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What does Toronto do best?

MVNYC Aug 31, 2010 07:11 AM

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. p
    phoenikia Aug 31, 2010 09:40 AM

    Toronto classics: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/649912?tag=post-box-content;5003773#5003773

    Uniquely Toronto: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/721612?tag=post-box-content;5769950#5769950

    If I eat nothing else in Toronto, I need to try/eat: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/660906?tag=post-box-content;5116836#5116836

    general beer and food advice for Toronto: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/720072#5752153

    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. a
      Atahualpa Aug 31, 2010 09:55 AM

      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
        GoodGravy Aug 31, 2010 01:46 PM

        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
          Charles Yu Aug 31, 2010 05:46 PM

          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
            koko Oct 19, 2010 03:50 PM

            "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
            MVNYC Aug 31, 2010 08:05 PM

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

          3. a
            Atahualpa Aug 31, 2010 10:03 AM

            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
              jamesm Aug 31, 2010 10:04 AM

              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
                GoodGravy Aug 31, 2010 01:47 PM

                St. Anselms in Bklyn does nose to tail.

                1. re: GoodGravy
                  jamesm Aug 31, 2010 01:49 PM

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

                  1. re: jamesm
                    MVNYC Aug 31, 2010 08:06 PM

                    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
                      aser Sep 1, 2010 09:24 PM

                      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
                        phoenikia Sep 2, 2010 07:29 AM

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

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

                        1. re: aser
                          childofthestorm Sep 2, 2010 08:45 AM

                          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
                            jlunar Sep 2, 2010 09:10 AM

                            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. re: aser
                            JamieK Sep 2, 2010 05:30 PM

                            Nerds!!!!?? You wound me.

                  2. c
                    currycue Aug 31, 2010 02:06 PM

                    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
                      phoenikia Aug 31, 2010 02:32 PM


                      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
                        Splendid Wine Snob Aug 31, 2010 05:42 PM

                        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
                          MVNYC Aug 31, 2010 08:10 PM

                          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
                            Splendid Wine Snob Aug 31, 2010 08:19 PM

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

                            1. re: Splendid Wine Snob
                              JennaBean Sep 1, 2010 11:23 AM

                              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
                                estufarian Sep 1, 2010 12:56 PM

                                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
                                  Splendid Wine Snob Sep 1, 2010 01:14 PM

                                  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
                                    GoodGravy Sep 1, 2010 01:31 PM

                                    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
                                      syoung Sep 1, 2010 07:50 PM

                                      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
                                        GoodGravy Sep 1, 2010 08:22 PM

                                        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
                                      Charles Yu Sep 1, 2010 05:49 PM

                                      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
                                        skylineR33 Sep 1, 2010 05:55 PM

                                        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
                                          MVNYC Sep 1, 2010 07:42 PM

                                          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
                                            JamieK Sep 2, 2010 05:38 PM

                                            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. p
                            plasticanimal Aug 31, 2010 11:32 PM

                            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
                              pinstripeprincess Sep 1, 2010 07:08 AM

                              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.

                            2. c
                              c.cow Sep 1, 2010 05:33 AM

                              For beer bars, we like Smokeless Joe's, Beer Bistro, Bar Volo, and C'est What. Each has a totally different vibe and different offerings.

                              Personally, I think C'est What is great value for money, though it doesn't get a lot of love for the food or service. It's an all-local beer list, which might interest you for stuff you can't get out of town.

                              Bar Volo also gets a lot of local stuff you can't find anywhere else (sometimes including the brewery, as is often the case with my favorite offering from Nickelbrook, their Cuvee). Service can be slow and I wouldn't recommend having a meal there, though their cheese plate makes a good snack.

                              Smokeless Joe's is great for atmosphere - we love hunkering down with some chowder or mussels and some of their great draught picks. In general, we stay away from their bottled selection - you'll find that the beers are priced higher than in NYC, and it's hit and miss to find your choices in stock.

                              Beer Bistro has fantastic service, but it's busting and most of the place is more restaurant than bar. That said, if you sit down with a basket of fries and get a chance to chat with the servers, you'll have a great time.

                              Two more spots that might interest you:

                              Duggan's Brewpub, with a selection of their own beers at fabulous prices (though we have stopped trying with this place after a lot of unfriendly service and our first choices of beer never being available)

                              The Victory Cafe is a bit tucked away and feels a bit more local - its draught beer list is great and all local. Food is just okay.

                              If you're here between September 20-26, you might check out the Toronto Beer Week festivities.

