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Underrated/Unpretentious?

  • k

Inspired by the thread asking for most over-rated and pretentious.

My own contribution - Purple Onion on Dundas in the Junction. Cheap steak and specials of the day. Another would be Valleyfields in North York. No smoke and mirrors there.

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  1. Oh, I love this topic! My favourite underrated and unpretentious spots:

    - Hammersmith's on Gerrard East.
    - Trio on Yonge, north of Lawrence
    - Sidecar on College
    - Serra on Bloor (though it's been a couple of years since I've eaten there)
    - Northern Dumpling Kitchen
    - Yummy Yummy Dumplings
    - Stone Road Grille in Niagara-on-the-Lake (not underrated, but totally unpretentious)
    - The Regal Diner in Niagara Falls

    There are many more, but these are the ones that I frequent (or frequented) most often.

    9 Replies
    1. re: TorontoJo

      Didn't the chef (or owner) of Sidecar leave recently?

      1. re: estufarian

        Ah, possibly! I haven't been since last spring.

        1. re: auberginegal

          Nope. Ryan Crawford left to do his own thing (to be opened in 2014), but SRG is still going strong with Steve Page, the former sous chef, now in charge.

          They did close down for a month or so over the holidays, though.

          1. re: TorontoJo

            good to know and what a relief! thanks for the update :) that month or so was probably when i read about the news.

            1. re: auberginegal

              Jo, have you been since the switch over?

              1. re: hungryabbey

                Yes, several times. Still wonderful. Slight shift in menu to include some less expensive entrees, as they are trying to hit a lower price point so that they aren't only a "special occasion" restaurant for locals. The killed the half-sized entree options, which made me sad, but I guess the less expensive section makes up for that.

                The current menu is on the rich side with a comfort-food focus. I'm looking forward to seeing what they do with a Spring menu.

                1. re: TorontoJo

                  Aw I loved the half size option. But it's nice they're lowering prices. I'm looking forward to a revisit this summer.

                  1. re: hungryabbey

                    We went since the revamp and it's still very good! Charcuterie is still there, too.

      2. Quince
        zee Grill
        L'avenue

        All favourites for us.

        1 Reply
        1. re: CocoaChanel

          I went to Quince for Summerlicious and have to agree with your assessment - they were lovely and unfussy and the food was great. I'm not often in that area but would stop in anytime I am.

        2. Great topic - much better to focus on the positive than the negative.

          Under-rated & unpretentious:
          County General
          Richmond Station
          Kori's Roti (Oakville)
          Sweet LuLu

          Unpretentious:
          Acadia
          Campangolo
          Porchetta & Co

          1. Zorba's and Rol San are unpretentious.

            1. Great thread. My vote goes to Pantheon on the Danforth. Great grilled fish best calamari in town reasonable prices and totally unpretentious.

              4 Replies
              1. re: LJS2

                +1 here. Had terrific plain grilled seafood here. It was one of the best meals I've had in Toronto in a very long time.

                1. re: evansl

                  ha! Mr. Vuitton recently went for lunch. He said the same - best grilled fish he has had in a long long time

                  1. re: CocoaChanel

                    I was impressed with the last order of grilled octopus I ordered. Lately, Pantheon seems to be serving better tasting than I remember it serving 4-5 years ago.

                    I heard through a Greek grapevine that the Ouzeri has a relatively new chef in the kitchen, and that the food has been very good lately. I wasn't impressed on my last visit last spring, but I'm going to give the Ouzeri another try in the near future.

                2. re: LJS2

                  Sssshhhh or we'll never get a good patio seat again.

                3. Underrated and unpretentious?

                  Enoteca Ascari. Magnificent, light, regional, fresh, very reasonably-priced Italian in a classy room with excellent, approachable, welcoming wait staff with a happy, focused wine list.

                  Surprisingly, shockingly good. Try it. Trust.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: biggreenmatt

                    Hey BGM, what do you recommend at Enoteca Ascari??

                    1. re: millygirl

                      The two times we went there, we let the waiter pick. Brilliant.

                      The brussels sprouts were incredible. Pastas magnificent. Interestingly, we tended to find that the vegetable-based apps and mains were more creative and subtle than the meat-based dishes.

                      Oddly, She Who Must Be Obeyed and I told the waiter what kinds of moods we were in, wine-wise (we were by-the-glassing). Neither one of us really liked the selections, so we switched glasses and were much happier.

