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Ignorant Yank Invades Toronto

I'm traveling end of month to Toronto for my first trip north of the States. I have much to learn. At this point I'm to be without a car and and staying at a hotel in Yorkville. Everything I will do will be foot / cab / public transit.

I gather that wine and spirits are only purchased at LCBO stores and judging from prices on see online I won't be buying much of anything there. I'd lose my gin and scotch habit quickly if I lived in Toronto!

Exchange rate appears to be pretty close to 1:1 (and I'll be using credit card most of the time) but does US Cash work if I need it? I would assume not?

I haven't done much reading yet so I'm wondering what's unique about Toronto? It's obviously a global city so I'm sure I can find a little bit of everything but what's uniquely "Ontarian" that I need to make sure to experience? I'll bone up on some history.

My college years enjoying the wisdom of Bob and Doug McKenzie are not going to help me much in Toronto I fear. I need better resources.

I will peruse the Ontario postings for recs already in place but if you have a couple of spots walking distance from Marriott downtown please let me know. I've already honed in on one of the oyster spots ( Rodney's, Oyster Boy, John and Son's) although none of them look real close to hotel.

Thanks in advance

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  1. Situated in Yorkville, plenty of options (unfortunately Yorkville restos are over-rated & expensive).

    Consider using the convenient subway line since it's right in Yorkville to travel to neighbourhoods.

    1. US cash might work in Yorkvile but not likely anywhere else. What are you looking for? You might want to check out the Toronto episode of Layover.

      2 Replies
      1. re: MissBingBing

        To the best of my knowledge, US cash will be accepted just about everywhere. Most likely at par.


        1. re: Davwud

          Yea people will gladly accept US Cash.
          Never had a problem anywhere in Canada.

          I think alot of us still have that 90's mentality when it was $.60 Cdn for $1 USD

      2. King Palace. Cheap Pakistani/Indian on Church just east of Yonge next to the car wash.

        1 Reply
        1. The Marriott Downtown is located by the Eaton Center, I presume you mean the Marriott Bloor Yorkville which sits basically on top of the Bloor/Yonge subway station (and is actually a couple blocks walk from Yorkville proper), there's also a LCBO store in your hotel building but it's a small one.

          Most places at this point will take US Dollars, but they won't necessarily be happy about it and may charge a ridiculous fee. Some will decline. Your ATM card will work in any Canadian ATM, RBC has a branch with ATMs in your hotel building.

          There's a decent Sandwich shop called Black Camel a short walk from the hotel on Yonge Street at Rosedale. Walk out the front door of your hotel and jaywalk across the street for decent coffee at Crema.

          1. Hmmm, where to start. Toronto is a melting pot so as you suspect, you will certainly be able to find a bit of everything (except of course truly unique regional specialities such as southern BBQ, Cajun/Creole etc.). As is NYC, San Francisco etc. the cultural/ethnic communities are often concentrated in heighbourhoods such as Chinatown, Little Italy etc. You will have no problem finding very good Indian, Chinese, Greek, Portugese, Italian cuisine etc. US funds are widely accepted but you will get gouged on the exchange rate. Most ATM's will be connected to the major bank and credit card networks, so I would probably suggest withdrawing cash as and when needed. If you are there on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday, try to go to the St. Lawrence Market. It is a typical farmers market but has a good selection of local produce, meat and artisanal products. If you do go to the market, most locals will tell you to get the iconic "bacon on a bun" sandwich from Carousel bakery (it is very good!). As far as any "Ontarian" experiences or cuisine, aside from the stereotypical Canadian bacon or maple syrup, any local chains are slop (you may be tempted to go to a Tim Horton's Donut shop or Harvey's Hamburgers...don't bother. Think Dunkin Donuts and Big Boy). Rodneys is good, Li Wah Heen for dim sum, Libretto for Pizza and maybe Black Camel for a basic sandwich....otherwise, it's pretty much just like any other mid-to-large size N. American city. Oh, one more thing...Torontonian's typically only want what they have to line up for. The herd mentalility prevails. They also suffer from a major inferiority complex relative to their neighbours from south of the border (witness the inevitable flurry of posts here boasting of "world class" this and that...blah, blah, blah). At the end of the day, Toronto is a pleasant city, with friendly people and its fair share of nice (albeit pretentious) restaurants. In other words, not much different than what you are probably used to at home. I hope this helps. Have fun.

