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Cozy, casual spot along the lines of Weezie's or even Woodlot?

So I'm looking to take a visiting relative out for dinner on a Saturday night in a couple of weeks. She lives in a small bedroom community outside of Ottawa, and isn't really looking for cool, urban and hip. But this will be one of her very few opportunities to have a nice dinner without her husband and kids, so I'd like her to have a good experience. Weezie's would be perfect, but I'm seriously concerned about the recent quality reports.

Woodlot would be fun, but given the occasional challenge in getting a reservation, I'd like to look for some alternatives.

Any thoughts? French bistro fare isn't quite right for this occasion. Bonus points for options North of Davisville.

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Weezie's
354 King St E, Toronto, ON M5A1K9, CA

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  1. I like Campagnolo. Homey, rustic Italian. Not too loud, very humble. If you go, make sure you get the burrata with roasted grapes.

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

    6 Replies
    1. re: table4onthefly

      +1 for Campagnolo. Went last night, but it was quite busy. Make a reservation! They were out of quite a few things by 9:30... including the pig's ears and the testina... sad (piggy) face.

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

      1. re: table4onthefly

        I'm astonished to hear someone describe Campagnolo as not too loud. I was there a few weeks ago and it was positively deafening. I was at a table with 6 people and the only one of them I could hear reasonably well was the one sitting next to me. I couldn't hear the person across from me, and I sure couldn't hear the people at the other end of the table.

        I really liked the food -- including the burrata and the wild boar -- but it was really, really loud.

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

        1. re: Jacquilynne

          How humble was Campagnolo when you were there?

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

          1. re: prima

            Hrmm, I'm not sure humble is quite the word I'd use to describe them, either, but I can see how it sort of fits. They might be aiming at humble, perhaps, but are self-conscious enough about it that they aren't actually managing it. When I think of humble in terms of restaurants, I think of places like Mi Tierra on St. Clair -- serving comfort food in an environment that's in no way slicked up or professionally decorated, even if the owners themselves may have put a lot of love into it.

          2. re: table4onthefly

            I've never eaten there. Only drove by on my way to Black Hoof. but i would be shocked to describe it as an intimate or humble bar. There's always a club-like line outside the restaurant.

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

          3. Cava maybe?

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

            1. Quince

              Frida for Mexican?

              1. I haven't been but I've heard good things about Camerini, a small, intimate family run Italian ristorante that is right beside Flaky Tart. Not trendy, fusion italian but old school with good ingredients. Perhaps people who have tried it can comment.

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                Camerini
                709 Mt Pleasant, Toronto, ON M4S2N4, CA

                Flaky Tart
                711 Mt Pleasant Rd, Toronto, ON M4S, CA

                1. I really like sitting at the bar at Cava - not crazy about the rest of the room. Same goes for Campagnolo. Food is good at both. I really like Woodlot and I've had pretty good luck with getting in both off the wait-list and also as a walk-in. If you go early, with time to grab a nearby glass of wine while you wait, I think that's a lovely night out. Or what about the Pasta Bar at Scaramouche? Or Zucca? Other more midtownish options...Tabule, Copper Chimney, Ha Long Bay.

                  And while it's not as chowish as some of the other spots, I've had some good comfort meals at La Vecchia - it definitely isn't cool, urban or hip and it doesn't challenge the palate but it's a cozy room with decent food.

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

                  La Vecchia
                  2405A Yonge St, Toronto, ON M4P2E7, CA

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

                  1. Gilead Bistro would be a good pick but is further south than you want.

                    1. Thanks, everyone! I'll put Campagnolo on the list. I like Cava a lot, but the room feels a bit cold to me (I think they just keep the lights on too high), but I think that may actually be a decent choice, as the ability to share plates is always fun. We did Tabule last time she was in town. I think Woodlot is still top of my list for this occasion.

                      Why is it so rare to find a restaurant with good food and service in a warm, inviting atmosphere? Or at least one that isn't an Italian pizza and pasta joint. :)

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                      Tabule
                      2009 Yonge Street, Toronto, ON M4S 1Z8, CA

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

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

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: TorontoJo

                        if you like harbord room that would be a good choice. i'm on the fence with them personally but that's only about some of the food. i find that newer places have sound issues and i think campagnolo is one of those... might not be so fun losing your voice by the end of the night.

