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Foodie visit to TO

Hello! I am going to TO very soon (by way of NYC) to visit some family and was looking for some dining help while there.

I LOVE food. Some of my favorite meals of all time have been at: Blue Hill Stone barns, Per Se (though found the ambiance a bit to, hmm, "classic", for my taste) Il Buco, and Northern Spy Co (on the more reasonable end). Also, I would really like to eat at The Fat Duck one day. So, I am looking for restaurants in the same vein as the ones above (farm to table, interesting/ experimental execution, fine dining but not stuffy, etc).

I will have time to have 3 diners out, and I am trying to decide between the following (but suggestions welcome!!):

Woodlot
Origin
The Black Hoof (do they serve any vegetarian or fish dishes?)
Brockton General
Niagara Street Cafe
Loire

I am also having a hard time coming up with 3 brunch/ lunch spots (2 weekend and 1 weekday).

As well, I am thinking of checking out the St. Lawrence Market on a Saturday morning - thoughts?

Finally, there any snack spots/ sweet treat shops that I must check out too??

Thank you in advance for all of your help!!

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Niagara Street Cafe
169 Niagara St, Toronto, ON M5V1C9, CA

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

Fat Duck
210 Kortright Rd W, Guelph, ON N1G4X4, CA

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

Brockton General
1321 Dundas St W, Toronto, ON M6J 1Y1, CA

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  1. Your list seems good. I would visit St; Lawrence Market but mainly as site seeing venture and not food. Desserts will be better in NYC but I would recommend Rahier as I think its one of the best in the city.
    I would add The Beast to your list as a maybe it has the qualities you are looking for (I haven't tried it but have read good reviews.)
    I would recommend trying some dim sum while you are in TO. If interested I can list some places worth looking into.

    -----
    Rahier
    1586 Bayview Ave, Toronto, ON M4G, CA

    2 Replies
    1. re: elvisahmed

      St. Lawrence for sight seeing and not food? That is odd advice. Definitely St. Lawrence Market for the food too.

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

      1. re: acd123

        Well I haven't had a good meal at St. Lawrence market. Do you recommend anything for food there? unless the OP is grocery shopping I think there are better options for food than SLM.

    2. Where will you be staying? Do you have access to a car?

      I'd avoid SLM on a Saturday morning unless you like crowds. It's a zoo by 8 am.

      1. For brunch, I would recommend Lola's Commissary and Le Petit Dejeuner (particularly the Belgian waffles and the eggs benny), both open for breakfast on weekdays and weekends. On the weekend, check out Black Hoof and Beast.

        -----
        Le Petit Dejeuner
        191 King St E, Toronto, ON M5A1J5, CA

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

        Lola's Kitchen
        634 Church St, Toronto, ON M4Y 2G3, CA

        2 Replies
        1. re: TorontoJo

          i have to disagree on the petit dejeuner rec...we made the trek down there a few months ago and found very ho-hum breakfast, not particularly clean space, and a genuinely terrible belgian liege waffle -- heavy as a hockey puck, and about as flavorful. (perhaps they are supposed to be that way? dunno.) the regular waffles weren't bad, but not standouts. i don't think the place would be in the least bit remarkable in nyc.

          the search for a good brunch in toronto continues...

          1. re: autopi

            Oh, those liege waffles are awful -- hockey pucks, as you say. I'm talking about the raised yeast waffles -- I think they may call them "Brussels waffels" on the menu. I think they are the best waffles in the city and are the primary reason I go there, though Lola's Commissary is my more frequent destination these days.

            Try Lola's Commissary -- it will be a totally different experience than LPD. Bright, open space, fantastic food (very vegetarian friendly menu, too), excellent coffee.

            -----
            Lola's Kitchen
            634 Church St, Toronto, ON M4Y 2G3, CA

        2. Not even close to fancy, but worth the visit are:

          Stockyards for bbq and fried chicken.

          Porchetta and Co. for amazing porchetta sandwiches (get it with rapini and the truffle sauce). You may also get lucky and end up on a day when they're serving soft shelled crab sandwiches.

