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What food do you think of when you hear "Toronto"?

2roadsdiverge Jul 25, 2012 02:04 PM

I'm visiting Toronto for the first time in a couple of weeks. Unfortunately, it will be a short visit, with a lot of work, so I won't be able to sample as much of your city's cuisine as I'd like. I've been reading this board for a while and found lots of great ideas for wonderful food. I have reservations for The Feasting Room during pig week. I have a Google map with options for restaurants in whatever part of the city I find myself. I think I have my bases covered as far as not going hungry and finding awesome places to eat. But what I don't have a sense of is "What food is Toronto known for?"

You have an amazingly diverse city and I love that you have entire threads devoted to specific international styles. "Best Caribbean" "Best Ethiopian" "Best Peruvian". What's the best Torontonian? Looking into other sources for "cuisine of Toronto", I find similar results. Praise for the incredible variety and authentic food in the different ethnic neighborhoods, but no specific food that is done best in Toronto.

I was looking forward to trying poutine for the first time, but the poutine threads all say that it is better in Montreal. I'm still planning to try it, of course (I have dozens of locations on my map, including many food truck options). What else? Butter tart? Chinese Pie? The peameal bacon sandwich is described in Wikipedia as "[p]erhaps one of the most iconic and distinct Toronto offerings."

So, without going into the rich variety of international options (which is definitely an amazing thing for denizens of your city), what is done better there than anywhere else in the world? Or, if not better, at least symbolically represents Toronto.

What food do you think of when you hear "Toronto"?

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  1. Kitchen Imp RE: 2roadsdiverge Jul 25, 2012 02:27 PM

    Honestly, having lived in Toronto for a few years, I have to say that it really is the diversity that one thinks of. Where else can you get excellent Ethiopian, Thai, Korean, and Portuguese within three blocks of each other? (I imagine someone will say NY, but that's a much bigger city with a totally different vibe.) [My sweetheart just chimed in, "10,000 different varieties of ethnic cuisine, all done with the same wilted vegetables." He didn't like living there much.]

    5 Replies
    1. re: Kitchen Imp
      2roadsdiverge RE: Kitchen Imp Jul 26, 2012 12:55 PM

      I like the idea that the "cuisine" of Toronto is simply "diversity itself".

      1. re: 2roadsdiverge
        Kitchen Imp RE: 2roadsdiverge Jul 26, 2012 06:00 PM

        That's a much more elegant way of putting it. And so true! Thanks, 2roads.

      2. re: Kitchen Imp
        prima RE: Kitchen Imp Jul 26, 2012 07:59 PM

        I'm curious, which 3 blocks are you talking about? There aren't any excellent Ethopian, Korean or Portuguese restaurants within 3 blocks of any of my favourite Thai restaurants, and there are no Portuguese restaurants near my favourite Ethiopian restaurants. I think College St might have each of these cuisines represented over a 10-15 block stretch, but I don't think I'd recommend the Thai or Korean food in Little Italy to a visitor. I'd say my favourite Ethiopian, Korean, Portuguese and Thai restaurants are within a 25-30 minute taxi of one another. Which Korean and Portuguese restaurants are you talking about?

        1. re: prima
          Kitchen Imp RE: prima Jul 26, 2012 08:16 PM

          I meant Vietnamese, not Thai - my bad. Three blocks was actually a bit of poetic license, but on/around Bloor West between Ossington and Dufferin you can find quite a bit, and if you pop down to College from there, you're in Little Portugal. Head toward Bathurst, and you're in the midst of the best Korean food I've had anywhere, including NY... And I'm not even Canadian, nor Torontonian, so I'm not speaking out of bias here.

          1. re: Kitchen Imp
            prima RE: Kitchen Imp Jul 26, 2012 08:31 PM

            Interesting. While I like some Korean restos on Bloor near Christie and on Yonge near Finch (I like Mot Na Son), I've been quite impressed by the Korean options in NYC, esp the veg Korean place. Seemed like there were more types of Korean restos in Manhattan's Little Korea, inc the upscale vegetarian place. Of course,. YMMV.