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

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

                              Smokeless Joe
                              Toronto, ON, Toronto, ON , CA

                              6 Replies
                              1. re: c.cow
                                1sweetpea Sep 1, 2010 06:23 AM

                                If your budget includes a pricier dinner, head to Chiado for Portuguese. I understand that NYC is not particularly strong in this area. Another good choice might be Le Select Bistro, which does French Canadian food. I also think Ethiopian is well-represented in Toronto, on Danforth East, towards Coxwell. Favourites include Dukem and Rendezvous. You might try Globe for some Canadian takes on somewhat locavore ingredients. Northern Indian (Punjabi) is easy to find throughout the GTA. There are a number of threads devoted to Cantonese food. As long as you have wheels and few friends to help eat, you should definitely consider a giant lobster feast (done 4 ways) at O'Mei on Highway 7. I took 8 friends last year and we struggled to finish a 13.25-pound monster (along with a few other unnecessary dishes). Many other excellent Cantonese restaurants in a variety of price ranges abound north of the city. Whether it's barbecue you seek, dim-sum or formal banquet style 10-course meals, you'll find it north of the 401 and probably along highway 7 or north of there.

                                950 Danforth Ave, Toronto, ON M4J 1L9, CA

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

                                Le Select
                                432 Wellington St W, Toronto, ON M5V1E3, CA

                                1. re: 1sweetpea
                                  JennaBean Sep 1, 2010 11:24 AM

                                  Good call on Chiado I second that for sure. Amazing fish dishes.

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

                                  1. re: 1sweetpea
                                    syoung Sep 1, 2010 07:51 PM

                                    As I said above, Aldea in NYC beats Chiado in Toronto for Portuguese, IMHO.

                                    1. re: syoung
                                      jamesm Sep 1, 2010 09:08 PM

                                      That'd be an awesome insight if the guy was asking for NYC recommendations.

                                    2. re: 1sweetpea
                                      shekamoo Sep 2, 2010 02:57 AM

                                      I second the Lobster 4 ways at O'Mei and add that as few as 3 people is enough if you order a not too huge beast and stick with it, not ordering any 'peripheral' dishes. I must confess having in thiw way finished a 7 lb-er between myself and another diner, and neither of us are huge eaters in North American standards....

                                      1. re: 1sweetpea
                                        Herb Sep 2, 2010 05:39 AM

                                        Le Select is French Canadian? News to the owners!

                                        Le Select
                                        432 Wellington St W, Toronto, ON M5V1E3, CA

                                    3. haggisdragon Sep 1, 2010 06:15 AM

                                      There are a few choices for beer bars:

                                      Beer Bistro: vast selection of international beers by the bottle and on tap, beer centric food menu with suggested pairings, excellent frites. Atmosphere: large echoey room with a rambunctious after work business crowd.

                                      Beer Market: vast selection of beers, generally served in very good condition. Overpriced mediocre food. Meat market type atmosphere.

                                      The Rhino: way out west on Queen St, awesome beer selection although its a 50/50 chance that they'll have your selection in stock. Cheap unremarkable pub food. Convivial divey vibe.

                                      The Three Brewers: This is a small chain brewpub from Quebec, relatively new to Toronto. A selection of about 6 different styles of beer all brewed on sight. The beer is good and fresh. Haven't tried much of their food, but their signature dish is the flan (flam?), a crispy thin crust flatbread served pizza like with various topping combinations. It's pretty tasty. Place is easy to get to, across the road from the Eaton Centre, but is a bit of a tourist trap for that reason.

                                      The Only: East of Greek town on the Danforth. Large selection of bottled beer. Shabby artsy dive. Indifferent (relaxed) service. No food menu, but they encourage patrons to bring outside food and there's an excellent Pakistani takeout place about a minute walk east called Makkah, excellent tandoori fair.

                                      Allen's: also on the Danforth. A controversial topic on this board due mostly to the service which can be either pretty good or terrible, depending on who you get. That aside, they have a pretty good beer selection, bottle and tap, along with an epic whiskey collection and one of the city's best burgers, fresh ground and cooked as rare as you like. They also have a large backyard patio with mature trees for shade.

                                      Victory Cafe: an Annex favourite. Great selection of local microbrews. Big sidewalk patio. Decent pub food (better than average). Gets very busy with the artsy college crowd, service can be slow.

                                      Cafe Volo: I haven't been, but they're famous for their rotating cask ale selection.

                                      C'est What: Great draft selection with cask options. Food is boring. Warm and friendly service to a mostly yuppi condo dwelling crowd.

                                      Mill St Brewpub: worth a visit for a stroll around the Distillery district, a beautiful restored Victorian era industrial area turned tourist destination. The pub is huge, with a corporate vibe. But the beer brewed on sight is excellent. You should go here, and make sure you check out Soma chocolatiers while in the area for some beautiful gelatos and truffles.

