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Recommendations needed for our downtown "food crawl"

We're staying at the Royal York for a birthday celebration, and thought a "food crawl" around the area might be nice. Thinking oysters at Starfish, poutine at Smokes, that sort of thing. What is recommended within reasonable walking distance of the Financial District that is easy to access and order just one thing before moving on?

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  1. Kimchi fries at Banh Mi Boys (way, way better than that sounds, trust me). Item of your choice at Agave y Aguadente in Kensington Market. There's also a new place there that is selling colombian empanadas that a friend is raving about. Then up to La Carnita for a taco or two.

    Lots more options, but there's a start. :)

    1. St. Lawrence Market. A bit of a hike (not too bad) but well worth it. It's a food crawl in and of itself.


      1 Reply
      1. re: Davwud

        Wherever you eat, I would suggest topping off the night with the dulche de leche with raspberries and caramel (and sea salt) dessert at origin. One of my faves in the city.

      2. Great idea.

        An order of fresh rolls, garlic chicken and some Singha bar from Khao San Road would be nice stop.

        1. I did one of these last night in NYC. Most of the places were tiny and there was 8 of us so we sent 2 people in to get some food to share, then stood outside and passed the food around, each one taking a bite.

          I'm less familiar w/ that area, but I'd hit up Smoke's, Burrito Boyz, and Corned Beef House on Adelaide West, Naz's Falafel on John, and BQM Diner on Queen for sliders. If you're still hungry, cross Spadina for Banh Mi Boys and maybe into Kensington Market for pie, grilled cheese, empanadas, fish and chips, etc. As always, check business hours so there's no surprises.

          1. I don't know why you'd waste calories/stomach space on Smokes - it's a mediocre product. Try Poutini's on Queen (near the drake) instead. Viktor, in the hotel Germaine, actually has a very, very good poutine dish with a veal demi-glace as well, and is in the vicinity of the Financial district. However, if I was going to do a food crawl, I'd head to King/Queen West instead of the Financial district, easily.

            Beast also has an amazing "Gnocchi Poutine" that's one of their signature dishes (King West).

            2 Replies
            1. re: justxpete

              I believe Beast is still doing their happy hour (5-7) and so it can be had super cheaply! Please double check that if you go, Suburban.

              1. re: jlunar

                Good call on Beast. Great place to stop in for some bites if they are still doing their happy hour.

                Also, so glad someone finally mentioned Poutini's over Smoke's. Saw this earlier but didnt have the time to respond. You are MUCH better off at Poutini's. Couldn't agree with justxpete any more.

                Khao San Road is also a great one for some spring rolls, a beer. The main's are incredible too but may be a bit filling if you plan on doing a food restaurant crawl

            2. Thanks so much for all of the suggestions! I really, really want to add Porchetta to the mix...is it good? I have fond memories of eating literally on the street in Florence at one of the holes in the wall there.

              Will all of these places be cool with no reservations on a Friday night? We don't mind take out...but I'm worried about the busy factor of Origins and Khao San Road...

              1 Reply
              1. re: Suburban Gourmand

                No res. on a Friday night, eh? Well, given that you want to do a crawl & your home base is right down at the Royal York, I figure that you're ready & willing to cab to a destination & then go walk about. So that's what I'm basing the following thought process on.

                1) Cab to Kensington Market ((The cabbie will know, but you're basically going to College & Augusta & walking South, which is downhill for hte most part in Toronto). Go to El Trompo. Enjoy the classic little Mexican tacos & Tecate. Why not La Carnita? Let's face it, there's so much hype around the place right now that you'll wait too long to get in.
                2) You have 2 options here: A) Directly across the street is Torito Tapas Bar if you want tapas. Good stuff. But tough to get a seat & it can get spendy fast. But if you want it, that's what it is.
                B) Walk South (downhill right?!) on Augusta to the end of the street (you'll see streetcar tracks) & turn left. You're now on Dundas. Turn right on Spadina & you'll see Pho 88. Great Vietnamese on the cheap with lots of flavour. But be warned, the portions are BIG.
                3) After 2 A or B walk South to King Street. Turn right & then cross to the South side of the street. Walk off the food coma & get ready for Southern BBQ. Go to Lou Dawg's. Get the smoked chicken wings, the slider sampler, the deep fried pickles, any of it. Delicious stuff & nice & loud.
                4) Waddle out of Lou Dawg's & turn left immediately. Now it's time for Wvrst (pron. Wurst). It's a loud, modernized, trendy take on the German beer hall. That said, it specializes in gourmet sausages (the boar & duck are my fav's)& decent beers by the litre. The beer will be key to ensuring you work (err... drink) up an appetite for the traditional poutine finisher. Now you COULD go for their poutine, I mean their fries are done in duck fat & all, but I'd say hit Poutini's like justxpete suggested.
                5) Stagger out of Wvrst & get ready for a good walk to work off 3 & 4. Go left out of Wvrst & walk along King to Bathurst. Cross Bathurst & you'll be standing in front of the Wheat Sheaf, arguable the oldest pub in Toronto, stop in if you like but it's nothing earth shattering. Either way, eventually go North (uphill right?!) up Bathurst & when you hit Queen, hang a left. Now it's a nice leisurely 20 minute walk along Queen. Walk along the North side & once you pass Dovercourt, Poutini's will appear very soon on your right. Walk in. Dig in. & be stuffed.
                6) Cab back to the hotel or wherever you'd like to go.

