Recommendations for First Visit to Toronto
My sister and I (she from Chicago, me from New York; both definitely Chowish) are visiting Toronto for the first time in a couple of weeks. We'll be staying in King Street West or CBD without a car, but we do not have an issue using public transit to get anywhere worth eating (e.g., in NYC, we will happily travel 1+ hr. by subway/bus for Uzbeki food in Brighton Beach or Taiwanese food in Flushing). We love to use restaurants as destinations for exploring places where people live and create community. To that end, where are some places we might eat that will get us out of the city center and expose us to a range of Toronto's neighborhoods? [From the past posts, I am certain that we will spend some time in/around Kensington and St. Lawrence markets.] We will be in town Thursday - Sunday, and are happy for recommendations for all meals and snacks. Thanks in advance!
Chantecler on Queen West in Parkdale, Lardon on Roncevalles, Porchetta and Co. on Dundas in the Junction, the Saint on Ossington, and Luma in the TIFF Lightbox at King and John are great restaurants (and some of my faves!) that will get you to a lot of cool Toronto neighborhoods. There are so many nice spots, have a wonderful visit!
If you are willing to really invest some time into public transit then take the 25 bus from Pape Subway Station (or the 100 bus from Broadview Station) and get off in Thorncliffe Park, what you have there is a mixture of immigrant populations, mostly muslim that have moved into a commercial/industrial neighborhood, so you have the Pakistani grocery around the corner from the Coca Cola bottling plant. Good Afghan kebab place, search the forum for Overlea or Thorncliffe and you'll get some other ideas.
I'm not exactly sure what CBD is and I've lived here for 10 years, but I live in King West.
Bloor and Christie area is Koreatown, lots of good food options there.
In King West I love 416 snackbar for late night drinks, music and snacks. Hawker Bar on Ossington is Singapore street food and delicious, and a stop off at Reposado for a pomegranate tequila before or after wouldn't be the worst thing in the world.
If you're late night on Queen West, make sure to get a Poutini poutine for a dose of Canadiana. (The same people that own Hawker own own Poutini and they do good work).
pacific mall & j-town for noodles, chinese & japanese snacks, etc.
leaside for tarte flambe, croissants, bagels, gelato, wings, fish&chips, brickworks market
maybe add galleria in don mills to the thorncliffe tour
st clair west streetcar for stockyards, wychwood, jamaican, pain perdu, south american, italian, vietnamese
- khao san road
I second Stockyards on St. Clair. As you will be in town on Saturday, Brickworks Market, and Wychwood Market are wonderful places to check out on Saturday mornings. Not only are they farmer's markets, but there are plenty of foods prepared by local chef's.
If you are a donut fan, I cannot recommend enough checking out Glory Hole Doughnut in the Parkdale neighbourhood. Grand Electric (in the same neighbourhood) has some of the best tacos in town.
Have a wonderful time in our beautiful city!
Definitely 416 Snack Bar at queen and bathurst. Go earlier if you want a bit more relaxed, go late night if you want full out bar with loud music and beautiful people.
My personal rec would be to go to Eglinton West/Oakwood for late night (11pm and later, all the way up to early morning) jerk chicken. There are a few stores that have big oil drums-converted bbq's outside with great jerk chicken. There is one called Rap's which looks so clean that you would think its the worst of the 3, however IMO its the best. Its just that they went through an unfortunate makeover show that made it look like a chain store.
I've brought many people there and everyone loves it. However, some of them are scared by a bunch of sketchy folk usually hanging around outside at late hours. Meh. I feel at home here even if I get some strange looks when I pull up.
Little India does not have the best Indian in the city but it's a fun neighbourhood to explore with a festival kind of atmosphere on a sunny weekend day. Udupi Palace has good dosa.
Pacific Mall definitely fits your request. I've been to China and this really reminds me of the malls there - not the high end HK malls but the mid-range malls. Most stores sell cel phones or copy DVDs but there is other stuff interspersed and there are lots of food court type places, search this board for current recomendations. It looks like there is a bus from York Mills subway station that will take you right there.
Maybe a visit to a T&T Supermarket? It's a grocery store chain that specialises in Asian foods. I love checking out grocery stores when travelling. There's one sort of downtown but off the beaten track on Cherry St. I guess you could get a Bixi bike. Or maybe Charles Yu can recommend a transit friendly Chow tour in the suburbs that includes a T&T?
If you don't mind cycling, you can get a Bixi bike (similar to Citibike) to burn off the calories you take in and build up hunger faster. Kensington Market's nearby and adjoins Chinatown so you have your choice of banh mi spots on Spadina north of Dundas, Jumbo Empanada, fish and chips, chorizo, grilled cheese, pie, etc. Basically explore the area surrounding the intersection of Augusta and Nassau. If you head south along Spadina, check out Banh Mi Boys on Queen St. West.
From there, you can go west on College for Caplanskys (smoked meat, deli), and Little Italy (if you can't get enough Italian in NYC/Chicago).
You can also take the TTC to Pape and Danforth and walk or streetcar your way along Danforth for Greek, and further east, Ethiopian food.
If you head west from Spadina along Bloor, there's lots of Korean places to choose from, along w/ tacos, jerk, shawarma, and other stuff. I like Ka Chi for pork bone soup.
If you streetcar it along Queen St. East, you'll travel through Leslieville and eventually hit the Beaches. Leslieville probably has the better restaurant selection as it's rapidly gentrified in recent years (think Williamsburg), but I'm blanking on what to eat in the Beaches (besides Burger's Priest) so just go for the ice cream and a nice walk. As for Leslieville, I'd recommend Leslieville Pumps solely because you can get decent brisket, bbq, corn fritters and fried pickles (and butter chicken after 9 pm) from a gas station. There's lots of better restaurants and cafes in the neighborhood too, but you can't buy gas and lottery tickets at them.
Other places to check out: the Distillery and the Saturday morning market at Brick Works.