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Dec 2, 2012 09:01 AM

Last minute trip for Vancouver Hound -- four days to reaquaint with Toronto food delights

Greetings Toronto Hounds. I used to live in your lovely city but it's been many moons and I am out of touch completely with the local deliciousness. Just found out I'll have this Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday to scratch the surface (only two dinners though as Friday is a work do and the reason for the trip).

The biggest favour you could do me would be to recommend a topnotch place for espresso-based drinks near the Royal York, if such a place exists. This will keep the SO happy! As would a recommendation for a good pub with lots of interesting brews on tap... but that may be pushing my luck.

Also wondering about whether restaurants in Toronto are allowed to cook burgers to order. Not so much in Vancouver so would love a good burger, which I know can be a contentious topic.

I will post a trip report, promise.

Not too worried about price but we do prefer more casual, mom and pop places so the high end stuff is not really in the mix anyway.

Realizing that reservations are going to be hard to come by with only a few days to go, and that I'd normally research a bunch more, here's what I've come up with on short notice -- feel free to trash 'em all and make other suggestions if you have the time/energy -- thanks in advance:


St Lawrence Market -- need to go back, since it's so close to the hotel and all. Grazing ideas include pasteis bacalhau and the bifana sandwich at Churrasco of St. Lawrence; Paddington's for a peameal bacon sando, mustard sampling at Kozlik's (cool!), sausages from Sausage King and myriad cheese samples (I love cheese and you can get so many in Ontario we can't get here).

Soma Chocolates, either at their original Distillery District location 32 Tank House Lane nr Mill and Cherry (Parliament/Front area) (416) 815-7662 or the newer, larger store 443 King St W nr Spadina (416) 599-7662 -- fleur de sel caramels sound up my alley

Greg's Ice Cream 750 Spadina Avenue nr Bloor (416) 962-4734 -- closed Mondays??-- sweet cream and roasted marshmallow, how I still miss you, enough to eat ice cream in TO in December :-) Glad I googled to find that they have moved away from the old location but their website could use some work. No hours listed at all...


Lai Wah Heen 108 Chestnut St nr Dundas W (416) 977-9899 -- I've heard good things about their dim sum tasting menu from a local Hound who had it years ago but haven't been able to find out anything concrete about whether it is still available. May be hopeless anyway without more notice??

Easy Restaurant 1645 Queen West at Roncesvalles 416-537-4893 plus new location 713 College West 416-535-2222 The Roncey outpost is an old favourite (huevos divorciados!) so may have to revisit

Bonjour Brioche 812 Queen Street E btwn Boulton and Degrassi, three blocks east of Broadview in Riverdale (416) 406-1250 for for French-style breakfasts -- cash only, no resos.

Lunch or dinner (looking for at least one place near Roncesvalles that is not too kid unfriendly):

Banh Mi Boys 392 Queen West nr Spadina (416) 363-0588 -- I've never had a banh mi outside of Vancouver (gasp!) and I've heard the kim chi fries are a must. This would be for a Sat lunch with two teens...

Khao San Road 326 Adelaide St W btwn Peter and Beverly (2.5 blks east of Spadina twd University 647-352-5773 -- despite my aversion to lining up for food, seems like a favourite. Thai is weak in Van, and I still remember Golden Thai with great fondness from my bygone Toronto days. This would be for a non-Sunday lunch or dinner. One of the fried garlic dishes, squash fritters, fresh rolls, pad gra pao with an egg, green curry on the hit list.

Barque BBQ 299 roncesvalles at Geoffrey, 4 blocks below Howard Park Ave 416-532-7700 open for lunch and dinner 7 days

Hopgood's Foodliner Nova Scotian/Maritime 325 Roncesvalles nr Grenadier (416) 533-2723 bit expensive, can be slow, takes resos, dinner only

Cafe Polonez 195 Roncesvalles btwn Wright and Fern (416) 532-8432 Wonderful Polish and Eastern European comfort food. amazing Hungarian crepe filled with goulash stew.

Black Hoof 928 Dundas St W nr Gorevale -- btwn Bathurst and Ossington (416) 551-8854 creative nose-to-tail cooking, carnitas tacos !

Woodlot 293 Palmerston Ave nr College (647) 342-6307 for casual comfort food in a warm setting. Great vegetarian menu, too -- ck if open for lunch, not clear from website

Saigon Le Lai 434 Dundas West btwn Beverly and Huron (416) 592-9155 a sentimental option, since it's the first place we really experienced home-style Vietnamese cooking and it was in regular rotation back in the day for cheap and cheerful Viet meals in a bowl. Still some of the best bun I've ever had.

