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New Yorker in Toronto

motl Jan 10, 2013 12:40 PM

Hi folks,

I'm a New Yorker who's never been to Toronto, but who has long wanted to see your fascinating city. Now I'm fortunate enough to be coming there on business for three days in March, and I'd love to explore the food scene as much as I can. I love pasta, Chinese, Vietnamese, sushi, Middle Eastern, Ethiopian -- really pretty much every kind of ethnic food, and I don't shy away from anything unusual or challenging. Looking for great, interesting, not very expensive food, and I'll probably be eating solo much of the time. Are there types of food and/or restaurants that I shouldn't miss while I'm in town? I'll be staying downtown by the harbor, but am happy to go anywhere around the city. Thanks in advance for any advice you can provide!

  1. t
    TeacherFoodie Jan 10, 2013 02:09 PM

    Hi moti!

    I would recommend Khao San Road or Mengrai for Thai food (very different vibes - the former is very casual), a peameal sandwich from Carousel bakery at the St Lawrence market (note that the market is closed on Sundays), a lunch at JaBistro for sushi/Japanese, and Lil Baci for dinner.

    This thread may be helpful (although only for one area of the city):


    And here is another about not to be missed food in Toronto, someone also looking for less expensive options:


    Here is another, from zagat:


    And a few more sites that may be helpful:


    Good luck! Hope you have a great trip. I can't wait to plan a culinary itinerary for a trip to NY, hopefully sooner than later!

    5 Replies
    1. re: TeacherFoodie
      motl Jan 11, 2013 02:54 PM

      Thank you SO much, TeacherFoodie! This is enormously helpful, and I look forward to reading it all in some depth. Let me know if you ever need a culinary itinerary in Brooklyn!

      1. re: motl
        TeacherFoodie Jan 11, 2013 03:01 PM

        I'm sure Brooklyn will be included when I visit NYC.

      2. re: TeacherFoodie
        autopi Jan 11, 2013 03:14 PM

        If you're coming from NYC, I'd skip Khao San Road. I like KSR, but Zabb Elee is at least as good, if not better, and much more comprehensive. You might try dim sum, e.g. at Lai Wah Heen.

        1. re: autopi
          grayelf Jan 28, 2013 03:58 PM

          Lai Wah Heen seems to be on the verge of closing: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/887626

        2. re: TeacherFoodie
          MissBingBing Jan 12, 2013 02:23 PM

          I heard the chef that owned Khao San Road left the business.

          Have you seen the recent Toronto episode of Layover? Lots of good suggestions there.

        3. CocoaChanel Jan 11, 2013 03:20 PM

          If you like oysters, Starfish (Adelaide St) or Rodney's by Bay (Temperance St) are both excellent. I lived in Manhattan for a few years, but always found the oysters better here.

          If you have an expense account, consider Canoe for dinner - it is Canadian inspired cuisine, and the view from the 54th floor is amazing!

          +1 for Lai Wah Heen dim sum

          Beer fan? BeerBistro at King & Yonge. Food is ok (mussels and frites - fried in duck fat if I am not mistaken - are excellent) and beer selection is great.

          Welcome and enjoy!!

          4 Replies
          1. re: CocoaChanel
            motl Jan 12, 2013 09:21 AM

            I LOVE oysters -- and don't always find them to be great here in NYC, so I'll definitely look into those two recommendations. No expense account (alas, I am a lowly writer), but mussels and frites with beer also sounds perfect. Thanks for the hospitality!

            1. re: motl
              CocoaChanel Jan 12, 2013 10:12 AM

              Then at least go to Canoe for a glass of wine :)

            2. re: CocoaChanel
              bluefirefly Jan 12, 2013 07:29 PM

              FYI, Rodney's by Bay has been renamed John and Son's. Same owners but just different branding. There is also the Rodney's Oyster House at 469 King St. West which is likely to have the most selection of oysters since they have their own oyster beds on the east coast. The other option is Oyster Boy at 872 Queen St. West. The menu may look small, but they do carry really fresh tasting oysters. I've been to all of these places and you can't go wrong with any.

