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Under-rated + Trendy + Unique GTA Restaurants

Chris416 Jul 26, 2012 07:36 AM

Hi everyone!

I was wondering if the Toronto veterans here could help me out a bit here. I'm looking for some cool/trendy restuarants anywhere in the GTA that are somewhat under-rated or haven't been getting tons of attention. It's for a date but I don't want to go to one of the places that pop up on Google when I type in "cool restaurants." I want to seem like I know some interesting places around here. Places like Panorama are pretty neat but I want to go somewhere lesser known..."indie" if you will...

any ideas?


  1. TorontoJo Jul 26, 2012 08:16 AM

    I'm not sure that cool and trendy and underrated go hand in hand. And fwiw, I wouldn't put Panorama in either of those categories. :)

    If you want to feel in the know, head to any of the following (in no particular order):

    Black Hoof
    Enoteca Sociale
    La Carnita

    There are a wide range of experiences in that list, so if you could be more specific, I and others could narrow it down or provide other suggestions.

    6 Replies
    1. re: TorontoJo
      estufarian Jul 26, 2012 08:43 AM

      ALL of the above are excellent - but I'd call them 'well-known' - and there's a reason for that - they are, indeed, good.

      I'd add a few that are more casual (MUCH in some cases) but have impressed me as being 'indie'.

      The Depanneur (very casual)
      Atlantic (probably the easiest to accept if it's a getting-to-know-you date
      Feasting Room (for the foodie - even more so if counter-culture).

      At all three I'd probably need to know more about the 'date' - but if any of my dates liked these, I'd be looking for more dates with this person!

      1. re: estufarian
        ylsf Jul 26, 2012 09:16 AM

        Was wondering about The Depanneur since didn't see much written about it but see they have a lot of interesting stuff going on there and been meaning to try it.

        1. re: estufarian
          katbri Jul 26, 2012 10:37 AM

          I hope it's ok that I highjack this post. Why are all the good, trendy, cool, interesting restaurants in the west end! There is nothing along these lines in the east end....is there???

          1. re: katbri
            JennaBean Jul 26, 2012 12:15 PM

            I think there are but just not as many. For instance Swirl is a great little hidden gem in Leslieville. Not a "proper" resto but get for a glass of wine and nibbles.

            1. re: JennaBean
              jlunar Jul 27, 2012 05:25 AM

              <3 Swirl

            2. re: katbri
              stv Aug 2, 2012 10:20 AM

              As in the Beaches?


              i also believe there are more families in the east, thus more home cooked dinners, yum.

              Where as in the west, more singles. The most used kitchen devices are probably the telephone, the toaster oven, and you know it, the microwave oven.

              It is a good thing to get together with friends, and what not and go out for a meal and a drink.

              Maybe many drinks and a meal. LOL

              BTW: In the east, you have Goody's Diner, amazing all around food. Not your usual diner.
              I am not sure if they even have liver and onions, a must to be classified as a Diner, IMHO.

        2. ingloriouseater Jul 26, 2012 12:24 PM

          Enoteca Maialino on Queen West on the same block as Local Kitchen and beside Keriwa-both of which get all the accolades...but Maialino is great-ask to sit at the food bar/chef''s table-it is great to watch and you get super service.

          3 Replies
          1. re: ingloriouseater
            ylsf Jul 27, 2012 06:55 AM

            Will keep this in mind as I was just at Keriwa the other day and saw Enoteca Maialino and was wondering about it since I hadn't heard anything about it.

            Re: date place, I could recommend Keriwa Cafe too... I dont' feel like it is generally known by people and depending on which side of the city you are at it could make sense. Especially good if you know that your date is an adventurous eater and likes to try new/different things. I got to try a bunch of things that I had never had before and that was part of the appeal. It is a touch loud but it was lively even on a Tuesday night.

            1. re: ylsf
              neville nosher Jul 29, 2012 01:23 PM

              Was at Keriwa last week. On Sat nite it was extremely loud. Had to shout to be heard.
              The wine list was extremely pricy and there was only 1 table with a bottle on it. Started with trout which ws very good, and then had the bison steak which was a tiny portion of meat with 2 very small potatoes and some greens. Not very exciting and very pricy for what was little more than a starter portion.

              1. re: neville nosher
                ingloriouseater Jul 31, 2012 02:58 AM

                i'm not a fan of keriwa, i just pointed out they seem to have cast a spell over part of toronto...