          Not sure if these interest you (they're not vegetarian at all), but damn good food.

          1. Nobody answered the Black Hoof question, in short if you are vegetarian or pescatarian, forget it, no veg items unless you count bread and pickles/olives and most fish dishes are combination with meat (current menu has a beef heart and scallop dish, and octopus spaghetti which may have other meat in the sauce).

            I'm not sure about Brockton General at this point, they recently got a new chef and their menu is very limited, I'd suggest as an alternative Atlantic on Dundas.

            As a rule Toronto's most formal restaurants will never be as formal or stuffy as the most formal places in New York.

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

            Brockton General
            1321 Dundas St W, Toronto, ON M6J 1Y1, CA

            1. For a sweet treat spot, Soma is worth checking out. They're a great artisanal chocolatier who are also known for their gelato. They have 2 locations: one in the Distillery District and one on King West near Spadina. Both locations are in areas that are nice to walk around too.
              http://www.somachocolate.com/

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

              1. You say you like places that (Michelin would say) are worth a special trip, or at least require a long-term advance booking. Yet your Toronto examples are mostly neighbourhood places that are , at best, worth a mild detour (Black Hoof is worth a full detour but is currently closed for vacation and you don't say when you are coming)!

                It's hard to know what you are REALLY looking for (as this appears to be your first post) - are you prepared to travel a fair distance (e.g. Blue Hill Stone Barns, French Laundry) or is your range just a few miles? And if so, from what base?

                1. For brunch try Lady Marmalade on Queen East. Not fine dining, very casual, but excellent quality, substantial portions, and a very creative menu. Also extremely appealing to meat eaters and vegetarians alike. Haven't found a better breakfast yet, especially one available through the week.

                  1. For brunch I love stockyard and bonjour brioche!
                    Origin does a decent brunch as well!

                    For dinner I'd rather do Campognolo or Colborne or enoteca sociale over Loire or Origin!

                    1. Hi! I realize the places I listed as examples are quite special, but I just thought they would be best to describe the type of dining experience which I enjoy ("farm to table, interesting/ experimental execution, fine dining but not stuffy, etc") - not necessarily expecting Toronto restaurants to be on the same level, but I am hoping to eat some interesting food.

                      I will be in Toronto at the beginning of Sept - with access to car and staying around Bathurst & St. Clair and am willing to travel anywhere within the city for food!

                      Also are St Lawrence Market and Brooklyn Flea comparable? Or not really at all?

                      Thank you everyone for your replies so far!

                      12 Replies
                      1. re: nycfoodiee

                        There is almost no similarity at all. St. Lawrence is a indoor food market, with permanent stalls where vendors sell meat, produce, cheese, seafood etc. There's lots of selection but it's frankly effectively a glorified supermarket. There are a couple stands that sell takeaway items like the famous (or infamous if you prefer) Back bacon on a bun sandwich and a couple of lunch counter style restaurant stands.

                        If you are looking for something more like the food parts of Brooklyn Flea (or the Greenmarkets) then on Saturday morning head for the Brickworks Market (possible but painful on transit, a car would be easier) or the Wychwood Barns market (which is quite close to where you are staying, walking distance). Brickworks has a bit more going on in the summer, especially in terms of cooked foods to snack on. There's a newly opened farm to table restaurant at the Brickworks called Belong Cafe, haven't had a chance to try it but I have enjoyed the food from the pop-up that they were running while they finished building out the restaurant space.

                        There is nothing, anywhere like the main Fort Greene Brooklyn Flea combining food market and flea market.

                        1. re: bytepusher

                          Brickworks is a great suggestion! Didn't even think of it.

                          1. re: jlunar

                            I would also rrcommend Brickworks over SLM. In addition to the new cafe, there are some other delicious prepared food items.

                          2. re: bytepusher

                            Brickworks Market sounds amazing!! Do you think it is a better option over Wychwood Barns?

                            Thank you!

                              1. re: nycfoodiee

                                Both are good but Brickworks has the edge. Just that wychwood is so much closer to home. But this weekend, we're doing brickworks instead.

