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Fun, interesting places to eat in Toronto ?

We will be visiting Toronto over next weekend for 4 nights total, and we'll be staying at a B&B very near the Christie subway stop on Bloor-Danforth line.

I'm looking for suggestion of places to eat in & around Toronto while there. We will have our car with us although I'd prefer to just leave it parked and walk/use mass transit (it is vacation after all !) But I could be persuaded to drive somewhere if it's deemed worthwhile.

Anyhow, the kind of establishments we like are quite varied but some general characteristics are local-flavor patronized by residents, not fancy or stuffy, not particularly pricey but rather good value, maybe a bit eclectic or 'fun' but generally ala carte menu .... ethnic OK but nothing too exotic, prefer to avoid 'chains' unless there is something especially distinctive about that particular location, beer/liquor license not necessary, good desserts a plus if applicable, popular but not too overly touristy, establishments near colleges/universities are of interest, etc.

For example, Schwartz's Smoked Meat Deli in Montreal. Shake Shack or Levain Bakery in NYC. Ben's Chili Bowl in Washington DC. The Paramount in Boston for brunch. Sokolowski's University Inn or Melt Bar & Grill in metro Cleveland area. Primanti Bros. in Pittsburgh. You get the idea......

Will eagerly watch here for your suggestions. Thanks in advance !

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  1. Not to be rude, bakersma, but why not take a browse around the board and check out some places that interest you. If you ask some more pointed questions, you'll surely get the kind of responses that you're looking for. Hey...you may even be in town for the great smoked meat taste-off between Caplansky's, Goldin's and Stockyards. That would be interesting.

    356 College Street, Toronto, ON M6J, CA

    1 Reply
    1. re: Yongeman

      Hi Yongeman: You're not being rude & no need to apologize :-) I appreciate your reply. The suggestion about the smoked meat taste-off sounds great !!!! I looked at the website and learned all about "The Stop". Sounds like a great cause, and yes we will be in Toronto on Sunday 7/25 so we definitely plan on heading over to check it out.

      I realize that my original query was rather vague and probably all too familiar to the regulars here on Ontario Chowhound. The dilemma I faced was that I *did* try to do my due diligence by researching the subject online....here on Chowhound archives as well as Googling "Where to eat in Toronto" and similar search criteria. I was overwhelmed ! What a great place for foodies. You guys could eat at a different place each day for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and never patronize the same establishment twice (or so it seems).

      Thanks again very much for the tip on the cookoff. Just the kind of thing I was looking for :-)

    2. As Yongeman suggested, the taste-off this Sunday would be great to check out, and it's around your B&B! Deli Duel: http://www.thestop.org/event/25-jul-2010
      When are you coming? Summerlicious is going on now, where pricey restaurants offer a prix fixe menu - check the Summerlicious 2010 board for recs. There are other food festivals going on most weekends.

      If I was taking someone around Toronto for 4 nights...I would like to get them some good food then incorporate some random city walking. So I would probably take them to:
      1. Guu (Japanese Izakaya), take a stroll along Church and Wellesley, up to Yorkville. Grab some ice cream at Summers with one of their yummy waffle cones, then walk back down to the car via Yonge Street
      2. Simple yet tasty fish sandwiches at The Fish Store in Little Italy and walk down to Dolce Gelato for dessert, enjoying it awhile walking around the area to check out the other little restaurants
      3. Cava (Tapas restaurant) and if you want ice cream (can you tell I'm craving something? haha) next door's XocoCava. This area is less interesting to walk through, imo.
      4. Kensington Market to grab Taquitos from Salsas, Empanadas from Jumbo Empanada then go to Wanda's Pie in the Sky for some Ontario Sour Cherry Pie. Walk around, and if you're still in the mood to snack grab a Jamaican patty, check out the bulk food stores, or even something from European Meat Market
      5. St. Lawrence Market for a veal sandwich from Moustachios (or maybe 1 veal and 1 meatball then split), then grab some fresh Ontario Peaches to snack on while I explored the rest of the market and maybe walk along Front Street. $1 Oysters after 5pm are available at Biff's Bistro right now, as well as Big Daddy's so that would be a nice thing to sample while you're in the area
      6. Fusaro's Kitchen for a simple yet yummy sandwich, go next door to Jule's Bistro to check out their dessert menu and see if that appeals to your appetite. Le Gourmand across the street is apparently re-opening, if they're open then enjoy one of their big, warm chocolate chip cookies while walking north along Spadina to look around Chinatown. Maybe pick up some interesting fruit there if you don't have a market from whereever you're from

      <3 Toronto! I hope you have a great time here!

