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Coffee quest: Is there a Toronto equivalent of Vancouver's Cafe Artigiano?

I tried this Artigiano location a couple weeks back. I had an Americano, it was pretty decent but I didn't notice anything about it that made it better than other options within walking distance like Fahrenheit (best consistent coffee in Toronto) or the Rooster on King East, for example.

But I have to give Artigiano a bit of a thumbs down on the atmosphere, it reminded me of a (nice) cafeteria or fast food joint, not really a cozy place to sit and relax. It's kind of the opposite of Dineen coffee a few blocks north, which has a beautiful decor and meh coffee.

Oct 15, 2014
Gary in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

The Cabbagetown is becoming the new Ossington

Don't forget Kingyo and Zakkushi.

Sep 05, 2014
Gary in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

2014 Restaurant and Food Store CHANGES and CLOSINGS

PicNic Wine Bar on Queen East in Riverside/Leslieville seems to be closed. I first noticed the windows papered over a few weeks ago, today I crossed the street to read the notice and it was simply a "thank you for your support" message. It didn't say unequivocally that they were closed forever, but it sure looks that way.

Sep 01, 2014
Gary in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Anyone been to Cluny in the Distillery yet?

Just bumping this up a bit to see if anyone has tried Cluny more recently than the July reviews in this thread? Once the summer tourist hordes die down in September we're thinking of giving it a shot, just making sure it's going to be worthwhile...

Sep 01, 2014
Gary in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

What is the worst item you bought at the LCBO in 2014?

Hands down: Trafalgar Mead Braggot.

http://www.lcbo.com/lcbo/product/traf...

I've had mead and I've enjoyed it. I've had ale and I've enjoyed it. So something that expertly combines the best of mead and ale should be good, right? Maybe a nice malty beer with a hint of honey? No. Make that a disgusting sour concoction with a strong medicinal alcohol aftertaste. No sweetness from the mead, no maltiness from the beer, just... ugh.

I drank a tiny bit of it, coerced my wife try a sip so she'd understand how ludicrously horrible it was, and then dumped the rest down the sink. I have no idea if this was what the product was supposed to taste like or whether the bottle had somehow gone off, but I wasn't about to try it a second time to find out.

The only worthwhile thing I got for my $10 was the fact that after I scraped off the label I was left with a kind of cool brown ceramic jug to put on a shelf next to our plants. Consolation prize.

Aug 28, 2014
Gary in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Nam Sandwich Shop

I'd not heard of this place, so I just looked it up. Seems it's on Queen West just across from Trinity Bellwoods.

http://www.blogto.com/restaurants/nam...

Will definitely give it a shot next time I'm out that way looking for a quick lunch.

ISO: Grocery shopping bags with short handles (in Toronto)

Wow, I thought my wife and I were the only people with this problem! Trying to hold too-long bags up in the air is hard on the arms after a few blocks. The worst is when you go to step up on a curb and the bottom of a bag hits it and breaks something inside.

Sobey's sells some good re-usable bags:

- The best are the smaller square two-tone green ones they sell that have a zipper across the top. They're mostly suitable for smaller trips, but they hold more than you'd think at first glance because they have square edges and flat bottoms. The zipper is also handy to help keep food cool in the summer, or if you need to visit additional stores and don't want to look like too much like a shoplifter.

- Second best at Sobey's are the bigger bags that are mostly white with dark green trim. They have a short height but are really wide and square-bottomed so they hold a lot and are comfortable for carrying.

Aug 16, 2014
Gary in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

County General Riverside

We've been twice to this place in recent weeks and been really pleasantly surprised.

The first time we just had drinks on their narrow patio. The beer list is interesting (though all bottles and cans) and the mixed drinks are above average. "The Hardware" was particularly good, it's a variant on a Boulevardier and a really nice balance of sweet and bitter.

The second time we tried a variety of snacks and small plates, including the fried green tomato, beef salad cold rolls, dark wing duck and the steak tartare. All were tasty and well-balanced, we were surprised (in a good way) by the Asian flavour profile on many dishes -- something about the name "County General" brought vision of US-south cooking. The duck had a nice hoisin glaze contrasted with a carrot/ginger slaw that worked really well. We closed out with a cinnamon-rollish dessert that wasn't too sweet.

The place seems to fill up quick, even on a weeknight, and we noticed a very mixed crowd of younger, older, and new parents with babies. Definitely a great neighbourhood spot, I wish I lived a bit closer.