                            1. re: nycfoodiee

                              Places that, I think, fit your profile ("farm to table, interesting/ experimental execution, fine dining but not stuffy, etc"), I've listed below. Some have already mentioned 'em, so I'm just adding my support to those selections:

                              - Eigensinn (not in the city - 2? hrs out)
                              - The Black Hoof (should be back open by then, but call to check. No reservations. cash only.)
                              - Gilead (haven't eaten dinner here, but it's chef Jamie Kennedy, and he does good stuff. Maybe eat brunch here instead if you don't want to gamble)
                              - Blacktree (1hr out of the city. haven't been. hear good things).

                              I don't know about veg options for any of these really, but I feel that there should be at least 1 dish they can eat on the menu. Woodlot has a very veg-geared menu. It would also suit your profile, but I like it less than the other options.

                              Other good places:
                              - Enoteca Sociale (dinner. great Italian. excellent grilled items)
                              - Campagnolo (dinner. rustic Italian. Get the chef's bar if you can, up to 4 people)
                              - Porchetta & Co (lunch. might not be worth if you're for NYC - think you have something similar. This is take-outish too. Not a sit-down place).
                              - Lady Marmalade (lunch/brunch. busy. all. the. time. Love the baja rice bowl)
                              - Beast (for brunch, but could be for dinner. I haven't been for dinner and have only eaten brunch here once).
                              - Dim Sum for brunch somewhere. Crown Princess or The Pearl are my downtown choices. Head up North for way more/better selection.

                              Sweet/Treats:
                              - Soma
                              - If you're at SLM on Saturday, go find Lemon Tree (a table selling macarons in front of Lively Life in the basement).
                              - Fresh doughnuts from Little Nicky's (a bit of a novelty, but still good. Cinnamon sugar only).
                              - Petite Thuet has some decent croissants

                              Other notes:
                              - In general Leslieville, over a couple of kms, is a really interesting foodie walk. Special shops, good snacks/eats, and Lady Marmalade is around there. I can detail more if you're truly interested in doing this. It's geared toward the resident more than the tourist though, since you won't be able to bring much back with you :)
                              - I think Kensington is a more interesting tour for eats than SLM. More ethnic/eclectic to SLM's gentrified market.

                              Hmn... that's all I can think of for now.

                              --
                              http://www.foodpr0n.com -- food. is. love.

                              -----
                              Jamie Kennedy
                              9 Church St, Toronto, ON M5E1M2, CA

                              Blacktree
                              3029 New St, Burlington, ON L7N, CA

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

                              Petite Thuet
                              244 King St E, Toronto, ON M5A, CA

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

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

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

                              Porchetta & Co.
                              825 Dundas St W, Toronto, ON , CA

                              1. re: jlunar

                                Thank you! This was such a helpful post!!

                                I am thinking of spending one morning in Lesliville/ Queen East, and getting brunch at Lady Marmalade. Do you have any more suggestions for that area?

                                In the afternoon I was thinking of heading west and getting sandwiches at Porchetta & Co, and eating in Trinity Bellwoods park; then grabbing coffee/ donuts at Little Nicky's.
                                *** Just realized Porchetta will be closed while I am in town! What to do instead? ***

                                On Saturday the plan is to go to Brickworks Market and eat at Belong Cafe.

                                I am still having trouble with dinner choices. I have narrowed it down to:

                                - Woodlot. Looks great to me, but does not seem to be getting the best reviews - is it worth risking a meal here?
                                - Gilead Cafe
                                - Enoteca or Campagnolo (which one is better?)

                                Should I skip Origin? And Guu?

                                Is there anything else I am missing?

                                Thanks everyone, your feedback has been so helpful!

                                -----
                                Bellwood Restaurant
                                756 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M6J1E9, CA

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

                                Porchetta & Co.
                                825 Dundas St W, Toronto, ON , CA

                                1. re: nycfoodiee

                                  Dont skip Guu, its truly wonderful!
                                  In leslieville another brunch place is bonjour brioche, which has the best french toast
                                  Also, you cant go wrong with either enoteca or campognolo, I prefere both to Gilead, however I confess that I have not yet eaten at woodlot
                                  Hope this helps!

