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Sep 23, 2013 03:18 PM

"Don't you dare leave Toronto without tasting....." a.k.a. Please help your neighbor to the south plan the perfect food-focused looong weekend.

So...this little food-loving family will be in your lovely city over the Columbus Day weekend (October 10th through the 14th with one day in the Niagara Falls area) and is looking forward to crafting the perfect 4 day food itinerary that will give them a holistic feel for the city's food. Everything from peameal bacon sandwiches in the St. Lawrence Market to checking out our very own David Chang's work at Shoto.

We eat it all- from Bolivian to Uzbeki, and embrace ALL deliciousness, however are more interetsed in things that would be uniquely "Toronto" if that even makes sense. We realize, that like NYC, Toronto is a city comprised of many immigrants, so I guess what we are really trying to say is that we are seeking food that is unique to/prepared better in Toronto no matter what its origin. And if that doesn't work, what restaurants would you consider *must visits* or iconic in their own right? We are fine with all price ranges and all venues...from 4 star to no star. And we appreciate great snack suggestions as we like to graze throughout the day.

We will be staying at the Fairmont Royal York and are also wondering if we should bother paying slightly more money for the breakfast package. Are there any notable breakfast spots around the hotel?

Many Thanks in advance and All Things Delish~

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  1. I'd say Soma Chocolate is a distinctly Toronto experience.

    There aren't too many notable breakfast places near the Royal York. If you like greasy spoon breakfasts with old school Toronto diner atmosphere, Patrician Grill on King is within a 10 minute walk of the Royal York, and Senator Diner on Victoria is within a 15 minute walk. Another option is to have the SLM peameal bacon sandwich for breakfast.
    First visit to TO
    Visiting TO
    Toronto's signature dish (old thread, but as relevant as ever)

    1. Please stop by the absurdly named "New York Subway" (located beside a Subway restaurant on Queen St. West) for a unique Toronto experience. I take all visitors here.

      This is a small, cheap, fast(ish) food place, where a sad man humbly grills you odd, delicious fusion burritos.

      They call their wraps "burritos", but other than the shape, there is no connection to TexMex cuisine. These things have their own distinct flavour.

      I recommend getting one beef, one chicken, one cauliflower and one mixed veg, and passing them all around to share. To me, this is what Toronto tastes like.

      4 Replies
      1. re: plasticanimal

        Thank you both so much for the links and for the suggestions. Seems like there is no real Toronto signature experience based on the threads I've read through in the last 90 minutes. Just lots of good food. A lot like our home city of NYC and Queens county where we live. Montreal was a lot easier to plan food-wise! Alas...

        1. re: ZenFoodist

          You will definitely enjoy St Lawrence market. Go Saturday morning and have the peameal sandwich. It's about a 10 minute walk east from your hotel. After visiting the market you could head to the Distillery district which is about another 10 minute walk further east. Or take the King streetcar.

          Also within walking distance is Kensington Market which covers several streets - little shops, restaurants, bakeries, cheese stores, etc. Definitely worth a wander especially if it's a nice afternoon. Unlike SLM, Kensington is open Sunday.

        2. re: plasticanimal

          The cauliflower one sounds interesting. Thanks! The reference to a Subway "restaurant" had me smile ;)

          1. re: ZenFoodist

            Make sure you get a ginger beer to drink with whatever you get there. Awesome food.

        3. That's also our Thanksgiving Weekend - so be warned that opening availability of restaurants may be affected, especially on the Sunday/Monday.
          You mention David Chang – the top place, Momofuku Shoto, has done an excellent job of translating the American Ko to a Canadian version. It’s an adaptation rather than a copy so well worth visiting – but only if you are comfortable with the counter concept, which makes conversation more difficult.

          Also at the high end (and better for lunch) is Lai Wah Heen (at Metropolitan Hotel). I haven’t been since recent management changes (anyone else please chime in) but have heard that the key chefs are still there preparing Dim Sum which is (or was) unbelievably high quality – expensive but worth it. Most other Asian food is better in the far suburbs, so not sure there’s anything else a NY visitor needs to try downtown. Thai is good though (e.g. Khao San Road – no reservations).

          Something else I haven’t found in New York is Upscale Portuguese – Chiado – again a splurge rather than an ‘eating’ destination. Quasi-French service.