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

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

                                      Makkah Restaurant
                                      1020 Danforth Ave, Toronto, ON M4J1M2, CA

                                      35 Replies
                                      1. re: haggisdragon
                                        Tony Calgary Sep 1, 2010 03:49 PM

                                        I think it's difficult for Toronto to compete with New York simply b/c of the depth of offerings that you can find in New York. So I think to take a different tack, the restaurants in Toronto that I'd love to have in whatever city I live in:

                                        Ematei -- a nice Japanese place in downtown Toronto (on St. Patrick) where I would order traditional Japanese tapas or the Chanko Nabe (a miso broth filled with tofu, chicken balls, beef, shrimp, scallops, assorted mushrooms, vegetables and noodles). Having sampled the same in Tokyo and Kyoto, I can say that Ematei definitely lives up to that standard. If you're craving sushi, it's just average here (e.g. go elsewhere), but the traditional Japanese fare here is great.

                                        Colborne Lane -- since Susur's attention is split between his various restaurants, I think if you're looking for a fine dining restaurant to go to, this is it. Like Susur, Aprile's obsessive nature results in sublime food. A more fun version (foodwise) of fine dining I don't think can be found in the city. http://www.colbornelane.com/

                                        Saigon Star -- not sure if there's curry crab in NY, but if not -- grab a car and head up to Saigon Star in Richmond Hill for a sublime experience. You may feel your heart stop from the richness of the meal, but it is delicious!

                                        Prague -- I know phoenikia says NY does Eastern European better and cheaper, but this little deli on Queen Street is authentic Czech cuisine that I crave regularly. Worth a stop definitely if you're hungering for a hearty (and different) breakfast, lunch or early dinner. http://www.theprague.ca/

                                        Hashimoto -- haven't been to the new location yet and reservations are near impossible to get (old location had six seats!), but if you've never had an authentic Kaiseki meal and can afford it, it's sublime. Having visited Kyoto, it is truly an authentic experience. The chef (Hashimoto) finished in the top 5 in the Japanese Culinary Arts Competition in 2008 (he represented Kyoto) and won the technique prize. http://www.kaiseki.ca/

                                        Hopefully that gives you a few different options. Have a great trip here!! :


                                        30 Saint Patrick St, Toronto, ON M5T3A3, CA

                                        Kaiseki Yu-Zen Hashimoto
                                        6435 Dixie Rd, Mississauga, ON L5T, CA

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

                                        Prague Fine Food Emporium
                                        638 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M6J, CA

                                        1. re: Tony Calgary
                                          phoenikia Sep 1, 2010 04:12 PM

                                          I like Prague Deli, too;-) One of my favourite places to stop for a bite on Queen West. Good homestyle soups, and great Czech Paska (Easter bread) when it's that time of year.

                                          If I'm craving Mitteleuropean food when I'm closer to Bloor, the Coffee Mill is my go-to for Hungarian comfort food.

                                          Coffee Mill
                                          99 Yorkville, Toronto, ON M5R3K5, CA

                                          1. re: Tony Calgary
                                            skylineR33 Sep 1, 2010 05:04 PM

                                            FYI, The competition Hashimoto won is for entry level. With the $300 it charges in its new location, definitely not worth it at all. And FYI again, the top kaiseki places in Kyoto such as Kikunoi and Hyotei do not even charges this much. Definitely a pass, go to much cheaper Kyo-Ya in NYC instead. Actually, my recommendation is to stay away from Japanese food in Toronto for anyone from NYC. You just have much much more choices in NYC, no need to waste money here on Japanese food on all level.

                                            For visitor from NYC, Cantonese cuisine is the one that should be focus on, for dim sum, I am sure there is NOWHERE in New York can match with Lai Wah Heen of Toronto. If you have a car, there are tons of recommendation for Cantonese food that one cannot find in NYC.

                                            Lai Wah Heen
                                            108 Chestnut St, Toronto, ON M5G 1R3, CA

                                            1. re: skylineR33
                                              Charles Yu Sep 1, 2010 05:41 PM


                                              1. re: Charles Yu
                                                jamesm Sep 1, 2010 06:46 PM

                                                Going for a car ride for Cantonese in Toronto is like being sent to Tarrytown for dinner in New York. There are plenty of interesting places with great food in part of the city that is actually interesting.

                                                1. re: jamesm
                                                  skylineR33 Sep 1, 2010 07:14 PM

                                                  Disagree on this. Well, it is all personal preferences. There are places that are actually interesting in other area of Toronto too. And there are people who are not interested in the part of city you think that is interesting. I know people who visit Toronto drive to suburb to eat. Of course those people have access to a car, that's why we are saying "if you have a car" and make recommendation on food only.

