things in there worth a stop...these are just to get you started.

              Forget about Mexican for the weekend...TO really doesn't do it well at all. If you have a serious jones for some Latin food, then take a wander through Kensington Market and snack on some empanadas, tacos, etc. while you shop. This is not an enclosed market - it's a neighborhood that has a healthy mix of Toronto's major ethnic groups in a limited geographic space. There are a couple of South/Central American groceries with people cooking in the back, but there are also plenty of coffee shops, cheese shops, etc. to poke around in. Good Egg has a really well-curated selection of cookbooks, food writing, and fun kitchen items to skim through. (Also lots of vintage shops and oddball import shops in the market, although that's off-topic.)

              And the other big thing I feel every tourist has to do is St. Lawrence Market. Do it on Saturday morning if you can - the North building farmer's market will also be available for your browsing and sampling pleasure.

              -----
              Distillery District
              55 Mill St, Toronto, ON M5A, CA

              St. Lawrence Market
              92 Front St E, Toronto, ON M5E, CA

              C'est What
              67 Front St E, Toronto, ON M5E1B5, CA

              Good Egg
              267 Augusta Ave, Toronto, ON M5T, CA

              1. re: Wahooty
                a
                annettesan Nov 10, 2009 11:04 AM

                These are all great ideas - thanks! I think I definitely want to check out Beer Bistro (and I want to find out what a bicerin is...). Brassaii also sounds good, from what I saw on their site.

                I've been to Kensington Market, Yorkville, and the Annex - all neat neighborhoods, and I'll probably hit them again. But are there any neighborhoods that might be a street car/bus ride away, that might be worth visiting (to eat or browse)?

                I've also been to the Distillery District, but just at night, so I'm thinking a daytime trip may be in order (Mayan hot chocolate!).

                I'm also hoping to find maybe a good live music place (folk or country), where a female alone and over 40 doesn't look too odd. I've looked at a few places - maybe to keep it on topic, are there any clubs with good food?

                In acknowledgment of all this help, I'm going to check out the Pittsburgh board to see if I can add anything. Thanks!

                -----
                Distillery District
                55 Mill St, Toronto, ON M5A, CA

                Brassaii
                461 King St. W, Toronto, ON M5V 1K7, CA

                Beer Bistro
                , Toronto, ON M5G, CA

                1. re: annettesan
                  JamieK Nov 10, 2009 01:03 PM

                  The Dakota Tavern, perhaps. Although I don't know about the food. Someone else will no doubt pipe in. There are other places to dine in that neighbourhood.
                  http://www.thedakotatavern.com/

                  1. re: JamieK
                    pinstripeprincess Nov 12, 2009 06:04 AM

                    the food at the dakota isn't very good... they try to do southern food but miss the mark pretty badly. but the area itself is chock full of options so it might be within easy distance as a place to go afterwards. that being said though, the music is just so-so at the dakota and often ends up being more of a hipster hangout in the evening. not to say that all aren't welcome, but it just depends on what you're in the mood for.

                    they do a fun bluegrass brunch on sundays though. it's more for entertainment value again than for food. otherwise it's pretty mediocre fare piled high in an ayce manner on one platter.

                  2. re: annettesan
                    Wahooty Nov 11, 2009 08:32 AM

                    Have you hit Chinatown yet? I dine and shop solo along Spadina all the time. Vietnamese subs at Nguyen Huong or pho at Pho Pasteur are my usual haunts, but a quick search of the board will give you more options. Some bakeries good for snacking are Kim Moon on Dundas and Yung Sing (actually not in Chinatown proper, but not far away on Baldwin).

                    If you're up for a long streetcar ride, you might want to hop on the 506 College streetcar and take it east. This will take you out of downtown, through another one of our Chinatowns, and eventually into Little India - very neat area to browse with all of the saree shops and vendors selling grilled corn on the street. If I were doing this, I'd probably then make my way down to Queen and ride that car back through the Beaches and Leslieville (there are locations of Ed's Real Scoop in both neighborhoods if you're in the mood for ice cream).

                    Alternatively, you could hop on the subway a couple of stops west of the Annex to get into Koreatown, or take it east to Chester or Pape and check out Greektown.

                    Oh, and a bicerin is a mix of drinking chocolate and espresso with (in Soma's case) whipped cream on top. The mayan hot chocolate is also warm liquid love, but the bicerin is the thing I fantasize about on chilly afternoons.

