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Aug 31, 2010 07:11 AM

What does Toronto do best?

From NYC and have not been to Toronto since I was 17 and not really in charge of my own meals. I will be in the city for a few days next month and am looking to have the type of food you shouldn't leave Toronto without eating. I pretty much enjoy all cuisines and since Toronto is international, what should I be looking for (especially stuff I cannot get in NYC, the more authentic the better). Anything particularly Canadian (excuse my ignorance)? Best High End places? Good Beer Bars? Street Food?

Sorry for such a broad group of questions but I would appreciate any help.


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  1. Toronto classics:

    Uniquely Toronto:

    If I eat nothing else in Toronto, I need to try/eat:

    general beer and food advice for Toronto:

    suggestions for a food oriented visit to Toronto for people who haven't visited in 20 years:

    suggestions for a first time visitor to Toronto:

    Boston Chowhound looking for guidance in Toronto:

    suggestions for a Minneapolis/St.Paul Chowhound visiting for 3 days:

    Restaurants which are special to TO, and serve food that you wouldn't find easily in NYC:
    Chiado for upscale Portuguese seafood
    Lai Wah Heen for luxe Cantonese

    Canoe, Splendido and Scaramouche are the most frequently recommended high end restaurants in Toronto, serving contemporary/continental cuisine with mostly Canadian ingredients.

    1. Where in NYC do you live? Do you get out to Flushing much? If not, Toronto's Chinese scene is probably your best bet for something you can't get back in NYC. Unfortunately much of the best will require dining companions and access to a car (or a lot of time by transit).

      4 Replies
      1. re: Atahualpa

        Flushing's part of NYC and I think it can give Toronto Chinese a run for its money, especially if you look beyond Cantonese cuisine.

        As a NYer, I'd recommend $1.75 banh mi along Spadina because it's $1.75! Banh mi in NYC starts at twice that. Also check out Caplanskys for smoked pastrami (that's the closest comparison even if not technically correct). At SLM, get a peamealeggncheezonaroll @ Paddington's pump. It may or may not be on the menu, but who doesn't like one of those for breakfast.

        356 College Street, Toronto, ON M6J, CA

        18 Ontario N, Grand Bend, ON N0M1T0, CA

        1. re: GoodGravy

          Agree! Flushing's non-Cantonese Chinese food is mighty fine and good value for money! Huge portion!!
          However, IMO, no where in North America can one find better 'Cantonese food' than Toronto. Not even Vancouver!! ( this comment was based on a four days eating spree there, 5 months ago! )

          1. re: GoodGravy

            "get a peamealeggncheezonaroll @ Paddington's pump"

            The name of this glorious, smile inducing, shirt staining (I get it with L, T, Must, Mayo), heartburn inducing wonder breakfast is:
            Breakfast on a Bun

          2. re: Atahualpa

            I live in Manhattan but get out to Flushing quite a bit if that helps.

          3. The threads that phoenikia linked to are good, especially the Uniquely Toronto one.

            Black Hoof should make a short list if you're interested in Nose-to-Tail. I don't think you can find the same level of execution of this sort of menu in NY for this price-point.

            The Black Hoof
            928 Dundas St W, Toronto, ON M6J, CA

            9 Replies
            1. re: Atahualpa

              Definitely recommend Black Hoof, or even Hoof Cafe directly across the street.

              The Black Hoof
              928 Dundas St W, Toronto, ON M6J, CA

              1. re: Atahualpa

                St. Anselms in Bklyn does nose to tail.

                1. re: GoodGravy

                  Well then since New York has everything Toronto does I guess he just shouldn't eat while he's here.

                  1. re: jamesm

                    That's pretty amusing. Black Hoof sounds like my type of place

                    The Black Hoof
                    928 Dundas St W, Toronto, ON M6J, CA

                    1. re: MVNYC

                      Blackhoof is interesting but they're closed for a summer vacation, won't reopen for another week I think. Best to check their twitter feed for exact dates. They're very good, for Toronto, but I don't think they're topping Bar Boulud's charcuterie. If you're interested in an alternative take to brunch, check out their sister restaurant Hoof Cafe.

                      As for Chinese food, Flushing outdoes us on most other regional cuisines. However, they can't touch us w/ Cantonese food. I agree w/ Charles in saying we have the best Canto food in N. America.