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  1. I'll just pipe up on the pub beer options near Royal York:

    C'est What 67 Front Street East
    Beer Bistro 18 King Street East

    2 Replies
    1. re: crawfish

      And you might want to pick depending on your desired atmosphere: C'est What is dark, funky, a bit dingy and in the basement; Beerbistro is much more polished and trendy with lots of corporate types right after work. The food is better at beerbistro. But you can play Scrabble at C'est What. :)

      1. re: TorontoJo

        Agree with everything TJ has shared w you and would add that if the weather is poor, you can almost get to Beer Bistro from your hotel using the underground walkway (Path) just exit on the north east side of King from the staircase in the King TTC Station (which you can access on foot through Scotia Plaza.

        FWIW, my choice would be Beer Bistro.

    2. I don't think Lai Wah Heen has a dim sum tasting menu. It's a la carte but def several notches above usual.

      Avoid Bonjour Brioche on the weekend unless you like standing in line. Tres populaire brunch spot.

      No lunch at Woodlot. Greg's open from 11 am or so.

      2 Replies
      1. re: MissBingBing

        According to their current online menu, LWH still offers two prix fixe options - Innovative and Classic.

        1. re: MissBingBing

          What Wahooty said.

          $48.00 per person (Minimum for two person


          Fresh Dungeness crab & seafood bisque.
          Steamed lobster dumpling stuffed with shrimp mousse & finely diced vegetable flavored with garlic.
          Jumbo Siu Mai wrapped with glutinous rice & foie gras.
          Steamed dumplings of Waygu beef accompanied with thinly sliced Waygu beef, in chili oil.
          Crispy deep-fried breaded chicken & mushroom topped with truffle.
          Deep-fried crispy dumpling of shrimp & sunflower seeds.
          Truffle & lobster escalopes on thin noodles flavored with truffle scented oil.
          Chinese dessert.

          $32.00 per person (Minimum for two person)

          Hot and sour soup with baby shrimp, shredded chicken, deep-forest mushrooms and egg drop.
          Crystal shrimp dumpling.
          Steamed dumpling of minced chicken & scallion.
          Pan-seared Peking dumpling stuffed with lobster escalopes.
          Crispy deep-fried roll of pitaya, mango & shrimp.
          Baked mini puff pastry filled with cured ham, shrimp & pork.
          Foie gras and diced shredded duckling fried rice flavored with deep-fried garlic.
          Chinese dessert.

          grayelf, I also dislike lining up for food. If you can get to Khao San Road 10 minutes before it opens for dinner (they unlock the door at exactly 5 o'clock), you should be ok. I rather be the early bird, than have to wait in line. Also could avoid the line-up by showing up before or after the lunch rush during the week (but be aware the kitchen closes at 2:30)

        2. Not sure what day you're planning on going to Barque, but you should know that they only do family style dinners on Sundays. You can't order off the menu.

          Also, don't know if Stockyards will cook burgers to order, but they make yummy burgers, and have awesome fried chicken, if that interests you.

          1. It looks like you've made good choices.

            Somewhat close to the Royal York is Nota Bene which will cook your burger to order. A little further is the Harbord Room and they do as well. Harbord room is a little better, but both are good. Nice bun with good ratio to meat, juicy beefy patty, and good toppings that don't detract from the patty.

            If you need a quick bite, kid friendly, not overly pricey, large portions, and great poutine, think of Bannock at Bay and Queen.

            Soma pulls an intense espresso.

            Hope ypu enjoy your trip.

            1. A good espresso near the Royal York may be a tough one. The places that are generally considered to have the best espresso-based drinks are not nearby:

              Te Aro
              Sam James
              Dark Horse

              I'm sure I'm missing others, but nothing near your hotel that I'm aware of.

              The Gabardine was mentioned as having a decent pull. They are a restaurant, but serve as a coffee shop in the morning. They are about 4 or 5 blocks from your hotel. BTW, it's also a nice casual dinner option as well. Think Canadian bistro.

              7 Replies
              1. re: TorontoJo

                Doesn't Sam James have a location in the PATH now? That's where I'd go.

                1. re: Wahooty

                  Hmm, according to their website it looks like they've opened at 150 King W which is the Sun Life building if memory serves. I'll have to check it out. Thanks Wahooty, who knew!!

                  1. re: Breadcrumbs

                    To be fair, AverageJo et al:

                    I just have a stupid-good memory, given how rarely I'm in Toronto these days. ;)

                    1. re: Breadcrumbs

                      The SJCB location in the Path can be a little hard to find if you don't know where it is. It's in the tunnel that connects St. Andrews station to First Canadian Place.

                    2. re: Wahooty

                      Ooh, you're right, Wahooty! I did not know that. Good call on that for the OP -- only two short blocks, possibly less underground.

                      1. re: TorontoJo

                        Just noticed that SJCB PATH is only open M-F so will make sure we head elsewhere on Sat and Sun for the caffeine hit :-).

                    3. re: TorontoJo

                      I'm definitely not an espresso connoisseur but espresso-based drink loving colleagues I've met for coffee repeatedly select two places in the area that seem to be dependable and FWIW, I've enjoyed my lattes there:

                      Petite Thuet @ 1 King

                      Terroni on Adelaide ( open at 9am )