      Dolce Gelato
      679A College St, Toronto, ON M6G1B9, CA

      Jumbo Empanadas
      245 Augusta Ave, Toronto, ON M5T2L8, CA

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

      1560 Yonge St., Toronto, ON M4T 2S9, CA

      147 Spadina Ave, Toronto, ON M5V2L7, CA

      The Fish Store
      657 College St, Toronto, ON M6G1B7, CA

      Biff's Bistro
      4 Front St. E, Toronto, ON M5E 1B2, CA

      Big Daddy's Restaurant
      460 Elgin Mills Rd E, Richmond Hill, ON L4C5E7, CA

      398 Church Street, Toronto, ON M5B 2A2, CA

      5 Replies
      1. re: ekim256

        whoops, I guess since you're in the area you might want some Koreatown thoughts. I like the Buk Chang Dong Soon Tofu place that's around Christie Station, and for dessert you can go to HodoKwaja for walnut cakes as well as brown-sugar pancakes. I'm also quite fond of the fruit slushies at Real Fruit, but I'll admit that it's just a slushy with real fruit as opposed to powder, so it's not that special. Both are a nice snack while you wander the area...going through Koreatown on Bloor then making it to the Annex, and maybe expanding the waistline a little further with a slice of cake on Future's Bakery's patio or Greg's Ice Cream...hehe
        All of my above suggestions are public transit friendly, or can be incorporated with sightseeing quite easily. Except for maybe Cava, I don't know what's around that area.

        Buk Chang Dong
        691 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M6G, CA

        1560 Yonge St., Toronto, ON M4T 2S9, CA

        1. re: ekim256

          Wow ! Where to start ? Thanks very much for the numerous suggestions.

          I can't imagine we won't do some of them at least.

          We're ice cream people too, especially in these warm temps.

          Fish sandwiches in Little Italy sound good, wouldn't be complete without gelato. (We had some decent gelato on a trip to Boston's Little Italy North End so it will be interesting to compare)

          Kensington Market was already on the agenda based on some intial reading I did, but I appreciate the pointers (especially the sour cherry pie). We probably won't be buying too many groceries due to no place to cook or refrigerate them on the trip but I enjoy checking out markets like that. I'm never sure when reading PR websites if they're worth a stop or tourist traps so I appreciate the guidance.

          My wife is a big fresh peach fancier (now that they're in season) so that was a great mention. We'll see how they stack up compared to our local NJ crop :-)

          Warm chocolate chip cookies. 'Nuff said ! Even if it is 100 degrees out (I guess you guys would call it 40 degrees Celsius up there).

          My wife likes fruit smoothies/slushies so I made a mental note on that too. Not to mention bakeries....

          Once again, many thanks for taking time to reply in such a detailed fashion.

          I'll be sure to reciprocate by reporting back here anything noteworthy we did or ate.

          1. re: bakersma

            Bakersma, most of the suggestions in Kensington are little places where you can take out or eat in but seating is minimal. Empanadas, burritos, falafel, Jamaican patties, doubles, tamales, bakeries - ypu could eat for days. You can also take it to the park and eat while people watching - always excellent in Kensington!
            We had breakfast at Tacos al Asador last week and it was great. Green salsa and eggs - a match made in heaven.

          2. re: ekim256

            All great suggestions except for a veal at St. Lawrence Market. Bakersma will be staying near bloor and christie. So, if you want the best veal sandwich in town, go the Vinny's near the corner of Dupont and Shaw, a 10 minute walk from the B&B. Also, right next door is Universal Grill, which has an interesting menu, good specials, and great ribs.

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

            Universal Grill
            1071 Shaw St, Toronto, ON M6G3N4, CA

          3. re: ekim256

            For St Lawrence Market, I think the chicken & eggplant parm sandwich is much better than the veal. Be sure to get napkins regardless.

          4. I haven't been in years, but I remember Tacos el Asador being good, cheap mexican and it's in your neighbourhood. Has anyone been lately?