                                                  1. re: skylineR33
                                                    MVNYC Sep 1, 2010 07:39 PM

                                                    I will have a car and wouldn't mind driving for memorable food. What Cantonese or other Chinese places are recommended and what areas are they located in. Tarrytown is a quick shot up the highway in NY and I wouldn't consider that too annoying for good food.

                                                    1. re: MVNYC
                                                      Tony Calgary Sep 1, 2010 08:02 PM

                                                      There are numerous great Chinese places in Richmond Hill and the surrounding areas. Driving is a bit of a pain, but if you're willing to make a day of it, it's worth it. I wouldn't recommend it for just one meal though.

                                                      Of the options there, I'd recommend Saigon Star for the curry crab -- unless there's a similar phenomenon in NYC. Definitely make a reservation -- it gets a bit crazy on the weekends.

                                                      1. re: Tony Calgary
                                                        aser Sep 1, 2010 09:42 PM

                                                        There is, "Fatty Crab" in NYC, which is good. Saigon Star is cheaper and more authentic. "Fatty Crab" is good but appeals to the younger set......

                                                        The Cantonese dim sum/wok hei rec's can all be found w/ a simple search, for ease of OP's sakes....

                                                        Fantasy Eatery
                                                        Casa Imperial/Casa Victoria
                                                        John's BBQ
                                                        Wu Yi Villa
                                                        Empire Court
                                                        Lai Wah Heen
                                                        Magic Wok

                                                        One of my favourite slept on picks for cheap eats is Gourmet Garden in Scarborough for Malaysian.


                                                      2. re: MVNYC
                                                        skylineR33 Sep 1, 2010 08:12 PM

                                                        MVNYC, many top notch Chinese food usually require pre-arrangement, or someone who is familiar with the restaurant to lead the way. This happens in here, HK and mainland China. Having said that, there is one restaurant in Richmond Hill which does not require pre-arragement but you can get top-notch Cantonese cuisine. It is Omei Seafood. There are hundreds on items on its menu. But their most famous signature dish, "Lobster 4 ways" on a 8 pounds to 13 pounds lobster, is the way to go there. ~$20/lb.

                                                        However, the atmosphere and service at Omei is those that is found in a typical Chinese restaurant, not fancy and top notch, so just to let you know what you are getting into on this aspect.

                                                        Another constraint with Chinese cuisine is it usually requires to share with at least 3-4 people, the more the better. If you want the "Lobster 4 ways" at Omei, but only for 2 people, you can get a 6-7 pounds and done it 3 ways. Get the "steamed with garlic and scallion with vermicelli", "special sauce wok-fried" and "lobster roe fried rice". Remember to ask them to show you the lobster live before they operate on it.

                                                        There are also lots of post on Omei on this board. Wish you have a nice trip !

                                                        1. re: skylineR33
                                                          aser Sep 1, 2010 09:47 PM

                                                          In regards to O'mei, you have to stress to them you have no interest in the "whitey" menu they try to hand you, if you're not Chinese that is.

                                                          1. re: skylineR33
                                                            shekamoo Sep 2, 2010 03:00 AM

                                                            at O'Mei, two of us have managed to finish a 7+ pounder, done 4 ways, quite easily

                                                            1. re: shekamoo
                                                              skylineR33 Sep 2, 2010 08:02 AM

                                                              Right ! A true lobster feast. It feels so good that I can have my 3rd, 4th, 5th piece of lobster until I cried out "I am full" without worrying there is not enough to share, haha.

                                                      3. re: jamesm
                                                        aser Sep 1, 2010 09:40 PM

                                                        I don't know but downtowners seem to have a strong disdain for the burbs. One can take a look at Eye and Now as a prime example.

                                                        Having been a former suburb and now downtown dweller, there is a land of culinary riches in the burbs that many downtowners are missing out on. Not all 905'ers are puking outside of Wrongbar on a Fri night you know. Don't hate....

                                                    2. re: skylineR33
                                                      Tony Calgary Sep 1, 2010 07:56 PM

                                                      Curious when the last time you actually went to Hashimoto, skylineR33. While my last visit was to the old Missasauga location, I can't believe that changing locations has changed the quality as much as you say. I last went in June, so I'm surprised that you come out so strongly against it.

                                                      Has anyone else had a negative experience at the new location recently? I'd definitely want to know.

