Toronto food bleg

by on July 18, 2012 at 2:36 pm in Food and Drink, Travels | Permalink

I won’t be there until September, but someone I know (who lives in “our world,” most likely you have read him on economics) will be there sooner.  Please help us both out.  He has very good taste in food.  We both thank you in advance.

Jeff July 18, 2012 at 2:54 pm

Tyrone is headed to Toronto?

Mark July 18, 2012 at 3:16 pm

Which part of town will you be in? UofT,York…?

OS July 18, 2012 at 3:30 pm

Dhaba. For standard dishes, go for the lunch buffet. For more interesting fare, try the Canadian-Indian fusion dishes on the dinner menu. Mistura is also a favorite.

Andrew Edwards July 18, 2012 at 4:02 pm

Toronto has had a run of great pop-ups, especially of the taco-truck variety recently, so check Toronto Life’s food blog before you come: http://www.torontolife.com/daily/daily-dish/

Toronto has a large number of outstanding “buzzy” restaurants (you’ll get lots of recommendations, my personal favorite at the moment is the County General http://www.torontolife.com/listings/restaurants/international/the-county-general/ ). However beyond that you might want to try:

Cava is a Spanish restaurant that may be the best in Toronto – blew me away: http://www.cavarestaurant.ca/
Tacos el Asador is a local legend and seems very “Tyler”: http://www.torontolife.com/listings/restaurants/el-salvadorian/tacos-el-asador/
I love the Cuban-French blend of Delux, and it feels very culturally “Toronto”: http://www.deluxrestaurant.ca/

Andrew Edwards July 18, 2012 at 4:02 pm

Sorry my line breaks got messed up there….

Deena July 18, 2012 at 7:11 pm

Cava isn’t bad. It’s just around the corner from where I live and I’ve eaten there twice. However I wouldn’t call it extraordinary. Sure, you’ll have a nice time and there are some decent dishes (and I love the special cider they have on tap). Dishes are small so if you have a big appetite go elsewhere unless you want to spend $$$. They have a small shop next door selling chocolates, ice cream and baked goods. Wildly uneven. Some chocs are yummy but I had a lemon-berry tart that was utterly atrocious. The problem I have with them is that they are full of themselves and Torontonians are such sheep they will never challenge them.

Phill July 19, 2012 at 1:01 am

Ugh. Skip the County General. It’s OK but IMHO overhyped.

I’d say go with the standard Pizzeria Libbretto/Enoteca Sociale for upscaleish Italian; I’m quite fond of the range of cheap Vietnamese you can find in this city. I’ll second delux – but only for the Cuban brunch. The dinner is meh.

Also good: Korean restos in little Korea, nazbeth for Ethiopian, one of the several epinomymous Sardinha working class Portuguese BBQ joints (or, try the suckling pig at Alex Rei dos Leitões not so far from Delux).

If you’re desiring tacos, go to El Trompo in Kensignton.

Andrew Edwards July 19, 2012 at 9:08 am

Have you had the fried chicken sandwich at Country General?

Phill July 19, 2012 at 12:41 pm

Truly I have not. I’ll give it a go then.

Andrew Edwards July 19, 2012 at 1:00 pm

It’s really good. Or at least it was the last time I had one.

junkax July 18, 2012 at 4:04 pm

shawarma empire and Blue Water Roti in Scarborough, shomal persian restaurant, nazareth ethiopian restaurant, lin garden

Royal Arse (@Royal_Arse) July 18, 2012 at 4:06 pm

Lee is a good spot — http://www.susur.com/lee/ . Also, http://www.czehoski.com/ Czehoski is solid.

ahow628 July 18, 2012 at 4:13 pm

On the high-end, I loved Canoe. Fantastic food and superb service. Mostly local food.
.
For something more comfortable, I loved Gio Rana’s Really Really Nice Restaurant. The decor is nice and kitschy. When I was there, they had an awesome special that was a skirt steak wrapped with bacon and stuffed with sausage.

Vineet July 22, 2012 at 11:08 pm

Gio Rana’s Really Really Nice restaurant – definitely recommend..especially if you sit in the cash vault (now wine cellar). What better location for an economist?