          2. justsayn Jul 26, 2012 12:38 PM

            The moment you "want to seem like....." you may be at risk of a fail. The cool spot is the one that means something to you and holds your current interest for any given reason. If you really don't go out much for dinners, look to friends or family (who know you well) for advice as they may match you to your best vibe. Failing that, how much do you wish to spend? How formal/casual? Type of food? Age group?

            If I were stabbing in the dark, knowing nothing about you, I would add L'ouvrier and The Saint to the list. Harbord Room, Guu, Universal Grill.

            1 Reply
            1. re: justsayn
              ComerDemonio Jul 28, 2012 07:27 AM

              Love all these suggestions ... Universal Grill is off the beaten track, great for conversation and sticky ribs, and definitely fits the indie/neighbourhood request . Guu is loud and lovely with fun food, you'll need to get close to talk (could work well). Harbord room is great to sit at the bar, lively but not too loud, excellent food. L'Ouvrier has interesting food choices and I love the room but I found the atmosphere and service to be a little slow. I haven't tried the Saint yet so I can't comment on how date worthy it is.

            2. j
              julesrules Jul 26, 2012 12:42 PM

              I think it's key to feel comfortable when you are trying to impress a date! There are some good places around TO which don't qualify as trendy, but might be more"you" than these latest/greatest type places. It might help to to have more reference points than Panorama as to atmosphere, price and food type.

              1. c
                canadianbeaver Jul 26, 2012 08:45 PM

                I can tell you some places I've been taken on dates that I was impressed by: Frank's Kitchen, URSA, Cowbell, Trevor.....

                1 Reply
                1. re: canadianbeaver
                  ComerDemonio Jul 28, 2012 07:21 AM

                  Great list: Frank's Kitchen if you're over 40, URSA if you're under 30, Cowbell for any age group, and I've never been to Trevor.

                2. biggreenmatt Jul 27, 2012 07:25 AM

                  S'not trendy, but as far as unique and under-rated goes, nothing I'm aware of beats lunch at the Law Society @ Osgoode Hall.

                  Starched linens, formal service, prix fixe lunch for $20-25, amazing room; it's one of the most surprising restaurants out there, excusing the limited hours and that it closes down for July and August.


                  4 Replies
                  1. re: biggreenmatt
                    dlw88 Jul 27, 2012 08:48 AM

                    +1 The Atlantic

                    1. re: dlw88
                      estufarian Jul 28, 2012 07:27 AM

                      Upon (sober) reflection - for a date I think I'd put that top of my list too.

                      1. re: estufarian
                        bytepusher Aug 2, 2012 09:51 AM

                        Full agreement

                    2. re: biggreenmatt
                      katbri Jul 27, 2012 09:59 AM

                      closed for lunch until September 5th

                    3. p
                      Phoenix Jul 27, 2012 09:17 AM

                      What about Ortolan? It's small, hip, great food. Was written up by NOW and Toronto Life, but not as much buzz lately so should be a good date place.

                      1. Davwud Jul 27, 2012 10:29 AM

                        I'll throw in one of my favourties. Folia on Pape. Great Greek food, off the "Trendy" Danforth and better anyway.

                        I'll also add, if you want something pretty hip and trending upwards, The Fuzz Box on Danforth. They do NS Donairs but also have a daily special that they tweet that always looks fabulous.

                        Is there a type of food you're looking for?? Perhaps that could help narrow it down.


                        3 Replies
                        1. re: Davwud
                          downtownfoodie Jul 27, 2012 12:03 PM

                          Japango for Omikase. Took my gf there for our first date cause I was looking for somewhere unassuming and "cozy" that still had amazing food. It's now 3 years later :)

                          1. re: downtownfoodie
                            gwanderc Jul 29, 2012 05:07 PM

                            good call on Japango - place is 100% underrated - if you are able to get a seat there its a great spot - only been for lunch though

                            of all spots i can recommend for what it sounds you are looking for I would have to say Campagnolo. Its def not under the radar though - great date spot - cant imagine you not having a superb time there

                          2. re: Davwud
                            bytepusher Aug 2, 2012 09:49 AM

                            Don't get me wrong, I love Folia for what it is and it's a regular spot (I may, or may not be the current 4Square mayor) but if I took a date there early on in the dating process, I wouldn't expect more dates.

                          3. p
                            PatriciaCluett Aug 2, 2012 09:23 AM

                            I like those beautiful old heritage homes that have been converted. Good ones are the Old Barber House in Streetsville or the Doctor's House in Kleinburg! Old combined with new - so cool.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: PatriciaCluett
                              TorontoJo Aug 2, 2012 09:27 AM

                              I'm guessing Kleinburg and even Mississauga are a bit far out for his date.

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