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

                                  1. re: nycfoodiee

                                    +1 for don't skip Guu. Awesome place. Also, Enoteca over Campagnolo. And please don't skip Origin. One of my favourite new places.

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

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

                                    1. re: nycfoodiee

                                      Skip Origin but not Guu. Black Hoof is one of the best places in the city for nose to tail. I don't think you'd go wrong with either Encoteca or Campagnolo. Instead of Woodlot or Loire I would suggest Ici Bistro but you'll have to book now to get a table for Sept.

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

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

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

                                  2. re: nycfoodiee

                                    If you want a Farm to table type restaurant, there are few better examples in Toronto than Marben. I believe they only have two animals slaughtered per week (if that), and know exactly where all the meat they serve came from - because they're the ones who butchered them.

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

                                  3. A great brunch place on Ossington: Goed Eten. Belgian waffles, frites, etc.

                                    http://goedeten.ca/

                                    -----
                                    Goed Eten
                                    188 Ossington Ave, Toronto, ON M6J 2Z7, CA

                                    1. Great thread! I'm new to Toronto and always looking for places to go :-) Haven't tried many places yet but so far I've liked Jump and Gyuu.

                                      1. For brunch in the same vein as above, I'd say check out Jamie Kennedy's Gilead Cafe. I believe he only serves brunch on Sundays but has his regular menu is open all week. A favourite of mine is the smoked whitefish over a savoury red fife pancake. If they have it, grab a Waupoos (Hard) Cider as well. It's a really good, locally made cider. Very dry and earthy. You can taste the skins, cores and seeds too.

                                        -----
                                        Jamie Kennedy
                                        9 Church St, Toronto, ON M5E1M2, CA

                                        1. Just to point out – almost none of the places recommended come anywhere close to your ‘top restaurants’ category. Even your sub-categories (farm-to-table; interesting/experimental; non-stuffy fine dining) are barely mentioned (jlunar’s post at least addresses these issues) – OK several ‘whole beast’ type places have been proposed – but fresh-picked veggies and greens and fruit are notably absent (or at best implied). To be fair, many (most?) places get their veggies/greens from the same sources, so you’ll have to search hard for some uniqueness.

                                          It appears that you’re confining yourself to Toronto – hence my ‘top’ recommendations (Treadwell’s in Niagara for true farm-to-table; Blacktree in Burlington for both interesting/experimental and non-stuffy fine dining – plus the best selection (IMO) of game meats) are not relevant.

                                          If you are cooking (as opposed to dining) any of the three places mentioned have good ingredients (on a Saturday). I find I buy more at Brickworks (if I get there early – say 8:00 – after that the unique stuff has gone) – but Wychwood is my second choice – and it’s walkable so I’d go there.

                                          For dining – you’ve essentially been given a series of neighbourhood places that are mostly not worth a detour – although if you’re already in the neighbourhood, then they are very respectable.

                                          When I visit a place I look for places that are ‘world-class’ in their own right, or restaurants that give a sense of ‘place’. Don’t have to be unique but that helps. At least it should provide something different from what I can easily get at home.

                                          Small plates (whether they be Spanish, Italian, Asian, Fusion – or anything else) should at least have a local twist.

                                          So, rather than criticise others’ selections here are mine:

                                          Black Hoof – already recommended and should be open again (currently closed for vacation) – but those of us craving a Hoof Fix will probably storm it. No reservations, so be there at 6:00 when it opens.

                                          Keriwa Café (Queen St just east of Roncesvalles; tried to add a link but it didn't appear!) – can’t believe nobody has (yet) suggested this. First Nations (Aboriginal) chef that’s attempting to put together a ‘true Canadian’ place. Still a work in progress – menu is very small, but that’s probably the best approach for a trail-breaking restaurant. Relatively upscale (but not fine dining) – belies the Café name – menu heavy on whitefish and bison and all-Canadian wine list.

                                          Splendido – best fine dining in Toronto right now – and their tasting menu is always seasonal (farm-to-table). Respectful but not ostentatious service.