Dave Sorber July 18, 2012 at 4:16 pm

If you like an old established local steakhouse, try Hy’s at 101 Adelaide Street West. Their prime rib is especially good.

RM July 18, 2012 at 4:18 pm

Go out to Mississauga for lots of good Indian and Indian/Chinese fusion. Stay downmarket though. Also stay away if it says Italian halal — you do not want a desi boiling your spaghetti.

RichDice July 18, 2012 at 4:21 pm

Apart from the city in question, not much guidance there…

Still, I’ll take a few shots.

Chinese, with modern and fusion/experimental elements — Lai Wah Heen. http://www.laiwahheen.com/ This is where people visiting from Hong Kong go… because they’ve already heard of it over there. It’s really good. Much more expensive than most Chinese food, but relatively inexpensive for fine dining (which it arguably is).

Speaking of fine dining, there’s always Canoe. I may get shouted down for the obvious-ness of it, but the food really is fantastic, and the service, and the views. Be prepared to drop a few C notes per person. http://www.oliverbonacini.com/OurRestaurants/Canoe/About.aspx

For ultracheap, ultra good ethnic food, go to almost any strip mall in Scarborough or Markham. Might be a bit out of the way for a visitor though, if they’re staying downtown.

A classic Canadian pub — “Rebel House”. Good pub food (though not exactly what I’d call the contemporary “gastropub” experience), and excellent local microbrew beers. http://www.rebelhouse.ca/

Jim July 18, 2012 at 4:23 pm

Great timing! I’m headed there next week! Thanks for the suggestions!

IS July 18, 2012 at 4:27 pm

Definitely go to Dimmi Bar & Trattoria in Yorkville (on cumberland ave). If you do go to Dimmi, make sure to go to Carole’s Cheescake for dessert after (a few doors down)

I also second the votes for Czehoski, Delux, and Cava- all very good.

Steve Fritzinger July 18, 2012 at 4:28 pm

The Drake Hotel on Queen St. has good, if typical, food. They’re more known for the live music. They have several spaces in the hotel devoted to music and a wide variety of styles.

My favorite Blues musician, Big Rude Jake, plays there regularly.

There are also a bunch of interesting places on Ossington Ave, just east of the Drake.

julien July 18, 2012 at 4:39 pm

In my opinion, best place for fine dining is George
However, I think the best thing to do is to take advantage of Toronto’s very large immigrant communities to experience very good food, usually for very cheap. For example Lahore Tikka for Pakistani food. Or you can pick up a Roti at Ghandi Roti on Queen.
Sushi Kaji on Queensway in Etobicoke is spectacular (in a small strip mall).
There are some good dim sum options, mostly in the suburbs – like the Emerald in Mississauga.
Downtown, Lee is very good as someone else mentioned.

Sam July 18, 2012 at 4:42 pm

Mother’s Dumplings (http://www.mothersdumplings.com/) near the university. I wouldn’t say their offerings are *uniformly* excellent but the average is high. They also had some unusual things I’ve not seen elsewhere, like lamb shumai.

Jason Quenneville July 18, 2012 at 4:44 pm

Tutti Matti is an excellent Tuscan restaurant. I eat there every time I am in town. 364 Adelaide Street West (just east of Spadina and west of downtown).

Dark Horse at 245 Spadina (just north of Queen) has good espresso/coffee.

DW July 18, 2012 at 4:54 pm

I tried commenting earlier and I think it got lost…

Golden Turtle (Vietnamese – always packed with native speakers and waiters don’t speak english) https://plus.google.com/100592489887323682878/about?gl=us&hl=en

Golden Thai – Thai food in Toronto is excellent generally. Better than anything I’ve found for reasonable prices in NYC. http://www.goldenthai.ca/goldenthai_home.html

RAD July 18, 2012 at 4:55 pm

There is a high concentration of Indian and Middle East strip mall restaurants in the North-West part of the city at the corner of Albion and Islington.

http://www.albionislingtonsquare.com/shops.htm

Apparently this is the place to go for Rotis, Dosas, and Indian Sweets.

