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One day Toronto eating trip

I will have an entire Saturday and Sunday morning after a business trip to eat everything Toronto has to offer.

Any suggestions on unique or outstanding food around downtown Toronto? There's not much sightseeing in Toronto so I will be going around just eating all day. Thanks!

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  1. there are literally one thousand of these threads already
    here is one


    1. not possible to try everything that toronto offers in a day and a half. simply trying all of the different ethnic cuisines would take years. . .

      not to mention, downtown toronto is somewhat limiting as greater toronto offers so much else to eat.

      your question is really, really broad, as well. perhaps there is a particular cuisine, or food item you'd like to try?

      as well, it's always useful to know where you are from, so we have an idea of what not to recommend (what are your hometown's strengths).

      also, you might want to mention budget (if any) and dietary preferences/restrictions. . .

      5 Replies
      1. re: afong56

        i am looking for chinese, italian, canadian, french.

        i am from los angeles, it is very easy to name the top 3 restaurants for nearly every category of cuisine in LA. i hope that is also possible for toronto.

        no budget or dietary restrictions.

        1. re: feed_the_pig

          French - Le Select is within walking/short cab distance
          Italian -Enoteca Sociale

          1. re: feed_the_pig

            los angeles has world class food, so i'm not sure you'll find italian or french food here that is unique enough or better than what you have available to you back home.

            as far as chinese, i think of all the chinese regions represented in downtown toronto, probably cantonese is done best. this includes a range of places from as basic as king's noodle, to house of gourmet, up to lai wah heen in the metropolitan hotel. you will get a lot of different opinions on this, tho.

            as for 'canadian', that's a tougher one. truly traditional canadian cuisine might mean a place like keriwa cafe (which is truly canadian only in the sense of cuisine origin and inspiration, not preparation, per se--probably not going to have pan fried bannock or buffalo stew on a menu downtown), or 'french-canadian' like what martin picard does in montreal at au pied de cochon. suggestions for canadian items, such as the backbacon/peameal sandwich are solid, so would perusing through the thread on butter tarts.

            eating your way through slm and kensington are solid ways to get a footing. perhaps grabbing a fresh 'montreal-inspired' bagel from st. urbain in slm, and then one from nu bagel in kensington will give you that comparison (although i think bagel world does it better, but none actually do montreal bagels perfect, imho)--if you've never had montreal bagels, you will notice a real difference from the ones that typically get sold in the u.s.

            has los angeles discovered poutine yet?

            1. re: afong56

              afong56, thank you. i do enjoy cantonese food, particularly hk style cafes. king's noodle and house of gourmet are in the downtown area where i am staying and they look like ideal places to visit. however, i have heard the cantonese food in markham/scarborough is far superior to those in downtown TO. is there a remarkable difference in the quality/authenticity? if there is, i may consider taking the train out to those cities.

              your ideas about slm and kensington are well taken, i will eat my way through those markets. excited about getting my mitts on a montreal bagel.

              los angeles knows nothing about poutine so far. if i find them to be tasty, i may adopt the dish into one of our night markets.

              1. re: feed_the_pig

                It is arguable that there is a good poutine place in the Toronto area.

                You will find "Smoke's " poutinerie all over the city now, if you get one from there I prefer the vegetarian gravy over their normal one. I prefer Poutinie's over Smokes in general too -

                Good late night food!

                EDIT - Ah, just saw the other posts about poutine up above!

        2. Not the gourmets' choice but once when my husband asked me where I wanted to go out to dinner on my birthday I said "The Mandarin" and so we went there, and the Mandarin is in Toronto, and we lived in Chicago. Look at the Mandarin's website (they have half a dozen locations) for pictures. A NICE Chinese buffet (white tablecloths and fresh flowers) with (I have counted) 48 hot Chinese entrees on the Chinese buffet plus roast prime rib of beef and Yorkshire pudding on the Canadian buffet, plus chicken and salmon and lamb chops on the grill buffet, plus a salad buffet with ad lib shrimp, plus a sushi bar, plus a dessert buffet, six kinds of soup, ten kinds of ice cream, and a waffle bar. A place where families take Grandma for her birthday.

          1. Please don't go to the Mandarin on your one day in Toronto. It may be a half-decent buffet, but in the end it's still a buffet with buffet food.

            As afong56 writes -- it would help us to know where you are coming from and what kind of food you are interested in.

            4 Replies
            1. re: TorontoJo

              I have to agree with TorontoJo here - please do not go to Mandarin. Chinatown is a great idea, as is the St Lawrence market.