            Re: distances- yep, those neighbourhoods are certainly further than 3 blocks apart ;-) but I get your point. I can think of few neighbourhoods that have 4 excellent restaurants of any type with 3 blocks of one another.

      3. estufarian RE: 2roadsdiverge Jul 25, 2012 02:49 PM

        I agree generally with the 'ethnic' emphasis. However, you specifically requested what is done 'best' here, so if you go ethnic check out the Top 10 thread from January - but my comments will avoid ethnic as its almost never better than at the source.

        However,as if you want 'Toronto' perhaps you might want some 'game' meats (although all are farm-reared).

        Look at Keriwa Cafe (it's not a cafe, but a 'regular restaurant'). I find it expensive for what you get, but a visitor should find it worth a visit. More reasonable is Bannock - but although the portions are large, the quality is just average (for me).
        If you want to splurge on Game, Canoe is a possibility (VERY expensive, but fantastic view) - but closed weekends. For me the best 'Game' is at Blacktree in Burlington - but that's a 30-60 minute drive (depending on traffic).

        Peameal Bacon Sandwich is a favourite of mine - St. Lawrence market is the place to go (opinions vary on best sandwich there). Please add honey mustard!

        There's a separate thread on Butter Tarts - too sweet for me so can't recommend.

        Feasting Room is great fun (and IMO has the friendliest service in Toronto - the servers REALLY care about the food). But go early (to finish by 10 as the place becomes a club later - except Monday). Black Hoof is also worth considering - but no reservations - and if you're already going to Feasting Room, then probably too similar.

        Poutine is a 'classic' - but it's filling, rather than gourmet. Best to try after a hard night's drinking - which you're unlikely to do if working hard!

        Hope others can add to this.

        13 Replies
        1. re: estufarian
          1sweetpea RE: estufarian Jul 25, 2012 03:08 PM

          I lived in Vancouver for a few years in my early 20s and when I returned to Toronto, I craved the items I missed while on the west coast. Those items were specific to my youth, but were, in my opinion, Toronto foods. I don't necessarily prefer them today, but here they are: fresh, still warm bagels from Gryfe's on Bathurst Street, cream cheese from Daiter's (also on Bathurst Street), Kristapson's lox (lean, sweet and very tender), which can be purchased from Kristapson's or at finer stores, such as Pusateri's. I wanted those Tiny Tom's doughnuts from the CNE, Toby's fries with that cheese sauce that would probably disgust me today, a grilled cheese sandwich on challah, like my mom made me as a kid, Tiger Tail ice cream from Lick's, and the corn muffins I occasionally got as a treat from Fran's. These foods are pretty mundane, but were faves in my youth.

          Today, I'm all about the GTA's ethnic offerings. I'm more interested in Kaji's omakase or Vietnamese, Ethiopian, Tibetan, Hunan or Sichuan, Polish, Peruvian, Tunisian, etc. I now prefer Montreal style bagels to those from Gryfe's. I haven't eaten at Toby's, Fran's or Lick's in 20+ years. I'd take gelato over ice cream any day and a banh mi over a grilled cheese sandwich in a heartbeat. That said, I still consider a Gryfe's bagel to be uniquely Torontonian.

          1. re: 1sweetpea
            estufarian RE: 1sweetpea Jul 26, 2012 08:27 AM

            Totally endorse the Gryfe's Bagel suggestion.
            Unlike any other (and my favourite).
            However not sure who is now offering it 'dressed' (with anything) - anybody know where available in 'sandwich' form as opposed to buying all ingredients separately and making it oneself? Although I've NEVER been able to get home with a complete batch - always eat some in the car (especially cinnamon raisin - which of course don't need a filling).

            1. re: estufarian
              Notorious P.I.G. RE: estufarian Jul 26, 2012 08:37 AM

              I think you can get one dressed at Caplansky's? Not 100% sure though...

              1. re: Notorious P.I.G.
                Wench Foraday RE: Notorious P.I.G. Jul 29, 2012 11:22 AM

                Yup, Caplansky's makes their lox and cream cheese bagel with a Gryfe's.

            2. re: 1sweetpea
              2roadsdiverge RE: 1sweetpea Jul 26, 2012 01:08 PM

              Thanks for the bagel suggestion. I had heard about Montreal bagels, but it is interesting to see that Toronto has a version. Maybe a bagel with Nova Scotia lox for breakfast on Monday.