Glancing around the room, the kale salad seems to be a winner.

Aug 14, 2014
Gary in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

What is the new place beside Lady Marmalade in Leslieville?

According to Google and Google Maps, Lady Marmalade is at 898 Queen St E, and the restaurant beside it is at 896 Queen St E. This is now occupied by a restaurant called "Braised", which replaces former occupants Le Canard Mort and Bistro 896. http://braised.ca/

Aug 14, 2014
Gary in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Local Beer Recs?

Kensington Brewery's "Fruitstand Watermelon Wheat" is an interesting one, a lighter refreshing beer that's suitable since it's August -- they brewed it as a one-off last summer and demand was so strong they brought it back again this year.

http://www.kensingtonbrewingcompany.c...

Aug 06, 2014
Gary in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Sweet Japanese Curry at Yonge and Gerrard

We finally checked this place out today. It's the real deal. The curries were delicious and complex, and the pork and chicken cutlets were perfectly fried. Very similar to Go! Go! Curry! in NYC, perhaps even a bit better. Wonderfully friendly and enthusiastic owners. It's actually nice quiet spot down in the food court, once you find it!

Aug 01, 2014
Gary in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Anyone been to Cluny in the Distillery yet?

Glad to hear this sounds promising. We're holding back on visiting because I heard it's run by the same people as El Catrin which also looks beautiful but had mediocre and very expensive food both times we visited. I'm concerned Cluny might be similar, but perhaps they're destined for something better....

Jul 09, 2014
Gary in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Mr. Ciao Pizza & Pasta - 598 Gerrard St E at Broadview

We tried them during a soft open a few weeks back, but they had pretty much the full menu on offer. The "fried pizza" was really good, not at all what I thought -- for some reason I pictured a sort of panzerotti or pizza pocket thing dunked in a deep fryer. On the contrary, it's a fairly normal pizza where the bottom crust/dough is lightly fried before baking, which gives it a fluffy crispy texture and a richer more savoury flavour, at least to my tastebuds. We also tried a few other things: a very good pesto pasta and some fried olives which were enjoyable in moderation.

It's the same very friendly people who run the Triple A bar, this place has a similar vibe but a bit more family friendly. And they have a patio. Definitely heading back.

Jul 03, 2014
Gary in Ontario (inc. Toronto)
1

Great food, informal atmosphere

I think there are very few restaurants in Toronto these days where a jacket and tie would be expected, as the trend in recent years is for good food in a more relaxed environment.

But I think for a good recommendation we'd need a few more details, like how much you're looking to spend, what age range you'd feel comfortable with (ie. do you seek a restaurant filled with 20-somethings and loud ironic 80's rap music, or somewhere more "adult", for example?) and whereabouts you're looking to be geographically.

Offhand for decent food-centric restaurants with fairly professional service and non-stuffy environment/dress codes, you might be interested in places like Origin, Daisho at Momofuku, Nota Bene, Carbon Bar, all of which are more or less within a reasonable walk or drive of the downtown core. Most would have mains priced in the $20-$30ish price range, or smaller sharing plates that would add up to similar.

Jun 05, 2014
Gary in Ontario (inc. Toronto)
1

Market Street Redevelopment... new restaurants coming.

There is an official website for this redevelopment here:
http://tastesofmarketstreet.com

Olive & Olive was the first to open and I go there every few weeks for certain tasty canned olives that we first found at their Leslieville store. They focus exclusively on olives and olive oils and related things, we'll see if that's enough considering the Market is right next door.

We've also tried Bindia, and while it didn't blow us away and was a bit on the pricey side, we plan to give them another shot when we're craving curry. There are essentially no other Indian food options in the area.

Market Street Catch opened recently and it's a spin-off from Buster's Sea Cove in the South Market. We had some fish tacos and fish and chips there the week they opened, and aside from a being a little oversalted they were quite good. The menu is pretty extensive for those who are adventurous with sea food.

A beautiful-looking outlet of Balzac's Coffee just opened a few weeks back. I'm not really a fan of their coffee but man do I love their decors.

And just this week, Evolution Food Co. is supposed to be opening. From what I can see, it's a restaurant that offers "healthy" food like salads and lean meats along with a juice bar and yogurt bar.