          Soma is excellent – but the Distillery district is a bit out-of-the-way – certainly worth it if you have interests in the area, but I actually go to Roni-Sue in New York’s Essex Market more frequently – but then I don’t see the point of chocolate gelato (available at Soma but not Roni-Sue).

          Given the road disruptions around Royal York, you will need to walk or subway most places, so plan carefully (especially that weekend). Sadly, many of the walk-by standouts have no-reservation policies – but, if in the area, Bahn-Mi Boys is worth it (A Toronto version, but excellent nonetheless).
          Also endorse St Lawrence market for breakfast (CLOSED Sun/Mon).

          19 Replies
          1. re: estufarian

            Skip LWH - Unless you have a dire urge for dim sum and cannot make it up north (at which point I would suggest either Yangs for a slightly more modern/upscale twist on dim sum, or Casa Victoria). My last few meals at LWH were OK, but for the price point, both the aforementioned places are superior.

            If you are in the area, check out 7 Lives in Kensington market for lunch and enjoy some of their seafood tacos. Not necessarily 'Canadian' or 'Torontonian' but extremely good.

            1. re: estufarian

              I am VERY interested in Bahn-Mi boys as a bahn mi would most definitely be represented in my Monster's Ball. I'm used to getting mine in the back of a jewelry shop in NYC. What makes these a " Toronto version"? St. Lawrence is definitely on our list as well. I never miss a market. Portugese interests me. Here in NYC, most of us go to Newark in New Jersey or Mineola on Long Island for our Portugese fix.

              1. re: ZenFoodist

                bmb: they do a modern fusion sandwich. but with tons of knowledge and history of the classic. the family runs one of the best traditional outlets in toronto (nguyen houng). they put tons of effort into researching and developing their recipes. the quality is top notch and at a very affordable price.

                - khao san road

                1. re: KhaoSanRoad

                  Hey KSR, have you ever been out to Calgary and had some of the Banh Mi there?

                  1. re: justxpete

                    not in a very long time. so definitely havent had any new gen stuff out there. but yes, excellent stuff iirc.

                    - khao san road

                2. re: ZenFoodist

                  Agree with the KSR response. It's a modified version, but based in authenticity. For example their Kimchi Fries are worth trying (I prefer them to Poutine).
                  I see many more people have jumped in (yeah for us), but at the point so far, the Niagara part is a bit threadbare. It appears you're driving so Niagara-On-The-Lake should be where you eat (or possibly stay - the downtown Falls area is dominated by the Casino complex). You can drive to the Falls.Toronto Jo is our expert there, with the finest (and most worthwhile) dining being at Treadwell's (reservations essential), and the place you hint at is probably the Stone Road Grille, which has never knocked my socks off but has a lot of fans on this board.

                  1. re: estufarian

                    For the Niagara region:

                    Stone Road Grille has fallen a lot in quality over the course of this year, which makes me infinitely sad. They still have moments of beauty (and maple cotton candy!), and I love the service and the wine list. But the consistency of the food quality has not been great since Andrew Crawford left.

                    Treadwell is excellent and pricey, but a great option if you want to dine in Old Town NOTL. If you want to dine in a winery setting, my standard recs are Ravine Vineyard (my favourite for a more casual vineyard meal) and Trius or Peller Estates. All of the above are farm-to-table.

                    For wineries, Stratus is still my hands-down favourite for the quality of their wines and the beauty of the winery. Southbrook is another modern winery that is worth a visit (and a light meal on their patio if the weather is nice). For a small family-owned winery, I like Lailey. For some interesting reds, I like Colaneri (the single most ostentatious building in NOTL -- ugh), who are doing ripasso and apassimento styles.

                    For the best pies and tarts in the area, stop in at The Pie Plate for a snack in between wineries.

                    In Niagara Falls, my only rec is The Regal Diner for breakfast. Otherwise, you're better off eating in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

                    If you have kids, the Butterfly Conservatory in Niagara Falls is really very cool, and only about 10 minutes away from Ravine Vineyard and their lovely little bistro (where the kids can run around on the lawn and kick soccer balls, by the way...).

                    Oh and for Toronto, I have to add my love for Banh Mi Boys. Must get the kimchi fries with pulled pork. Fried chicken bao and squid taco are both awesome, too.

                    1. re: TorontoJo

                      Thanks so much for all of these reccs. The Peller Estates menu looked gorgeous as does Treadwell and Ravine. Are you n ot a fan of the Kennedy place?