Sunset Shazz July 18, 2012 at 5:09 pm

Kebab houses or dosa places on Gerard street in the Indian area are excellent. Some of the best Pakistani/Indian in North America. You will know the good ones when you see them, Tyler, just use your customary methodology. Or ask the cabbie.

Derek July 18, 2012 at 6:13 pm

http://www.spicecitytoronto.com/ Is a site that seems to follow your general recommendations for top quality ethnic foods.

Elias Nassar July 18, 2012 at 6:14 pm

I have a tiny penis.

Jon July 18, 2012 at 6:52 pm

Skip the sit-down Mexican restaurants, go to Agave y Aguacate instead. It’s a guy with an assistant and three hot plates in the back of a bakery in Kensington Market. IIRC, the guy was a cook in some high-end places, then had a vision from his dead mother that he should bring good Mexican food to the people. I went to grad school in LA, and he blows away pretty much everyone there, let alone in Toronto. Also, around the corner from him is the best by far baba ghanoush I’ve ever had at Akram’s Shoppe (don’t hold their name against them). On St. Clair west of Oakwood is Khmer Thai – they have a Cambodian soup with something like a red curry/turmeric/coconut base full of sweet potatoes, eggplants, chicken, lemongrass, chiles that is extremely delicious and not like anything I personally have run across elsewhere. I second the Lahore Tikka Palace and Ghandi nods, but if you want haute Indian, Debu Saha’s is probably the place to go, though perhaps someone who’s been there recently can weigh in.

Tadd Wilson July 18, 2012 at 7:58 pm

Nice upper-end dining with a fantastic wine list: North 44 in the Yonge-Esslington area. Worth the expense for the treat.

Downtown closer to Entertainment District/Second City…. great pub with huge number of European (German, Belgian) beers on tap and very eclectic appetizer/dinner offerings – Town Crier Pub. Try the mussels and frites. Ignore the other places on the street it shares.

Tadd Wilson July 18, 2012 at 8:00 pm

Amend above to “Yonge-Eglinton”… so happy about the Town Crier remembrance I slurred my typing.

mkt July 18, 2012 at 8:08 pm

For a unique historical experience, Osgoode Hall is a historic building which has lunch service during the summer.
http://www.osgoodehall.com/osgoodehallrestaurant.html
I haven’t been there myself but a colleague said it was very good and priced low, given the quality.

Eva July 18, 2012 at 8:55 pm

Toronto has arguably the best ethnic food in North America, due to the high percent of newly arrived immigrants.

Dim sum is the most obvious suggestion. As for specific restaurants, I’ve been to all the expensive ones listed above but actually preferred something more mid-range in the downtown Chinatown. (I use downtown Chinatown to distinguish it from the second concentration around Finch or farther up north.) But I’ve also had bad cheap dim sum in downtown Chinatown, so… just head there and follow Tyler’s usual tips on how to distinguish good restaurants from bad.

Apart from all other ethnic cuisine (Indian food, Vietnamese food, Greektown…) there are also a surprising number of food/bookstores. You may imagine the food quality is not so great at these because part of the draw is the books (or the games: see Snakes and Lattes, which often has an hour-long wait), but some of them are ridiculously cozy.

Really, do not eat anything non-ethnic while you are there, and you can’t go wrong. Go for the things you can’t easily get in your usual city. For D.C., that would be good Asian food.

pk July 18, 2012 at 9:25 pm

+ Terroni on Adelaide and Toronto St. for lunch.
+ Origin On King E at church for dinner.

Two great spots for food, service and atmosphere.

Jacob July 18, 2012 at 9:34 pm

Nazareth Restaurant at 969 Bloor Street West (by Bloor and Ossington) is excellent and extremely cheap Ethiopian food (my friend who lived in East Africa for a while said it was the best she’s had).

Buk Chang Dong Soon Tofu Korean Restaurant at 691 Bloor Street West (by Bloor and Christie) has great Korean food: awesome soon tofu soup and, in my opinion, the best Bibimbap in Toronto.

R. Pointer July 18, 2012 at 10:23 pm

+1 Korean town.

