Last minute trip for Vancouver Hound -- four days to reaquaint with Toronto food delights
- grayelf Dec 2, 2012 09:01 AM
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 http://bonjourbrioche.com/ 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.
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. :)
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.
What Wahooty said.
CHEF CHAN’S INNOVATIVE DIM SUM PRIX FIXE
$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.
CLASSIC DIM SUM PRIX FIXE
$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.
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) http://www.khaosanroad.ca/
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.
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.
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:
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.
Wow, 15 replies to come home to, woot! Thanks everyone, great intel! I am adding copious notes to my list, and of course will be referring to this thread during the trip.
Like the idea of "burrowing for beer" to Beer Bistro :-). A TO friend suggested the following beer places as well as Beer Bistro and C'est What: barVolo (587 Yonge nr Dundonald (416) 928-0008) which he said is currently being renovated but may be back in action by next weekend, Bryden's (Brydens 2455 Bloor West near Jane (416) 760-8069) which is his local with interesting beers but a bit of a dive (hey, I like dives!) and Mill Street Brew Pub (21 Tank House Lane nr Parliament (416) 681-0338) millstreetbrewery.com in the Distillery District, which he compared to Steamworks at home ie: good beer, meh-ish grub.
Saw the prix fixe options but wondered if the tasting menu were different (or even still offered -- the Hound who had it told me it was quite a while ago).
Stockyard and Nota Bene noted for burgs. Also tips on avoiding lineups at Khao San, menu at Barque, poutine at Bannock (love poutine and it's hard to get the good stuff here!), coffee options (all on the list and triangulated!), and the geography/location hints as well. We are wimpy West Coasters now and will be doing our best to hide from the chilly weather, I'm sure :-).
You TO Hounds are mad friendly and helpful. Happy to receive any other tips that might be forthcoming but I feel much better about our chances for good chow already!
If you're after poutine, hit up the blue truck on the U of T campus, on St. George in front of Lash-Miller. I say this not as a former student, but as a grown-ass woman who used to get lunch there once a week. Squeaky curds, fresh cut fries. Utterly un-fancy. I believe the Queen St. truck at City Hall is run by the same people. Mr. Tasty Fries, maybe?
grayelf - I read many of your posts before and during my trip to Vancouver a few months ago. Thanks for the good chow tips.
I laughed out loud at your reference to triangulated coffee options - searching out the best espresso-based drinks is usually my first question when hitting up a new city and keeping a handy list of neighbourhood spots is a `must` for me. I agree with the Sam James rec in the financial district - I haven`t been to that particular location but their main location on Harbord is great. That said, if americanos are your (or your SO`s) drink, the better rec - IMO - is Little Nicky`s. A perfectly cool little coffee shop that has the added bonus of serving up made to order mini donuts by the half-dozen or dozen. Order them tossed in sugar or just plain. Great coffee + fresh, warm donuts = `nuf said. Combines easily with a trip to Khao San Road, Banh Mi Boys and the King Street location of Soma. Another great little spot is Sense Appeal - a tiny place on the west side of Spadina, between Adelaide and King, a few steps up from street level. Very good coffee and yummy selections from a small menu of salads, bowls, stir-fries and a burger (never tried the burger so can`t give you a rec for that).
Woodlot is one of my favourites. I was just there again a few weeks ago for my 15th(ish) delicious dinner there. I love it. Assuming you can`t get a rezzie, know that there`s a 10-seat communal table on the main floor that`s reserved for walk-ins. It`s actually one of my favourite tables in the whole restaurant as you watch them cooking so many different dishes in the large wood-burning oven. Go earlier (before 6:30) to get a pretty assured spot or go anytime with some flexibility to meander to a nearby spot for a drink while you wait for a spot to come up. Make sure you order the hen of the woods mushrooms and the steak.
LOVE Khao San Road - agree with green curry and pad gra prao. The fried garlic chicken and tofu are great. I like but don`t love the squash fritters (though I think I`m in the minority). Also LOVE Banh Mi Boys - yes to kimchi fries and too many great sandwich options to list (I love the fried chicken bao with spicy sauce but honestly, èverything is great).
Soma has fab chocolate. There`s a big traditional Christmas market going on in the Distillery right now. If you want to go there, then check out that location but know that on the weekend, it`ll be much busier than normal. If you don`t want the market or the crowds, go to King Street. Finding great chocolate at Soma is like shooting fish in a barrel. So good.