                      I wouldn't bother wasting much time w/ whitey food here if you're from NYC. The bang for buck ratio just isn't here. Stick with ethnic......

                      For bars, the usual suspects for beer nerds are Bar Volo, Beer Bistro, Duggan's Brewery, C'est What, Smokeless Joe's, Victory Cafe.

                      1. re: aser

                        I recommend you try a Portuguese custard tart while you are here.

                        Doce Minho
                        2189 Dufferin St, Toronto, ON M6E, CA

                        1. re: aser

                          While I'd agree that for straight-up charcuterie it's pretty tough to beat Bar Boulud's program, the Black Hoof has a ton of other dishes that make it a must-visit. I guarantee you cannot get a horse tartare sandwich ANYWHERE in NY unless it's at some horse-serving speakeasy I am unaware of.

                          1. re: childofthestorm

                            Though, depending on how it goes, we might not have a horse tartare sandwich when The Black Hoof comes back from vacation either...! There was some debate over keeping it on the menu and chucking.

                            The Black Hoof
                            928 Dundas St W, Toronto, ON M6J, CA

                  2. Toronto strength is definitely in Asian cuisines from India to the Phillippines, however, the real bonus is that whatever you find in NYC with regards to these restaurants, you'll spend much less here. For example, a meal in a Korean BBQ restaurant here that might cost you $45 for two, probably goes for around $75US in NYC.

                    14 Replies
                    1. re: currycue


                      While it's quite possible Korean food is cheaper in TO, I've found some Asian foods have similar costs in NYC and Toronto. The economical Chinese restos in NYC's Chinatown have similar prices and quality to the economical restos in our Chinatown at Dundas & Spadina. The Indian restaurants in Murray Hill or on East 6th are roughly the same price and quality as Trimurti or Babur on Queen W.

                      I've also found the Eastern European and Balkan food in NYC is cheaper & better than what we have in Toronto. While I realize some Chowhounds consider NYC to be lacking good Mexican options, the better Mexican food in NYC is roughly the same price or cheaper than what we have in Toronto, but is usually much better tasting. I wish we had a restaurant like Mercadito in Toronto. Spanish tapas have also been tastier and cheaper in New York in my experience.

                      I always seem to find plenty of delicious and economical "ethnic" food options when I'm NYC, and the prices I'm paying are usually equal or lower than what I'd be paying in Toronto. And the food in NYC is usually more delicious.

                      1. re: currycue

                        Eating cheaply (and deliciously) is not hard to do in NYC. In fact my complaint with Toronto cheap eats is that they are often slightly more expensive and the quality isn't as high as what you would find in NYC.

                        Fine dining on the other hand-totally different ballgame. That's where you could "save" money in Toronto-your dollar will stretch a little further.

                        1. re: Splendid Wine Snob

                          Didn't mean to cause an argument. What fine dining places should I be looking at?

                          Not really looking for Balkan though, my parents are from the region and my home cooking beats any restaurant I have been to.

                          1. re: MVNYC

                            There are varying opinions on this board but generally you should consider Splendido, Nota Bene, Canoe and Scaramouche.

                            1. re: Splendid Wine Snob

                              I would add George to that list. Since the change at Splendido it is not my go to for the high end dining.

                              88 Harbord Street, Toronto, ON M5S 1G5, CA

                              1. re: JennaBean

                                I'm not disagreeing with any of these (Splendido, Nota bene, Canoe, Scaramouche, George) as being fine dining. BUT won't they ALL be ho-hum for a New York visitor? These are (possibly) our best 'International' style places, but there are dozens similar in New York!
                                I think I could make a case for Canoe as being a bit different (even though in absolute terms it may be the most expensive of all those mentioned).
                                Similarly Chiado (mentioned elsewhere in the responses) which is high-end Portuguese dining which I haven't yet found in New York (although it may exist).

                                864 College Street West, Toronto, ON M6H 1A3, CA

                                1. re: estufarian

                                  Read my point above to the previous poster. I know about NYC's high end dining scene-I've been eating in the city for over 20 years. But the OP did ask about high end options, and they while they may not have the cache that the high end spots in NYC do, they represent "Canadian" high end spots at considerably cheaper prices then one may find in NYC.

                                  Chiado is a good suggestion as well.