            1 Reply
            1. re: dubchild

              It's Salvadorean (I think) and it's still as tasty as I remember it being 5 years ago. The breakfast is my favourite too (plantain!), but be warned that because it's small it can get really busy (and warm) in there. It is, however, possible to get your order for take-out and take it to Christie Pits for a picnic.

            2. Another place I haven't been in years that seems to have a high fun factor is Southern Accent. It's a New Orleans style place and they have a fortune teller on fridays. It's also somewhat in your neighbourhood.

              Southern Accent
              595 Markham St, Toronto, ON M6G2L7, CA

              1 Reply
              1. re: dubchild

                I second the vote for Southern Accent! It's easy to get to from where you will be, bakersma. I think it's right near Bathurst Station on the TTC: on Markham St. just south of Bloor (i.e. around the corner from Honest Ed's). It has a fun vibe, some history (many of the paintings were done by the former maitre'd), a good music playlist (often music from New Orleans, last time I went it was 50's music) and I enjoy the food. Some of the dishes I like: cracker catfish, bourbon chicken, hush puppies, pickled okra, piquant shrimp.

                Southern Accent
                595 Markham St, Toronto, ON M6G2L7, CA

              2. It might be worth a trip to Greektown (which is a straight shot on the Bloor/Danforth subway line). The Greek restos tend to be fairly interchangeable, but I find quality is generally decent, good value for money, and the fun factor is high (who doesn't love flaming cheese?). It's a lively neighbourhood which is also good for after-dinner strolling.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Rabbit

                  there's been a lot of good suggestions so far. i'll try to fill in on a few more that i can think of.

                  since you're in christie already, and toronto has probably the second best korean food in north america behind LA, i'd start off by checking out korean town. like ekim mentioned, Buk Chang Dong soon tofu is excellent. they have a short menu but the food is cheap and delicious.

                  down the street there's also il bun ji, which has one of the best korean bbq's around and a great selection of fresh fish. i've suggested it elsewhere on this board, but definitely give their spicy sea bass stew a try if you get there.

                  you should also consider spending a day in the college st. area - starting from chinatown, you can have some bbq pork or pho. unfortunately, most of the really good chinese restaurants are located uptown and would require driving. however, you can always just grab something for a taste while in chinatown. then head over to kensington market and try suggestion #4 from ekim's list. afterwards, stroll up to college (about a 5 minute walk max) and hit up caplansky's for their smoked meat sandwich/poutine. finally head over west for another few blocks and check out little italy. the restaurants there are all pretty solid when it comes to italian food so you can't go too wrong just trying some. and afterwards, dolce gelato's an excellent dessert to finish it off.

                  you can also get down to baldwin street. there's hua sang, which looks like a dump but has the best chinese lobsters in the city. their ginger and scallion oysters are also delicious. also the chinese style filet mignon. a few doors down is konichiwa, which has one of the best ramen noodles in the city. another few doors down is vegetarian haven, which has one of the best cheesecakes in the city (and it's vegan too, imagine that). then you can walk over a few blocks south to ematei, which has japanese styled tapas. their omakase is a great deal...about 50 bucks for a 7 course meal that's enough to fill anyone. plus get some of the sides - chicken liver, bbq eel, bbq duck, etc. all amazing! by then, you can walk along queen for some shopping and sightseeing. and if you get over to spadina, you can try ackee tree, which has a great selection of jamaican foods. further west on queen, you can hit up gandhi's for a quick butter chicken roti that's just to die for.

                  i mean the choices are just endless downtown. that's not even half of the restaurants i'd recommend in the area. have fun on a 4 day food crawl around town!

                  Buk Chang Dong
                  691 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M6G, CA


                  Your examples seem to have led people more downscale (nothing wrong with the selections).
                  So I'll address the 'eclectic/fun' category and suggest L.A.B. (which is 2 long blocks south of Bloor - Christie becomes Grace below Bloor and the restaurant is at College & Grace.


                  This place is a bit 'off-kilter' (take a look at the menu). Prices are fair - and when did you last have tripe? (Incidentally it's the best version I've ever had).
                  I also liked the 'Turkey Pastrami' but suggest avoiding the Halibut where something has gone really askew.
                  Definitely one-of-a-kind (in Toronto, anyway).

                  1. You might want to give the Atlantic a try. It's gotten great press lately and Nathan is a good cook. The vibe is very casual.