                                                      1. re: Tony Calgary
                                                        skylineR33 Sep 1, 2010 08:22 PM

                                                        I am not saying the quality at Hashimoto is going down, but seriously, for $300 (+ tax and tip) a person at JCCC ?! You know, one can get a great 10+ course traditional kaiseki in a private dining room+big traditional Japanese breakfast in your own tatami hotel room+on-site onsen package in a great Ryokan in Japan for less than this price. Just look at the ingradient Hashimoto used in the kaiseki for someone who has visited his new location, there is nothing worth that price tag, Hashimoto is definitely over-priced for its quality.

                                                        1. re: skylineR33
                                                          Charles Yu Sep 1, 2010 08:42 PM

                                                          Again, I have to agree with skylineR33 here! IMO, for $300+..... Hashimoto is way overpriced!!
                                                          My meal costs less than $300 at Tokyo's Michelin 3* Kaiseki place - Hamadaya! In addition to the room, we even have our own Japanese garden and spectacular flower arrangement!! Of course the food and tableware was head and shoulder above Hashimoto's offering!
                                                          Like skylineR33 said, for $300, I'll head over to O'Mei, order their giant lobster 4 ways and still have enough money left over for a whole Grade A Mirugai done sashimi style!!

                                                          1. re: Charles Yu
                                                            haggisdragon Sep 2, 2010 05:22 AM

                                                            The price reflects the cost of shipping fresh ingredients from Japan, does it not?

                                                          2. re: skylineR33
                                                            aser Sep 1, 2010 09:49 PM

                                                            I think to put it in a NYC perspective, Masa charges $350 a head. Masa has 3 Michelin stars, he is like a mythical figure for sushi in N. America.

                                                            Hashimoto, while I enjoyed the meal I had back in the day, is nowhere near that level.

                                                            15 Charles E, Toronto, ON M4Y2A1, CA

                                                            1. re: aser
                                                              Mike from Hamilton Sep 2, 2010 05:55 AM

                                                              Agreed that Hashimoto is more expensive than a Ryokan in Japan, but then again, the ingredients are readily available there and do not require to be shipped halfway around the world. Is it a nice dining experience unlike what most folks exposed only to western culture have experienced? Yes. Is it worth the $300+ price tag? Possible if you haven't experienced proper kaiseiki dining before. Did I enjoy my meal at the Mississauga location? Yes because it brought back memories of my time in Japan, but again, it didn't blow me away. YMMV.

                                                              Please remember that the original poster asked about what is GOOD in Toronto and not why Toronto is lesser than other restaurants around the world. Granted comparing Toronto (a city of 5.5 million) will have fewer and less varied dining options than NYC (a city of 8.4 million). If the poster was asking about what Ryokan to visit while in Japan, I'm sure (s)he would ask in the appropriate board.

                                                              The original poster is asking about uniquely "Toronto" experiences and is getting one before (s)he even gets here - our innate ability to slag our own city and a little bit of the Torontonian Inferiority complex.

                                                              Anyways to answer the question:
                                                              Streetfood - limited variety as our health laws have only recently loosened beyond hot dogs and sausages and the other vendors were hamstrung into tight contracts which limited their options (and ultimately the bulk of the offerings sucked). Uniquely Toronto streetfood would be Don Juan's fries in front of the convention center, or (if the cart is still around) an Ernie Dog from in front of Ryerson on Gould St.

                                                              Canoe - a Canadian twist on traditional fare
                                                              Black Hoof/Black Hoof Cafe - nose to tail dining done right
                                                              Barberians - Steak done old school in a Canadian and Toronto institution.
                                                              Coffee Mill - Hungarian/European food and iced cappucino done right.
                                                              Poutini/Smoke's Poutinerie - Canadian classic poutine, fries, cheese curd and gravy

                                                              Coffee Mill
                                                              99 Yorkville, Toronto, ON M5R3K5, CA

                                                              7 Elm St, Toronto, ON M5G1H1, CA

                                                              1. re: Mike from Hamilton
                                                                skylineR33 Sep 2, 2010 06:55 AM

                                                                The bottom line is Hashimoto is not a restaurant the OP wants to visit because he is from NYC which can have much better choice in Kaiseki with a much cheaper price.

                                                                There is no one suggesting which ryokan is the best to go to. To bring up ryokan is just to show Hashimoto has seriously over-priced. It is more expensive than the whole on-sen ryokan package and the top kaiseki places in Japan, which has much better quality and taste.

                                                                No, I don't think it worths the $300+ price tag even if you haven't experienced proper kaiseiki dining before. It is just not the same at all compared to the real experience if we are talking about the "experience". Not at new JCCC location or it's old Mississauga location inside a street plaza. Ship half way from Japan just means you are not gonna experience the same with the $300+ you spend, kaiseki is about seasonal and fresh ingradient, you get fresh vegetable in the morning and you serve it for the night in a proper kaiseki place, especially with this kind of price tag.