                                  You could make the argument that anything here is ho-hum for a New York city visitor, but as jamesm suggests, then the OP shouldn't eat anything at all!

                                  1. re: estufarian

                                    Low, mid and high end Portuguese is hard to find in NYC. You have to venture to Yonkers or Newark (almost like going to Mississauga for reference) for ubiquitous Portuguese restos. So I'd recommend Portuguese at any price point in Toronto, not just the high end. Of course, I don't know any places so I leave it to the local CHers to recommend spots.

                                    1. re: GoodGravy

                                      We went to Aldea by George Mendes on 17th & 5th last year and it was quite good. Better than Chiado in Toronto, IMHO.

                                      1. re: syoung

                                        I thought Aldea was more fusion than traditional Portuguese? Either way, Portuguese at all price points in NYC are few and far between compared to Toronto, and usually require a trip to Yonkers or NJ.

                                    2. re: estufarian

                                      Totally agree with Estufarian here! With so many great Michelin star 'western cuisine' restaurants in the Big Apple. Why would one bother spending money to eat food with a French accent here on Toronto??!! Chiado is the only 'western cuisine' destination I would recommend! Even Canoe, with its supposedly ' Canadian theme' is quite French, IMO

                                      864 College Street West, Toronto, ON M6H 1A3, CA

                                      Big Apple
                                      , Colborne, ON K0K1S0, CA

                                      1. re: Charles Yu

                                        Agree on this too. Or maybe only for a NYer who must eat fine dining while visiting any city or someone who want a magnificant view of Toronto Lakeshore or CN Tower while having some fine food ?!

                                        1. re: skylineR33

                                          I asked for high end because I really don't know what Toronto has to offer. I don't need to go a fine dining place but just wanted to know what was available.

                                          1. re: MVNYC

                                            Perhaps not high end in the sense most people here define it but definitely high, I say go for the CN Tower 360 restaurant, especially if the weather is clear.

                                            If you pay for an entree, your ascent is free so you get to do a touristy thing without paying the exorbitant fee they charge just for the elevator. It's not the tallest tower in the world anymore but I think it's the highest restaurant in the world still. If your timing is right, the sunset is magical. (and the food is fine)


                          2. Can't help with high-end, but...

                            Beer Bar: The Cloak And Dagger is a cozy, friendly spot with a good selection of interesting draught beers (and importantly, clean lines). Try the Holy Smoke for a unique experience!

                            As far as 'particularly Canadian', you are not allowed to leave without subjecting your arteries to poutine. It's ubiquitous, but Poutini's does an amazing job. Another Canadian food is the butter tart. Grab one with your coffee at some point, but beware the misleadingly sugary middle. Also be sure to try 'Montreal smoked meat', similar to pastrami but differently spiced and with a less elegant name.

                            My favourite example of cheap Toronto food is found at the ironically named New York Subway. It's technically fusion, but not contrived. An Indian chef opened a "burrito" place, with fillings that are a mixture of Thai and North American ingredients. I don't know if that sounds appealing, but everyone I know loves this place. Warning: service is slower than you would think, so grab one of the newspapers lying around.

                            Toronto also has amazing Caribbean food, but I've lived downtown too long to recommend anywhere other than Ackee Tree (most of the real deal is outside of the core). I've been told our Indian food is better than in NYC, but I've never been to New York. I like all the Indian food I've ever had here. Gandhi Roti is a MUST.

                            New York Subway
                            520 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M5V, CA

                            Ackee Tree
                            170 Spadina Ave, Toronto, ON M5T2C2, CA

                            1112 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M6J, CA

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: plasticanimal

                              poutini's has been a disappointment as of late, the flavour of the gravy is just so underwhelming and they're really holding back on the sauce. it's just too dry and flavourless. the best i've had in the city is at great burger kitchen (though i wouldn't recommend the burgers unless it's a style you like). it's east of downtown but it's not hard to get out there via streetcar. the curds are plentiful (though not squeeky), the gravy a good hit of chicken intensity, and the fries perfect for their style. really fab. it was on the tail end of a food tour i was doing and it was hard to stop eating it even though we were stuffed.

                              if you want a good sampling of caribbean food then look no further than parkdale. the diversity and options are quite good and you can sample some different styles within a one block radius. my preferred stop is roti lady for her goat, though the roti shells are a little underdone for my liking.