Phill July 19, 2012 at 1:03 am

Ah hah. This is the Nazbeth I mentioned above. Been going there for years.

Palermo July 18, 2012 at 10:16 pm

The following are what I believe to be the best of some of the dishes I’ve had in Toronto:

Best pork bone soup (Gamja Tang): Owl of Minerva (Bloor and Christie)
Best Hong Kong style desserts: Sugar Marmalade (Spadina and Dundas)
Best Neapolitan Pizzas: Pizzeria Libretto (Greek Town)
Best Coleslaw: Lee Restaurant’s Singaporean Slaw (King Street West and Portland)
Best Peking Duck: House of Gourmet (Spadina and Dundas)
Best Apple Cake: Mystic Muffin (Jarvis and Richmond)
Best Soon Tofu: Tofu Village (Bloor and Christie)

Guy July 18, 2012 at 10:52 pm

Fine dining: George, Canoe
Perfect Italian: Carisma
Great pubs: Harbord Room, Queen and Beaver
Affordable fine dining: Nota Bene
Great Chinese: Anywhere in Richmond Hill’s Chinatown

Anon July 18, 2012 at 11:23 pm

For a quick meal, Pizzaiolo is an incredibly good Toronto-based pizza chain hasn’t yet expanded beyond the city.
Best Indian is The Host.
Best sushi is Sushi Couture.
Best Thai is Real Thailand.
Best oyster place is Rodney’s By Bay
Best place for a burger and a glass of wine, both done impeccably, is Reds.
Avoid steakhouses. Overpriced.
In the downtown core, the best healthy fast food is IQ Foods.

R. Pointer July 19, 2012 at 12:24 am

**** Porchetta Co – only makes this (sometimes does seasonal crab sandwiches), you pick the toppings. Cash only. It’s that good.
****The Black Hoof – Almost the same block. They cook in front of you, on an electric stove. Five times better than Cava and cheaper.

I can’t put links because the blog won’t let me. But Dundas west of Bathurst was run-down and rents were cheap. Close to China Town so you can do a bit of both.

Korean best west of Bathurst on Bloor. Look above for names. And I don’t agree that only ethnic food is really good here. If you think so, you aren’t looking hard enough.

Mons July 19, 2012 at 12:40 am

If you want the most authentic Muslim Chinese and Uigher food outside of Xinjiang, then go to Silk Road. Order a brace of chuanr (lamb kebabs) and da pan ji (literally big plate chicken, with chicken, potato and hand-made “knife sliced noodles” which are deliciously thick and chewy. Their very limited menu is all amazing and very authentic. Best to book ahead, as the place is tiny, and completely packed from 6pm until close most nights. There are a few other passable Muslim Chinese restaurants in the area (mostly shaanxi cuisine, which is also delicious), but Silk Road is the best, and closest to your professed style, I think.

Silk Road
438 Horner Ave. (east of Brown’s Line)
Etobicoke, ON
416-259-9440

David C July 19, 2012 at 3:38 am

No specific restaurants, but a general suggestion: get out of downtown, and into the ethnic neighborhoods. You can, for example, eat Hungarian in a restaurant all the other customers are of Hungarian descent. Or Moroccan, or Japanese, or what you will.

Mala Memoria July 19, 2012 at 8:48 am

For sushi in downtown, you can consider Toshi, Nami or Ichi Riki.

Alex Usher July 19, 2012 at 9:49 am

Italian: Tutti Matti is good, but not as good as it used to be. Best risotto in town by far is at Romagna Mia – near Jarvis and Front. Really excellent. There are several Terronis in town (there’s one on Queen W.), and it’s nice for Sicilian food, though Enoteca’s pizzas are better. The Black Hoof on Dundas West for charcuterie. California Sandwiches for the veal sandwiches dripping with tomato sauce(there’s one around the corner from Black Hoof, but there are also a couple out near York U – one on Sheppard, one in a mall on Hwy. 7…if the latter, you can drop in at La Paloma for gelato afterwards).

naveen July 19, 2012 at 11:22 am

I mapped most of the locations mentioned above:

https://maps.google.ca/maps/ms?msid=218156802753718709756.0004c52fa89685fe4c395&msa=0&ll=43.688729,-79.372787&spn=0.171546,0.340233

interesting how almost all of the locations fall on the streets rather than avenues, as Tyler would predict.

