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The 38 Essential Toronto Restaurants, October '13

justxpete Oct 3, 2013 12:17 AM

So, in light of Eater's "list" (http://toronto.eater.com/archives/201...), I thought I'd create one of my (our?) own. Now, these might not be my favourite, per se, but I can't deny a given restaurants relevance for personal dislike. But as a general consensus, I think this list is pretty good, with perhaps a few omissions or additions needed. I did it relatively quickly, but - I'm not sure how the writers of Eater could be so off. This took me all of 15 minutes. I listed them in alphabetical order just for good measure.

Thoughts?

Actinolite
Auberge Du Pommier
Bar Isabel
Beast
Bero
Best Ellen
Black Hoof
Burgers Priest
Cafe Buloud
Campagnolo
Canoe
Cava
Chantecler
Chiado
Edulis
Enoteca Sociale
Farmhouse Tavern
Foxley
George
Harbord Room
Hashimoto
Hopgoods
Starfish
Jacobs & Co
Khao San Road
Momofuku Shoto
Omei
Porchetta & Co
Richmond Station
Scaramouche
Kingyo
Splendido
Stockyards
Sushi Kaji
The Grove
Tutti Matti
Woodlot
Yours Truly
Zen Sushi

Patria, Carmen, THR&Co, 7L and Origin North I think are a bit too new to be included (if they would be). I included Bero because the reviews are overwhelmingly positive among CHers.

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  1. d
    disgusti RE: justxpete Oct 3, 2013 02:33 AM

    I would have to add seven lives just for the sheer amount of times I've eaten there, I think they do something original ( for Toronto) and delicious

    1. prima RE: justxpete Oct 3, 2013 04:38 AM

      I think an essential list is going to be highly personal, and depend on what you like to eat. My essential 38 would include a lot more Mediterranean food (Dr. Laffa, Tabule, possibly Mezes or Pantheon), some seafood (Starfish and Joso's), some West Indian food (jerk , roti or doubles) and a lot less continental food. I'm always game to try the new contemporary/continental places that get raves (places I have tried once, but haven't revisited: Beast, Woodlot, Grove, Chantecler), but I rarely return after the first visit, so I wouldn't consider them to be essential (to me or Toronto).

      When I have out-of-town visitors, my essential TO includes a Greek lunch (usually a whole bunch of mezes at Mezes or Pantheon) followed by loukamades at Athens Pastries, a combo plate at Cafe Polonez or Chopin, dim sum at Yang's, Dynasty or Crown Princess, pasteis de nata from Doce Minho, maybe Pizzeria Libretto.
      My cocktail and bar food at Origin North was meh. I'm being nice by calling it meh. I would take Joey or Earl's over Origin North, if I was given a choice!

      1 Reply
      1. re: prima
        Charles Yu RE: prima Oct 3, 2013 08:00 AM

        Starfish is a must!!

      2. w
        Wil RE: justxpete Oct 3, 2013 04:40 AM

        The only ones that immediately comes to mind that CHers like that are not on the list are Buca and Ici.

        1. prima RE: justxpete Oct 3, 2013 04:53 AM

          I'm curious. Of the restaurants mentioned in JustPete's list,how many have you visited 3 or more times? The only ones I've visited 3+ times are Stockyards, Scaramouche, Burgers Priest (I've visited 3 times, but still wouldn't consider it essential- it just happens to be a convenient location for me), George (visited 3 times, but underwhelmed on last visit, so not essential to me), Cava (visited 3 times), and Starfish. Starfish is the only one listed on JustPete's 38 that I've visited more than 5 times.

          I think I'd also include a churrasco chicken place, and Italian sandwich place in my list of 38 essential restos, and add The Saint for its lovely brunch (which I prefer to Beast's brunch).

          4 Replies
          1. re: prima
            emq RE: prima Oct 3, 2013 08:17 AM

            prima, to answer your question, the only restaurants on the list that I have visited 3+ times are Starfish and Stockyards.
            Most of the places I have only been to once, with the exception of Porchetta & Co.

            1. re: prima
              d
              disgusti RE: prima Oct 3, 2013 08:22 AM

              I've been to bar Isabel, black hoof, chantecler, burger priest, stockyards, porchetta and harbord room at least 3x each and to many of the others, but definitely not all, once or twice

              1. re: disgusti
                justxpete RE: disgusti Oct 3, 2013 08:29 AM

                I'm a bit surprised. I'm at around 22 for at least 3x, and that will probably expand within 3-6 months (Bero, Bar Isabel, Farmhouse, Grove).