Barsa Taberna really seems to be getting mixed reviews in their early days, I'm intrigued by the space but will wait. They seem to have initiated an identity crisis by being a sort-of-but-not really tapas joint.

I think the big game changer will be Pastizza, which will have its own building at the south end of the street. I think that will be the restaurant that determines whether this strip will be a legitimate restaurant destination for Torontonians or just a tourist trap that survives solely on proximity to the Market.

But for now, I think this is the one of the best things that's happened in Toronto for a long time. It makes so much sense and really adds to the historic feel of the area. Kudos to all these restaurants for taking a chance on these new spaces. I hope they all do well.

Jun 03, 2014
Gary in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Monk's Table Sliding?

I tried that Monk's Hearth place during its brief existence and it was one of the more laughable pub experiences of my life. I chalked it up to newness and thought maybe I'd try it again in a few months, but then it closed.

Jun 03, 2014
Gary in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

black irish whiskey & oyster bar - whole fried clams coming when?

They're advertising a soft opening "sneak preview" tonight and tomorrow on their Facebook page. Not sure what it will entail, whether it will be a full bar and menu or not. Will probably drop by to check it out.

May 30, 2014
Gary in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

2014 Restaurant and Food Store CHANGES and CLOSINGS

Went in there when it first opened, nice little store but my first thought was "how can this possibly make enough money to stay open?" So I'm not surprised.

Mar 16, 2014
Gary in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Have you ever been censored by Chowhound moderator? I have many times!!

It's happened to me before, early on when I did things like mention theoretical food poisoning, but I soon realized that the strict moderation is what kept Chowhound on topic and useful.

I have to say that on the Toronto board lately the moderators seem to have vanished, and every thread now has long meandering off-topic threads, complete with jokes and insults and idiocy, to the point that I return to Chowhound less often. When I open up a thread that seems interesting more often than not it contains no actual food or restaurant reviews,

Mar 14, 2014
Gary in Site Talk
1

Upcoming Toronto Visit

If you're looking for an upscale pub option with an interesting menu, the Oxley is in Yorkville, very close to your hotel. Not cheap but in my opinion better and more interesting than the Irish Embassy (which is very loud) or P. J. O'Briens (where regulars get friendly service, everyone else, notsomuch.)

Bindia dishes? Located near St Lawrence market

We tried this place a couple months ago, not long after it opened. It's part of the beautiful new little "restaurant row" on Market St but I don't think many people have discovered that strip yet. That should change this summer when the tourist hordes descend.

We picked up food to go, so I can't really judge the table service. The people we dealt with seemed helpful enough. The decor inside is very nice, a bit of that slightly formal vibe most Indian restaurants seem to have, but with a few modern touches.

The butter chicken, biryani rice and pakoras were quite tasty, and we enjoyed them all. However we also got some sort of vegetable curry that wasn't at all what we were expecting. Perhaps we ordered wrong but it was kind of thin and bland and had little cubes of vegetables like peas and carrots in it. Wouldn't order that particular dish again. Maybe the seafood options are more interesting but my wife is allergic to shellfish and we played it safe.

The biggest knock was that the prices seemed to be on the higher side for what you get, and we used a coupon, too. There are a lot of places in the area where the two of us could eat in for the same price or less including a couple beers.

All in all it was fine, and it's good to have an Indian option in the neighbourhood, but we haven't felt a need to rush back.

Mar 07, 2014
Gary in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

World’s Biggest Bookstore to become restaurant row

This restaurant row makes sense from a business perspective and will do very well with tourists and visitors, though it likely will attract larger chains and won't be a "foodie" destination. That's fine, there's lots of room for everything in Toronto.

This is the core of downtown, a stone's throw from the Eaton Centre, Dundas Square, the giant Aura condo, and Ryerson University. The subway station is right there and people visiting the area by car will have already parked in one of the underground garages nearby, they won't want to drive again to eat.

As for the area being dangerous, that's silliness, downtown Toronto is one of the safest of any large city. The unfortunate Jane Creba shooting was almost 10 years ago, and the more recent food court incident was a (very stupid) settling of a private score that could have happened anywhere. 50,000 people a day pass through Dundas and Yonge, more people than the population of most towns in Canada, that's why many things happen near there, good and bad.

And skyscraper shade? Well, tall buildings are all over downtown, and restaurants everywhere with patios are booming, I see no reason why this spot would be different.