            5 Replies
            1. re: StayThirsty

              Wouldn't recommend Lai Wah Heen as its changed chefs, menu and owners.

              1. re: MissBingBing

                Thanks...I did not know. Where in the downtown core do you suggest for dim sum nowadays...Is Pink Pearl down at Q's Quay still OK???

                1. re: StayThirsty

                  If you're looking for high-end ambiance, then try Crown (Bay) or Dynasty (Yorkville)

                  Downtown, Sky, Rolson, Dim Sum King, Rosewood

              2. re: StayThirsty

                "Oh, one more thing...Torontonian's typically only want what they have to line up for. The herd mentalility prevails. They also suffer from a major inferiority complex relative to their neighbours from south of the border (witness the inevitable flurry of posts here boasting of "world class" this and that...blah, blah, blah)."


                1. re: StayThirsty

                  "Oh, one more thing...Torontonian's typically only want what they have to line up for. The herd mentalility prevails. They also suffer from a major inferiority complex relative to their neighbours from south of the border (witness the inevitable flurry of posts here boasting of "world class" this and that...blah, blah, blah)."

                  Funny, I would have said something more along the lines of:

                  A certain segment of Torontonians feel an odd and quite tedious compulsion to relentlessly deride anything and everything here as being barely adequate, presumably in an effort to look sophisticated, and discerning themselves.

                  To add to the OP's list:

                  None of these are fine dining, or Yorkville, and all are fun, quirky, neighbourhoody places, but I like:

                  - Moti Mahal for delicious, super-flavourful cheap-and-cheerful Indian food. (Gerard and Coxwell)
                  - Porchetta and Co for tasty, porky, crispy, sandwiches. (Dundas and Bathurst)
                  - The Only Cafe for fun and eclectic beer, coffee, etc. (Donlands and Danforth)
                  - Kozlik's in St. Lawrence Market for excellent mustard.

                  Personally, I'm on the fence about the Carousel Bakery peameal bacon sandwich. It's fine, but not as good as homemade, in my opinion. The bun's good, the mustard's good, but the meat is meh, in my view. I like the stuff at Sausage King in the market, though.

                  Happy visiting!

                2. as for oysters, i have a soft spot for starfish, although it too is not particularly close to your hotel:

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: afong56

                    have to agree, starfish is good. You might also want to consider going to the St. Lawrence market and there is a fishmonger at the back who will shuck them for you and then you can enjoy (about $1.00 an oyster). Origin on Church and King had some amazing oysters in a yuzu dressing. Again, not close to Yorkville but if you are in the area........ The Cookbook store is near Yorkville though.

                    1. re: afong56

                      Fairly short cab ride to Starfish.

                      Rodney's may be more convenient.


                    2. If you're interested in some good craft beer, near Yorkville there is Bar Volo. It's on Yonge St one street north of Wellesley. Further downtown there is Bar Hop (King & Spadina), Beer Bistro (Yonge & King), C'est What (Front & Church) and if you get adventurous definitely hit up Bellwoods which is out at Ossington midway between Queen & Dundas.

                      Bar Hop and C'est What have some pretty good whiskeys too.

                      1. Ignoring the bickering about currency, I suggest you get yourself over to Kensington Market and walk around. It's a great little neighbourhood that has always been about food - an old Jewish market area transformed now into a really multiethnic neighbourhood with restaurants and food stalls galore. From there you can wander over to Spadina Ave. with all its Asian groceries and restaurants and then further south to Queen Street. From there, walk west and you'll discover food and shopping - plenty to keep you busy. What's is most unique about Toronto is its neighbourhoods and the still-indie vibe of many of the little corners. These are quickly evolving into something more corporate, but the areas I mentioned are still fun and worthwhile.

                        I personally think that Toronto is less about fine dining and more about small and quirky. But that's me. Oh and I'm a transplanted Yank myself.

                        1. Museum Tavern - fancier than it sounds and across from the museum

                          Oxley - upscale English pub with pretty good food, not a typical Yorkville clip joint

                          The Pilot - old-school pub with sunny rooftop patio. Food meh.

                          7 Replies
                          1. re: MissBingBing

                            Another vote for Museum Tavern. More like a bistro than a tavern. Give yourself ample time to try their cocktails. The food is very good, although I don't really like their desserts. Have something from their single-malt Scotch list instead.