                                                                $150 is ok, but not when it is $300+. Get a ticket and go for the real one if you are willing to pay this much and so serious about experiencing kaiseki. It is already about half of the air ticket price.

                                                                1. re: skylineR33
                                                                  Mike from Hamilton Sep 2, 2010 08:49 AM

                                                                  Please note I didn't recommend it as a uniquely Toronto experience - I wouldn't recommend anyone go to a kaiseiki restaurant as a uniquely "Canadian Experience" - however when in Kyoto....<grin>

                                                                  Nor would I recommend any of the Cantonese, or Pho or Dim Sum restaurants on Spadina. Although the cheap Banh Mi may be an idea...

                                                                  I'm just pointing out the fact that so many people seem to be intent on slagging what this city DOES have and complaining about what other areas do better instead of pointing out the actual good things the city has to offer - again this seems to be a uniquely Toronto experience.

                                                                  I do however recommend walking through Kensington Market and taking your chances with some of the little places there, or wandering through St. Lawrence Market and trying what looks interesting there, including a peameal sandwich at Carousel.

                                                                  <off soapbox>

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

                                                                  1. re: Mike from Hamilton
                                                                    Splendid Wine Snob Sep 2, 2010 09:04 AM

                                                                    Absolutely. Walking through Kensington and/or St. Lawrence market is a great idea. And I'm tired of the NYC-Toronto comparisons too. Let's stop shitting all over ourselves and give the OP what he asked for.

                                                                    1. re: Mike from Hamilton
                                                                      MVNYC Sep 2, 2010 09:13 AM


                                                                      Thanks for saying this. In my original post i was really just asking what does Toronto do best and it turned into a ragging on the Toronto dining scene. There are more fights here than on the NY boards which I didn't think was possible. I mean why even bother traveling if I can just get everything at home (sarcasm).

                                                                      Anyway there are some good ideas in this thread and I will report back.

                                                                      As a side note, I will be going to a Blue Jays game, anything interesting in or around the Sky Dome?

                                                                      Blue Jay's
                                                                      4343 Ferguson St, Niagara Falls, ON L2E2Y1, CA

                                                                      1. re: MVNYC
                                                                        curnonsky Sep 2, 2010 09:20 AM

                                                                        Pretty much all tourist traps and franchises. Le Select is a five-minute walk away. And Dhaba has an Indian ayce lunch buffet that's quite OK.

                                                                        Le Select
                                                                        432 Wellington St W, Toronto, ON M5V1E3, CA

                                                                        1. re: MVNYC
                                                                          jamesm Sep 2, 2010 09:23 AM

                                                                          Near the SkyDome is a pretty touristy area and mostly chain restaurants or tourist traps. Kensington Market isn't too terribly far from there though. I'd estimate a half hour walk or short cab ride would get you there. If you search Kensington Market you'll find loads of threads recommending some interesting spots inside the market.

                                                                          Hope you enjoy your stay!

                                                                          1. re: jamesm
                                                                            FrankD Sep 2, 2010 08:41 PM

                                                                            Actually, if you're going to a Jay game, I'd head out to Spadina around College or Dundas a few hours early, and walk south to the Dome. Lots of good Chinese places (New Sky is my fave), and Vietnamese. Easy detour through Kensington, and if it's getting close to the first pitch, just grab a streetcar which will let you off right at the Dome. Otherwise, the walk lets you work off dinner, and make room for those wonderful hot dogs.. :{

                                                                        2. re: Mike from Hamilton
                                                                          skylineR33 Sep 2, 2010 03:36 PM

                                                                          I think you have missed reading something. In fact, lots of people on this thread make suggestions on what kind of food is Toronto's strength and what one should not head to, for visitor from NYC.

                                                                          I do not recommend dim sum on the Spadina too, as I said in my post earlier, LWH is the place to go to for dim sum.

                                                                          1. re: skylineR33
                                                                            pete k Sep 2, 2010 04:03 PM

                                                                            What would you recommend in the downtown area or something that's fairly accessible by transit that's not as pricey as say LWH?

                                                                            1. re: pete k
                                                                              skylineR33 Sep 2, 2010 08:42 PM

                                                                              Maybe you want to give Crown Princess a try. I have not tried their new location at downtown but I have tried their uptown one. Review shows it is pretty good.


                                                                              Crown Princess
                                                                              1033 Bay Street, Toronto, ON M5S 3A5, CA

                                                                      2. re: Mike from Hamilton
                                                                        T Long Sep 2, 2010 07:39 AM

                                                                        Thanks Mike: Great post!

                                                                        1. re: Mike from Hamilton
                                                                          Herb Sep 2, 2010 08:10 AM

                                                                          Ernie retired three or four years ago.

