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Things to do, places to eat downtown Toronto in April

Hey there everyone.

My wife and I are heading to downtown Toronto for a weekend (April 11 to 13) to see a concert at Massey Hall. We are coming from New Brunswick so even though we are used to the cold crappy weather, we are looking for things to do that does not involve us walking outside downtown the entire weekend. Here are some things to note:

- we are likely going to stay at the Toronto Hilton due to its location to Massey, Queen St., Momofuku and Chinatown. That said, even though I try to stay at a Hilton to get points, I am open to staying somewhere else in the same location at around $200 a night rate if it has a nice lounge, better amenities, etc.

- as you may have guessed, we love food and plan on eating lunch or dinner at Momofuku Noodle Bar at least once and having Dim Sum at least once in Chinatown so recommendations for where would be good. Also other foodie options within walking or cab distance would be good.

- we will not be renting a car and basically want to stick to by foot/cab/subway.

- we enjoy shopping (vinyl records, clothing) seeing movies, especially classics and retrospectives if there are any and, oh, did I mention food? Also we love live music (and the odd cocktail or two).

Thanks in advance!

Jamie

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    1. Definitely get at least a snack at Banh Mi Boys - good food without Toronto hipster attitude/prices. Not sure if the Yonge St location is open later at night for after your concert but the Queen w would work for a lunch. Last time I went to Massey (an old school venue I love) we ended up at Sabai sabai on Church for Thai drinks and snacks, maybe actually a better choice for after a show. Since you are interested in film you should look into what's playing at the Bell Lightbox (year round TIFF building) when you are here.
      Close to the Hilton and
      Momofuku.

      6 Replies
      1. re: julesrules

        Thanks for the suggestions, specifically regarding confirming location and recommending the Lightbox (just what I was looking for) and the suggestion for drinks and snacks after the concert. Since it will be too early before and after the concert for a huge meal, a nice spot for drinks and snacks / small plates is perfect (and we both love Thai). Cheers!

        1. re: Thebunk

          You will be close to two great Thai restaurants: Khao San Road and Mangrai. Even closer for Thai is Sabai Sabai which I have not been to yet but it is also supposed to be very good.

          Other places to consider that aren't too far:
          Patria, Playa Cabana, Queen Margherita Pizza (Queen St. location), Richmond Station (very close), and Buca.

          1. re: TeacherFoodie

            Not sure what happened to the inoffensive post by KSR but sounded like they were hinting Thai businesses might not be open due to Thai new year. To the OP, KSR is close to the Hilton and was started by the same people as Sabai sabai - different concepts, but menus overlap somewhat and I wouldn't personally do both in one weekend. Both good choices, but check that they will be open and how late. You've also got Ravisoups and Burrito Boys for snacks/lunches along that stretch. I think most places on that part of Adelaide are closed Sunday, quiet Saturday at lunch, very busy for weekday lunch.

            1. re: julesrules

              If I was from New Brunswick and never in Toronto, I'd also consider and research Nota Bene, Gabardine, Queen & Beaver, Vertical, Volos, and Patria. Volos can be hit or miss but it's the best Greek in the core. Or take a cab and try BarChef as there's nothing else like it.

              As for dim sum, maybe research Rol San and Lai Wah Heen. Totally different experiences but at least you'll be warm at LWH in the hotel setting.

              1. re: Food Tourist

                Yes my suggestions are definitely meant as casual snacks... Not special dinners out (cause
                I never actually get out for dinner but I do work in the area and know the better lunch spots).

              2. re: julesrules

                Some Thai businesses are "business as usual" as their New Year celebrations are off-site. Best to call ahead and check.

        2. Ok wanted to give this a bump as we fly in to Toronto early afternoon tomorrow. We finally landed on the Hotel which is the Hilton Garden Inn Downtown. Yeah, it is not fancy but we will not be in our room often. We changed our minds from wanting to be close to Massy Hall vs. being close to the core / Queen Street West.

          Also here is the tentative meal plan:

          Wed: no plans
          Thurs: Bar Isabel at 8:00
          Fri: Noodlebar for an early dinner (say 5pm). Out concert is at 8pm so depending how we are feeling, likely grab some Chinese food that is open late night (dim sum or meals).