                            1. re: obstructionist

                              Haven't been myself, but I sent someone to Museum Tavern and they were utterly underwhelmed and disappointed. My understanding is that it isn't what it used to be.

                              1. re: kwass

                                What does "isn't what it used to be" mean when applied to a place that's only 6 months old?

                                1. re: obstructionist

                                  It's older than that, isn't it? I just know that when it first opened it received good reviews, and it's gone downhill since than. I just know that the person I sent there was really disappointed, and since than I've read other reviews from people that have said the same thing.

                                  1. re: obstructionist

                                    Maybe "isn't what it used to be" wasn't the right thing to say. Maybe I should have said that it doesn't live up to the hype.

                                    1. re: kwass

                                      I might agree with that. I have been a few times, first when it opened (loved it), then a few times since then. The food in my opinion has not been as good in my recent experiences, but I still have loved the cocktails.

                              2. re: MissBingBing

                                I love the Oxley but don't be fooled into thinking you can go for a traditional English Sunday lunch - they only serve North American brunch at lunchtime. Roast starts at 5pm. I'm sure their brunch is very good though.

                              3. You might want to head up to Koreatown (it's really more like Koreablock) at Bathurst and Bloor. Good BBQ, great soups and you can visit Honest Ed's

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Eating Dude

                                  There are many sushi restaurants in that area also. Most are forgettable, but Sushi Couture is good.

                                2. In/near Yorkville, I'd recommend Mistura, Joso's, Opus, L'Unita, Dynasty (for dim sum), Coffee Mill (for a bowl goulash soup- a casual place for lunch). Simply Italian has great gelato. I like 7 Grams on Avenue Rd and Yorkville Espresso for coffee. I still haven't been to the Oxley, but it's a place I hope to visit in the near future. I found a recent meal at Museum Tavern to be mediocre, so I'd probably lean towards other places in Yorkville.

                                  John & Son's new Yonge St location (south of St. Clair) would be within a 10 minute cab ride/10-15 minute TTC subway ride/25 minute walk of Yorkville. The new location is a little more convenient to Yorkville than Rodney's or Starfish.

                                  If you want oysters in Yorkville, also consider Joso's. Joso's serves some of the best seafood in the city. I also recommend the grilled octopus and fried calamari if you go to Joso's. http://www.josos.com/menu/

                                  One, in the Hazelton Hotel in Yorkville, also serves oysters. http://www.dine.to/menus/menu_5756_do...

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. Oysters can be found at the bar at La Societie, right at Bloor and Avenue for a buck each on Thursdays! Grab some of their frites as well..or head to Globe Bistro by subway over at Broadview and Danforth...buck a shuck every night from 4 to 6, plus half price beer and wine...great deal. Stay for their delish burger!

                                    1. Is there anything worse than someone posting asking for advice and then not replying with their experience. I apologize for the delay and definitely enjoyed reading your thoughts and opinions.

                                      It's been a few weeks since I was there but I'll try to remember a few impressions to share.

                                      1) Your traffic is just ridiculous! I thought I was in Boston! Glad I didn't have a car.
                                      2) The people are friendly, the city seems clean and the weather was awesome for us. It's a very pretty city that reminded me a little of Sydney and a little of London.
                                      3) Breakfasts were spent on the go so not much to report there. Loved picking up items at Longos next to the hotel- good breads, fruit, yogurt and granola.
                                      4) The office had an amazing coffee maker (branded Starbucks but I think it's mfg by a Canadian company (Avalon?) so we didn't go out for coffee.
                                      5) Lunches- a deli in the building (yawn), takeaway middle eastern food that was fabulous- I'll try to find the name). A sushi place that was generic and forgettable (Nijo) but not terrible for lunch (cheap).
                                      6) Dinners were good to great.. Good: Lola's Kitchen .. interesting menu, an earnest place that does the veg-friendly thing but makes a very solid cheeseburger too. Great: the recommendation for L'Unita was stellar. I can't thank you all enough! One of the better Italian meals I've had. We had housemade /locally sourced antipasti platter that had amazing, weird things (pigs ear?? calves brains?? it was all great!) We ate at the bar and our Bartender was a fantastic server- a true pro. It was half price wine night so we had a scrumptious bottle of Aglianico for a song. I had pillow-soft gnocchi with rabbit, peas, mushrooms, pancetta and cream. The pancetta was more chewy than flavorful but everything else about the dish was sublime. Companion had a Fred-Flinstone sized bone-in pork chop with squash puree and he was in heaven.

