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4 day trip to Toronto - suggestions for must-eats?

My girlfriend and I will be visiting Toronto from Australia for 4 days in two weeks time. We will be staying in downtown, near St George station.

I am checking out the older threads here for information and questions similar to mine, but if someone can have some suggestions that would be really helpful for me as a starting point.

Thanks

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    1. re: Herb

      Apologies for being vague in my original post.

      Budget would be around $30-50 per person each meal.

      For cuisine type, we have no preference on this, we are keen to try all different types of food, especially ones which are renowned and famous in Toronto!

      1. re: ausfoodie

        What does Toronto do best? http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/731162

        Uniquely Toronto restaurants: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7216...

        Results of CH's TO Top 10: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/765205

        Chicago coming to Toronto. Foodie needs directions: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/742840

        Quick eats I like: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7769...

        famous/renowned luxe Chinese, esp known for dim sum: Lai Wah Heen- would be somewhere between $30 and $50 pp for dim sum at lunch, if you watch what you order, but could cost more if you don't

        famous/renowned contemporary Portuguese: Chiado - tends to cost more than $50pp, but if you order off their tapas menu, or just order a main or 2 starters, could theoretically dine there for less than $50 pp.

        most other "famous" for TO places such as Canoe, Scaramouche, Splendido, Kaji will cost closer to $100+ pp

        current trends/themes in TO :
        the "it spot" of April: Agave & Aguacate in Kensington Market - casual, Mexican take-out
        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/774761

        cupcakes -when will this end? I'm so tired of cupcakes, but many Chowhounds love Prairie Girl cupcakes http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/775913

        macarons - Bobette et Belle, La Bamboche

        small plates (less trendy than it had been, but still popular)- Origin , Lee , Salt , Torito

        offal and cuts of meat previously overlooked by the masses, at places like Beast and the Black Hoof

        Toronto's own smoked meat at Caplansky's

        local ingredients, which currently include ramps, and fiddleheads- Globe Bistro, Globe Earth, Cowbell , Pizzeria Libretto , The Wine Bar, Simple Bistro

        upscale Italian restaurants masquerading as cucina rustica - Buca, Enoteca Sociale, Campagnolo

        Neapolitan-style pizza at Queen Margherita Pizza-which takes reservations, and Pizzeria Libretto- expect line-ups if you arrive after 5:30 pm, or go at lunch

        fancy hamburgers -Harbord Room , Beast , Marben , Burger Bar , etc: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/524993

        cheap foods (less than $10 pp) done well in TO:
        roti, Jamaican patties, churrasco chicken, pasteis de nata (portuguese custard tarts),
        souvlaki at Folia Grill , dosas at Udupi Palace or other places around town, empanadas , pupusas, back bacon on a bun at the Carousel Bakery at St. Lawrence Market

        bistros: Simple Bistro , Mogette, Pastis ,

        gelato- Il Gelatiere, La Paloma

        quality seafood: Starfish, Zee Grill , Rodney's By Bay

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

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

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

        Udupi Palace
        1460 Gerrard St E, Toronto, ON M4L2A3, CA

        Lee
        603 King St W, Toronto, ON M5V1M5, CA

        Simple Bistro
        619 Mount Pleasant Rd, Toronto, ON M4S2M5, CA

        La Bamboche
        4 Manor Rd E, Toronto, ON M4S, CA

        Caplansky's
        356 College Street, Toronto, ON M6J, CA

        Pizzeria Libretto
        221 Ossington Ave, Toronto, ON M6J, CA

        Carousel Bakery Ltd
        93 Front St E, Toronto, ON M5E1C3, CA

        Buca
        604 King St. West, Toronto, ON M5V 1M6, CA

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

        Origin
        109 King St E, Toronto, ON M5C, CA

        Queen Margherita Pizza
        1402 Queen St E, Toronto, ON M4L, CA

        Beast
        96 Tecumseth St, Toronto, ON M6J, CA

        Enoteca Sociale
        1288 Dundas St W, Toronto, ON M6J, CA

        Folia Grill
        1031 Pape Ave, Toronto, ON M4K 3V9, CA

        Campagnolo
        832 Dundas St. W, Toronto, ON , CA

        Salt Wine Bar
        225 Ossington Ave, Toronto, ON M6J 2Z7, CA

        Agave Y Aguacute
        214 Augusta Ave, Toronto, ON , CA

        Prairie Girl Bakery
        18 King St E #106, Toronto, ON M5H 1A1, CA

        1. re: prima

          while caplansky's has its own location and a full fledged out menu of its own, i'd skip it and go to the free times cafe instead and get the goldin's smoked meat sandwich there. for background info, goldin only really does this smoked meat and so the free times has allowed him a little space to sell it publicly. otherwise i think caplansky's just isn't what it used to be... and i don't mean the monarch days.