                        1. re: pinstripeprincess

                          I'm very "meh" about Harbord Room, sadly. My only good meals there have been the burger, which is lovely on the patio on a warm day. My two full-on dinners there have been remarkably disappointing.

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                          Harbord Room
                          89 Harbord St, Toronto, ON M5S1G4, CA

                      2. Loire, enoteca sociale, foxley

                        1. Zee Grill or 93 Harbord?

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                          93 Harbord
                          93 Harbord St, Toronto, ON M5S1G4, CA

                          Zee Grill
                          641 Mt Pleasant Rd, Toronto, ON M4S, CA

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: fickle

                            Agree, Zee & 93 Harbord would be good options.

                            Also find Rodney's by Bay to be cozy, despite its location a stone's throw from the Financial District.

                            1. re: prima

                              Of the suggestions to date, I'm partial to both Zucca and The Pasta Bar at Scaramouche. What I like about Zucca, a nominally Italian resto, is that it doesn't feel like one - if you don't want pasta and such, you can order dishes that don't identify as Italian at all, and they're damn good. Though all the pastas and other Italian dishes are eminently well-executed as well. And The Pasta Bar is a wonderful Saturday night venue (if one is foolhardy enough to actually dine out on busy, busy Saturday night) as it should be at $175-$200 a couple with wine, all in. It's a one-of-a-kind feeling to turn off Avenue Rd. into another little world, where a valet takes your car and you proceed through the elegant doors of the condo building into the gradually intensive hubbub of people immensely enjoying themselves in the distance, and finally into the restaurant premises itself. The Pasta Bar is just south of the OP's Maginot Line for dining, though.

                              Alas, most of the newly interesting joints are south of Bloor St. nowadays. Enoteca Sociale is a winner, but it'd be hell on a Saturday night getting there from the OP's little hutch in York Mills. Took me almost an hour mid-week from York Mills. And that's assuming you can get a reservation on a Saturday. It's deservedly popular and very, very, very noisy. Try for a table along a wall, which mutes the noise somewhat. Almost everything on the menu's good, though one appetizer - cheese spiked with anchovies - is little more than a tiny grilled cheese sandwich, and overpriced to boot.

                              Actually, I rather still like Weezie's, and always have. It's just that it's no longer the mad buy it was when it opened, and this may be making the bistro customers cranky - and the OP wary of recent criticisms.

                              1. re: juno

                                juno, have you been to Weezie's recently? Still good quality? I'm not as concerned about the pricing.

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                                Weezie's
                                354 King St E, Toronto, ON M5A1K9, CA

                                1. re: TorontoJo

                                  Last there a few weeks ago. It's solid. But it IS a French-style bistro, which you suggest might not be what you're looking for this time round. Still, that appetizer of a panko-crusted egg over frisee is done just right, as is the mac-'n'-cheese and that old bistro reliable - steak frites. Good ingredients usually well executed. Weezie's does most things well on its limited menu and provides a decent mid-priced dinner in a charmingly idiosyncratic atmosphere. It's a specialty act, with - I suspect - a staff of two: Weezie at the stove and whoever she finds to wait tables. Service is usually good, if sometimes distracted when it's busy. No bread (unless you beg for it), which is kinda strange for a bistro. Yes, it is quite idiosyncratic.

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                                  Weezie's
                                  354 King St E, Toronto, ON M5A1K9, CA

                                  1. re: juno

                                    Thanks, juno! While I think of Weezie's as a bistro, I don't actually think of it as a traditional French bistro (a la Simple Bistro, Le Select or Steak Frites), as the menu is more eclectic (burger and mac and cheese!).

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                                    Weezie's
                                    354 King St E, Toronto, ON M5A1K9, CA

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

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

                          2. Just wanted to report back and thank everyone again for their suggestions. In the end, she was in the mood for Mexican, so we went to Milagro at Yonge/Lawrence. The Mexican food situation in Ottawa is even more dire than that of Toronto, so Milagro was a hit. Big pitcher of their classic sangria (not bad, could have more oomph), really good guacamole, delicious tacos adobados, fish tacos (very good except for the citrus-y cream sauce that I could have done without) and a burrito filled with cochinita pibil. A side of excellent refried black beans and decent rice rounded out the meal. It was an enjoyable dinner all around. Final bill for 3 people was $125, including tip.