                    -----
                    Little India
                    255 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M5V1Z4, CA

                    Ed's Real Scoop
                    2224 Queen St E, Toronto, ON M4E1E9, CA

                    Pho Pasteur
                    525 Dundas St W, Toronto, ON M5T1H4, CA

                    1. re: Wahooty
                      g
                      Gary Nov 11, 2009 12:42 PM

                      The Leslieville neighbourhood (basically along Queen St east of the Don Valley Parkway to around past Leslie St.) would probably be a decent streetcar adventure. It's a bit of an "up and coming" area that is in the middle stages of gentrification, so you still have a bit of the older grittiness intermixed with new coffee shops, restaurants, pubs, boutiques and similar businesses. I've seen it described as "Toronto's Brooklyn" which is a bit far-fetched, but gives you an idea of the vibe.

                      Easily accessible by grabbing a streetcar east from the Queen & Yonge subway station. You can do a google or chowhound search for specific foodie spots on the strip, there are many!

                      1. re: Gary
                        p
                        professor plum Nov 11, 2009 06:33 PM

                        If you head to riverside/leslieville I would check out Dark Horse for a coffee. They have a great communal table and about half the people are there solo. I also like Table 17 - it has a great brunch, easy to dine alone, and doesn't have the long lines that Bonjour Brioche often has.

                        -----
                        Table 17
                        782 Queen St. East, Toronto, ON M4M 1H4, CA

                        Bonjour Brioche
                        812 Queen St E, Toronto, ON M4M, CA

                        1. re: professor plum
                          pinstripeprincess Nov 12, 2009 06:05 AM

                          i've found my shots at the dark horse by queenw/spadina to have been better than the ones i had in leslieville. any one notice the difference?

            2. re: annettesan
              p
              pouletsecret Nov 12, 2009 03:47 AM

              Do you like Ethiopian? Have you ever tried? There's a great place called Nazaret west of Ossington on Bloor, or about a dozen fabulous places on Danforth around Greenwood. I've dined solo at most of them, and it's never a problem: Rendez-vous, Blue Nile, Ibex and the eastern location of Lalibela are all great.

              -----
              Lalibela
              869 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M6G, CA

              Blue Nile Restaurant
              1260 Danforth Ave, Toronto, ON M4J1M6, CA

          2. uhockey Nov 10, 2009 01:34 PM

            I did Bonjour Brioche, Aunties and Uncles, School, Colborne Lane, and Bymark solo this past weekend and had a great time at each. Full reviews will come up as I write them, but all were excellent.

            -----
            Bonjour Brioche
            812 Queen St E, Toronto, ON M4M, CA

            Bymark
            66 Wellington St. W, Toronto, ON M5K 1J3, CA

            Colborne Lane
            45 Colborne Street, Toronto, ON M5E 1P8, CA

            Aunties and Uncles
            74 Lippincott St, Toronto, ON M5S2P1, CA

            1. c
              currycue Nov 11, 2009 11:01 AM

              My personal #s 1 & 2 in town for good value for money and great food (places I would actually sit down and have an entire meal there)

              The Prague (www.theprague.ca

              )

              and

              Sukhothai (www.sukhothaifood.com

              )

              You won't have any problems eating solo at either place.

              1 Reply
              1. re: currycue
                pinstripeprincess Nov 12, 2009 06:08 AM

                i adore these two places. the tripe soup at prague is exceptional (they sell it frozen but it's just not the same!) and i often pair it up with an order of pancakes. after that i'll grab a couple csabai sausages or a cream puff for a walking snack. i'll pretty much eat everything at sukhothai but it's in a bit of an odd location with nothing really directly around it that's interesting. just keep that in mind if you do choose to go there. not a bad place to stop if you're crossing out east.

              2. Charles Yu Nov 11, 2009 03:58 PM

                For dinner, nothing beats sitting at the oyster bar at 'Starfish', have some top notch oysters and perfectly executed seafood especially 'cooked fish'. The friendly shucker will keep you company! Have fun!

                1. Thatcher Nov 11, 2009 05:49 PM

                  Beer Bistro is nice to have a drink sitting at the bar, but then it's best to move on. Not recommended to actually eat there.