          1. re: pinstripeprincess

            Thanks for mentioning that, pinstripeprincess. Looks like it's time for me to revisit Free Times Cafe, and give Goldin's smoked meat a try ;-)

            -----
            Free Times Cafe
            320 College St, Toronto, ON M5T1S3, CA

            1. re: pinstripeprincess

              Have you eaten the Goldin's sandwich at FT or only had Goldin's at home? I've had Goldin's at home — great! — but both times I tried it at FT, it was improperly re-heated and incorrectly cut. A waste of good product.

              1. re: Herb

                i had it twice in the early days of them being at free times and it wasn't as good as at home, but it was still pretty darn good. shame they're not treating the product properly.

            2. re: prima

              Great post, prima! Kudos to you for your thoroughness.

              1. re: prima

                Prima, this is a great list. Might just bookmark it for myself as a reminder of all of the things TO has to offer.

                1. re: littlelam

                  thanks justpete and littlelam! ;-)

          2. I'd divide your meals into three:

            1. dining experiences
            2. ethnic food you won't get in Australia
            3. cheap lunch/dinner on occasion so you don't break your bank account

            For dining experiences:

            Black Hoof (not far from you)
            Guu (a 10 min walk from you)
            Splendido ($100 a person, i'm afraid. but its close to you)
            Marben (nice Ontario take on comfort food)
            Beast (not expensive and its higher end food)
            Foxley - not far from you (subway and street car away. about 30 min travel time). value for what you spend is excellent. Two can dine quite well and have a glass of wine each for $100

            Ethnic food:
            not sure what floats your boat, but not sure if you can readily find Ethiopian or French food in Australia. I assume that Indian or Asian food is easily found

            Cheap food: Tacos el Asador (closeish to you), etc.

            -----
            Foxley
            207 Ossington Ave, Toronto, ON M6J2Z8, CA

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

            Marben
            488 Wellington Street West, Toronto, ON M5V 1E5, CA

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

            1 Reply
            1. re: atomeyes

              I'm not sure we can readily find French food here. ;-). Ha Ha.
              Would think Australian cities have their fair share of bistros. Of course, that doesn't mean that visiting Australians won't love our bistros. Luckily, we have lots of those. ;-)

            2. The original comment has been removed
              1. I'd say that if you're from Australia, you would probably want to try some cuisines that the city excels at that may not be as good as in Australia.

                Toronto is very multi-cultural so I would take advantage of the different ethnic cuisines available, including Indian, Ethiopian and Mexican. Since Australia is close to East Asia and has lots of Asian immigrants, I don't think you'd be wowed by our Asian cuisine though Asian restaurants in the city are definitely a strong point in Toronto.

                I'd recommend going to three casual (and small) ethnic restos for lunch: Gandhi for Indian curries stuffed in house-made rotis, Lalibela for Ethiopian, and Tacos El Asador. These places aren't too far from where you'll be staying. Gandhi is extremely small, mainly take out, but their Queen St. and Bathurst St. location can be accessed by taking the subway east to Bathurst station from St. George, then taking the Bathurst streetcar down to Queen. Lalibela is at Bloor and Ossington, so just take the Bloor line to Ossington. Also, Tacos El Asador is in Korea Town, just east of Christie Station, also on the Bloor Line.

                Good luck!

                -----
                Lalibela
                869 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M6G, CA

                Tacos El Asador
                690 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M6G1L2, CA

                1. Wow! Thank you all for the quick and helpful replies!

                  Will check all these out and post back with any further questions regarding recommended dishes to order at these restaurants.

                  For the famous restaurants, our budget would be $100-150 pp, the $30-50 budget pp from my OP was for a normal lunch/brekkie meal.

                  We are definitely keen to try one or two fine dining places, so will do some reading/research on this also.

                  14 Replies
                  1. re: ausfoodie

                    there's a lot of information to absorb here but i'd still strongly suggest sifting through old posts, especially ones directed to tourists, so that you can determine what your location in aus does well vs what we do well and have that is unique to make the most of the few days that you'll be here. we have an amazingly diverse communities, but sometimes not enough of one to support high quality versions of that cuisine.

                    one item that wasn't mentioned, which i'm a bit surprised by is poutine. while a francophone dish, it is uniquely canadian. i think your best option for it downtown is the great burger kitchen on church street. the burgers aren't anything interesting, but with the portion of poutine you get it can easily make a meal for 1 and a huge snack for two.

                    if you have the opportunity, not far from there is the st lawrence market (closed sunday). i like wandering markets and find that each country/major city has their own unique way of putting them together.

                    1. re: pinstripeprincess

                      I agree that if you have the time, you should definitely check out St. Lawrence Market. It's a great place to wander around in.

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

                      1. re: pinstripeprincess

                        Completely agree with you pinstripeprincess on that point. Am still reading through older posts directed at tourists. I am determining which cuisines are done well and unique in Toronto that doesn't necessarily excel back in Aust.

                        Thanks for pointing out St Laweence market, will definitely check it out as we would love to compare and contrast to other markets we've been to.

                        1. re: ausfoodie

                          st lawrence markety (slm) is best experienced on a saturday morning when the north farmers market is open. it is not open sundays, just so you can plan around it a bit.

