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business lunch in the King Spadina area

Any recommendations for a casual business lunch near King & Spadina?

Where's my change!?!

So restaurants are wholesalers and servers are retailers. The system is screwed up!

Aug 06, 2012
meanmartin in Not About Food

Photographing your food

"Dork" is a term of affection, I assure you.

Aug 06, 2012
meanmartin in Not About Food

Ursa vs Campagnolo

Just came back from dinner at Ursa. The food and service are good, but for $225 for dinner for two (incl. wine & tip), I expect air conditioning (VERY hot and stuffy inside), wine to be served at less than 25C (NO wine is good that warm), and maybe some bread. LED lighting may look good but no one looks good under it, and painted concrete block walls may be ok for a burrito place, but not a good restaurant.. When I can't wait to leave a restaurant because I'm so damn hot and sweaty (no dessert because we just wanted to get the hell out of there), nothing else really matters.

Photographing your food

Everyone's photographing their food in restaurants now. I do it to, but usually just while travelling. I know it's incredibly dorky, but is it rude or does it bother other people?

Aug 02, 2012
meanmartin in Not About Food

best diners/greasy spoons serving breakfast, 2012

For a legit diner breakfast, go to Open Kitchen on Camden (just west of Spadina, south of Richmond). Seriously old-school, zero irony.

bars/pubs/lounges/places for drinks where 40somethings aren't out of place, where conversation is possible without straining your voice, and the music isn't turned up to nightclub levels between 10:30 pm and midnight....

Oh no! I admit I haven't been there in a few months. That's too bad. The food always seemed more expensive to make than they could possibly charge for it. Maybe it caught up with them?

Where to buy soft corn wraps (or tortillas)

For sure! The ONLY place. Super cheap, always fresh, and always warm (out of the thermos cooler).

bars/pubs/lounges/places for drinks where 40somethings aren't out of place, where conversation is possible without straining your voice, and the music isn't turned up to nightclub levels between 10:30 pm and midnight....

Check out The Queen and Beaver on Elm west of Yonge. The food is amazing--all house made high quality British pub food. They have a small roof terrace which is great. Good beers, of course, and a great vibe. The pub is on the second floor. I'm surprised no one else suggested it.

La Carnita - 501 College

I went to LC for the first time tonight. I've been to GE many times and have to say their food is clearly superior. LC is a good deal for sure and I'll probably go more in the winter when the GE patio is closed. I found LC just as loud as GE, but that's because of an echo-filled room rather than loud music. The LC guacamole and chips is bad. Chili powder and pepper seasoned chips--as bad as coated fries--and an overly-complex guac. Sometimes less IS more. The beer selection is great at LC and the little print you get with the bill is a nice touch. LC's interior is too contrived and the flip-flop wearing Lexus driving Muskoka crowd just isn't my scene.

First fancy thirteen year old dinner downtown...

I'd consider Nota Bene (Queen and University). The $20 - $30 price-point works, it has high end service and quality without feeling so uptight that a 13 year old wouldn't feel welcome. The dining room is slightly loud, but that's due to poor acoustics rather than being rambunctious. Here's a link:
They even have a beef brisket burger in case the 13 year old palate is feeling a little less adventurous that day.

Hawker Bar

Totally agree. The BC spot prawn dumplings were good but $3 each? The Singapore noodles were so salty that they were inedible. The silken tofu sat in a sea of intensely salty soy sauce. The salt level is way over the top.

Good Hot Sauce???

Valentina salsa picante is THE classic Mexican hot sauce. I get it at La Tortilleria in Kensington. More peppery than heat.
Chris Schlesinger's (East Coat Grille, Cambridge MA) is still my favourite for intense flavour and heat. I don't know if you can still buy it, but here's a link to make it (I haven't tried this recipe).
Here's a ChowHound link:

Grand Electric

We went last night (Tuesday). Put our name on the list for a table for 4 at 7:30 and were told to come back in an hour. Went to the Rhino patio (across the street) for a beer then came back at 8:30 and were seated on the patio immediately. The pork carnitas were a special that evening, and were incredible--intense pork flavour. They had a draft from Dieu du Ciel--nice!--and Bellwoods brewery. Tuna ceviche is embarrassingly large and crudely presented but dee-lish, and the spicy squid is great. Baja fish taco is still my fave: perfect batter and a nice chipotle kick. The service was exceptional as always, and Ian, one of the owners, came to our table to entertain us several times, apologising for the crack heads on the other side of the fence.. It's super fun and cheap. Always a blast. Enjoy it while Parkdale still has its edge.

La Carnita - 501 College

Agave Y Aguacate is on a whole other level--truly incredible!--but it's a totally different thing: It's a take-out stand. GE is a Rompus Room for adults who like cheap bourbon.

Funky restauarants in Toronto

This is great info, especially justxpete's amazing list, but perhaps a bit overwhelming (and not entirely "below" the radar). For an intimate sit-down dinner experience (as opposed to shared-plates) for 1st time Toronto visitors, I'd recommend (in order):
1. Enoteca Sociale on Dundas West.
2. Delux on Ossington.
3. Campagnolo on Dundas West (not very hip but exceptional quality and a nice room).
All require reservations.
General Electric (Queen West) is the most hip and fun, but loud, crowded, and super-casual.
The Black Hoof is still one of my faves for a good Toronto experience--everyone has to go at least once--but it's all shared plates and no reservations. On a warm summer's evening, you can not beat the patio at Terroni's on Queen West. Actually, I'd go there. You might have to wait in line 1/2 hour or so.