            3. re: estufarian
              prima RE: estufarian Jul 25, 2012 08:07 PM

              I agree the Peameal Bacon Sandwich is a very Torontonian sandwich.

              I like the Italian veal, chicken or eggplant sandwiches found at California Sandwiches, Mustachio's, Ciccio Sandwiches and their competitors. Quite similar to veal, chicken or eggplant parm sandwiches in NYC, but the TO version is usually on a round crusty bun, hot peppers optional.

              Keriwa is a great suggestion.

              I'd also recommend Enoteca Sociale and Campagnolo as good examples of Torontonian Italian.

              Over the last couple years, I've brought visitors to Chopin or Cafe Polonez on Roncesvalles for Polish food (recommend the combo plate if you're not sure what to order), pasteis de nata (Portuguese custard tarts) at Doce Minho, dim sum at Yang's (worth the 20 minute drive north of Toronto), Caplansky's for Toronto-style smoked meat sandwiches, Rodney's by Bay for seafood, Starfish for seafood, Khao San Road for Thai and Mezes on the Danforth for mezes, followed by loukamades (honey balls) at Athens Pastries.

              Easy Restaurant is another place I consider to be distinctly Torontonian. It's somewhat bohemian, a little rough around the edges, and the location isn't convenient. I really like their huevos divorciados.

              1. re: prima
                grayelf RE: prima Jul 26, 2012 02:06 PM

                I saw this on Recent Posts and had to have a peek, having lived in TO many moons ago. Imagine my surprise that Easy is still there and making their tasty huevos divorciados. I still crave them, a decade on from my last visit. Also wondering if Mezes was once upon a time Mezes of Rhodes, still the best Greek snacks I've had the pleasure to eat. Thanks for the memories, prima!

                1. re: grayelf
                  prima RE: grayelf Jul 29, 2012 12:30 PM

                  Yep, Mezes used to be known as Mezes of Rhodes. It's still one of the best full-service Greek restaurants for mezes on the Danforth.

                  Easy is still going strong. I need to revisit Easy sometime soon, hopefully this summer.

                  1. re: prima
                    grayelf RE: prima Aug 9, 2012 10:13 AM

                    Good to know -- I don't get back much anymore but friends from TO are here this week who I used to go to Easy with and they still frequent it. Love the four top in the front window!

              2. re: estufarian
                2roadsdiverge RE: estufarian Jul 26, 2012 01:04 PM

                Thanks for the feedback. My Feasting Room reservations are on a Sunday @ 8:00 PM. That's as early as I could get, reserving as soon as they opened reservations online for that day.

                I was devastated to learn that I wouldn't be able to visit the St. Lawrence Market when it was open. Sadly my only free day is a Monday. Saturday I'll be in a seminar from 7:00 to 5:00. I'll have to get a peameal bacon sandwich elsewhere.

                As far as poutine, I'll be there with a bunch of very hard drinking, hard playing people (it is a conference for sports referees and officials). I have no doubt that we will be going out on Saturday night, and I see poutine in my future.

                1. re: 2roadsdiverge
                  estufarian RE: 2roadsdiverge Jul 27, 2012 07:42 AM

                  Just checked on Feasting Room - they have Sunday at 7:00 open in Pig Week!

                  Will give some thought to alternatives for Monday!

                  And St Lawrence market opens at 5:00am on Saturday (but don't know when they start serving sandwiches) - so you may have a breakfast choice - depending on location of conference!

                  1. re: estufarian
                    2roadsdiverge RE: estufarian Jul 30, 2012 10:57 AM

                    Thanks, but I don't do 5:00am, unless I am still up from the night before (and especially not when I am on East Coast time and my body thinks it is 4:00am.

                2. re: estufarian
                  evansl RE: estufarian Aug 10, 2012 04:15 PM

                  Every big city has lots of ethnic restaurants these days. There's nothing particularly Toronto about it. Pea meal bacon outside of St Lawarence is one of the few Toronto experiences available.

