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3 days in Toronto for a late 20 s couple. Looking for local favorites!

Jsimao105 Jul 26, 2013 08:58 PM

Hi everyone. My boyfriend and I will be visiting Toronto in mid August. Were a couple in our late 20s and are pretty adventurous eaters. We'd like to try and visit some local favorites and were hoping for some recommendations for before dinner drinks as well. We're staying in downtown at the delta Chelsea ( though I heard they changed their name...). Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated :)

  1. Dr. John Aug 6, 2013 04:41 PM

    I agree with lots of the above recommendations for local favourites and generally excellent eats. If you are looking for stuff that more unique to Toronto and emphasizes Canadian flavours, then I have a few suggestions:

    Carousel bakery at the St. Lawrence Market for the back bacon sandwich. Many people here will groan in frustration at how cliche this option is, but back bacon is very Canadian and I have yet to have a visitor who didn't love this sandwich.

    Bannock for the pickerel buns. Sure the buns are a copy of Momofuku, but the pickerel is a very Canadian fish (it's on many a northern Ontario menu) and this is a well done dish on a somewhat hit and miss menu.

    Smoke's or Poutini for poutine. Another cliche classic, this time hailing from Quebec. Best eaten after midnight when your need for fat and salt is high and your critical faculties are low.

    If you go to some of the better restaurants mentioned above, look out for seasonal ingredients that while not exclusively Canadian are typical of what can be sourced from our country: milkweed pods, cattail hearts, spruce tips, various mushrooms, saskatoon berries, choke cherries, etc.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Dr. John
      TeacherFoodie Aug 10, 2013 11:10 AM

      +1 for the peameal sandwich at carousel and also for poutine.

    2. rosieintoronto Aug 2, 2013 06:32 AM

      Nota Bene, Chantecler, Lardon and the Saint are some of my fave dining spots. Make sure you walk around Kensington Market, and check out the St. Lawrence Market too. Have fun!

      4 Replies
      1. re: rosieintoronto
        Jsimao105 Aug 2, 2013 03:12 PM

        Thanks! Is there a difference between Kensington and st. Lawrence markets? One to go to over another??

        1. re: Jsimao105
          TorontoJo Aug 2, 2013 05:21 PM

          Totally different -- Kensington Market is a neighbourhood that spans several blocks, loaded with funky little shops and restaurants. St. Lawrence Market is a large indoor market in a single building, with a second building used for a farmers market on Saturdays only.

          Both are great.

          1. re: TorontoJo
            petek Aug 5, 2013 04:33 AM

            I'd take Kensington over St. Lawrence any day. Kensington market has a lot more to see and do and you're right next door to Chinatown(and Swatow!).
            Never understood the big deal about St. Lawrence Market,but that's just me...

            1. re: petek
              jlunar Aug 5, 2013 07:56 AM

              Kensington is not necessarily unique, but you won't find it in every city.

              You will find something like a St. Lawrence Market in most every city, I'd think.

      2. aser Jul 30, 2013 10:26 PM

        Where are you from? Are you interested in trying things that you can't get back home?

        No sense in recommending ok versions of things you have back home that are great.

        I personally like Bar Isabel a lot for food, strong cocktail program also. Bellwoods Brewery is doing something unique. Oddseoul is a great 1am snack spot.

        Then there are the multitude of ethnic options in the burbs, but that requires more travel.

        11 Replies
        1. re: aser
          Jsimao105 Jul 31, 2013 03:34 AM

          We're from the NYC metro area so we really have everything available. I actually live in nj (close to where they filmed some of the sopranos) so I'd say I have an abundance of good Italian where I live now

          1. re: Jsimao105
            aser Jul 31, 2013 10:34 PM

            then don't bother w/ any rec's for japanese/sushi/izakaya/ramen, nyc has better options.

            I would highly suggest you try out some of the Chinese (Cantonese) food. Perhaps a dim sum meal at Lai Wah Heen or some late night munchies eating at Swatow or Taste of China. Stuff like wontone mein, black bean clams/razor clams, fermented tofu water spinach, etc.

            The best Chinese stuff is in the burbs a la Flushing, but it'll take a while to get out there sans car. Or a $45 cab ride....

            I still think Oddseoul/Bellwoods/Bar Isabel are worth checking out. But there are definite comparables in nyc a la...

            oddseoul - danji/hanjan
            bellwoods - torst
            bar isabel - tertulia

            1. re: aser
              JennaBean Aug 1, 2013 06:26 AM

              You're right aser in regards to comparables but besides some great Cantonese you've already pointed out, there will be comparables across the board IMO.

              1. re: JennaBean
                jovialetr Aug 1, 2013 05:39 PM

                I have been to both Bar Isabel and Tertulia relatively recently, and think that they are not that similar. Bar Isabel is more Spanish inspired to me than actual tapas. I highly enjoyed both though.

                1. re: jovialetr
                  Charles Yu Aug 1, 2013 06:28 PM

                  I know my next question is a little off topic. I just hope the moderator will not delete it since all I need to know is a 'short' answer!!
                  @ jovialetr: Have you eaten in NYC's Casa Mono? How did CM's food compare to Tertulia ( and Bar Isabel ). I'm planning to head out to NYC next month and Tertulia is on my radar screen. If Tertulia is so-so, then I might look else where!

                  1. re: Charles Yu
                    The Chowhound Team Aug 2, 2013 07:59 AM

                    We'll leave this post, so jovialetr can see it, but we'd ask that any reponses go on a thread on the appropriate NYC board rather than here on the Ontario board. Thanks!

                    1. re: Charles Yu
                      jovialetr Aug 2, 2013 06:25 PM

                      This might get erased, but since the answer is no, I haven't been to Casa Mono, so can't compare, I don't think it makes sense to post it to another thread.