                  If you like brews, an under-rated but great little place is Smokeless Joe at 125 John St. It is a teeny little underground place that has about 250 beers available. Everything from local craft beer to impossible to find stuff they have have shipped in from the far corners of the earth. Place only seats a few and gets crowded quickly. Food on offer is meager (you go for the beer), but they do have a selection of fresh oysters. Nice thing is it's around the corner from the theatre district, so if you are going to catch a show, it's a nice before or after.

                  On a cold night, go to Allans at Danforth and Broadview. Start with a pint of Guiness or Irish Whiskey at the bar and then ease yourself into dinner. The lamb shank there has always been a winner. You won't be dissapointed. Eating at the bar there is the way to go if you're solo. Again, you can follow this up with a stroll down the Danforth before moving on.

                  I'm also going to sound like a broken record on this, but The House on Parliament is a great neighbourhood place to go for breakfast/brunch. And after that you can walk it off with a quick stroll to the small farm/petting zoo at the park down the street. Another good breakfast option is The Senator. Very reliable.

                  If hitting St Lawrence Market (worthwhile), avoid the peameal bacon sandwiches. No matter what newspaper articles or signs they have saying how great they are, that's all ancient history and those vendors now primarily prey on tourists and the unwary. Head instead to Churassco of St Lawrence, the Portugese roast chicken place just inside the main doors. Fantastic sandwiches and good fries.

                  -----
                  Smokeless Joe
                  Toronto, ON, Toronto, ON , CA

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: Thatcher
                    uhockey Nov 12, 2009 02:27 AM

                    If you want an incredible peameal bacon sandwich - try the pain perdu sandwich at Conviction - peameal loin on an absolutely incredible sandwich with maple syrup.

                    1. re: uhockey
                      a
                      annettesan Nov 12, 2009 12:18 PM

                      OK, it's starting to come together, thanks to these fabulous suggestions. Friday when I get in, dinner at either the 3 Brewers or Beer Bistro - I know the food ratings for each have not been stellar, but the Bistro menu at least sounds pretty good.) I'm thinking the St. Lawrence Market Saturday a.m., then a walk to the Distillery District. (Any lunch suggestions there?) More wandering, hanging out (maybe I'll finally make it to the Bata Shoe Museum, which has intrigued me for years)...I'd like to go to a very good place where you can eat at/in the bar, so maybe Starfish or Brassaii, if they have bar food, Sat. night...unless I hear more suggestions. Some music somewhere afterwards.

                      Sunday, I think I'll do what I can to run from Santa...maybe take that streetcar ride up to Little India and the Beaches. Drake Hotel pastries at some point, not sure about dinner. A last meal Monday for Monday brunch/lunch (House on Parliament maybe?), then back on the road.

                      Other than good places to eat at the bar, I'm pretty set. Thank all you lucky Torontonians soooo much!!

                      -----
                      Little India
                      255 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M5V1Z4, CA

                      Beer Bistro
                      18 King St. E, Toronto, ON M5C 1C4, CA

                      Distillery District
                      55 Mill St, Toronto, ON M5A, CA

                      St. Lawrence Market
                      92 Front St E, Toronto, ON M5E, CA

                      Brassaii
                      461 King St. W, Toronto, ON M5V 1K7, CA

                      Drake Hotel
                      1150 Queen Street West, Toronto, ON M6J 1J3, CA

                      1. re: annettesan
                        TorontoJo Nov 12, 2009 12:34 PM

                        You're definitely better off at Beerbistro for dinner vs. 3 Brewers. As for Saturday lunch, you could easily fill up at the St. Lawrence Market before you ever get to the Distillery. But if you do get hungry at the distillery, grab a savoury pastry or sandwich at the Brick St. Bakery. Think beef pies and the like. Soma is a must for the Mayan hot chocolate shot and pretty much any of their chocolates (my absolute favourite is their fleur de sel caramel). Taste some beers at the Mill St. Brewery's tasting room and maybe order some sweet potato fries to go at their brew pub next door so you can nibble as you wander.

                        -----
                        St. Lawrence Market
                        92 Front St E, Toronto, ON M5E, CA

                        1. re: TorontoJo
                          g
                          Gary Nov 12, 2009 01:12 PM

                          Agreed 3 Brewers is good for a unique beer experience, but the food at Beer Bistro is vastly superior.