                                      The other night we went to go watch the Leafs game and had bar food. It was decent bar fare but the fired up fans were more memorable. It was called Sports Centre. Good wings, crummy beers. Still a good time.

                                      So thanks Toronto for a nice, albeit short, experience. Still need to try a pea-meal bacon sandwich!

                                      11 Replies
                                      1. re: e_bone

                                        I missed the edit window- but I thought I'd share what I had at Lola's Kitchen. I had a few tacos for starters: a pulled pork version that was good (but too sweet for my tastes) and a vegan version (waiter recommended) that was actually pretty interesting with quinoa and guac. For entree I had a Very Good lamb burger with roasted peppers, mint and feta. It was delicious. The frites were top notch as well. An affordable martini (6 $ I think) and a glass of South American malbec. Nice meal.

                                        1. re: e_bone

                                          Thanks for the report back! Glad to hear about Lola's -- I love them for breakfast/brunch, but have never eaten dinner there. Nice to know it's solid.

                                          Hope you have a chance to come back and try more places next time!

                                          1. re: TorontoJo

                                            Just seeing this thread a bit late and the first thing to rec that came to mind was Lola's. We live right around there and easy walk from the hotel. But looks like you found it on your own and glad you enjoyed.

                                            It's our go to for brunch. But they did start a dinner service last fall, have been a couple of times and it's excellent and very reasonable.

                                            On both visits there were just a couple of tables occupied. Chowfolk definitely check it out before they decide to drop the dinner service!

                                        2. re: e_bone

                                          About the peameal bacon:

                                          This is, perhaps, a contentious opinion, but I think that the Carousel peameal bacon that is often recommended here is recommended more out of habit than because it's especially good.

                                          If you'd like to try peameal bacon, it's easy to make at home, and requires no special equipment. If you're interested, I'll be happy to share my recipe. :)

                                          1. re: trombasteve

                                            i 100% agree with this. the sandwiches offered by carousel and paddingtons are, at this point, basically like eating a shoe in between bread that is, most days of the week, stale.

                                            1. re: disgusti

                                              I agree we do a disservice to the city when this gets recommended as a must try.

                                              1. re: dubchild

                                                Definitely. I had my first one a couple of weeks ago after being told it was a must-try, and it's no better than the bacon sandwiches you get from the vans in the parking lots of building supply stores in the UK. Very disappointing. I couldn't understand why it was recommended.

                                                1. re: gembellina

                                                  this is a very apt analogy. the peameal sandwich CAN be a fantastic thing, when it's cut nice and thick and juicy, it's basically a thick slice of better ham. but the dried out thin little pieces of crap they serve, despite probably nowhere else in the city having easier access to quality product, are just not even worth bothering with

                                            2. re: trombasteve

                                              Plz do share. Assuming I can find materials state side. Great idea. It was one of the few things I heard of that were "of" Ontario. I don't know if poutine is Ontarian or more pan-Canadian but that sounded great to in an arteries-be-damned sort of way.

                                              1. re: e_bone

                                                Okay, I'll post it in the home cooking board (it seems to me that CHOW isn't so warm and fuzzy about posting recipes in the regional boards).

                                                About poutine - you'll find it all over the country now, but it's originally a Québécois thing, and (having lived in Québec and Ontario), I'd say they do it best. Next time you visit Montréal or Québec City, you'll find lots of opinions on where to have the best ones. ;)

                                                EDIT: Actually, I've already posted it in the Home Cooking board, apparently. Here it is:


                                                I would slightly amend it, based on further experimentation and reading to say, that it's better to do the cornmeal dredge straight away after rinsing, rather than drying in the fridge first, and that, as far as I understand, the pink salt isn't strictly necessary, since it's not going to be smoked, and the salt and fridge temperatures are sufficient to keep botulism at bay. It is always made with pink salt here, though.

                                              2. re: trombasteve

                                                See. I couldn't disagree more. Everyone I've had from Carousel has been great.

                                                Last spring a group of us did a head to head with Paddington's. Carousel won easily.