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Don't-Miss Toronto Fare

  • c

I'll be visting Toronto for about about a week next week, staying at the Renaissance Skydome, and looking for food that exemplifies the city -- from street food to high-end cuisine.

Which are the restaurants that a foodie should absolutely not miss? Places that are really hot and worth the hype? Places that have been there forever and still terrific?

Is there a Toronto "native" food, like deep-dish pizza in Chicago, 5-way chili in Cincinnati or poutine in Montreal? Something that you can only get done right in Toronto? What is it and where's the best?

I'm seeking mainly places readily accessible from my hotel, but I'm willing to travel a bit for something really special.

We're also going to Niagara Falls and Niagara-on-the-Lake, so recommendations there would be appreciated, too.

Thanks for any suggestions.

Chicago

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  1. Go in to...

    * Little Italy (best on Friday or Saturday evenings)
    * Chinatown downtown or one of the giant Chinese malls in Scarbrough or Richmond Hill (best on Satruday or Sunday during the day)
    * Greek Area (best on Friday or Saturday evenings)
    * Little India (best on Saturday or Sunday during the day)

    Let your own nose be your best guide. Welcome to Toronto!

    PS.. Anything hyped ($$$ for publicity rendered) typically is not worth the plate they're served on... JMHO

    1. I hope you love the city. The food here is diverse and multicultural. Personally I would go to Baton Rouge on 218 Yonge street (just south of Dundas St). The ribs, IMHO, are the best in the city. It is upscale casual. If you are looking for decent pub food, I have a couple of options. Try the Elephant and Castle 212 King St. W. A nice place to try within a 5 minute jaunt of Skydome is The Loose Moose 146 Front St. W. Great atmosphere, especially if you want to watch a ball game, and the food is quite good for a pub style restaurant. A decent selection of brews on tap also. All of these places are near the downtown area and won't be a hardship to get to. Anyway, if looking for a Canadian Dish, look for some place that serves authentic poutine (made with cheese curds). Anyway, good luck and happy eating!

      3 Replies
      1. re: Bill

        Come on, the Baton Rouge is a tourist trap, with a faux-"upscale casual" look that is actually a veneer for mediocre food, languourous service and highish prices. There are any number of restaurants in the city which offer genuine cooking/cuisine, and why anyone would go to the BR other than if their office was on top and they needed a quick bite is beyond me !

        1. re: John

          Basically agree. Tried the ribs and was underwhelmed.

          1. re: John

            I totally agree about Baton Rouge being mediocre!

            In addition, it is a MOntreal restaurant that opened an outlet here and not a "typical Toronto food experience".

            There are good ribs at a few places including Churrasco Villa at Eglinton and Mt Pleasant (best chicken in the city) and Miller's Country Fare (second best chicken in the city in my opinion).

        2. There was a discussion about a native Toronto food and as I recall the consensus was the peameal bacon sandwich served at the St. Lawrence market (Front and Jarvis sts) most particularly the Carnival Bakery on the west side of the south market.

          If you're willing to travel and you like Japanese/Sushi there is an outstanding Japanese restaurant about 25 minutes west of your hotel, called Kaji Sushi. I'll find the link and post again.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Elizabeth

            Just a correction in the name of the establishment at the St. Lawrtence Market. It is called Carousel Bakery, not Carnival and is widely known for their Peameal Bacon sandwich. They also have another Canadian specialty which is a wild smoked arctic char(which they fly in from the high arctic) sandwich. You can not mistake the place, it has write-ups posted from Jeff(when he was there in the spring 03), Emril ann many others.

          2. If you're by the SkyDome, I would definitely recommend walking east to St. Lawrence Market for lunch. They've got lots of great sandwich places, deli meats, cheeses as well as fresh fruits and vegetables. It is a very Toronto experience.
            As for specific restaurants, I'd recommend in no particular order:
            -- Country Style at Bloor and Spadina for great Hungarian food -- great value, excellent schnitzel and potatoes
            -- Herbs at Yonge and Lawrence -- excellent French/continental cuisine -- I had a wonderful duck confit there -- expect to pay $50/person for a full dinner
            -- Kensington Kitchen on Harbord Street -- the food is merely decent, but they have the loveliest patio in all of Toronto -- if the weather is nice, it's worth a visit

            1. Most places near Skydome are overpriced, underwhelming tourist restaurants. I would agree with St Lawrence market and the ribs at Baton Rouge. As mentioned, 'Toronto food' is simply multi-ethnic food, so try Lee Garden on Spadina for Chinese, Golden Thai or Young Thailand on Church, Mezes on Danforth for Greek, Terroni on Victoria St. for pizza, and Marché in BCE place is worth a visit for the vibe and the desserts.