                          -----
                          Beer Bistro
                          , Toronto, ON M5G, CA

                        2. re: annettesan
                          s
                          syrahc2 Nov 13, 2009 04:33 AM

                          Has anyone been to the old Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar or new Wine Bar? It was one of my favourite places to dine with Hubby at the bar because it was very active and fun.

                          In the Distillery district that atmosphere is great. You can't go very wrong there.

                          -----
                          Jamie Kennedy
                          9 Church St, Toronto, ON M5E1M2, CA

                    2. jlunar Nov 12, 2009 12:54 PM

                      If you'll be in the distillery district, you may wish to wander up about a km North and hit up Gilead, JK's lunch spot in the middle of no where (it's his prep kitchen). Some nice casual eats there as well. Check hours - they close earlier, as they're not open for dinner or any of that.

                      http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&s...

                      1. a
                        annettesan Nov 17, 2009 01:03 PM

                        I just wanted to get back to all you helpful folks with a quick review of my weekend in your fabulous city:

                        It goes without saying that the weather could not have been better. What luck! I did so much walking I now have a blister on my foot. But it was worth it.

                        I walked from the Marriott Eaton Centre (very nice!) to Beer Bistro Friday night. Very crowded and loud - finally took a seat at a table in the bar, then minutes later a guy asked if he and his girlfriend could share my table. Fortunately, they were nice people.

                        I had the "fancy shmancy" mussels (in a rather bland sauce, but with lobster meat added). The mussels were very large and well-cooked, but as noted, the sauce was eh. Friendly service and an impressive array of beers, all nicely explained in an accompanying brochure.

                        Saturday, I walked to the St. Lawrence Market (no food bought there except a nondesript spinach croissant) - and from there to the Distillery District, where I spent hours wandering through the galleries and stores, and visiting Soma not once but twice...the fist time I had the Mayan hot chocolate, which was awesome. I wasn't sure they could do the bicherin for me, because I only do decaf espresso. But the second time I asked, and they did it...and it was by far the favorite thing I ate or drank that weekend. Absolutely heavenly...I now hate Starbucks (even more than I already did). Had lunch at Mill St. Brewery - not bad really, mussels again - a better sauce than the bistro, with generous slices of chorizo, but the mussels were smaller. Really, really liked the Coffee Porter and Organic Lager.

                        That night, I just kind of wandered and noshed, with mixed success...looked into Grossman's, a bar on Spadina, a real dive (I say that approvingly)...but the music wasn't going to start for an hour and I didn't have the nerve to stay. I then walked over to Smokeless Joe's, which I really liked - very small, but great atmosphere, and again, very good beer selection. More of an emphasis on microbrews, which actually interest me more than imports. Their menu was very limited and a bit eccentric - three kinds of bruschetta, as I recall, and not a whole lot more. But they did have, of all things, an African peanut soup, and it was very good. That soup and a Black Katt porter - good combo!

                        From there, I walked to PJ O'Brien's Pub (too crowded, music was just OK) and then to C'est What. Nice enough place, didn't care for the music much...but I got a beer (a hemp one, forget what it was - I've had hemp beers before, which I liked, but this one was yucky), and a small portion of mediocre spring rolls. Nice service, but otherwise blah.
                        Got some Vietnamese won ton soup to take home at a place on Yonge near Queen - forget the name, but it wasn't so great.

                        Sunday (after squeezing through the Santa Claus crowd - yikes!), I took the streetcar out to the King West neighborhood and had brunch at the Drake...was going to do School, but I got too hungry, I guess. Had my first bloody Caesar - I was disappointed I couldn't taste the clam flavor much. I just had irish sausage (very good) and cheddar biscuits with maple butter (delish). The place is a little pricey...walking back down King, I ran into the Dog's Bullocks (nice name) to watch the end of the Steeler game (boo!), then took the streetcar out to the Beaches...by then it was getting dark, so I didn't see much of the lake, but the boardwalk, etc., looked lovely.

                        I kind of gave up Sunday night and went to the Beer Bistro again - this time, the mussels, in a chili and smoked sausage broth, were a little more interesting.

                        And Monday, I got up, checked out, walked over to Soma, got guess what again (and some chocolate for the road), and headed home. All in all, a delightful weekend (beer, mussels, and chocolate - what more do you need?), and thank you again for all of the suggestions!

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