                3. atomeyes RE: 2roadsdiverge Jul 26, 2012 07:27 AM

                  them delicious hot dog carts!!!
                  symbolizes our city hall quite well

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: atomeyes
                    2roadsdiverge RE: atomeyes Jul 26, 2012 01:09 PM

                    Is "chip cart" or "chip truck" a generic term, or does it mean they focus on chips/fries/poutine to the exclusion of hot dogs?

                    1. re: 2roadsdiverge
                      atomeyes RE: 2roadsdiverge Jul 26, 2012 01:52 PM

                      its generic and i would be ashamed to call what we have chip carts/trucks, especially after going to Belgium and Amsterdam

                      1. re: 2roadsdiverge
                        prima RE: 2roadsdiverge Jul 26, 2012 04:17 PM

                        Chip trucks or chip wagons tend to serve generous servings of old school Cdn-style, thicker cut, fresh-cut fries. Some now serve gravy as an option, poutine and/or hot dogs, but the traditional ones serve only fries and cans of pop. Usually just one type of fry is available, sometimes with a little potato peel left on, with ketchup, white vinegar, malt vinegar, salt, pepper and/or sometimes seasoning salt on the counter, to be added by the customer. Common in cottage country, as well as the trucks on Front St and near City Hall on Queen West.

                        I don't compare old school Cdn chips to Belgian or Dutch frites. Completely different type of fry.

                    2. l
                      LemonLauren RE: 2roadsdiverge Jul 26, 2012 09:06 AM

                      I think Harbord Room is most representative of a Toronto approach to cooking these days, and a burgeoning cocktail culture.

                      I second the St. Lawrence Market peameal, Enoteca Sociale and Keriwa Cafe as great experiences on their own as well.

                      Ethiopian here ain't no thing, though, compared to say, DC.

                      1. GoodGravy RE: 2roadsdiverge Jul 26, 2012 10:11 AM

                        As a frequent visitor to Toronto, the two foods I associate w/ Toronto are hotdogs and doughnuts, both of which are ubiquitous.

                        27 Replies
                        1. re: GoodGravy
                          Matt H RE: GoodGravy Jul 26, 2012 01:04 PM

                          As a former resident who is visits quite regularly the foods or places I seek out on every trip back are: St. Lawrence Market, Peameal Bacon Sandwich, Randy's Patty and Cantonese Food in Markham.

                          The whole diversity thing is played out though. I really don't see any type of "ethnic" food available in Toronto that I cant get in another large city equal or better. Most Large North American and European cities are diverse now, not anything to write home about.

                          1. re: Matt H
                            TexSquared RE: Matt H Jul 26, 2012 03:08 PM

                            "Diversity" is another way of saying "Jack of all trades, master of none".

                            1. re: TexSquared
                              ingloriouseater RE: TexSquared Jul 26, 2012 03:50 PM

                              that attitude about the diversity of toronto dining is negative and overly simple. there are great examples of ethnic foods here. its too bad that you haven't been able to locate any in toronto. we may not be as cosmopolitan as new york or oshawa but we still have great examples of tibetan, east indian, west indian, thai, cantonese. we may not be a bbq mecca but then we ain't memphis either. no city with this much diversity is going to be the master of any one kind of cuisine nor should it be expected to. this is the richness we should discover and embrace-not rip apart.

                              most of the food that we enjoy in this city has its roots elsewhere. i would prefer to have the world of options rather than be focused on one thing. life is too short to experience anything less....

                              1. re: ingloriouseater
                                Herne RE: ingloriouseater Jul 26, 2012 05:23 PM

                                Actually you reminded me of a topic I was thinking about raising some months ago.

                                Where are there restaurants that provide Canadian food in Toronto?

                                1. re: Herne
                                  T Long RE: Herne Jul 26, 2012 05:28 PM

                                  A definition of "Canadian" food would be helpful. What does it mean to you?

                                  1. re: T Long
                                    Herne RE: T Long Jul 26, 2012 06:54 PM

                                    Prior to the recent immigration with its proliferation of foreign food. I love the stuff and think we are really lucky to be able to try it all but I also yearn for some pre Trudeau immigration stuff.

