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Jan 22, 2010 06:58 PM

Jewish Style Restaurants in TO

Im doing a project at school on Jewish cuisine, and need to do a comparison between the traditional dishes and some ways they have been "updated" in Toronto. Does anyone have any suggestions of restaurants that have taken a traditional Jewish recipe and updated it to suit both the Jewish, and non-Jewish diner? Thanks in advance!

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  1. 398 West would be a good place to start. It's very strictly kosher, but aims to be a high-end dining destination, some I imagine there is some serious fusion going on. And I say "Imagine" because I've never eaten there myself.

    27 Replies
    1. re: childofthestorm

      You might check out Mashu Mashu in the lower village area of Forest Hill (Spadina and Lonsdale). Pancer's and the Centre Street Deli for deli, Caplansky's, for his adaptation of Jewish faves for the masses, and Mitzi's Sister for brunch.

      1. re: 1sweetpea

        Free Times Cafe Sunday Brunch and United Bakery are two places that immediately come to mind.

        1. re: millygirl

          +1 on Free Times. great vegetarian kosher.

          also depends what you consider to be Jewish food. In Canada, most jews have eastern european ancestry, so the food will reflect that. bagels, lux, latkes, the pickled meats and salami, etc etc. but Jewish food can also be Israeli food, like falafel, hummus, burakes, shwarma, shishlik (shishkabob), etc.
          head to the 6000 block of Bathurst and Finch. Tov Li is a very good dairy restaurant with shakshuka (my beloved Israeli spanish omlette) and falafel. beside it is a butcher shop that has a lot of kosher foods and meat that represent all geographical reaches of Judaism - you have the south african Burvais (their sausage), romanian Karnatz, kreplach (Jewish dumplings), etc etc. Its worth the visit.
          Bathurst south of Lawrence, on the west side you have a great falafel restaurant with good pizza. probably the best falafel in the city.

          all of these foods are friendly for Jews and those who aren't Jewish - the only bit of education needed is to explain why meat and milk aren't served at the same restaurant.

          1. re: atomeyes

            Perfect this helps everyone. I guess the point of this assignment, in the context of Judaism specifically, is to highlight how "Jewish food" can mean so many different things to different people. There are so many permutations on the basic laws.. I'm basically interested looking at how Canadians (specifically Torontonians) have adopted the tradition in restaurants. Thanks everyone, I'll check these places out.

            1. re: hungryabbey

              then my suggestions?

              Caplansky's - kosher-style (i.e. no pork or bacon) but the meat is not kosher.
              Free Times - vegetarian polish style (its choose it over United Bakery, which is not such a great resto, IMO)
              on Eglinton W, there is a kosher moroccan restaurant that you may want to check out. its near Jerusalem Restaurant.
              and there's a high-end kosher restaurant on Eg West just east of the Allen on the south side. a very nice restaurant. begins with an M. the name escapes me. its a great example of high-end kosher food that meets dietary restrictions (i.e. makes desserts without using milk, is closed on Shabbat, etc).
              Bathurst and Lawrence area for their falafel and Hamiyshe bakery.

              to me, that covers all of your bases.
              good luck

                1. re: atomeyes

                  atomeyes, I dare you to go to United Bakery on a Saturday between the hours of 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. and repeat 'it's not that great of a restaurant'. I dare you!

                  1. re: millygirl

                    I happen to love United Bakers. So personally, I wouldn't dare.

                    1. re: magic

                      Yeah, the pea soup is crazy good. I would love to know how they make it; they swear there is no dairy in it.

                      1. re: acd123

                        I know eh.

                        Their latkes are insane too.

                        1. re: magic

                          Hubby is addicted to their version of fish and chips.

                          1. re: millygirl

                            As am I.

                            I also love their french toast. Simple but so good.

                            Spoiled for choice there. I also appreciate that the coffee is always fresh and tasty. Great with the pea soup, bagels, and lox (and the latkes of course!).

                            1. re: magic

                              Hmmm, maybe United Bakery deserves a thread of their own :)

                                1. re: millygirl

                                  I agree, United is awesome! Latkes killer.

                          2. re: acd123

                            my son does not eat milk and meat together , so i called United bakeries to ask them and they told me that the do use a lot of butter in the pea soup !