                                          Please ignore all recommendations for macarons. Similarly be wary of ice-cream – New York has much better, although a couple of flavours here are good. Soma chocolate is good (but not worth a detour) and Greg’s Toasted Marshmallow is a local delight – definitely the local star for me.

                                          And because it’s the best – Dim Sum (lunch only) at Lai Wah Heen is expensive but absolutely worth a detour.

                                          A half-hearted recommendation also for Lee – Susur Lee’s place – MUCH better here that the New York version. However my last 2 visits have been poor – mostly the service – but he’s our best-known internationally active chef, and you will be able to try some of his signature dishes. In my recent posts on the North Carolina Board, Susur was the only Toronto chef they knew!

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

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

                                          Susur
                                          601 King St W, Toronto, ON M5V1M5, CA

                                          Blacktree
                                          3029 New St, Burlington, ON L7N, CA

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

                                          5 Replies
                                          1. re: estufarian

                                            For fine dining I would add George to this list.

                                            1. re: estufarian

                                              agree w/ estufarian 100%.

                                              If you're using NYC as a barometer, you won't be getting your bang for your buck at these types of restaurants in Toronto. Splendido and Black Hoof are worth searching out, the other ones listed here while decent for a neighbourhood joint, will not measure up when compared to their NYC brethren. You can pay $150 there for 2 and get a much better meal than in the T.O. resto's you're looking at.

                                              I haven't been to Blacktree but it seems to be the fine dining spot in Toronto that is pushing the limits a bit. I'm interested in going.

                                              Like estufarian, when I visit a city, I like to look for the best, especially things the city does far better than my hometown. NYC being one of the gastronomical capitals of the world, that is a tall order. It is possible, as Cantonese food in NYC is subpar at best, whereas Toronto has some of the best in N. America. Since you're equipped with a vehicle, a trip out to the burbs (Markham/Richmond Hill) would definitely be worth the detour. (Yang's, Casa Imperial/Victoria, Emperor, Regal 16, O Mei, Win's, Brilliant)

                                              I find Vietnamese to be better here than in NYC also. (Tien Thanh, Pho Con Bo, Pho Dau Bo)

                                              Guu, while extremely fun and one of my fav places in the city, is at the end of the day, an izakaya. Just to give you an idea, we prob only have 2-3 izakaya options in the entire city, whereas NYC has far too many to count. You're better off eating izakaya at home.

                                              That's merely my personal opinion, I know some folks on here get rankled at the suggestion that our places don't measure up internationally. I know I have limited stomach space on a trip, I try to maximize its utility.

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

                                              Blacktree
                                              3029 New St, Burlington, ON L7N, CA

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

                                              1. re: estufarian

                                                Thank you for such an informative post!!

                                                Keriwa Cafe sounds great - it sounds really interesting and I am definitely going to try it out. Do you know if they are open for lunch?

                                                I was also curious about Ici Bistro, Acadia and Ortolan - these were are just reviewed in NY Mag as the best places to eat right now in Toronto. Thoughts?

                                                1. re: nycfoodiee

                                                  Too late to get a reservation at Ici. Haven't tried the other two.

                                                  Keriwa isn't open for lunch.

                                                  Although Keriwa's on-line dinner menu is short, they typically do have 'Specials'. On my recent visit we opted for both special 'mains' (both Bison based) and a special appetizer (corn & whitefish fritters) plus the smoked whitefish from the regular menu.

                                                  Bread was baked in-house and was a 'red fife flour' sourdough.

                                                  1. re: nycfoodiee

                                                    I would look for smoked fish from Aikiwenzie, it's a family operation up north. They travel down to Toronto twice a week to sell at Dufferin Grove (Thurs) and Wychwood (Sat).

                                                    http://akiwenziesfish.blogspot.com/

                                                    Unfortunately, they're not here every week as availability is subject to the amount they catch. The blog indicates whether they'll be in town or not.

                                                    I live near Ortolan, again, a pass for me for the above stated reasons. It's just a neighbourhood joint, you'll find better in nyc, or at Black Hoof & Splendido.