                                    1. re: Herne
                                      ingloriouseater RE: Herne Jul 26, 2012 07:03 PM

                                      what is pre-trudeau immigration stuff? that is like 30 to 40 years ago....

                                      1. re: Herne
                                        prima RE: Herne Jul 26, 2012 07:07 PM

                                        The Greeks, Ukrainians, Poles, Germans, Portuguese, Chinese, Hungarians and Italians have had a restaurant presence in TO that pre-dates Trudeau, as have plenty of other groups who immigrated before the 70s. While their "foreign" food might not have been popular with the mostly Anglo masses, it was present.

                                        Maybe Fran's is one of the last places to get non-"foreign", "Cdn" food, whatever that is? :-)

                                        Rebel House has a fairly Anglo-focused, Cdn menu. I'd also nominate the Arcadian Court chicken pot pie at Bannock as an anglo-Toronto dish that pre-dates Trudeau.

                                        1. re: Herne
                                          T Long RE: Herne Jul 26, 2012 07:13 PM

                                          Do you mean the type of restaurants that were popular in the early 60's? That's before my time...I mean I was around, but I don't have a good memory of what people were eating in the 60's and earlier;<) Chinese restaurants were pretty popular back then and its been kicked around on this board that a good representation of a good early 60's Canadian-Chinese restaurant is hard to find now. Fran's might have been at the top of its game then, but now seems to be a shell of what it was. Hopefully some of the older CH'ers will chime in.

                                          1. re: T Long
                                            ingloriouseater RE: T Long Jul 26, 2012 07:56 PM

                                            Tom Jones is still around as is The Pilot, United Bakers Dairy Restaurant turned 100 this year, The Wheat Sheaf, The Paddock, and The Senator...all still around, all have updated and some ownership has changed and the menus have gone through many changes...

                                            1. re: ingloriouseater
                                              prima RE: ingloriouseater Jul 26, 2012 08:07 PM

                                              Barberian's has also been around a long time.

                                              1. re: prima
                                                ingloriouseater RE: prima Jul 26, 2012 08:16 PM

                                                maybe we need a thread of restaurants/bars that have been around for 30 or more years...

                                                1. re: ingloriouseater
                                                  Herne RE: ingloriouseater Jul 26, 2012 08:59 PM

                                                  Maybe we do.

                                                  1. re: ingloriouseater
                                                    prima RE: ingloriouseater Jul 29, 2012 12:22 PM

                                                    places that were around 20 years ago, and are still good:

                                                    ancient but good:

                                          2. re: T Long
                                            2roadsdiverge RE: T Long Jul 30, 2012 10:58 AM

                                            "A definition of "Canadian" food would be helpful. What does it mean to you?"

                                            That was my question!

                                          3. re: Herne
                                            ingloriouseater RE: Herne Jul 26, 2012 05:41 PM

                                            there are many restaurants that prepare and serve from locally sourced ingredients and then there are a couple that focus on more traditional (read first nations) food products and dishes.

                                            for the latter the list is relatively short, bannock, keriwa and possibly canoe. TOCA and Tundra are both hotel restos that are inspired by Canada.

                                            As for restaurants that use locally sourced products...there are too many to list here.

                                          4. re: ingloriouseater
                                            Kitchen Imp RE: ingloriouseater Jul 26, 2012 06:33 PM

                                            +1 for ingloriouseater's original comment

                                          5. re: TexSquared
                                            hal2010 RE: TexSquared Jul 26, 2012 05:36 PM

                                            "Diversity" is another way of saying "Jack of all trades, master of none".

                                            It might be if one restaurant is attempting multiple cuisines, but in most cases that's not what's happening. Toronto may not be able to compete with the best BBQ in Texas or the best Ethiopian in Addis Ababa. But the best in Toronto will always be better than 95% in the home country. I can't tell you how many dreadful meals I've had while traveling. Location does not ensure quality.

                                            The whole idea of a "best of" is highly subjective. If you're snacking on some Vada Pav at sunset on Chowpatty Beach while auto rickshaws whiz by, there's no way they'll be able to reproduce that experience in the basement at Uddupi Palace on Gerrard.