Recommendations needed for our downtown "food crawl"

Ooh, financial district. That's tough. Starfish Room is good for oysters. Terroni on Adelaide East would be on my list for sure, but it might not be fast enough for a crawl. Frankly, I'd go west. SkotchBlog's post was pretty awesome. Dundas West and Ossington might be good: plenty of no-reservation places and lots of tapas style service. Start at Torrito on Augusta, from there, go to Raw Bar or the Black Hoof on Dundas at Bellwoods. You can stop in at Porchetta on the way (before 9:00) if you want. It's very good, but no Florentine tripe on the menu. If you are craving oysters, walk through Trinity Bellwoods park to Oyster Boy (reservation needed), then hit a couple places on Ossington. I'd hit Bellwoods Brewery for awesome beer and snacks. If you want a good walk, finish up at Midfield's Wine Bar (good snacks too) at Dundas and Gladstone, and hit Enoteca Sociale on the way (reservations a must though).

La Carnita - 501 College

GE tortillas are smaller than La Tortilleria.

Cumbrae's Steak - the best?

I'm a big fan of Sanagan's, but I usually get hanger and flat iron there. Their quality is exceptional and their prices are very reasonable. Any comments on Sanagan's vs Cumbrae's?

Midfield Wine Bar

I can't find any discussions about Midfield Wine Bar. Who's been? Any comments?

Bellwoods Brewery - good beer and snacks

I've been called on hyperbole! Fair enough. DdC is pretty awesome for sure, but a 10 minute walk versus a 6 hour drive from my house counts for something! The food at Bellwoods is better too.

Black Hoof..what happened??

Sounds awesome. The service there has always been stellar in my experience. I'll definitely try the fois nutella next time. Thanks for the great post!

Logs for BBQ smoking?

That's hilarious! I still learned a hell of a lot from those guys...though I do not finish my brisket in Cherry Coke like they do.

Logs for BBQ smoking?

Thanks for the reply. True, it was very regional. They absolutely hated mesquite, and yes, pecan was the favourite for chicken and pork, but they preferred maple for beef. If they were cooking chicken, beef, and pork at the same time in the same pit, they preferred hickory. Most did use propane. The whole hog is their make-it-or-break-it event, so they need very even heat over a very large area, and propane gives them that. I did seem a little questionable to me. Maybe there's a reason South Carolina is not America's BBQ capital? And yes, their brisket was terrible.

Toronto's Best Slice

I used to live in Rome where they sell pizza by weight (potato pizza was the best deal for us poor students). I had no idea that existed here. Thanks for posting!

Logs for BBQ smoking?

The city just cut down a 200 year old hickory (hickory!) tree in Trinity Bellwoods park. I want to know...where is it now and how can I get my hands on some?

how many BTU's needed to blacken chicken / fish on a BBQ grill?

My gas grille is 38,000 BTU and does what you want very well. I have a Weber Genesis. A cast iron skillet on the grille is my new favourite technique.
PS you can also remove the grates on any propane grille and put the skillet directly over the flame for more intense heat.

Jun 07, 2012
meanmartin in Cookware

Critique my "must try" list for Toronto!

Indian: A lot of people say Banjara at the south-west corner of Christie Pits on Bloor is the best Indian in town. My fave is actually Pakistani: Lahore Tikka way out on Gerrard East. It's a wild and sweaty ride! A Must Try for sure just for the experience.
Japanese: I like Japango on Elizabeth behind City Hall for sushi. Best I've had in Toronto, but only because I can't afford Sushi Kaji on the Queensway--by all accounts a Must Try.. I would say Guu on Church is a Must Try for non-sushi (the one on Bloor is too loud for me).
Italian: I still say Terroni--Queen West-- is Toronto's best Italian restaurant, though I am told Buca on King West, east of Bathurst, is THE best. I've been told Buca is a Must Try. Sadly, I haven't been yet.
Mexican: Best Mexican is Agave y Aguacate in Kensington on Augusta. Not great for impressing a date though. Must Try for the Kensington experience.
Black Hoof and Grand Electric are Must Try's for sure!!
BBQ: Barque Smokehouse on Roncesvalles is pretty not that bad for BBQ.

Logs for BBQ smoking?

I am a certified Carolina Pitmaster trained in competiton BBQ. OK, I just went to South Carolina for a weekend pitmaster course. No one uses logs as the heat source. Most competition BBQers use propane or charcoal with wood chunks. Not the chips you get at Home Hardware, though those can work just fine, but chunks about 2" or 3" across. A log will be too pungent and overwhelm your food. Use a good maple chunk charcoal--never briquettes--and go online to buy wood chunks. Hickory is the most versatile. Mesquite is very strong. Oak is similar to mesquite. Maple can be good. Some people love fruit trees, especially pear. It's all about balance. Keep the heat source relatively flavour neutral and add wood sparingly as a flavour component.

Downtown Toronto Wedding Venue for 100-120 People?

The Carlu is gorgeous!