          So based on that we still need a little bit of help:

          - Wednesday Dinner: Ok we have 24 hours before this time tomorrow so we will need something good where we still have a hope of getting in. Open to anything but Sushi as my wife is not a fan or steak or seafood resataurants (lots home). Budget for both of us with tax and tip is $150 max. Would love Italian, Mexican, Spanish, Indian, Tapas, whatever. Prefer more casual and fun vs. white cloth and stuffy.

          - Lunches: Right now we have no plans for lunches and I am panicking a bit.

          - Neighbourhood bar: looking for a place lets say 1 mile radius within the hotel where we can go and just hangout mid day or even before dinner, not looking for a pub but some place that does not take itself too serious either. Just a cool place with great music, friendly people and good drinks (beer mostly but a few good cocktails are cool as well). Good people watching is a plus as well.

          Thanks in advance folks!

          9 Replies
          1. re: Thebunk

            The Noodle Bar doesn't serve my favourite ramen in the downtown. Santouka and Sansotei are each within walking distance of Massey Hall and offer a better bowl overall. The pork jowel at Santouka is a must.

            For lunch, I would definitely second the recommendation of Banh Mi Boys. Pretty much anything on the menu is fun and flavourful. The nearest one to your hotel is about 2 blocks away at Queen and Spadina.

            For a casual lunch or dinner, I would suggest you check out Bannock. The pickerel bun is the highlight, but the duck poutine pizza is fun excess.

            For Italian, La Bettola di Terroni and Osteria Ciceri E Tria are both downtown, not too expensive, and have great pastas and other dishes.

            While the better Indian spots are well out of the downtown, there are some decent Indian places near your hotel including Babur (good butter chicken), Trimurti, and Little India (good fish dishes).

            1. re: Thebunk

              You're off to see The National?

              There's a ton of vinyl in the city if you're looking. Take a long walk down Queen W. towards Trinity Bellwoods and you can stop in at a few shops (Kops, Rotate, Cosmos). For live music, well, it depends on what you're looking for. There's plenty of places just on Queen to see shows.

              As for bars, I'd really suggest you walk down to Bar Hop even though it's in the dreaded "Entertainment District." Their selection of local/craft is excellent (though not the best in the city). It's easily the best option you have for beer.

              The ramen at Noodle Bar is pretty mediocre, even for Toronto. Shoto is excellent, but the prices may be too high and you can forget an early dinner. The ginger scallion and dan dan mein are okay. Seconding recommendations for Santouka and Sansotei if you want ramen. You could also get their fried chicken (which is pretty wicked) to go and eat it in your hotel room in your underwear. You'll probably explode but be very, very happy.

              As you're close, you may want to head off to Kensington. Seven Lives has pretty good fish tacos (some of the options are awful, others, like the blackened mahi mahi, or, good god please hope, the scallop and chorizo special, are pretty amazing). You can grab coffee at Pamenar and churros and tacos and maybe Hooked is shucking oysters in store and stop by Via Mercanti for good pizza (the gnocchi are excellent, if they're on special, especially with the veal cheek ragu) and, well, I guess that can also duo with Queen W. W. for your vintage clothing needs.

              1. re: yakionigiri

                I second the recommendation for Kesington Market.

                I would also recommend Bar Buca for a drink/bite during the day. I am not sure if they do cocktails during the weekdays too but I know on the weekend they had a cocktail menu during the day. Worth looking into to. Also, for casual lunches I recommend Sud Forno, Forno Cultura, Banh Mi Boys for sure.

                For the cultural aspect, keep an eye out for screenings at The Bloor cinema. It is focused on documentaries and if indeed you are coming to see The Nationals they are showing a documentary on the band (and I think the band will be in attendance one night). TIFF Kids is starting this week and I wouldn't rule out seeing a Kids film, some are really good (I managed to see a preview of Felix in this years festival and really liked it). They sell tickets to the school screenings to the public as well so films available during the day.

                1. re: yakionigiri

                  I am :). Friday night is our show.

                2. re: Thebunk

                  The Wide Open is at Spadina just south of Richmond. Good place for afternoon drinks. Not a pub and not stuffy.

                  Also, a few doors further up the street at 147 Spadina is Trevor Tavern which is co-owned by the owner of the Wide Open. It's recently opened so I haven't been yet, but it looks like a great spot for drinks and nibbles.

                  Also, a few doors further west from Banh Mi Boys on Queen W is Rose City Kitchen for some very tasty pitas and falafels.