                      The kitchen's got a light, intelligent touch. You should be good to ask for kitchen recommendations and go from there.

                      1. re: biggreenmatt

                        sounds good, thanks!

                        If the restaurant shows a certain confidence, we love putting ourselves in their hands. Almost always a win win experience for us.

                        This place has been on my list since it opened but for some reason we always go somewhere else. I am bumping it up now. Maybe even this weekend, if space permits.

                        Thanks again BGM!

                  2. This is great.

                    I will second Quince, Ascari, Sidecar.

                    I will add:
                    Tabule (the portions are HUGE and flavourful)
                    The Emerson (just went there this weekend and SO unpretentious)
                    Luma (not unpretentious but I wish it got more love)

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: LemonLauren

                      Ascari had world-class food when I dined there mid-December.

                    2. great topic.

                      - +1 for sidecar
                      - House on Parliament
                      - Balluchon- small coffee bar tucked away off queen. insanely good sandwiches and muffins
                      - Lion City (mississauga)
                      - Deluxe Noodle (cantonese- mississauga)

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: jinxie

                        +1 for Lion City. The owners are the best. She really cares about the quality of the food and takes the time to come to your table.

                        I also like Maceys. It's the only Mississauga Chinese restaurant that has never gone down in quality. It's nothing to look at and it doesn't have fancy food. It's just good reliable Cantonese noodles and snacks. The owners are really nice as well. They treat my family really well.

                        1. I think the non-sushi/chirashi/sashimi portion of both Cafe Michi's and Zen's menus are underrated.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: shekamoo

                            Good Point. Zen's cooked items are just as fine as the sushi. No need for those who don't like raw to avoid it. There are sushi restaurants and then there are Japanese restaurants. Zen is the latter. I haven't seen it in a while, but they used to do an anago foil yaki that would melt in your mouth just as easily as any good tuna.

                          2. I don't know if it's underrated, but considering the wait times at OVERRATED (as based on the long wait times) The Federal, I would consider Brockton General to be UNDERRATED (walk right in, tuck into an excellent brunch prix fixe).

                            And it's phenomenal! Definitely better than The Federal (I'm just having a vendetta against The Federal this evening; it's really not that bad). The Federal is also WWAYYYY too hip. Way too hip. Way too many OCAD dropouts (OBVIOUSLY, it's not cool to actually graduate).

                            But the Prix Fixe, is EASILY, FAR AND ABOVE the best brunch deal in town. I routinely spend $30-45 on brunches with only coffee to drink ("Are we splitting the pancakes or banana bread french toast?") and would do so here. But they only wish to charge me $18!!

                            Crazy!!

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: mnajji

                              I've been to the Fed several times and have never waited. Plus, the service and food were lovely. I don't what makes it "too hip" but it seems you really have a hate-on for this place and the people who go there.

                              1. re: piccola

                                Haha... yup. That's part of what it is.

                                And the time I went (and other times we TRIED to go) there was a crowd outside of the door.

                                Anyway, Brockton General for my money.

                              2. re: mnajji

                                Yes, Brockton General, absolutely.
                                Seasonal, sensible, and concise menu. Inviting and friendly service. Their weekday prix fixe always leave me satisfied and smiling. With all the posh tastings along Ossington, this place is still a gem.

                                1. re: happycamper

                                  I thought I heard the chef has a new place on Queen?

                                2. re: mnajji

                                  I really didn't enjoy my prix fixe brunch at Brockton General a couple of months ago.

                                3. Awesome topic. I'd like to add Insomnia at Bloor and Bathurst.

                                  The food has had a major overhaul over the last year or so. It was good before but now ranges from really good to greatness. The menu was recently reworked and they always have really great rotating specials. In the past faves have included the Chicken Fried Steak and the Spicy Fried Chicken and Cheddar Waffle Sliders.

                                  They've also totally overhauled their pizzas and would say they're almost Libretto worthy now. On Sunday nights you can get a pizza for $11 a vodka martini for $6, one of my favourite specials in the city.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: abigllama

                                    I am really surprised by the Insomnia suggesiton - always thought they are in the same league as (if not subpar to ) 7 West.
                                    On their website they are still boasting dj spinnings...
                                    Is the place still a lounge, after the overhaul?