              1. In Niagara Falls, ON: Carpaccio
                In Niagara-on-the-Lake: Hillebrand Winery Dining Room, Peller Estates dining room
                On the way from T.O.: Vineland Estates (most beautiful vineyard, and best view to Lake)
                In Port Colborne: San Marco's Ristorante

                1 Reply
                1. re: James

                  I'll second James' recommendations, with the exception of San Marco's, which I have yet to try.

                  You might also try Terroir la Cachette at Strewn Winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake, and Casa Mia in Niagara Falls.

                2. I think the back bacon on a bun in the market gets the vote as the 'most typical' (I prefer mine with honey mustard). Open 9-5 Tue-Fri and earlier start on Sat.
                  For a 'top dining' choice I summarized the recommendations on a previous thread (see link). Since then, Senses has received some raves (and it's within walking distance). However, I haven't tried the new one, but reports say it's similar to the old (same chef) and I found that one competent but derivative and safe, and expensive (used to recommend it as the place to impress older relatives).
                  I also put together my own favourites - Chowhound doesn't allow multiple links, but the link is

                  http://www.chowhound.com/canada/board....

                  That list is mostly ethnic.

                  Choose your favourites.

                  Link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                  1. Toronto doesn't have as much for native street food as some places. There are sausage vendors all around town--the vendors grill their fare. I like the the Hot Italian and Octoberfest ones. They are certainly different than those in Chicago.

                    Another street food option is french fries and poutine available from the chip trucks in well-travelled locations. Putting gravy on french fries is very Canadian. I like to go the whole way and have poutine. In particular I like the poutine from the blue truck in front of City Hall. They have a sign on it that says something like "poutine $1 more but the gravy is always free." It's pretty inexpensive, very filling and as close as you can get to the real stuff while in Toronto. I had one yesterday for lunch. Mmmm.

                    Veal Sandwiches are another great local walkaround food. Follow the link below for some recommendations. I've since had one from the local chain California Sandwiches and agree that they belong in the top echelon of Toronto's veal sandwiches.

                    Jamaican patties are another great walkaround food if you are on the move and need a little something to fill your stomach. They easy to carry and can be quite spicy. They are the bright yellow pastries that look like pizza pockets. If possible have them fresh from a take-out stand rather than day-olds from a convenience store.

                    Have a great trip and PLEASE get Giordano's to open a restaurant here. I really wish we had those stuffed pizzas in Toronto.

                    Previous Street Food Thread:
                    http://www.chowhound.com/canada/board...

                    Link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: mikeb

                      I forgot to suggest that you try butter tarts. They're a Canadian specialty, usually made by grandmothers using their secret recipes. I don't know where you can get a good one retail. The St Lawrence Market would be a good place to start. Perhaps someone can make a suggestion.

                    2. I'm late on this response... but I would say go to Kensington Market. TTC to Dundas and Spadina, go to the North West corner and walk one block North, then turn West onto St. Andrew and wander. Kensington fills the space from Dundas to College, Spadina to Bathurst (though most of the eating and shopping area is Spadina to Augusta)

                      Go hungry and graze.

                      Moonbean for a coffee, poke your head into World of Cheese and the European meat store, Akram's for a falafel, another coffee at the corner of Baldwin & Augusta.

                      Then head north for to Jumbo Empanada for... well Empanada, grab fresh grilled pupusas at the back of the latin grocery stores on either side of Jumbo Empanada... wander over to the Bellevue Diner for upscale Burger and fries... El Trompo for Queso Fundido.

                      Or head south to the Hungry Thai for the "city's best schnitzel"(?), don't forget the Spice Market, and some cheap beer on the patio at Amadeus over looking Augusta and the park.

                      oh for the days when I lived there!!!