              2. re: prima
                estufarian RE: prima Oct 3, 2013 08:36 AM

                I've visited 12 of them 3 or more times. And another 7 twice - so I guess I'm in general agreement (and do occasionally bump into justxpete as well).
                But it does seem to be middle-high end biased, so it depends whether you are recommending for a local (with resources) or a visitor. I find it a good 'visitor' list.
                But clearly better than the 'published' list that inspired this.

              3. s
                szw RE: prima Oct 3, 2013 05:48 AM

                I love the idea of adding a churrasco chicken place in a Toronto list...however none of them really cook chicken that well IMO. Even the ones that are the least dry and overcooked...are pretty dry and overcooked compared to someone who knows what they are doing and cooking chicken to the right temp with the right method.

                4 Replies
                1. re: szw
                  prima RE: szw Oct 3, 2013 06:06 AM

                  I hear what you're saying, but I guess I'm hoping I'll find that perfect churrasco.

                  Churrasco lovers, which churrasco place would you include if you were making a list of 38 essential restaurants?

                  1. re: prima
                    t
                    themiguel RE: prima Oct 3, 2013 08:21 AM

                    Costa Verde on Oakwood is the most consistent. Although I havent been back there in years I just chatted with someone who absolutely loves it.

                    1. re: themiguel
                      estufarian RE: themiguel Oct 3, 2013 08:29 AM

                      Costa Verde is also my choice FOR TAKEOUT.
                      I tried dining there a couple of times and it wasn't pleasurable.

                      1. re: themiguel
                        kwass RE: themiguel Oct 3, 2013 10:01 AM

                        I was just going to mention Costa Verde. Really great chicken!!

                  2. Charles Yu RE: justxpete Oct 3, 2013 08:33 AM

                    Three of the most popular and busiest establishments in town - Guu, Kingyo and Zakkushi - pretty good food too! And they have all been omitted??!!

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: Charles Yu
                      justxpete RE: Charles Yu Oct 3, 2013 08:43 AM

                      Kingyo's there, Charles - and remember, I did this in 15 minutes! Not mean to be set in stone. Was just doing it to generate discussion.

                      Even using just 15 minutes, I found it tough to do 38. 50 would have been much easier. For me, I would have added Starfish, Nota Bene, a few more Ramen places, etc, but everyone will have their own list. This was just mean to be a list we can generally agree on?

                      1. re: justxpete
                        d
                        disgusti RE: justxpete Oct 3, 2013 09:19 AM

                        As long as we're all in agreement that the woman who wrote that list has her head planted firmly up her ass then we're off to a good start

                        1. re: justxpete
                          prima RE: justxpete Oct 3, 2013 09:42 AM

                          You did add Starfish, just not alphabetically. It's between Hopgoods and Jacobs. :-)

                          Agree that everyone will have their own list.

                          1. re: prima
                            justxpete RE: prima Oct 3, 2013 09:49 AM

                            Oopsie. Thanks Prima!

                            I edited a little bit and forgot to re-sort.

                            I thought I had omitted it because of Charles' comment stating that Starfish was a must, but I think I took it out of context.

                        2. re: Charles Yu
                          justxpete RE: Charles Yu Oct 3, 2013 09:55 AM

                          Charles, which would you take off that list for Guu? Therein lies the challenge!

                          1. re: justxpete
                            Charles Yu RE: justxpete Oct 3, 2013 10:36 AM

                            Used to like Guu. But, after opening of Kingyo and Zakkushi, Guu's been moved down my favourite list. I'm fine with leaving Guu out if Kingyo is in.
                            Actually, what I'm going to say next could raise a few eyebrows?! Based on my meal at Yours Truly, it should be off the list until they put their acts together!
                            IMHO. putting rice congees and commercial rice cake as stand alone dishes in a $100 tasting menu just doesn't cut it for me!! Also, I was surprised to see the most expensive ingredients presented was a scallop or two!!