                This route will take you through Kensington Market, Chinatown, King West, & Queen West, so you'll get to see a good slice of the downtown-West core and a cultural cross-section of the city. It'll also give you Mexican, Vietnamese (&/or Spanish), Southern BBQ, Faux-German, and Fench Canadian food that you don't need reservations for that you can do the one-off or trading-plates thing at.

                I hope you enjoy!

              2. Ooh, financial district. That's tough. Starfish Room is good for oysters. Terroni on Adelaide East would be on my list for sure, but it might not be fast enough for a crawl. Frankly, I'd go west. SkotchBlog's post was pretty awesome. Dundas West and Ossington might be good: plenty of no-reservation places and lots of tapas style service. Start at Torrito on Augusta, from there, go to Raw Bar or the Black Hoof on Dundas at Bellwoods. You can stop in at Porchetta on the way (before 9:00) if you want. It's very good, but no Florentine tripe on the menu. If you are craving oysters, walk through Trinity Bellwoods park to Oyster Boy (reservation needed), then hit a couple places on Ossington. I'd hit Bellwoods Brewery for awesome beer and snacks. If you want a good walk, finish up at Midfield's Wine Bar (good snacks too) at Dundas and Gladstone, and hit Enoteca Sociale on the way (reservations a must though).

                1. Wow, you've got some heavy walking options here and that coupled with the need of reservations would turn me off. How about this for a little bit of chi chi foo foo and then on to street food when things get busy.

                  Start at the the Raw Bar early before it gets crazy like 6 pm. Maybe you could even fit in something at the Black Hoof.
                  Walk east to Porchetta & Co.
                  Continue east on Dundas past the Scadding Court food market. Little shipping containers with street food vendors.
                  Cross Dundas and cut into Kensington market (go up the little street by the hospital emergency entrance and then along Wales, cut across the park to Augusta)
                  On Augusta:
                  Jumbo Empanadas
                  Segovia - more empanadas, feijoada
                  El Gordo - a little "food court" with great options Agave y Aguate, Rebozos
                  If you need a beer about now: The Burger Bar has a great selection of micro brews, Ronnie's Local for local colour
                  Torito for tapas if you can get a seat.

                  Then cut east on any side street to Spadina and head south for pho, banh mi, Swatow for sit down cheap Chinese food.

                  Now I didn't address your need for poutine so you could continue down Spadina to Queen and hop on a street car going west to Poutinerie.

                  You could end off the evening singing karaoke at the Gladstone Hotel!

                  1. I want to thank EVERYONE for their amazing recommendations. I cannot recommend this type of crawl highly enough, we had an amazing time and it really lent itself to an evening of fun and exploration!

                    We started off taking a cab to Oyster Boy. I had called a few minutes previous to ask about a table, and they obliged. We split a dozen oysters and had Mill Street Organic (each, we aren't crazy!) which was lovely and refreshing. Had to finagle the husband out without a further order of oysters, promising further culinary delights.

                    We wandered through Trinity Bellwoods on a gorgeous sunny evening. Lots to see and experience! We meandered our way to Porchetta, where we each ordered the standard sandwich: mine with truffle sauce, his with cheese. DE-LICIOUS. Very very good. We sat around the corner and split a surreptitious half bottle of Amarone that I had smuggled in my purse. Almost as good as I Fratellini in Florence.

                    Next was a winding across Dundas, past the food stalls (most were shut, those open focused on dessert and we weren't there yet!) up into Kensington Market (Augusta Ave). Had a brief hand wringing moment when I discovered that Agave & Aguacate was shut! NOOOOOOO! Headed across the street to a VERY hot El Trompo and ordered their pork and pineapple tacos to go. They were ok. Pork very dry. Husband was giving me a bit of a side-eye, so I knew I had to find something good fast!

                    I figured we could find something interesting if we walked through Chinatown, but most street foods were sweet. I wished I had done more research on this area because it would have been great to know what was good.

                    We walked all the way down to Khao San Road. Unfortunately, their exhaust fan had given up the ghost and they could only serve us cold dishes. No worries, an order of fresh rolls and a Singha would be great!

                    Unfortunately the rolls were really bad. REALLY bad. Considering that I make better, that really concerns me. The rolls tasted as if they had been made hours previous, were very chewy, not fresh. What a shame!

                    We walked right across the financial district and pulled into Origin at around 10pm for the recommended Dulce du Leche. It was intriguing (having been to Colborne Lane last month, I knew what we were in for) but I did find the "dippin' dot" style raspberries a little overwhelming.

                    We split a lovely glass of port, enjoyed the vibe, and wandered back to our hotel for a nightcap.

                    I would STRONGLY recommend this type of thing for a date night. So much fun, and significantly cheaper than a regular dinner at a regular downtown restaurant!

                    Thanks again guys!