2014 Restaurant and Food Store CHANGES and CLOSINGS

Too bad, but I'm not surprised. That location has seen a string of failed restaurants and pubs over the past decade. It's surrounded by offices and condos and lively areas but (im)perfectly positioned in a bit of a pedestrian deadzone because of the one-way traffic on the Adelaide speeding to the DVP.

Feb 08, 2014
Gary in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

2014 Restaurant and Food Store CHANGES and CLOSINGS

Looks like Olé Olé, the Mexican/Spanish reincarnation of Kultura on King St East is finished. There's a landlord seizure notice on the door and uncleared tables inside strewn with dead flowers. Only lasted a few months, it was never busy.

Feb 08, 2014
Gary in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Chipotles in adobo sauce?

I agree these are hit-and-miss to find. Sometimes grocery stores have them, sometimes they don't. Our Sobey's recently cut back its little Tex-Mex section and no longer have them. I managed to find a large can at the Rabba at Front & Sherbourne recently, on the bottom of an end of an aisle nowhere near any related products. We divided and froze them for future use, since one or two of those things go a long way in most recipes.

Feb 01, 2014
Gary in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

2014 Restaurant and Food Store OPENINGS!!

Noticed signs in the window this week for a new location of South St. Burger Co. on the northeast corner of King St East at Princess St. This is right near Betty's bar, across from the former Toronto Sun building.

The location was formerly Visitor Parking, a furniture store, and it seems pretty big for a burger restaurant. Could do okay with a lot of new condos in the area, though, as well as George Brown students. Would be nice if it was licensed.

Jan 17, 2014
Gary in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Where to buy Mexican Chocolate?

Perola's on Augusta Ave in Kensington Market does sell bricks of imported Mexican chocolate, which I used a few years ago in a moderately successful attempt to make mole. I recall they had a few different brands. Definitely a good place to start, and even if they don't carry exactly what you're looking for, they'd probably have some suggestions on where (or if) you can find it in Toronto.

Rice - which type and where?

I think it depends what you are doing with the rice. If you're having it with Asian foods then you'll probably want something similar to Jasmine rice, which is fairly sticky (if not rinsed) and has a nice aroma for eating plain on the side. If you're having it with Indian food like curry, or if you're making Biryani, you'd usually want Basmati rice, which is longer grain and less sticky. If you're making Italian risotto, you need a starchy shorter grained rice like Arborio.

Beyond that, there are a million varieties so it probably depends on what you like. If you're in an experimental mood check out Rube's Rice at the St. Lawrence Market, Rube is gone (RIP) but they still have a vast selection of rices so you can just buy small quantities in bulk to try out without obligating to a $20 bag up front.

Jan 04, 2014
Gary in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Where is good BBQ food in Toronto?

Triple A Bar at Adelaide and Jarvis does very-respectable-for-Toronto BBQ in a Texas style, that is, ribs, brisket, pulled pork, chili (authentic Texas - no beans!), fried chicken & waffles, as well as various rotating daily specials. I find the ribs to be hit and miss (sometimes great, sometimes just okay) but the rest of the menu is very consistent and always prepared with care and attention to detail. Decent beer selection and the place is run by super nice people. http://tripleabar.ca/

Truly best espresso in 2013

This is extremely subjective, there is no "truly best" of any food or beverage.

Personally, I strongly second JonasBrand's recommendation of Fahrenheit. In terms of taking their espresso very seriously while also being very cool and non-pretentious Sameer and company are the clear winners.

I enjoy the coffee and ambiance at both locations of the Rooster Coffee House. The Black Canary at Sherbourne & Adelaide makes very consistent and drinkable espresso (although I almost always get Americanos there, I drink them black, and I have tried their espressos a few times.)

When I'm in Leslieville I like Mercury Espresso.

When I'm inside the St. Lawrence Market I like Pasta Mia (on the lower level, south-east corner).

When I'm in the west end, I like Jimmy's on Portland St.

When I'm in Kensington Market I like Moonbean.

I personally have not enjoyed most of the coffees I've tried from Dark Horse (neither the Spadina, John St. or Riverdale locations), Sam James in the PATH (acrid a la Starbucks), the new Academy Coffee on the Esplanade (weirdly vegetal/sour and never the same twice), or Dineen Coffee at Yonge & Temperance (all style, no substance). But others name these as their go-to spots, so who am I to judge?