Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Ontario (inc. Toronto) >
Feb 16, 2014 11:21 AM

1st time in Toronto-advice


I will visiting Toronto for the 1st time in March. Unfortunately, it's a short trip- 2 nights and one day but I was hoping to get my grub on as much as possible. I work in the restaurant biz and I make it a priority to hit up the restaurant(s) of the lauded local chefs. I am not familiar with the food scene at all- minus Chang's presence. I am a New Yorker so I am not interested in going to one of his restaurants. If I could get some suggestions on the following I would really appreciate it!!!
1. Who are the local celebrity chefs? (ex: the David Chang's/Andrew Carmellini;s of Toronto) And if they have more than one resto, what's the flagship? Or the one that stands out?
2. What are some hot places right now? (all cuisines)
3. What is the long standing high-end darling? (ex: the Gramercy Tavern of Toronto)
4. Any not to miss ethnic/casual/street food type places?
5. best Breakfast?
6. Any neighborhoods that are packed with good eats?
7. Something authenticly Toronto? (ex: NY Style Pizza) meaning something that is unique to that city and you can only get there
8. Coffee?
9. Sandwich?

I know this is a crazy questionnaire. Anyone who actually responds is crazy awesome!!! Thank you!!
(I'm happy to trade same advice for anyone visiting NYC in the near future!)

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Where are you staying? Do you have a car?

    2 Replies
    1. re: MissBingBing

      not sure yet. Any thoughts? I am trying to research the neighborhoods and figure out the best are to stay in. Should I rent a car? Is necessary?

      1. re: iparonich

        You don't need a car in Toronto unless you are staying near the airport (and don't want to pay for a cab downtown and back). The subway/bus/streetcar system is great, cabs are plentiful and both modes of transportation can easily access most of the restaurant commendations you'll (hopefully) be getting. Also, if you are going to be drinking at all, then you won't be wanting to drive anyway.

        For coffee I'd go to 3 locations. Don't go for the atmosphere but for what I think is the best cappucinno in the city.

    2. Hi!

      so, you may want to considering staying dowtown-ish (bordered roughly by Bathurst to the west Front St or King St to the south, Jarvis to the East and Queen to the north). Best access to subway/streetcars in this area. Transit is no where near as well developed here as you may be used to in NYC (I used to live UWS on the 1 line) - miss it :).

      I'll try to answer some of your questions, but I feel a bit sheepish giving someone in the restaurant biz food advice....

      2. What are some hot places right now? (all cuisines)
      >> Chantecler, Patria,

      3. What is the long standing high-end darling? (ex: the Gramercy Tavern of Toronto)
      >>> Splendido (most of the Toronto board) or Scaramouche (a few of us outliers ;) )

      4. Any not to miss ethnic/casual/street food type places?
      >> Bahn Mi Boys (PS - there are no great food trucks here like in NYC - and I am especially thinking of the halal guy on 6th Av at 53 or 54)
      >> peameal bacon sandwich from Carousel in the St Lawrence Market
      >>> crab cake sandwich from Busters Sea Cove, also in the St Lawrence Market (my favourite)
      >> there are some good roti places, but will leave that to others

      6. Any neighborhoods that are packed with good eats?
      >> best authentic Chinese is in Markham - but you definitely need a car to get there; the distance from downtown would be like Soho to the TappanZee, with no good transit
      >> King West these days

      7. Something authenticly Toronto? (ex: NY Style Pizza) meaning something that is unique to that city and you can only get there
      >> see peameal bacon above

      8. Coffee?
      >> Sam James

      9. Sandwich?
      >> see peameal bacon and/or Bahn Mi Boys

      I never found Thai to be good in NYC (with the possible exception of Land Thai Kitchen - Amsterdam and 82-ish), but Khao San Road (Adelaide St?) and Sukothai (on Wellington St) are both great

      I am sure I have missed lots.

      Please report back.

      3 Replies
      1. re: CocoaChanel

        Thank you! This is so gr8 :)

        I too lived on the UWS for 4 years... on Amsterdam and 84th. I used to go to Land Thai all the time! I agree on the Thai food in NYC comment, although Queens has some great places that are not really hyped. except for SriPraPhai.
        Thanks again, I really appreciate it!

        1. re: iparonich

          Broadway and 64th - right across from Lincoln Center

          We loved Cafe Frida, Isabellas, Ouest and Atlantic Grill up your way. Favourite pizza was at Fiorello's. I digress...

        2. re: CocoaChanel

          Nice recs, CocoaChanel.
          Here is a list of 'essential' TO foods the OP might find useful.

          I'd add Chantecler as a unique-to-TO restaurant, and pasteis de nata/Portuguese custard tarts and butter tarts ( I like Maid's Cottage butter tarts, found at Pusateri's and Rachel's) as foods which are more common in TO than Manhattan.
          I'd also add Dundas West and West Queen West as neighbourhoods with good dining options concentrated in a small area.
          For a good sandwich, I like the BLT with fried green tomato at Stockyards. I also like the sandwiches at Dr.Laffa and Black Camel. Our veal /chicken/eggplant sandwiches are similar to veal/chicken/eggplant parm sandwiches found in the States. There are also BLT, club, pork and veggie sandwich threads that can be found through a search.

        3. Also, there was a recent thread of Top 10 favourite restaurants for 2014 - you may want to have a look through that.

          (I cant link right now)

          1. 1. Hard to exactly draw a parallel - any of the TV chefs aren't necessarily actually all that interesting, except maybe Mark McEwan. Look into the Group of 7 Chefs and the Toronto members of the "Northern Alliance" (certain amount of overlap there)
            2. Bar Isabel
            3. Splendido, Scaramouche and to a lesser degree Canoe, North 44, Bymark and ONE

            3 Replies
            1. re: bytepusher

              Wait. N44, Bymark and One as 'lesser' long standing darlings? I can't agree with that. I'd argue N44 and Bymark stopped being 'darlings' (even 'lesser') five years ago or more, and One has never really been.

              Agree on Canoe, however, but it's only 'lesser' amongst food nerds like us. :)

              1. re: justxpete

                But N44 has been standing a long time, at least 17+ years. :)

                1. re: justxpete

                  In this environment agreed, but I have been told by business contacts and others less plugged into the industry at least 4 times in the last year that for them N44 is the best restaurant in the city.

                  Clearly there's a clientele for a certain type of restaurant (cough, Ki, cough) that fails to notice that the food just ain't that good but I'm not sure that the McEwan high end outposts truly qualify for that.

              2. I'd recommend to try to stay in the west end. Not many hotels there, try airBNB. There are many places around ossington/dundas and you won't go wrong staying around there.

                I'm just assuming you are going to eat and drink late a lot, and its good to stay close to the action. Thats where I'd want to stay.