As an alternative brunch option, consider L'Ouvrier. For another dinner, consider Torito. For another great sandwich, consider the brisket at Black Camel (which also serves a great americano, by the way). And for another random great coffee spot, which I always say reminds me of Vancouver (it wouldn't be out of place in Kits), check out Rooster Espresso on Broadview.
re: peppermint pate
Yet more questions:
A TO colleague likes Cowbell and the menu appeals as does the location and reservability. Any thoughts, y'all?
I'm a sucker for traditional Xmas markets so I think the distillery district is a must if we can fit it in. Would it be worth it on Monday during the day or will too much be closed? Any good breakfasty places down there also open Mon?
Alternatively, any good bets for Monday breaky nearish the Royal York? Is Gabardine the best option? They are only open for breaky from 8-10:30
Of the brunch places listed, do any take reservations for brunch on weekend that you know of?
@ pp: So glad to have been of assistance!
Re coffee, the espresso's the thing (SO loves his cappuccino) though I do enjoy a good pourover from time to time. HOWEVER, fresh warm doughnuts stand on their own so thanks.
Woodlot has a Sunday res available that I'm thinking of nabbing. We really are pretty lineup averse and since we're going to be winging it for our other meals, this sounds like a good option.
We don't have any good Spanish in Van so Torito is tempting too but you have to call for resos so will have to see. I note they have padrones on the menu, which I adore. I thought we got the last of them in Portland back in early Oct and they are out of season...
Lola's Kitchen is another great brunch spot and they do indeed take reservations.
For breakfast spots near the hotel, O&B Canteen has grab and go breakfasts (breakfast butties!) starting at 8am. There is also an Over Easy at Yonge and King. Wouldn't be my first choice, but it's an option for you if you want a big breakfast menu.
Hey there grayelf - you've obviously done your research and we clearly have similar tastes.
Can't answer your Cowbell question as I've yet to try it. Torito is great - cozy, friendly, yummy. Combines nicely with a meander in Kensington Market. I can't imagine you'd have a problem with a Sunday night reservation. I'd grab the Woodlot reservation - you won't regret it.
It looks like the Christmas Market is open every day and I'm assuming most of the shops will be open with it (I think most are open 7 days a week anyway) so you should be fine on the Monday. If you want to eat near there, there's Gilead Cafe or Morning Glory. I've heard good things about breakfast the Gabardine that's an option if you want to eat closer to your hotel. Not sure if you have a car but another idea would be Lady Marmalade (not far from Bonjour Brioche), which originates from Victoria actually, and combines quite nicely with a little coffee visit to Te Aro. Ah, choices choices.
L'Ouvrier takes brunch reservations. I'm assuming Lai Wah Heen does as well. Easy doesn't.
re: peppermint pate
Alas, L'ouvrier doesn't take brunch resos, according to their voicemail. But I did manage to nab one at Lola's Kitchen so if we can convince our friends to venture away from Roncesvalles we should be set. Otherwise we'll take our chances at either easy or Barque on Sunday...
re: peppermint pate
+1 for L'ouvrier and getting a table. I would only recommend them for the awesome burger and fries personally. But I have limited my selection to that for the past while. I find their house bacon is not as tasty as it was in earlier days. They used to have a great granola with yoghurt and fruit but they dropped the best part - the house-made granola, and just serve fruit and yoghurt. : ( I have always found them to be so gracious, I would be surprised if they wouldnt allow you a reservation with "your story".
No worries, hard to keep track of all the different places for sure. Since we'll have two kids (5 and 10) with us, I'm thinking maybe Lola's might be better for a group of six based on website pix and reviews plus of course the for-sure reso. The menu sounds good too and sometimes (gasp!) it's not just about the food, right?
I visited the Christmas Mkt for the first time on Saturday. I've been similar mkts in other cities and had hoped that ours would have European vendors and food. While there were a couple of European-themed options, most booths were local including a sock vendor and a grilled cheese booth (that was packed btw, but held zero appeal under the circumstances). I purchased a luke warm at best cider from Brick street Bakery and we enjoyed the entertainment but the market itself was a bit of a let down comparatively speaking. That said, we love the Distillery District and its shops, galleries and some of the dining options. Others may disagree but if there isn't any entertainment on a Monday I'd take a pass and head for Kensington Mkt (don't miss a quick peek in the quirky Good Egg) for a great food-lovers experience. All IMHO of course.