R. Pointer July 20, 2012 at 7:33 pm

Bourdain just did a shoot at Porchetta Co. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Porchetta-Co

So I don’t know if that is good or bad for one’s ability to get their sandwiches but the show won’t air for a bit. You still might have a chance.

Lewie July 19, 2012 at 11:56 am

THEE only place for Thai is Suko Thai
http://www.sukhothaifood.com/

Sue July 19, 2012 at 1:10 pm

just got back from Toronto last night. Had great ceviche at Foxley (Ossington and Dundas, little portugal), great greek food at Volos (financial district). Other recommended but not tried were Acadia and Black Hoof. Enjoy!

Phil Koop July 19, 2012 at 4:53 pm

“Romagna Mia” has changed its name to “Paganelli’s”. It really does offer good central Italian food at moderate prices; the risotto is great but it’s not the only high point.

Most of the best high-end Chinese restaurants are located in suburbs inconveniently far from downtown – the Spadina strip is mostly greasy spoons. However, the aforementioned Lai Wah Heen is a good bet and Lee Garden is a greasy spoon in the best sense – tasty food with no frills.

Gastropubs: the Queen and Beaver and Oxley are both good.

Fine dining: my favorite is easily Scaramouche. Good luck getting a table, but if while you’re at it why not ask for one by the window with a view of the skyline. (And a pony?) George ought to be good in theory but in practice I never enjoy it as much as I think I will; perhaps that is only because I know I am footing the bill. Canoe would not be my first choice, but the views are really good.

Affordable fine dining: Modus, which has a hint of the effortlessly gracious service offered by Scaramouche.

brendan July 19, 2012 at 7:09 pm

Lahore Tikka House on gerrard St E is one of the best values and experiences in the city. Hands down the best south asian food ive had in toronto. Pakistani fare that is totally worth the hike out east. Used to be housed in a series of portable trailers, but has since moved indoors to a long-awaited structure whose glacial pace of construction smacked of shady dealings.

China Traditional Bun, in a basement near the NW corner of Spadina and Dundas has really good northern Chinese if you know how to order. Try the gou bu li bums, silky tofu, and bbq sandwiches. Noodles aren’t the best, but they’ll hand pull them to order.

Guu is as good as the hype suggests for izakaya. Two locations, but I’ve only been to the one on church street.

Matt July 21, 2012 at 9:43 am

Swatow (Dundas/Spadina) for late-night crispy noodles, Le Select (Wellington/Spadina) for reliable, quality French cooking and Jumbo Empanadas (245 Augusta)/Patty King (around the corner on Baldwin – try a spicy patty on coco-bread w/ginger beer) for a tasty lunch to-go.

db July 22, 2012 at 3:09 pm

I just got back from Toronto. Eat indian food in Brampton, a suburb just northwest of the city. It has a very large south asian population. According to wikipedia, Punjabi is the mother tong of 27% of Brampton’s population. I have no specific restaurant recommendations, but when I was there I ate at Tandoori Flame, which was far and away the best indian buffet I’ve ever had (It blows the doors off of Minerva in Fairfax). Nevertheless, I have no doubt that far better indian and pakistani food can be found if you find a place that caters exclusively to recent immigrants.

fk July 22, 2012 at 8:08 pm

for indian food, go to savera at 815 st clair west. anything with spinach in it or the fish curry.

thai: mengrai thai at 82 ontario st. great authentic pad thai and the red curry lychee curry is also good

for some canadiana, try poutini’s at 1112 queen st w. the layered poutine is a great way to end a night out.

best hakka (indian style chinese) is at federicks at 1920 ellesemere rd in scarborough – a bit of a drive, but worth it. get the pakoras – fish or chicken – and the chilli chicken.

for jamaican food, go to alberts real jamaican at 542 st clair west. and when you’re done, next door is dutch dreams ice cream, which is worth the out the door lineup.

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