                  1. re: midtowngirl

                    Thanks for the rec on the Wide Open. Will check it out tomorrow or Friday. Today we had some drinks in the lobby of the Beverly which were quite good.

                  2. re: Thebunk

                    There's really no need to panic for lunch (unless you are looking for a fancy reservation?). You will pretty much be in the heart of it... lots of options on Queen West, entertainment district, Spadina, Baldwin... Although it is possible to go wrong, if you avoid the chain pubs and bad sushi places, keep some ideas from this thread in your head, and have a smart phone to check out reviews of places that strike your fancy, you will be fine.

                    1. re: julesrules

                      Totally agree with JulesRules - the panic will be trying to narrow it down you've got so much to choose from!

                      For dinner tonight I'd suggest Torito (Spanish tapas) in Kensington Market. I just checked opentable and there's lots of availability. About a 15 minute walk from your hotel which takes you through a bit of Queen West/Chinatown and Kensington.

                      1. re: midtowngirl

                        Thanks for the reassurance folks. We got to our hotel by 2:45pm today and went straight to Seven Lives which was quite good and value though they could easily serve 1/3 to 1/4 less filling and I would still be happy at their prices. I had the Carnitas and Mushroom/Cactus (Carnitas as the winner). We walked around a bit then ended up at The Beverlyfor drinks.

                  3. I work in the area and my out-of-town relatives stay at the Hilton when they visit. I would highly recommend Sabai Sabai for Thai food - excellent. I would also recommend the Senator, at Yonge/Victoria for any meal of the day, a true, old school diner that was recently written up in the NYT. Apparently the oldest restaurant in Toronto and great coffee! Very close to Massey Hall as well. Libretto on Danforth is closer than Queen Margerita, and close to there is the new Mother's Dumplings. Have fun!

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: roostermom

                      hilton garden is at peter and adelaide.

                      libretto on ossington is closer, as is terronis

                      as for coffee options near by: dark horse on john, crema at spadina, little nickys on peter.

                      cocktails midday may be a bit tougher. you can try hotel lobbies like: soho met, trump, shangrila, ritz, the beverly, thompson. all within 15 min walk.

                      beer: barhop is excellent and very close. also town crier. also near by: the rex (live music), cameron house (live music), black bull, horseshoe (live music).

                      dim sum: rol san.

                      - khao san road

                      1. re: KhaoSanRoad

                        oops my bad. Brief moment of confusion, thanks for clarifying!

                        1. re: KhaoSanRoad

                          +1 for coffee and a half dozen fresh made mini-donuts at Little Nickys!

                          1. re: KhaoSanRoad

                            Also for coffee/crepes I have heard good things about Le Neuf Cafe, it is in a neat setting right across from a park not too far from your hotel.

                            http://leneufcafe.com/

                        2. Thanks for the recommendations folks. Still looking for some midday cocktail / bar spots near out hotel or Queen Street West as we will be likely walking along there quite a bit.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: Thebunk

                            The Queen and Beaver is an English gastro pub that has nibbles and drinks all day - food is good. Upstairs is loungy with couches and books. I know you said no pubs but this is a step up from your average pub.

                            Q&B is located on Elm st, about a 20-25 min walk from your hotel. You can meander through the Eaton Center shopping mall (if weather is crappy) starting from Queen st and walk through to the other end to Dundas and Elm st is just north of there.

                            Lucullus Bakery is also on Elm - Pick up some great Chinese buns/pastries to take with you as snacks. (BBQ pork, Curry Beef, chicken puff pies, pineapple bun etc.)

                            http://queenandbeaverpub.ca/
                            http://www.lucullusbakery.com/

                            1. re: Degustation

                              Degustation: is there a seating area in Lucullus Bakery? I can't believe I've walked down Elm Street so many times and have never noticed it... I am always looking for breakfast/lunch spots in the area. I wouldn't mind picking up a bun and eating al fresco but if the weather isn't good somewhere indoors to sit would be great...

                              1. re: ottawaoperadiva

                                There are few tables downstairs, maybe for a dozen people? Apparently additional seating upstairs but haven't been up there. Last time I was there, the person beside me was enjoying a bowl of noodles that looked good. There is also free WIFI.

                                1. re: Degustation

                                  Thanks. I'll be dining solo and will be happy to squeeze in anywhere. I will definitely have to keep my eyes peeled for this place.