              1. re: TeacherFoodie

                I hate Mandarin as much as the next person, however I think it should be noted that it was a tourist who mentioned this. That persons input could be valuable to another tourist as oppose to people who live here and no longer appreciate Mandarin.
                Maybe it appeals to people that have never been. I'm sure at one point in time, most people (including those who now despise it) were excited to try it. I know for me, it was a good four visits many years ago before I started to dislike the food. I think the amount of options is what may appeal to some.

                1. re: fryerlover

                  The OP has asked for "unique and outstanding food". I would not send anyone asking for that to Mandarin. It is fine for someone looking for a buffet, but the OP has not asked for that.

                2. re: TeacherFoodie

                  Thank you! I will try your suggestions.

              2. Highly suggest that you watch the Toronto episode of Bourdain's Layover show. Google it.

                Assuming you're coming alone. I suggest the following:
                - St. Lawrence Mkt for peameal bacon
                - Barque Triple A for barbeque
                - Soma Chocolatier in distillery or on King St W, for an espresso or Hot chocolate
                - Guu

                That should cover most bases

                1 Reply
                1. re: meatnveg

                  Thank you meatnveg for the ideas, exactly what I was seeking, a few places where I can catch a taste of Toronto

                2. I would recommend to go to Saint Lawrence Market. In there you have a lot of great choices. There's the peameal bacon sandwich at Carousel Bakery which has been lauded as the 'Toronto' sandwich by a few people and loved by Bourdain.

                  I personally love the seafood at Buster Sea Cove's. I've had everything from the crispy crunch calamari to the thick grilled halibut and it's amazing.

                  I also highly recommend trying Chinese food in Toronto. North GTA has some great restaurants ... do you have access to a car?

                  What type of cusine are you interested in?

                  11 Replies
                  1. re: Nevy

                    SLM is not open on Sundays. Just so that ftp doesn't plan it for Sunday.


                    1. re: Davwud

                      Also depending on when your trip is there may be a pedestrian Sunday in Kensington. A little more info on when you are visiting may be helpful.

                      1. re: LexiFirefly

                        My trip will be Saturday afternoon until Sunday morning, so I'll visit SLM Saturday and Kensington Sunday

                        1. re: feed_the_pig

                          Sounds like a great plan. It may not be a pedestrian Sunday (first one is may 27) but still a fun little walk and nibble around.

                    2. re: Nevy

                      looking forward to devouring a peameal bacon sandwich :)

                      also bookmarked buster sea cove, looks great.

                      i am aware of the outstanding chinese food in markham/richmond hill area. unfortunately i won't have a car. i am limited to public transportation. is it worth taking public transportation from downtown TO to where the good chinese restaurants are? if Chinese food near downtown is decent, then i won't make the extra trip.

                      1. re: feed_the_pig

                        +1 for Busters Sea Cove. The crab cake sandwich is amazing

                        1. re: feed_the_pig

                          The downtown Chinatown and Kensington Market are right next to each other. There are at least a couple that can be categorized as decent. Swatow, Mother's Dumplings, King Noodle but you have to know what to order.
                          SLM is quite busy on Saturdays. Mob scene, mimes.

                          1. re: MissBingBing

                            SLM is very busy, but definitely worth it for the peameal sandiwch at Carousel.

                            1. re: TeacherFoodie

                              Consensus has the peameal sandwich at Paddington Pump is the one to get. Don't see what the fuss is myself. I'd rather go to Porchetta.

                              1. re: MissBingBing

                                yeah the peameal sandwiches in the slm have really lost their lustre in the past few years. used to be i wouldn't go to the market without getting one but i haven't bothered for at least a year or two now, much rather grab a slab of peameal and make them at home if i really get the urge

                                1. re: MissBingBing

                                  Absolutely DO NOT go to Paddingtons for a peameal. About a year ago a group of us did a head to head and it wasn't close.

                                  Another thing for you is the Bifana (with everything) from Churrasco of St. Lawrence.
                                  They also have the best Piri Piri I've had.


                        2. My favorite place to go around eating all day is the Kensington Market / Chinatown area. You can eat have a bit of dim sum to get you going, then wander around Kensington nibbling on churros and empanadas and tacos. And then if you manage to remain hungry, back to Chinatown for dumplings or a plate of crispy beef with spicy honey ginger sauce at Rol San for later.

                          9 Replies
                          1. re: Jacquilynne

                            Any recommendations for dim sum or breakfast in Chinatown area?

                            1. re: feed_the_pig

                              just east of chinatown is Lai Wah Heen. It has some of the city's best dim sum. Call before going though, dim sum might be restricted to Sundays only

                              Crown princess is another option. It's at Bay St & Irwin Ave. it's faaannccyyy.