                                                                      3. re: skylineR33
                                                                        Herb Sep 2, 2010 05:45 AM

                                                                        So, you haven't been to the new Hashimoto then?

                                                                        1. re: Herb
                                                                          skylineR33 Sep 2, 2010 05:59 AM

                                                                          No. I have not been to Hashimoto after they increase their price to $300. And I will not go. I have seen what they serve with the $300 dollar menu, and I have seen report of people who visit it on this board (who reports it as a serious rip off). It does not justify the $300 dollar they charge at all. Top kaiseki at Kyoto charges half of what he is charging with much better ingradients and environment.

                                                                2. re: haggisdragon
                                                                  koko Oct 19, 2010 03:58 PM

                                                                  Rhino, yes yes for beer bar... almost 300 beers is it? MUST TRY ZLATOROG from Slovenia

                                                                  The bar is not Frat-boy-ish like others, has great service, huge patio (its too cold out now tho) and the vibe/atmosphere/service kicks a$$... full of hipsters but doesn't carry the attitude...

                                                                  Then walk down the street and grab one of Parkdale's glorious rotis, or a shawarma at Ali Baba's for streetfood... you'll have the MOST pleasant burpy dreams ever...

                                                                3. m
                                                                  Maggie19 Sep 2, 2010 08:19 AM

                                                                  Since no one has mentioned this, I'd head via the subway over to Greektown. On Danforth Ave you'll find a large amount of excellent Greek restaurants. Been to Ouzeri and would recommend it highly.

                                                                  500A Danforth Avenue, Toronto, ON M4K 1P6, CA

                                                                  1. a
                                                                    akhorasanee Sep 2, 2010 01:23 PM

                                                                    check out guu! its fabulous

                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                    1. re: akhorasanee
                                                                      Notorious P.I.G. Sep 2, 2010 01:49 PM

                                                                      There's actually nothing quite like Guu in NYC to be totally honest. Village Yoko Cho and Kenka are similar but not in the same league as far as food quality goes.

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

                                                                      1. re: Notorious P.I.G.
                                                                        grandgourmand Sep 3, 2010 05:37 AM

                                                                        Guu is great. But the lineups are long. So plan to show up at 5pm when they open.

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

                                                                    2. m
                                                                      mickintoronto Sep 3, 2010 09:41 AM

                                                                      I would recommend Guu Izakaya.
                                                                      It's a fun place to go, and sort of different than any other place you'd find in town. I know NYC has some excellent Japanese restos and izakayas (we ate at EN and the food was top-notch and have also had sushi at Yasuda, so food-wise, I doubt anywhere here can top NYC), but the atmosphere at Guu is more akin to what you would find in Tokyo.

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

                                                                      1. m
                                                                        markdsgraham Sep 3, 2010 07:47 PM

                                                                        Please excuse the collective Canadian self-doubt.

                                                                        Plus one from me for Guu, which will be a great night out, for a back bacon sandwich at the St. Lawrence Market, which is a good place to visit, and Chiado, which is a good Toronto experience especially because it is sort of a classic Toronto neighbourhood. I would definitely go to Bar Volo for drinks.

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

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

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

                                                                        1. c
                                                                          Culinary Seductions Sep 4, 2010 07:19 AM

                                                                          I am from NY originally and lived in Los Angeles for 13 years. I have made Toronto my home for the past 3 years. I am a chef, but that is not my current career. There are a lot of great food places, but sadly there isn't anything so amazing in Toronto like pizza is to NY or sushi is to Los Angeles except the BEER. Street food is only limited to hot dog stands (and the dogs are no Sabrett's) and a few other food carts that the city's socialized government controls. The fine dining experiences are good, but nothing like Alinea or Charlie Trotters in Chicago. Also, please note that the service in Canada (although it is getting better) is nothing like the great service one gets in NY, Los Angeles, Chicago etc. So, be patient. The other thing I will say is overall, the food markets in Toronto are much better in terms of quality and gourmet ingredients than in the states. That may be a reason the restaurant scene is not so flaming hot. Also the best chefs from here go to NY. Speaking of which, one of them is Susur Lee. He has a new restaurant opening up soon in Toronto (if it's not open already) that I am looking forward to checking out.

                                                                          Better beer does reside here. Steam Whistle Brewery makes only one beer, a pilsner and it's delicious. It's one of the best pilsner's I have ever had. It's brewed in downtown Toronto in a old roundhouse across from the Sky Done (Rogers Centre). You can find it in most pubs. The pub scene reminds me a lot of the pubs in London, so check them out.

                                                                          Esplanade Bier Market - is great with decent food and a lot of beer to choose from.