              1. re: bluefirefly
                CocoaChanel Jan 13, 2013 04:26 AM

                Ih yes! Thanks - I had forgotten they re-named. :)

            3. a
              ascendance Jan 12, 2013 10:36 PM

              If you're looking for great sushi and sashimi, I would recommend the same 2 places I always recommend out in the burbs: Kaji, out in the west end, and Zen, in the east end. Both of them import some pretty special stuff from Japan.

              1. t
                TeacherFoodie Jan 13, 2013 06:50 AM


                Here is a recent thread on Chinatown that could help. Asian/Chinese food is something Toronto does relatively well; Italian as well. If you are into traditional Italian this thread is good, otherwise just search the board. For a splurge, Splendido would be a board favourite.


                14 Replies
                1. re: TeacherFoodie
                  motl Jan 14, 2013 07:56 AM

                  Wow! Thanks, everyone, for your generous hospitality. So far I'm thinking about Swatow for Chinese food, BeerBistro for mussels and frites and beer, John and Son's for oysters, either Zabb Elee or KSR, and maybe a late-night drink at Canoe. Does that sound good?

                  If I might, I have a couple of other questions:

                  Where's the best place for a peameal bacon sandwich at St. Lawrence market?

                  Are there any good breakfast places within walking distance of the Harbourfront?

                  Thanks again!

                  1. re: motl
                    MissBingBing Jan 14, 2013 08:31 AM

                    Isn't Zabb Elee in NYC?

                    1. re: MissBingBing
                      GoodGravy Jan 14, 2013 09:44 AM

                      Yup, Zabb Elee's in Manhattan.

                    2. re: motl
                      prima Jan 14, 2013 08:41 AM

                      While Swatow is decent for our Chinatown, it's roughly equivalent to what you can find in Manhattan's Chinatown. If you want Chinese food in Toronto that's better quality than you'd find in Manhattan's Chinatown, I'd go to Lai Wah Heen (located on Dundas St at Chestnut), but keep in mind, the prices will be 3x the prices at Swatow.

                      For a weekday breakfast, the Gabardine on Bay might work, and should be within a 20 minute walk of Harbourfront.

                      I'm not sure if you're staying closer to the Harbourcastle on the eastern side of Harbourfront, or further west. Patrician Grill (a greasy spoon on King E) and St Lawrence Market should be within a 20 minute walk of the Harbourcastle.

                      You could have the peameal bacon sandwich at SLM for breakfast. That would be within a 20 minute walk of Harbourfront. Paddington's Pump in the SLM serves breakfast and peameal on a bun.

                      Carousel and Paddington's Pump both have loyal fans of their peameal on a bun.
                      Peameal at SLM

                      If you're staying closer to the west side of Harbourfront, you might want to consider Avenue Open Kitchen on Camden. La Neuf Cafe is a recently opened cafe, also close to King & Spadina, that you might want to consider. http://leneufcafe.com/

                      Some new upscale downtown hotels also serve breakfast. Has anyone had breakfast at Toca or Stock?

                      I would think the breakfast at Epic in the Royal York would be a good one.

                      1. re: prima
                        justsayn Jan 14, 2013 08:47 AM

                        I think Beer Bistro is also good given the options. Especially if they still offer the pastry basket. (it's been over a yr for me)

                      2. re: motl
                        lister Jan 14, 2013 09:37 AM

                        For beer and mussels I'd recommend Bar Hop. It's a little further west on King near Spadina. Both are excellent beer destinations though Bar Hop is a little more adventurous especially since they recently added another 12 draft taps and a second cask engine.

                        For a good diner breakfast Mon-Fri a good place is Avenue Kitchen. It's at Camden & Spadina.

                        1. re: lister
                          Jakis Jan 14, 2013 12:41 PM

                          If you are looking for beer and mussels I wouldn't recommend Beer Bistro. You can get better Canadian Craft selection at bar hop at much better prices. Other great beer bars downtown are Bar Volo and C'est What. Both are much better then Beer Bistro. Also, make your way out to Bellwoods Brewery. The beer their is fantastic and the food is also very good. Ossington is also a fantastic street for plenty of food options in the city.