                      1. re: jovialetr
                        Charles Yu Aug 2, 2013 07:05 PM

                        Thanks jovialetr!
                        I'll give Tertulia a try anyways!

                2. re: aser
                  bytepusher Aug 1, 2013 07:05 PM

                  The Bellwoods/Torst thing is a bit of a stretch. Yes they are both trying to do really interesting beers but that's about as far as it goes, especially now that Torst has opened up Luksus in the back room, they're really in a different league

                  1. re: bytepusher
                    aser Aug 4, 2013 11:37 PM

                    The comparisons are just to give the poster a point of reference, it's not meant to start off a descending spiral of nerdery.

                    charles - my nyc friend says tertulia is top notch if that means anything.

                    1. re: aser
                      Charles Yu Aug 5, 2013 08:14 AM

                      Thanks Aser!! Nice to know!!

            2. th3hungrycat Jul 30, 2013 11:44 AM

              For drinks:

              The Beaconsfield
              The Drake
              Barchef (but it's PRICEY!)

              El Catrin
              Rose & Sons
              Playa Cabana
              Khao San Road
              Guu Izakaya/Sakabar
              Seven Lives

              1 Reply
              1. re: th3hungrycat
                TeacherFoodie Aug 1, 2013 04:20 AM

                +1 Khao San Road and Playa Cabana

              2. c
                catherine88 Jul 30, 2013 10:25 AM

                Bar Chef on queen west makes great cocktails. perfect spot for pre-dinner drinks.

                1 Reply
                1. re: catherine88
                  JennaBean Jul 30, 2013 11:37 AM

                  I haven't been in a while but great rec. They do fab drinks. Not cheap but worth the price for sure.

                2. j
                  JennaBean Jul 30, 2013 07:55 AM

                  If you want a night out kind of expereince I would head to Dundas/Ossgington/Queen west area. There are many many options all within a five block radius.

                  Sweaty Betty's - dive bar with a lovely back patio
                  Reposado Bar - tequila bar again lovely back patio
                  Churchill - typical mid range bar with side patio
                  Drake - lounge/bar/resto a little see and been seen type of feel. There is a rooftop but I do believe you need reservations

                  The Saint - higher end pub
                  Libretto - classic thin crust pizza
                  Oddseoul - Asian inspired tapas also a great spot for drinks
                  Delux - classic bistro with a Cuban twist
                  The Grove - gastro pub with set course meals get value for money prices IMO
                  Campagnolo - Italian
                  Carmen - new Spanish tapas place but the same owners as a local fav Torito

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: JennaBean
                    Wil Jul 30, 2013 08:40 AM

                    Yours Truly over there as well

                    1. re: Wil
                      JennaBean Jul 30, 2013 08:45 AM

                      I haven't been sicne the change in chef but indeed has been a good option for me in the past.

                  2. m
                    magic Jul 28, 2013 08:52 AM

                    You're almost right across the street from Banh Mi Boys.

                    Go there!

                    Also in your area:

                    I Went To Philly
                    The Senator
                    Beer Bistro
                    Irish Embassy
                    Holy Chuck (a few subway stops)
                    Black Camel (a few subway stops)
                    Rosedale Diner (a few subway stops)

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: magic
                      disgusti Jul 30, 2013 11:08 PM

                      is paramount the middle eastern whatever place by yonge and dundas? i was there about a month ago with some friends and it was one of the more awful restaurant experiences i've had lately, the pickles tasted like plastic. totally inedible. that was the most egregious error but there was nothing to do be said about the rest of the meal either minus the weird little flatbread pizza thing with spicy tomato sauce that was fairly great

                      1. re: disgusti
                        magic Jul 31, 2013 04:11 AM

                        That's the one.

                        1. re: disgusti
                          justsayn Jul 31, 2013 05:42 AM

                          yep. that's the one.

                      2. j
                        Jsimao105 Jul 28, 2013 07:36 AM

                        Thank you everyone for your recommendations, can't wait to visit and explore!

                        1. a
                          akhorasanee Jul 26, 2013 10:33 PM

                          Guu- japanese tapas is close to your hotel and has good food and fun ambience
                          patria on king west has good spanish food and has a buzzing ambience (a night out feel), also it is on King west so you get a good feel for that area and there are many spots for drinks nearby
                          grand electric- mexican head over for lunch in a street car and walk down queen west while indulging in some macroons from nadege and there are many places to enjoy drinks along the way
                          kensington market is a fun spot to spend an afternoon, there is also a good taco spot there called seven lives
                          ossington street has many good options for dinner and drinks
                          Bar isabel- spanish food also good for drinks and a meal after which you can explore little italy...
                          If you enjoy thai food make your way over to sukhothai (walking distance from your hotel) or sabai sabai for an inexpensive lunch
                          Hope this helps!

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: akhorasanee
                            MissBingBing Jul 28, 2013 07:58 AM

                            I'd do Sabai for dinner rather than lunch. Much more interesting menu.

                            Also in Kensington: tapas on Torito's backyard patio.

                          2. j
                            jeremyh1 Jul 26, 2013 09:51 PM

                            Try the Queen and Beaver Pub on Elm St, it's within walking distance of your hotel.

                            Also recommend spending a night in Little Italy which is a short streetcar ride along College St west of Bathurst. Little Italy has lots of neat little bars and restaurants. Sidecar and Kalendar are two personal recommendations for a nice meal in that area.

                            Enjoy your visit.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: jeremyh1
                              MissBingBing Jul 28, 2013 07:56 AM

                              Kalender is a horrible restaurant. I heard the food's made off site and nuked. Pretty, tho.

                            2. hal2010 Jul 26, 2013 09:04 PM

                              Head east on the Danforth for some decent Ethiopian at Dukem. Donlands subway station, I think.

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