                      I've heard nice things about the Regal Diner, but I am not much of a diner girl. I'd much prefer a farm to table type meal.

                      You are the second person to mention the Butterfly Conservatory; I'm certain my son would love it and will check it out.

                      Have to be honest...I google imaged the Bahn Mi Boys and I am VERY excited. Totally my kind of place. My Little Man is very excited about the porchetta poutines next door at Come and Get it as well.

                      Been sitting here perusing all the menus and flicker photos.

                      What did we ever do without computers? ;)

                      1. re: ZenFoodist

                        FYI that Come And Get It will be closing soon - or is already closed.

                        Love BMB! Kimchi poutine is awesome. I also happen to like the jicama and papaya slaw there. Nothing crazy, but it helps balance out the salt/carb load.

                        1. re: jlunar

                          Say it ain't so! That dark brown gorgeous gravy on those fries looked to die for! Any back up poutines places?

                          1. re: ZenFoodist

                            I was at Come and Get It last week and the dude told me they'd be closing Oct. 25 so some ugly condos can be built. You got time.

                            1. re: GoodGravy

                              Oooh! More time - my bad. I'd thought they said they were leaving at the end of summer!

                              1. re: GoodGravy

                                there is a good chance they have a new home by the time they have to vacate their current one.

                                i think they may get another tenant before demolition.

                                - khao san road

                                1. re: KhaoSanRoad

                                  Nice! Hope they can stay in the area.

                                  1. re: jlunar

                                    theres a 50% chance it will be closer to you!

                                    - khao san road

                          2. re: ZenFoodist

                            I haven't been to Windows, though I generally like Jamie Kennedy spots. However, Niagara Falls seems to have a knack for messing up potential, probably due to the sheer volume of tourists and the ability to overcharge. If I had to have dinner in NF, I would probably pick Windows or AG. But my bias would always be to eat in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

                            I don't know what your 10-year old is like, but if it were me, I'd be happier at Ravine than at any of the other wineries. Here's a photo of my view at Ravine from dinner just tonight. While I was there, two little girls were running around the lawn playing with the soccer ball. They were very happy. :o)

                            1. re: ZenFoodist

                              Regarding The Regal Diner -- they are as close to a farm-to-table diner as you'll ever find. They source all their meats and produce locally, they smoke their own bacon and make their own sausage, bake all their breads and make all their jams, jellies and hot sauces. The menu is still classic diner food, but it's as good as it gets. :)

                              But if you're not into diner food, you're better off having breakfast at someplace like The Pie Plate. Because pie is always acceptable for breakfast! (they have lots of other baked goods, too)

                      2. re: estufarian

                        Soma has a location at King and Spadina. That might be a little bit closer.

                      3. On the first meal of the day, I would do Persian brunch at Tavoos one day and Crown Princess for dim sum another day. Not many cities have comparable experiences downtown.

                        1. Would you be willing to travel up to 45 minutes or so to the ourskirts of Toronto? If so, you can enjoy some of the best Cantonese cuisine outside of China. North east of downtown Toronto is Richmond Hill and Markham... home of some of the best Cantonese cuisine. There are lots of recommendations on this board in regards to the restaurants in this area but look up Charles Yu for his thoughts.

                          As mentioned by others, Saint Lawrence Market is a great experience for a family vacation. I recommend trying the peameal bacon sandwich at Carosel Bakery ... it might be one of the few unique Toronto eats. Buskers Sea Cove is a great lunch stop in SLM as well.

                          Walking around Kensington area is an experience as well. Lots of great little shops are popping up there that grab your taste buds at affordable prices.

                          If you love all things cheese (especially goat and sheep cheese), we have a local artisan creamery called Monforte located west of Toronto BUT they have a shop in Liberty Village on King St W area (I think it's on Jefferson st). It's really good... and if you buy directly from the store, it's at a fraction at the price. The soft water buffalo fresh cheese is called waltzing mathilda and it usually goes for $10 a sliver in a restaurant but you can buy the whole cheese block for the same amount at the direct store.

                          Soma as mentioned is recognized globally as a premier artisan chocolatier that does single estate bean bars. I love the ones from latin america. They also have some lovely gelato that you can try ... though October is a bit on the cold side.