                          1. re: Jakis
                            justsayn Jan 14, 2013 12:45 PM

                            Just to be clear, I was recommending BB for brunch type food for the OPs walking distance breakfast request, not beer and mussels.

                            1. re: justsayn
                              motl Jan 14, 2013 02:28 PM

                              Okay, got it -- I'll go to Bar Hop rather than Beer Bistro for the mussels and frites. I'm going to be staying at the Westin Harbour Castle on Harbour Square. Is that considered west or east on the Harbourfront? In any case, that's surely walking distance to the St. Lawrence market, right? (I'm from New York -- we walk everywhere!) But would one walk from the Harbourfront to, say, King and Spadina for breakfast? I'm just trying to gauge the sort of distances we're talking about -- hard to tell from the map.

                              1. re: motl
                                MissBingBing Jan 14, 2013 02:34 PM

                                You could walk to King & Spadina but it's awfully cold at the moment. $8 cab, tops. You're in pretty much a no-mans land food-wise.

                                1. re: motl
                                  justsayn Jan 14, 2013 02:42 PM

                                  Google maps now shows walking routes and approx time. St Lawrence Market is less than 20 minutes. Front and Spadina is under 25 minutes. Senator Restaurant for breakfast would be a great pick if walking 25 minutes to get there is OK. All these areas are safe to walk and interesting to see. Another choice could be Le Select Bistro which is just under 30 minutes. The heart of chinatown is essentially Yonge and Dundas which takes just over a half hour to walk. Beer Bistro would have been 15 minutes which is the only reason I thought of it for brunch.

                                  Hope that helps you and perhaps others making recommendations.


                                  1. re: justsayn
                                    MissBingBing Jan 23, 2013 02:29 PM

                                    Chinatown is at Spadina and Dundas West. There's only a half-dozen Chinese restaurants left in the old Chinatown near Bay. Good if you like ramen!

                                  2. re: motl
                                    GoodGravy Jan 14, 2013 05:11 PM

                                    At NYC walking speed, it's about a 20-25 minute walk to King & Spadina. If you're willing to walk that far, you can also head east to Morning Glory Cafe on King East. Your hotel's just west of Yonge, the dividing line between east and west. There's also Alexandros Gyros just east of your hotel which is open late and is a good place for a late night, nearby meal.

                            2. re: motl
                              grayelf Jan 28, 2013 10:44 AM

                              FYI, St Lawrence Market is also closed on Monday, as I discovered in December.

                              Gabardine's breakfast was very good on that trip.

                              Still thinking about the fried chicken bao at Banh Mi Boys, not much seating there though.

                              I would pass on Beer Bistro for evening food for sure; frites were particularly disappointing there, bad night? (haven't tried brunch). We much preferred Bar Volo, C'est What and Bellwoods Brewery for ambiance and offerings, though again food exposure was limited at these latter.

                              Thanks, lister, for the intel on Bar Hop, duly noted for our next sojourn.

                              As a tourist, I really enjoyed the Distillery District, though it may pale in comparison to NYC. Of particular note to a food-centred itinerary would be the original SOMA chocolate store there. Have a bicerin or a Mexican chocolate shot.

                          2. m
                            makeit_alice Jan 22, 2013 11:39 PM

                            Ethiopian House at Yonge and Wellesley (Wellesley Station) for the best Ethiopian in Toronto.

                            Banh Mi Boys at Queen and Spadina for quick, cheap banh mi sandwiches and buns.

                            1. a
                              AhadSQ Jan 23, 2013 09:27 AM

                              There is a place in Gerrard (little India) called Lahore Tikka house, worth a try if you like Indian food. Also shops at Don Mills has some decent places also.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: AhadSQ
                                burlgurl Jan 27, 2013 07:10 PM

                                Whoa, I think the Don Mills suggestion is out of question.. He's staying at Harbourfront and wants to walk! Don Mills is at least a 40 min drive! And far better places downtown!
                                I recommend watching Anthony Bourdain's Layover as well on Toronto and follow his lead....

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