I thought it was hilarious that the grilled cheese and poutine booths had ridiculously long line-ups, and the Xmas specialty foods booths (Xmas pudding, fruitcake, stollen, etc) had no line-ups. Tis the season for poutine, because it's available year-round, pretty much everywhere?
What everyone else said!!
With some notes:
- Town Crier - If you like Belgian beers - porters, ales, and the like - they have tons on tap.
- Volo is great for local/micro breweries
- Beer Bistro is more scattershot, but I like.
You should be able to get beer samplers at all three IIRC. More beer!
Little Nicky's for their cappuccino and fresh donuts is a lovely little side trip. Just wanted to add my love of this combo to things.
Good to hear there are beer "bats" in TO as well -- a favourite way to try multiple beers, esp with a beer noob like me as the second drinker :-).
Have been contemplating a trip to Kensington Mkt as I'm sure it's changed a bunch since I used to frequent it. Since I've never seen the Distillery District and there are a few things on the go there, may swing by first on Monday and then do Kensington -- will depend on my friend's stamina!
Will be meeting another friend for breaky beforehand prolly at Gabardine so may graze for lunch, otherwise will consider DDist reccs.
Have been to Lady Marmalade in Victoria, had no idea they'd expanded so far east!
I'm just so grateful to everyone here who's chimed in, and the posts I read from previous visitors and contributors without all of whom I would have NO plan! Perhaps this thread and the report I will post later will help out future researchers a bit :-).
Will deffo try to get a bicerin down my neck! I think we'll just graze for our lunch in the Distillery District so should have room. Here's what I've got to do there so far:
Xmas Market: apparently they have $20 valet parking that is good till 11 so may do that just for convenience whilst we're wandering the whole hood
Soma for fleur de sel caramels, chocs and bicerin
Mill Street Pub for (Balzac) coffee porter
Gilead or Morning Glory if substantial/sitdown eats are in order
Balzac for more coffee
Brick Street Bakery for savoury baked goods -- sausage rolls and very good sandwiches
design store Bergo (food for the eyes!)
I don't have much to add, since it seems like your weekend has been pretty thoroughly covered already, but I'd just like to chime in a few beer-related things. Personally, I'd stay away from C'est What - at one point, they were an interesting beer destination, but I'd say other places manage a better (and more interesting) beer list in nicer spaces, and with better food.
Volo is probably as good as it gets in the city for having an interesting and exhaustive beer selection that you won't easily find in any other place, and their website says they'll be open again on Friday, so, if they keep to their schedule (who knows?), you'll be all set. The only knock again Volo, in my books, is that it's busy, and a bit impersonal. (Nothing against them - it's just a popular spot, and right on Yonge Street.)
In the category of slightly more neighbourhood-ey places which also have excellent beer, varying degrees of food and, IMO somewhat more welcoming atmospheres you could try:
The Only Café (Donlands Subway) - it's a (good) coffee place on one side, and a good beer destination on the other side. It's also fun and eclectic in a good way, and a thoroughly pleasant place to hang out for a bit. Not a cookie-cutter place, in any sense.
The Victory Café (Bathurst Subway) - it's a bit tucked-away on Markham, but it's a big old house that frequently has a good beer list, and has better than average pub food. The macaroni and cheese is particularly crowd-pleasing on a cold day.
The Bellwoods Brewery (Ossington and Dundas-ish) - it's in a hipstery area, but their beer is made on site, and is excellent. Also, some of their offerings are in interesting styles that aren't so commonly available in North America. (Particularly the sour beers.) The Witchshark is as good a (big - Imperial) West Coast style IPA as you'll find here, if you're in the mood to try out the Toronto version of that style. Also, I haven't tried their food, but it looks good.
Have a great weekend!
I did, in fact, say sour beers. :) You might want to try this one:
Muggleweisse (Soured Brown Ale - 3.9% ABV)
A deliberately-soured ale brewed with a wild starter and caramelized malts. This beer mixes elements of the Berliner weisse style with darker malt flavours.
I haven't tried it, but the stuff I have tried there was good. You can read about the rest of their offerings here:
Muggleweisse should be tried for the awesome name alone!
Looking forward to Gabardine, which will also be so convenient.
One last favour, all -- are there any solid coffee places in Mississauga? The SO will be at an office out there Friday and Monday, and I am arming him with the list y'all have provided me for stops on the way, but he may need good caffeination during the day. TIA.