                                            1. re: hal2010
                                              ingloriouseater RE: hal2010 Jul 26, 2012 05:43 PM

                                              very well said-a gold star for you and you are, of course, absolutely correct!

                                              1. re: hal2010
                                                justsayn RE: hal2010 Jul 26, 2012 07:54 PM

                                                Exactly hal

                                                1. re: hal2010
                                                  themiguel RE: hal2010 Jul 30, 2012 11:27 AM

                                                  One of the best comments I have read here in a long time. Well done.

                                              2. re: Matt H
                                                Kitchen Imp RE: Matt H Jul 26, 2012 06:04 PM

                                                Matt H, I arrived in Toronto after a lifetime in the San Francisco Bay Area, which is supposed to be some kind of food mecca. I've also lived in Paris and Lisbon. Toronto beats them all in terms of the diversity of the cuisine. The only ones that could beat it (though I haven't lived in either) are London and New York. In Toronto, you can get not only Ethiopian, but Eritrean. Not just "Indian" (meaning sort of pan-South Asian in most places), but Sri Lankan, Punjabi, and everywhere in between as individual restaurants. It's the specificity that amazes me, as well as the number of choices of restaurants within each category. Thirty Southern Indian restaurants? Fifteen Portuguese? Awesome.

                                                1. re: Kitchen Imp
                                                  autopi RE: Kitchen Imp Jul 26, 2012 07:05 PM

                                                  As a relative newcomer to Toronto, I fully agree with Matt H's sentiment above. There's a real echo chamber here about the diversity of Toronto's food scene, and while that is certainly true, it's also true of most major metro areas in North America. I'm not sure if you can get Eritrean in Boston, for instance, but you can certainly get Ethiopian, Sri Lankan, Senegalese, Taiwanese, Portugese, Peruvian, Cambodian and so on. (Plus, from what I've seen, high end dining is superior, and cheaper.) And this is a city that's something like a third the size of Toronto. And never mind the fact that a great deal of Toronto's vaunted diversity is way out in the burbs, not actually in the city at all. So, yeah, Toronto dining is "diverse." But so are a lot of places; and other places are arguably more diverse when you compare cities to cities, not metro areas to metro areas.

                                                  1. re: Kitchen Imp
                                                    Matt H RE: Kitchen Imp Jul 26, 2012 07:21 PM

                                                    Kitchen Imp, I can more than respect where you are coming from and my statement was not meant to slight Toronto and its diversity but rather to shine light on how that is hardly a unique quality.

                                                    I like you have been able to live in quite a few cities (NYC, Toronto, Boston, Orlando, Miami and Kingston) and think that they all have their strengths and weaknesses, Toronto included. Just because there is alot of something in a city, does not immediately mean its good. I always use the food I grew up eating, which is Jamaican, as an example. 100 of them littered throughout the GTA and none of them I have tried impressive outside of the bakeries. So its wonderful to have all these options, but in most big cities you can replicate that (maybe on smaller scale) and as long as a few of them are good is anyone getting shortchanged here?

                                                    I also guess being one of those "ethnic" people personally alot of this being in awe of the diversity loses its allure.

                                                    Focusing solely on this diversity it shortchanges the local chefs who are doing amazing things and re-defining what "Canadian" food is (i.e. Black Hoof, Beast, Marben, etc.) What they are doing is their unique twist on what Toronto's food scene is currently. If you steer a tourist to a great Thai restaurant, they will of course enjoy their meal, but they will miss out on something they really actually could not get at home and that would be a shame. There are obviously exceptions to this rule though, as I mentioned above the Cantonese Food is pretty incredible.

                                                    1. re: Matt H
                                                      ingloriouseater RE: Matt H Jul 26, 2012 08:04 PM

                                                      i don't think what the black hoof or beast or marben does it uniquely 'toronto' then either....not to short change them as i frequent them as well. using the same criteria and not to short change chefs in any city....every major metro area has local chefs (probably with beards, tattoos and plaid shirts as well) doing their take on local ingredients. charcuterie and offal wasn't started here but we may hang on to it longer than anyone else....

                                                      answering the OP, we probably will be known (for better or worse) for our street meat, peameal and italian sandwiches. we will also be known as a bunch of insecure whiners who are looking for gratification from outside (i hear sally field accepting an oscar-they like me, they really really like me).