                    Atlantic Restaurant
                    1597 Dundas St W, Toronto, ON M6K1T9, CA

                    1. There are a couple of affordable places I'd advise:

                      1) Lahore Tikka House in Little India

                      This place has a really fun atmosphere, and will have crazy amounts of people in the summer. Just walk in the main door, go down the hallway and turn right to cut through the kitchen into the main outdoor area. You can order a pretty conventional meal (kababs, chicken tikka, butter chicken) or more adventurous (Nihari, Fish masala, Karahi Gosht) one. Either way, it's a unique experience that is perfect for the summer.

                      2) Gilead Cafe

                      They have some nice Canadian treats here - birch and spruce beer, different kinds of poutine, Lake Fish and Chips, Canadian cheeses - so it's worth the visit. It's a bit out of the way, but once you get there the restaurant is beautiful and relaxed. A great spot to stop for lunch.

                      I'd second the recommendation for Guu as well and St Lawrence Market as well. St Lawrence is a must visit, even if just for a veal or peameal bacon sandwich.

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

                      398 Church Street, Toronto, ON M5B 2A2, CA

                      1. Well, our Toronto visit is completed and we're on to our next stop.

                        Once again, many thanks for all the suggestions. Very much appreciated.

                        First evening in town, we arrived a bit later than expected, so we just walked down Bloor a few blocks and ate dinner at Victory Cafe on Markham & Lennox. Food was fine, service a bit slow (we sat outside and it looked like they just had one or two waiters covering all the tables) but we were in no hurry. Enjoyed chatting with folks at neighboring tables and we were glad to relax and watch the street scene go by after being in car all day.

                        Second evening we ate at Serra on Bloor by Spadina. In the mood for a lighter meal so we split the artisanal pizza which was very good.....and finished up with an ice cream from Greg's down the street.

                        Third evening dinner was simple & wonderful. Had dinner at the El Salvadoran restaurant at corner of Clinton & Bloor (don't remember it's exact name). Really enjoyed the local atmosphere as well as great tacos, burritos, etc. We would have eaten there again if we had more time in town.

                        Fourth & final evening's dinner was across the street at Clinton's. Ate outside on the "patio" ---- nice waitress, food was fine, enjoyed watching the world go by.

                        In between, wonderful breakfasts were provided by our host at B&B so we didn't "eat out" for any of those.

                        Lunches were pretty much 'on the run' affairs....nothing too noteworthy, although on Monday we enjoyed the much improved weather (compared to Saturday, anyhow) and took the harbor cruise to the islands. Enjoyed the scenery, walking around looking at lake & gardens, etc. Ate lunch at Carrousel Cafe which was fine too. On other days, we just grabbed a sandwich at Eaton Centre, Kensington Market, etc....no problems.

                        I did do some bicycling on my own, and checked out some different locales such as Greektown on Danforth, Little Italy on W. College as well as Polish neighborhood (what's left of it) on Roncevalles amidst all the construction. Never had time to get down to Indian neighborhood on Gerrard however. Needless to say, I'll know where to start next time......

                        Missed the St. Lawrence Market entirely since we left it until Monday, only to find out that was the day of week it was closed.

                        Never did get out to the Smoked Meat cookoff at the Stop on Sunday unfortunately. I did ride past Caplansky's on bike but it was between meals then :-(

                        Once again, we enjoyed your wonderful town and look forward to visiting again. Without exception, everyone we met was very friendly & accommodating [even the drivers when I was out on my bike]. Many thanks for your help :-)

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: bakersma

                          The El Salvadoran restaurant you went to is called Tacos El Asador-and yes its a great little spot. Used to go semi frequently for a cheap bite when I lived in the neighbourhood.

                          The Vic (as its affectionately known to locals) also used to be a go-to place for me, to hang out, have a pint and listen to some great jazz.

                          Thanks for reporting back!


                          1. re: bakersma

                            Hi bakersma: Glad you had an enjoyable visit to Toronto! Lots of interesting suggestions were made here as a result of your original posting. I'm curious where you call home. Cheers. Edit: I found your reference to New Jersey....

                            1. re: T Long

                              Yes indeed, we live in Central NJ. If you are ever headed down in that neighborhood in the US, just ask on our Chowhound board "where is the best pizza shop and/or hotdog stand ?". That will get them going for days ! LOL. Thanks again :-)