                                                                          Mill St. - in The Distillery District is good and worth a visit. The food at Mill St. is tourista- mediocre pub fare.

                                                                          C'est What? - has great craft beer, but the food isn't anything special at all.

                                                                          The Irish Embassy - For Guiness. It is delicious!

                                                                          Allen's - Pub on the Danforth for a great burger and great beer.

                                                                          Let's talk food. Places to visit have been mentioned on this board include:

                                                                          Kensignton Market is very good to walk around etc. It's kinda cool.

                                                                          St. Lawrence market is more tourista - (think Grand Central Terminal but bigger and all food.)

                                                                          Mezes - on the Danforth in Greektown is amazing. it's higher end Greek dinning (but not fine dinning). Worth a visit.

                                                                          Allen's - I do like the pub food (The burger) at Allen's pub on the Danforth has a great burger and great beer.

                                                                          Josos - One of the best food seafood experiences I have had in Toronto. It's in Yorkville. It's a great little place. Make reservations. It's sexy-dinning with delicious Mediterranean seafood . After you drink your Prosecco and dine on fresh fish - walk down the street to The Four Seasons for dessert and have their chocolate cake!

                                                                          Canoe - I haven't been, but from very trusted sources, I hear it's one of the best fine dinning experiences in Toronto.

                                                                          Asian Legend - in downtown Chinatown -It's some of the best consistent Chinese food I have had. FYI there are six different Chinatowns spread out over the Greater Toronto Area.

                                                                          I hope this helps you on your Canadian culinary quest.

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

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

                                                                          202 Davenport Rd, Toronto, ON M5R1J2, CA

                                                                          601 King St W, Toronto, ON M5V1M5, CA

                                                                          Irish Embassy
                                                                          49 Yonge St, Toronto, ON M5E, CA

                                                                          456 Danforth Ave, Toronto, ON M4K1P4, CA

                                                                          The Bier Market
                                                                          58 The Espl, Toronto, ON M5G, CA

                                                                          5 Replies
                                                                          1. re: Culinary Seductions
                                                                            Dimbulb Sep 5, 2010 10:23 AM

                                                                            I was with you till you started recommending restaurants. And where are these six Chinatowns? I know of three: Spadina/Dundas, Broadview/Gerrard, Scarborough/Markham (though that's a general area).

                                                                            1. re: Dimbulb
                                                                              Culinary Seductions Sep 5, 2010 01:29 PM

                                                                              Mississauga for Chinatown areas and lets try North York in spots. Why not just say in 10 years all of Toronto will be Chinatown. With that said, I stand behind my recommendations. Of course, they are subjective. What do you recommend and Why?

                                                                              1. re: Culinary Seductions
                                                                                plasticanimal Sep 5, 2010 06:01 PM

                                                                                "The other thing I will say is overall, the food markets in Toronto are much better in terms of quality and gourmet ingredients than in the states. That may be a reason the restaurant scene is not so flaming hot."

                                                                                This is an interesting idea, something I've contemplated before. I have to say in the 14 years since I moved to Toronto, almost everyone I've met is an exceptional cook, and I've never met a bad one (I knew plenty of bad cooks before moving here). These aren't people in the industry; this is everyone from all walks of life. Most people I know are skilled in a wide variety of styles, and many take delight in fusing their favourites in fun ways. Speaking for myself, when eating out I usually eat diner food or deep-fried junk, as I don't own a deep fryer, and therefore can't make these things for myself.

                                                                                I've often thought that a restaurant with high quality food just isn't a viable business option in Toronto. It's too expensive, and sensible Torontonians will not go often enough to support it.

                                                                                1. re: plasticanimal
                                                                                  LRS Oct 1, 2010 04:46 PM

                                                                                  Im from NYC and will be visiting Toronto next week. I will be staying at Dufferin and st. Clair. Any recs? Im already going to Black Hoof my first night. Im not looking for highendish places (might go to the portuguese restaurant one night), i just one the best that I can get out of Toronto. Is there a particular chinese that you recommend aside form the one that appears on this board? If so, any particular dishes that are good compared to chinatown or flushing? Anyway, any recommendation will be welcomed. If there is a specially good latinamerican, caribbean or easter european, a plus.

                                                                                  Dufferin Cafe
                                                                                  2917 Dufferin St, Toronto, ON M6B3S7, CA

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

                                                                                  1. re: plasticanimal
                                                                                    jamesm Oct 1, 2010 06:17 PM

                                                                                    I think it's unfair and misinformed to say 'the restaurant scene isn't flaming hot' and it's empirically incorrect to state that a restaurant with high quality food isn't a viable business option when there is a multitude of examples that prove otherwise.

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