                                                    2. re: Kitchen Imp
                                                      helenhelen RE: Kitchen Imp Aug 10, 2012 09:53 PM

                                                      i have lived in london and nope, toronto is better for diversity of food. NYC is unbeatable though.. (except for the roti, says my friend who now lives in NYC but lived in toronto)

                                                      1. re: helenhelen
                                                        Matt H RE: helenhelen Aug 12, 2012 04:25 PM

                                                        Queens and Brooklyn both have excellent Roti choices. I agree Roti is something that is represented very well in Toronto, but NYC is just as good.

                                                2. q
                                                  Querencia RE: 2roadsdiverge Jul 26, 2012 05:57 PM

                                                  Food in Toronto? Let's put it this way: when my husband once asked me where I wanted to go for dinner on my birthday, I asked to go to The Mandarin, so we did, and The Mandarin is in Toronto and we lived in Chicago. All Ontario has a wonderful genre in its Chinese buffets---really good food, nice places. In Chicago, Chinese buffets are kind of junky but in Ontario, nice enough to take your Grandma to, and very good food. At The Mandarin I counted 48 hot Chinese entrees plus a Canadian buffet with prime rib of beef and Yorkshire pudding, plus a grill buffet with salmon and lamb chops, plus six kinds of soup, a salad bar with ad lib shrimp, a dessert bar with French pastries, and a waffle bar. Look at their website and see if you wouldn't be willing to travel to have dinner there.

                                                  6 Replies
                                                  1. re: Querencia
                                                    ingloriouseater RE: Querencia Jul 26, 2012 06:06 PM

                                                    We would be happy to see you every year on your birthday.

                                                    1. re: Querencia
                                                      TexSquared RE: Querencia Jul 26, 2012 06:09 PM

                                                      Mandarin is universally panned on this board, and yet it's a tourist destination? Amazing....
                                                      I shudder to think how bad buffets are in Chicago if you're willing to travel to Toronto for Mandarin!

                                                      1. re: TexSquared
                                                        ingloriouseater RE: TexSquared Jul 26, 2012 06:35 PM

                                                        i am going to guess that a large group of people will admit to having gone to mandarin in the last 2 years. whether it be a guilty pleasure, an office party, hosting an out of towner, grandma's birthday, mother's day, lobsterfest or some other reason. yes-even i ventured there this year...i had to take someone that had never experienced it before.

                                                        it is highly successful, plenty of food at low prices.

                                                        but tex...what chinese buffet would you recommend in toronto to our guest from chicago? (a great food town btw)

                                                        1. re: ingloriouseater
                                                          T Long RE: ingloriouseater Jul 26, 2012 06:41 PM

                                                          Mandarin is often the choice location in our circle that best satisfies our "diversity".

                                                          1. re: ingloriouseater
                                                            justsayn RE: ingloriouseater Jul 26, 2012 08:00 PM

                                                            There is nothing at all bad about the Queensway Mandarin buffet. It is not the best chinese in Toronto that's for sure. It is IMO the best chinese food buffet in Toronto and most cities in North America.. Tandoori Flame is a great buffet for Indian food when they are busy and the items are freshly put out but beware of slow nights when the food is not hot and fresh!

                                                          2. re: TexSquared
                                                            Charles Yu RE: TexSquared Jul 26, 2012 07:16 PM


                                                        2. Charles Yu RE: 2roadsdiverge Jul 26, 2012 07:38 PM

                                                          Best Cantonese food in North America!

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: Charles Yu
                                                            biggreenmatt RE: Charles Yu Jul 27, 2012 08:23 AM

                                                            Very much so, with dim sum on par with what I've eaten in Hong Kong, which, without a doubt, is where the majority of the dim sum resto owners come from, never mind their staff.

                                                          2. n
                                                            neighborguy RE: 2roadsdiverge Jul 27, 2012 05:41 AM

                                                            My initial reaction to the question was the peameal bacon sandwich at St Lawrence Market. Then I thought how could I just jump on this particular bandwagon -- seems to be a knee-jerk-meme of a romanticized Toronto. I wonder just how many typical Torontonians have been to the SLM, as tourists, never mind the regular privileged downtown inhabitants. And it's not like you could go into any part of the city and find that sammy...