                            1. re: itzi

                              United Bakers serves dairy products, eggs, and fish, but nothing they serve contains meat in any form.

                              1. re: itzi

                                I knew it! They told me there is no dairy in the pea soup. Maybe I asked a server who didn't know but gave an answer anyway.

                        2. re: atomeyes

                          Excellent. This is all great information. Thank you!

                        3. re: hungryabbey

                          One of the difficulties inherent in your assignment is the "comparison between the traditional dishes and some ways they have been "updated" in Toronto" criterion.

                          There are some interesting cultural phenomena at work, because "Jewish food" has typically meant meant the foods of various "old countries" adapted to the Jewish dietary laws. There has never really been an overtly "Jewish cuisine". Claudia Roden and Joan Nathan have both written extensively, and well, on this topic.

                          In places such as New York, "updated Jewish food" is not recognizably Jewish. It means the likes of Italian, Mexican, Chinese, Seafood, Indian, and (especially) sushi restaurants that are certified as kosher. They serve food to observant Jews who DO NOT WANT what most people consider to be "Jewish food".

                          I can think of two places on Eglinton that fit this profile: Marron Bistro Moderne (meat) and Bistro Grande (non-meat). These are kosher restaurants that serve food not typically considered Jewish. I haven't eaten at either one, but they certainly fit in with your assignment.

                          Both Caplansky's and Free Times represent Jewish food "revivals" in two different styles: deli and dairy. Updated? No way, no how.

                          Caplansky's serves the traditional (meat) deli food of the Eastern European diaspora. It's "kosher style", though not remotely kosher, but unequivocally and proudly Jewish.

                          Free Times serves two different types of "Jewish food", neither of which is kosher. Their Sunday brunch is a Jewish dairy (I call it "dairy-deli") food revival, combining Eastern European elements with elements that really developed in New York. Some things from this menu (e.g., blintzes) are on their regular menu as well.

                          Free Times also sells Israeli food. This food must be considered "Jewish" by definition. However, it more closely resembles food eaten throughout the Middle East than the "Jewish food" widely eaten in North America until recently.

                          Here's another quirk: all falafel is similar in concept, but there is something that makes a falafel quintessentially Israeli (doesn't this also mean "Jewish"?) Go to Me Va Me on Steeles. Their falafel balls are not the best - I much prefer those at Sababa or the Armenian Kitchen - but get one with "everything" on it. It's the "not falafel" on the sandwich that makes this falafel "Jewish".

                          1. re: embee

                            Great information!! Very helpful. I agree,I see the difficulty in this for Judaism. I think this aspect of the assignment is best suited to cultures like Chinese, who's traditional cuisine can easily be compared with the Canadian version.

                            1. re: hungryabbey

                              For Judeo-Sino fusion cooking go to Sea-Hi Tavern, Bathurst south of Wilson.

                              1. re: Vinnie Vidimangi

                                I can't beleive Sea-Hi is still there. The place always looked (and still looks) so dodgy. I remember going there for egg rolls with my friends after school at Associated on Neptune Dr. I wasn't kosher then either :-)

                                Is it true that pork and lobster are kosher if they are eaten ONLY on Sunday nights at Chinese restaurants?? Isn't that in the Mishna?

                                1. re: acd123

                                  Close but no cigar. Only during Chol Hamoed Pesach, but if you areAshkenazi , rice remains a no-no. Bonus: you get a reason for declining tofu.

                                  1. re: hungryabbey

                                    Better not forget China House on Eglinton in that vein :-)

                    2. re: childofthestorm

                      Hey anyone tried 398 west? I saw it on toronto dinning today and must say the Steak with Marrow on the side looked very tempting. Somehow I didn't see it on their menu on the website.

                    3. What an interesting idea!...what type of course is this?...Marimba!

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Marimba

                        It is called Sociocultural Perspectives of Food, I'm a Nutrition and Food Science student.

                      2. A discussion about eating Kosher has been split off and moved to the Not About Food board. You can find the thread at the link below.


                        1. Aroma Espresso Bar?


                          Aroma Espresso Bar
                          500 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M5S1Y3, CA