                          i think that in the end, you might find our west inidies, south east asian, and maybe chinese or middle eastern dining experiences the most compelling and accessible downtown. i hestitate on the vietnamese front.

                        2. re: pinstripeprincess

                          GBK's poutine's are very large for the price. I haven't been to the Church location since I'm closer to Riverdale. To give some perspective on pinstripeprincess' description, the poutine was served in an inverted 9 or 10 inch food plate covers lined with parchment paper and filled with their fries and toppings. They also have a poutine of the day offering something different every day that can be hit or miss.

                          If you want a variety in poutine then Smoke's Poutine is close to you as well ausfoodie!

                          -----
                          Riverdale Restaurant
                          360 Springbank Dr, London, ON N6J1G5, CA

                        3. re: ausfoodie

                          I also noticed that you posted on the Boston and NYC boards. Are you traveling to those cities around the same time? If so finding out what each does well in comparison to the others would help you focus on eating what is best at all times.

                          For example the recommendation of Mexican above may be a decent one in general for someone traveling from Australia, but while NYC and Boston are hardly hotbeds for Mexican cuisine, they are still far better than Toronto in that respect.

                          Enjoy your trip, there are some great recommendations on all three boards.

                          1. re: Matt H

                            We will be going to NYC and Boston before arriving in Toronto. Our aim is to try and cover the food that is unique to each city - lots more reading to do!

                            1. re: ausfoodie

                              Beast can be done on the cheap if you go wed-fri from 4-6pm for their small plate menu.

                              http://thebeastrestaurant.com/?p=311

                              on the weekend you can get a TTC day pass for $10. Good for unlimited rides for 2 adults.

                              I would strongly recommend the Cantonese options uptown if you're willing to trek up there. If not, then have dim sum at Lai Wah Heen. Assuming you're not from an Aus city w/ a strong Cantonese population like Sydney/Melbourne. This is def something we do better than Boston or NYC. NYC owns us on northern Chinese cuisine (ie noodles/dumplings etc).

                              Have a Katz pastrami in nyc then come up and compare it w/ Goldin's at Free Times Cafe. That should be fun.....

                              Don't bother w/ pizza here if you're going to be in NYC. Make sure you go to Difara's in BK, do not miss it for the world.

                              Splendido is the closest we got in comparison to the nyc fine dining scene. Still think your money is better spent in NYC than here for that style.

                              Black Hoof would be cool to check as a companion to DBGB or Cafe Boulud. You can compare the charcuterie from each of the city's best.

                              Guu will be fun, but again, there are way more izakaya options available in nyc. Just the Totto empire alone can wipe us out.

                              If you like beer, I suggest you check out Bar Volo, Beer Bistro, C'est What, Smokeless Joe's and Victory Cafe.

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

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

                              Free Times Cafe
                              320 College St, Toronto, ON M5T1S3, CA

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

                              1. re: aser

                                still not sure why people suggest Goldin's at Free Times. i think that's a big mistake, but whatever.
                                Instead, if Free Times is doing Stella's Sunday Brunch, I'd jump all over that. $15 (I think) for all you can eat Jewish food. excellent vegetarian lunch. plus there's usually a klezmer band playing.

                                Bar Volo is EXCELLENT for Ontario (and world) beer. They have cask and draught ON beer that you cannot find anywhere else. and their food also looks like its pretty good (only gone there for drinkies).

                                and SLM is worth a peek. after going to Boston's market (I'm sure you'll check it out), SLM may look ugly in comparison. In my opinion, SLM is nice for a 30 minute side trip. but if you're not buying raw meat or fish, its not the best of places to visit. Cooked food options are ok.

                                -----
                                Free Times Cafe
                                320 College St, Toronto, ON M5T1S3, CA

                                1. re: atomeyes

                                  I still love the St. Lawrence Market, even when I'm not shopping for meat and fish. And on Saturdays, when the North market is open with the farmers market, I can spend a couple of hours wandering and spending.

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

                                    1. re: atomeyes

                                      Well what can you do, they're tourists. They can't exactly pickup a brisket from Goldin's home and boil it for 3 hrs in their hotel. No doubt taste wise it's far better to deal w/ him directly. I still like Free Time's sandwich more than Caplansky's, which has dipped a lot imo.

                                      As for food at Volo, better to eat at Beer Bistro if you want to combo food/beer.

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

                                      Free Times Cafe
                                      320 College St, Toronto, ON M5T1S3, CA

                                      Caplansky's
                                      356 College Street, Toronto, ON M6J, CA

                                      1. re: aser

                                        Agreed on Beer Bistro for a better food/beer combo. Volo food is... meh.

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

                              2. re: ausfoodie

                                If you're keen to try some of Toronto's fine dining places, I'd recommend you keep Canoe in mind, as well as Chiado, Lai Wah Heen, Scaramouche and Splendido, which have already been mentioned.

                                Canoe has quite a uniquely Canadian contemporary/continental menu, as well as a beautiful view.

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

                                Canoe
                                54th Floor TD Bank Tower, 66 Wellington, Toronto, ON M5K 1H6, CA

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