                                                            I DO like my back bacon sandwich, but I wouldn't call it ubiquitous and available generally everywhere. For that the designation goes to street meat -- hot dogs and sausage from a cart. And how Toronto is that -- the safe and default response to concerns about public sanitation... keeps the inspectors happy and does not infringe on restaurant business. Shameful and embarassing.

                                                            My real and final answer is that the food of Toronto lies in whichever neighborhood you are visiting. All offering lots of variety. These can include new 'it' places written up in Toronto Life and given traction on the blogosphere or small ma and pa operations that have been there forever that generally locals know about and share.

                                                            1. Jacquilynne RE: 2roadsdiverge Jul 27, 2012 07:30 AM

                                                              For me it would probably be Portuguese chicken, just because I don't see nearly as much of it elsewhere, and I associate it really strongly with here. I realize that's an ethnic cuisine, but I'm just not sure there's much avoiding that. I'd be moderately surprised to discover that this sort of restaurant was actually common in Portugal, though -- it seems like it's probably pretty Americanized as cuisines go. Rotisserie chicken and little round potatoes with piri piri sauce, and for dessert, some Portuguese custard tarts.

                                                              Usually these have to be procured from different places, unfortunately, though if you're willing to drive to the hinterlands of North York, there's a building on Keele St just south of Lawrence with a Seara on one side for the tarts and a Churrasqueira on the other side. There are downtown neighbourhoods where you could get both pretty close together, too, though.

                                                              2 Replies
                                                              1. re: Jacquilynne
                                                                prima RE: Jacquilynne Jul 27, 2012 07:46 AM

                                                                I've only spent a week in Portugal, so my exposure is limited to a handful of neighbourhoods, villages and cities, but I did enjoy some Churrasco chicken in a low-key, neighbourhood Churrasqueira not so different from the ones we have. Fairly limited menu with chicken and grilled calamari as mains. The main difference was that the one I visited in Portugal had a few tables (where many in TO are take-out counters, with no tables), and various cheeses, olives, buns, breads, that were placed on the table to start, with the customer paying for the particular snacks he/she chooses to eat.

                                                                1. re: Jacquilynne
                                                                  themiguel RE: Jacquilynne Jul 30, 2012 11:33 AM

                                                                  I am portuguese - tons of churrasco joints both in the mainland and in the islands, but Portugal does have more sit down churrasco joints as that dish isn't automatically assumed to be a take out staple.

                                                                  However there are plenty of take out churrasco joints too - and many grocery stores offer rotisserie churrasco (it should really be on charcoal to be churrasco but that's another discussion).

                                                                  One big different is that the round parissienne potatoes are not really that popular as a side with churrasco, regular french fries are.

                                                                2. biggreenmatt RE: 2roadsdiverge Jul 27, 2012 08:22 AM

                                                                  I'm kinda surprised the 416 Snack Bar hasn't been brought up. Lots that's good about Toronto, under one roof.


                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                  1. re: biggreenmatt
                                                                    Notorious P.I.G. RE: biggreenmatt Jul 27, 2012 05:58 PM

                                                                    Agreed. That place is great.

                                                                    1. re: Notorious P.I.G.
                                                                      julesrules RE: Notorious P.I.G. Aug 9, 2012 07:27 PM

                                                                      I really liked it on my only, fairly recent visit - but with the beef patty and street meat (I think) both off the menu, the Toronto theme was pretty much lost in the Turkish mussel and zucchini flower shuffle.

                                                                  2. h
                                                                    helenhelen RE: 2roadsdiverge Aug 10, 2012 09:48 PM

                                                                    when i think of toronto, i think of:
                                                                    indian food
                                                                    beef patties
                                                                    dim sum
                                                                    banh mi
                                                                    cheap sushi

                                                                    trendy these days:
                                                                    gourmet burgers
                                                                    "fusion" or gourmet tacos

                                                                    uniquely toronto (you likely won't find this elsewhere):
                                                                    new york subway (burrito meets roti.. sort of??)

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