                        3. b
                          bytepusher RE: justxpete Oct 3, 2013 10:23 AM

                          I did an interesting exercise consolidating the end of year top 10 lists we do for the last three years, including the honorable mentions and it winds up with 37 unique restaurants (that are still open)

                          There's a certain amount of commonality with your proposal and a few differences

                          3 appearances
                          Black Hoof
                          Buca
                          Guu
                          Splendido

                          2 appearances
                          Campangolo
                          Enoteca Sociale
                          Harbord Room
                          Pizzeria Libretto (Ossington)
                          Starfish
                          Sushi Kaji
                          Zen

                          1 appearance
                          Bahn Mi Boyz
                          Beast
                          Burger's Priest
                          Canoe
                          Cava
                          Chantecler
                          Chiado
                          Copper Chimney
                          Edulis
                          George
                          Grand Electric
                          JaBistro
                          Khao San Road
                          Kingyo Izakaya
                          Lai Wah Heen
                          Le Select
                          Marben
                          Momofuku Shoto
                          Nota Bene
                          Origin
                          Porchetta & Co
                          Scaramouche
                          Simple Bistro
                          Stockyards
                          Woodlot
                          Yours Truly

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: bytepusher
                            d
                            dubchild RE: bytepusher Oct 3, 2013 10:43 AM

                            Thanks for putting in the work. No list will be perfect. My fear with the Eater list is that a tourist will use it and then conclude that Toronto is not an interesting city for food. I think the list Bytepusher compiled shows us in a more positive light.

                            1. re: dubchild
                              justxpete RE: dubchild Oct 3, 2013 10:46 AM

                              *cough*

                              1. re: justxpete
                                b
                                bytepusher RE: justxpete Oct 3, 2013 10:53 AM

                                You should get that cough looked at

                                1. re: bytepusher
                                  justxpete RE: bytepusher Oct 3, 2013 11:09 AM

                                  Yeah, I've been meaning to, but I was too busy making that list!

                                  1. re: justxpete
                                    d
                                    dubchild RE: justxpete Oct 3, 2013 03:58 PM

                                    I should have said everyone's hard work. I'm happy when I see a list with Actinolite and Bar Isabel on it

                          2. r
                            radiopolitic RE: justxpete Oct 3, 2013 11:13 AM

                            The Toronto Heat Map is now also posted

                            http://toronto.eater.com/archives/201...

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: radiopolitic
                              justxpete RE: radiopolitic Oct 3, 2013 11:18 AM

                              Now that is a worthwhile contribution. Do you know how it's generated? Perhaps social media crawlers?

                              1. re: justxpete
                                r
                                radiopolitic RE: justxpete Oct 3, 2013 11:27 AM

                                Sadly, I have no idea how its generated.

                            2. j
                              Jar RE: justxpete Oct 3, 2013 11:14 AM

                              This excellent posting will obviously generate interest for quite a while. Once people start sizzling with some energy, perhaps a themed type posting that is geography related on a large basis would allow restaurant comparisons. Examples could be Mexico Through to South America, another Oriental Cuisine, another European Style Restaurants, etc. Such postings could also include the GTA, as good food does not solely exist in TO!

                              1. d
                                Dean Tudor RE: justxpete Oct 3, 2013 03:35 PM

                                I would add Gallery Grill, except it is (a) lunch and Sun brunch only, and (b) not open during the summer

                                Bloom also has some pretty interesting Latin American fusion dishes.

                                1. j
                                  julesrules RE: justxpete Oct 3, 2013 05:01 PM

                                  Burgers Priest but not Banh Mi Boys?

                                  1. d
                                    downtownfoodie RE: justxpete Oct 4, 2013 12:48 AM

                                    A couple weren't on your list that I would miss if they disappeared:

                                    Japango
                                    Oddseoul
                                    Grand Electric

                                    If I had to boot a couple to make room it would probably be Hopgoods, Tutti Matti and Porchetta. Nothing wrong with meals there but if they closed I wouldn't miss them.

                                    1. Charles Yu RE: justxpete Oct 4, 2013 08:04 AM

                                      Just wanted to make a comment. With justxpete's original list and subsequent add-ons, interesting and sad to see not a single Mark McEwan's establishments being mentioned. He used to be good in the OLD days!!
                                      Even more of a pity was the absence of a David Lee's restaurant. He was IMO, THE chef a few years back. When he opened up Nota Bene, I really really missed his tasting menu at the old Splendido!! Sigh!

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Charles Yu
                                        justxpete RE: Charles Yu Oct 4, 2013 08:22 AM

                                        I'm sure NB would make you an amazing, over-the-top tasting menu, if you asked nicely.

                                      2. d
                                        dubchild RE: justxpete Oct 5, 2013 08:00 PM

                                        Stating the obvious, having an Eater list gives me a sense of how trustworthy they are when I refer to their lists for other cities. What I want to see is how the list develops over time.

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