                          There are other great cuisines in Toronto (Indian, Ethiopian, Nepalese, Greek, Portuguese, Afghani...) but I strongly suspect they are equally great in NYC. If your family include little ones, Le Select and Le Papillon on the Park are great options for brunch. They also have internet booking so you don't have to wait in line forever. There are a number of great brunch options nearby Le Papillon on the Park but I do not believe they have reservations so it is highly likely you will be waiting for 30+ mins on weekends.

                          Whatever you do... do not go to Keriwa (sadly). I wish I could promote this place but the quality and value is not the best. It's one of our few restaurants that have an influence from our Native Canadian Aboriginal communities.

                          I hope you will be going to the Niagara Wine Region and not just the falls area. The Falls area is a bit of a wasteland in regards to food. It's a lovely sight (the falls that is) but everything else is almost carnival like and nothing is worthwhile for a food loving family. I prefer lunch and dinners in the Niagara Wine Region. I personally like Peller Estate but Treadwell recently got a few good visits from seasoned CH'ers.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: Nevy

                            Thank you for such extensive insight. We are from Flushing, Queens and are spoiled by the wealth of regional Chinese foods...everything from Dongbei and Harbin to the Uyghur region is represented here; my 9 year old can tell the difference between different brands of black vinegar. And he is not Asian! We generally do not bother with Asian food much when we are out of NYC, but this sounds really, really interesting. I will look into Charles Yu and read through his posts. You are not the first person to tell me how outstanding the Chinese food is in Canada. For whatever the reason, I always associated it with the Vancouver environs.

                            The Waltzing Mathilda just made my Must list. Never met a cheese I didn't like, as Doroth Parker said. Do you think a full day would be enough to explore the wine region and the Falls themselves? I am not big on waterfalls...just want to be delighted by what I hope willbe gorgeous Fall foliage and get out of the city for a day. I was interested in going to the Kennedy place on the Falls for dinner and a well regarded, iconic diner whose name I can not recall for bfast. Any better thoughts or should that be a separate thread?

                            Many Thanks again~

                            1. re: ZenFoodist

                              One day is fine for Niagara Falls and a drive through Niagara-on-the-lake. Have a look at Ravine Vineyard which is just minutes outside the town of Niagara Falls. Very nice spot for lunch.

                              1. re: ZenFoodist

                                Well welcome to Toronto soon! Seeing you are from Flushing and Queens, you do have a wealth of great Chinese food. I would say Toronto does excel in Cantonese Dim Sum which may provide you an unique experience to what you have in NYC. Yangs or Dragon Dynasty are higher end experiences of dim sum but they're much raved on the Ontario boards here. There are many threads that speaks highly of particular dishes if you want to research ahead of time.

                                There's also a northern Chinese restaurant called Omei in the same area (Richmond Hill and Markham area). A few CH'ers had several meet and greet dinners there with Giant Lobster 4 ways. I'm not sure how large is your family is but if you want another unique experience... that might fit the bill.

                                As for Montforte Creamery, I love waltzing mathilda but I also love their Fresco Percorino, black sheep (ash covered soft rind sheep milk), smoked goat cheese, and another one that has herbs in it. To be honest, I don't think I've ever had a bad one from here. They're all willing to let you taste them before buying as well. Super great service.

                                I agree with midtowngirl on 1 day for the falls and surrounding area unless you're a vinophile and want to explore ALL the wineries in the area. There are many (tons actually) and you could spend an entire weekend going from one to the next. The fall foliage will be spectacular and though Jamie Kennedy Windows is probably your safest bet in Niagara Falls for dinner. It might fall short on service ... a colleague of mine had a 'mini staycation' there in the Sheraton and mentioned that Jamie Kennedy Windows wasn't bad but not great.

                                I think if you want local or 'farm to table' type of menu similar to Windows by Jamie Kennedy, take a look at Pellar Estates and Treadwell. Another option would be Vineland Estates Winery. It's been a few years since I've been there but the dinner was very memorable and the service was well orchestrated.

                                Also, you will be in the heart of the 'fruit land' area of Ontario. I think most of the harvest will be done by then but often there are direct side of the road fruit stands during the summer and fall time frame. If you're lucky, sometimes the farmer would also be selling freshly made pies with the fruits of their labour. One of my best childhood memory is stopping by one of those stalls and taking a spoon directly to a freshly made apple and pear spiced pie. The heat of the pie just warming me up from the lightly cool air.

                                Enjoy your trip!