                              1. re: meatnveg

                                Didn't Lai Wah Heen close? I thought I heard the hotel was sold.

                                1. re: MissBingBing

                                  I'm pretty sure it's closed.

                                  Crown Princess probably is the fanciest, at this point, downtown.

                                  1. re: MissBingBing

                                    website says it's still open--new hotel group is keeping it, claims that it was closed until march 1st for renovations. haven't actually been since it closed, so can't confirm it actually is open.

                                2. re: feed_the_pig

                                  I usually go to Rol San or Forestview, but there are others more expert than me who could probably recommend other options.

                                  1. re: Jacquilynne

                                    does the rest of the board have an opinion on kim moon? i've been rotating between noble/rol san/kim moon for a while now and i think that kim moon is often a really good option. the food is kinda the weakest out of the three but still better than acceptable and some of it is actually highly decent but it's just so goddamn cheap. like two people can get real full there for 20 bucks total. and it has a really awesomely shitty chinatown vibe that a lot of places have kinda upgraded from that i find charming
                                    anyways, you could go for dim sum at any of those three places which are all within a 5 minute walk of each other and not have a bad time

                              2. i don't know if you can do it in a day...where are you coming from? what are your likes/dislikes?

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: ingloriouseater

                                  i know i can't cover every type of cuisine in a day, was just looking for a few ideas of what people in toronto call good food. i am coming from LA, a city where it is very easy to suggest a list of 10-15 places where people should eat when they come visit

                                2. Thank you everyone for the suggestions, they are well taken. I suddenly had a few cravings and if anyone can recommend a few places in the following categories, that would help my planning.

                                  1. all you can eat sushi
                                  2. hong kong style cafe
                                  3. coffeeshop that roasts beans on-site
                                  4. poutine

                                  5 Replies
                                  1. re: feed_the_pig

                                    My personal take is that AYCE sushi in downtown Toronto is not very good. Since you're coming from LA, I think it's almost safe to say you maybe disappointed. If you have to do sushi in downtown, I would recommend Japango or Yuzu. They are good. They're not the best but for the price and quality, they are consistent for me. JaBistro has gotten a decent amount of raves lately but they're on the higher price point. If you must do AYCE in downtown, my only semi decent experience has been Echo Sushi at Yonge & Davisville. Service is marginally better than other downtown options.

                                    As for Hong Kong style cafe, I find the best ones in GTA East but for downtown, I did have a good experience at Hong Kong Harbour. It's not as goods as Markham experiences but it was clean, prompt, and pretty good. Prices were reasonable. The milk tea was better than expected and their version of the 'spaghetti bolognese HK style' reminded me of some real HK greasy spoon places I visited years ago. They have some decent deep fried chicken wings (it's inconsistent).

                                    I like Balzac's coffee in the distillery district. They roast their own there. But I like it a lot more than I should because I get to go to Soma Chocolate which is in the same area :)

                                    1. re: feed_the_pig

                                      Ayce sushi is more of a suburban thing but, if you must, Sushi Spring at Yonge & Dundas near the Eaton Centre on top of the AMC theatres at Dundas Square is OK for lunch (dinner's noticeably more expensive).

                                      House of Gourmet has a HK section on their huge menu. Not my taste.

                                      Moonbean in Kensington Market is probably the closest to you that roasts beans on site. Several others in the Market as well.

                                      You'll find poutine on the menu of just about every non-Asian restaurant in town. Smoke's (a local chain) and Poutini are exclusively poutine with more than one variety.

                                      1. re: MissBingBing

                                        Given that AYCE is all over downtown - And I am sure you are aware of that - what did you mean by "a suburban thing"?

                                        Spring Sushi is pretty good as is Aji Sai on Queen W. You get what you pay for...

                                      2. re: feed_the_pig

                                        i will echo other sentiments here and say los angeles already has great sushi, and your time/money are probably better spent on other things.

                                        as far as poutine goes, this link has some suggestions:

                                        admittedly, a quebec purist's understanding of poutine includes a holy trinity of curds, gravy, and fries--something that imho, our best iterations in the gta don't really do as well--i think it comes down to the curds.

                                        if you google "the poutine pundit", you'll find out what i mean. there's a sort of rating scale/manifesto that blog employs.

                                        if you're in kensington, drop in on moon bean coffee for a roasting cafe. . .up in the annex (bloor west to bathurst) is the green beanery. if you take the queen st. streetcar east to leslieville, there's te aro.

                                        1. re: afong56

                                          Restaurants in TO seem bent on using beef gravy as well. Chicken is traditional.