On the eastern portion of The Esplanade itself there are a couple hole-in-the-wall places: Times Square is okay for fish and chips, and some like the cheesy pizza at Bellissima, but these are neighbourhood hangouts and not destination restaurants.
Closer to Yonge there is the strip of pubs including Fionn McCool's, The Bier Markt and Scotland Yard. Fionn McCool's is a typical pub chain, albeit in a nice historic building. The Bier Markt is overrated with snooty service and a beer list that is not as interesting as they make it seem. Scotland Yard has the most authentic pub character of the trio but the food is unexceptional.
Jumping up to Front Street, there is C'est What for a huge selection of Canadian microbrews and reasonable but inconsistent food. The Jason George is a credible neighbourhood pub and my favourite in the area. Swish by Han on Wellingon just north of the Flatiron is a cool spot serving a modern small-plates take on Korean food... the spicy pork-neck tacos are a highlight.
There are more options if you stretch your range slightly further north to King East, where there is the Petit Dejeuner, a Belgian-esque bistro, and Mangia & Bevi at Ontario Street, a hidden-away Italian spot serving great thin-crust pizzas, pastas, and antipastos. Venturing east of Parliament there is the Chowhound-acclaimed Weezie's.
More upscale restaurant options in the area are Claudio Aprile's Colborne Lane and Origin, Brad Moore's Veritas, as well as Kultura, Lucien, and Trevor, but I've not been to any of those recently enough to give a relevant opinion.
354 King St E, Toronto, ON M5A1K9, CA
67 Front St E, Toronto, ON M5E1B5, CA
Mangia & Bevi
260 King E, Toronto, ON M5A1K3, CA
The Jason George
100 Front St E, Toronto, ON M5A1E1, CA
Swish by Han
38 Wellington St E, Toronto, ON , CA
70 The Espl, Toronto, ON M5G, CA
, Toronto, ON M5G, CA
Owners are rebooting Romanga Mia, new name, major renos, same chef, core menu retained but new stuff added, big emphasis on Salumi as they are going into that business with an off site factory somewhere in East York. Will be closed from March 7 to at least the 18th. On the last open day on March 6th they are going to recreate the dinner from Big Night
1039 Pape Ave, Toronto, ON M4K3W1, CA