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One local's guide to Niagara-on-the-Lake and surrounding area (long!)

Thanks for this, Jo. It has saved me one helluva lot of wild chasing around, uneven research, uneducated guesses and other inevitable outsider faux pas when next I venture into Niagara. Though I knew some of your choices from your previous posts, this puts it all nicely and concisely together. (Alas, if only you were still around to tip me off on where to go and what to eat in your previous bailiwick in and around North Toronto.)

Jul 20, 2014
juno in Ontario (inc. Toronto)
2

Anyone been to Dragon Pearl Buffet recently? Or better quality Chinese buffet recommendation?

As it's not far from where I live, I get to Dragon Buffet, on York Mills Rd. just east of Leslie St. (most recently this week), when I'm not sure what I want to eat, or not particularly particular, or with several others who aren't sure what they want to eat. In short, it's ideal for a group like yours. It's a large, well-run spot - can't compare it to Dragon Legend, where I've never been - with good service and a wide range of acceptable fare (for a buffet). Perpetually busy with a mainly Chinese clientele - groups, families and such - who seem to be enjoying themselves. It takes a few visits before you get the hang of what's good and what's neither here nor there. I like the hand-pulled noodle soup, the salad bar and some of the Chinese hot table dishes, especially the chicken wings, the green beans and a couple of other veggie dishes in that section. The sushi bar isn't up to much, but is at least edible. I don't care for the duck, BBQ ribs or the dim sum at all, but others seem to like it. The roast beef station does a decent roast beef and a few of its side dishes are okay as well. Pastries are mostly tasteless, but the fruits - watermelon, pineapple, melons and such - are an all-right way to finish anyway. Well-trained staff remove used dishes from tables almost immediately, and keep the water glasses filled. It's 20% off for seniors over 65 (similar to other Chinese buffets in town). Tuesdays offer substantially lower prices for everyone, at least till the end of July. Prices higher on weekends. over-the-top decor will have you chuckling. Heavy chairs may make it tough for older diners to push back when they're ready to tackle the buffet for another round. I've seen a few who've needed help from younger relatives.

Jul 01, 2014
juno in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Good restaurants open on Sunday around Bayview and Finch?

Another vote for Sun Star, a good mid-level spot with a devoted local clientele, which can get busy on Sunday nights. Best to go early (about 6 p.m.) or later (after 8 p.m.) on Sundays, though waits during prime time are usually not terribly long. I'm partial to the Taiwanese style spicy mixed ($6.50). if you're not sure what to order from the vast menu, ask the regulars at the next table. They'll be happy to advise.

Jun 22, 2014
juno in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Fresh Tuna $3.99/lb

I wouldn't mind getting to the bottom of what constitutes "fresh" in the fish business. Diana's, the fish and seafood purveyor, makes quite clear which of its products are "previously frozen" and which are "fresh", which to me means it has never been "previously frozen". Perhaps there's a middle ground, in which fish being shipped long distances are packed "on ice" - therefore technically still fresh upon arrival - rather than "in ice", which would qualify it as frozen. Can any fish/seafood scholar enlighten us?

In any event, $3.99 a pound for tuna, no matter what species, fresh or previously frozen, is worth taking a shot at - at least once.

Jun 22, 2014
juno in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Fresh Tuna $3.99/lb

Tuna loin at Diana's, on Lawrence Ave. East - in my view, the best fish market in town - goes for $15 a pound (a.k.a. $14.99) and barbecues quite nicely. And it is, presumably, fresh, never frozen. (Diana's so-called sushi-grade fresh tuna, which is a distinct step up in quality, is $20 a pound.) I've tried previously-frozen tuna loin at several Chinese fish markets attached to ethnic supermarkets, usually at $10 or so a pound, and find it not as tasty as the fresh, with a muted, lesser mouthfeel - though certainly acceptable at the price. If the tuna loin at Sunny Foodmart is indeed fresh, not previously frozen, it's a mad buy at $3.99. Even if it's previously frozen - more likely, I'd suggest - it's still a pretty good buy.

Jun 21, 2014
juno in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

When can we expect fresh strawberries in Toronto

Pretty good Niagara-grown strawberries have been available the past two weeks at the newish farmers' market just off Avenue Rd. at Roe Ave., between Wilson Ave. and Lawrence Ave. West. The market runs on Thursdays between 3 and 7 p.m. "Picked that morning!", the vendor insists. It's $6 for a small basket. Not at their peak yet, but flavourful, and good for this time of year. Infinitely better than the U.S.-grown strawberries I've been getting recently at nearby supermarkets (though infinitely more expensive, naturally).

Jun 16, 2014
juno in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

New Farmers' Markets Around the GTA

There've been a number of new, once-a-week, smallish farmers' markets popping up lately around Toronto and environs, in offbeat spaces you didn't think it was possible for such enterprises to exist. But exist they do, featuring presumably local food and artisan products. I'd be intrigued to find out which ones are worth seeking out, and which vendors there are worth paying attention to. The nearest startup to me: on Avenue Road at Roe Avenue, between Wilson Ave. and Lawrence Ave. West. Thursdays between 3 and 7 p.m. Started June 5, goes till Oct. 30. About a dozen vendors, of which the best one - for me, anyway - is the fruit vendor from Niagara. Good strawberries at $6 - better, given past lousy weather, than we have a right to expect at this time of year. Also the Harvest Goodies booth for salsas, especially the hot green salsa at $6. There's a sausage maker I haven't tried yet, and a baker of sourdough breads that I'll get around to eventually. Most everything seems to be about $1 or so more than competing items at brick-and-mortar shops, but I suppose that's standard procedure at these local showcases. People gotta make a living. Small attached parking lot, usually packed, but beware of of the gestapo prowling the neighbourhood, dealing out parking tickets to those who rashly venture to park on adjoining side streets with complex, myriad parking no-nos. There's one nearby residential block where you can't even stop without risking a $60 ticket! Kinda takes the fun out of the festivities.

I'd be interested to learn of the best (and maybe the worst) of other small local farmers' markets around town.

Jun 13, 2014
juno in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

L'Avenue Bistro, Leaside - Any one been recently? How good is the food?!

GRobin has assessed L'Avenue accurately. A narrow menu, but what it does, it does well. One of the better French bistros around town. But I've found it's not at its best on summer Saturday nights, when it's packed solid, both inside and on the patio, and both the service and the kitchen suffer, making for erratic delivery of dishes, overcooked fish, that sort of stuff. But I suppose that goes for any popular joint on Saturdays. Haven't tried the Spanish seafood soup.

Jun 13, 2014
juno in Ontario (inc. Toronto)
1

Best whole wheat sour dough or whole grain raisin/other dried fruit bread?

Forno Cultura, an Italian bakery on King St. West near Portland, makes a sourdough and whole wheat seed bread called Filone Integrale ($5) that's mighty tasty. Among the most flavourful loaves I've ingested in a long time.

Jun 09, 2014
juno in Ontario (inc. Toronto)
3

Chowfind: Suliko –Georgian- Steeles Ave W and Dufferin

I regret to learn that Suliko's $3 carrot cake dessert, which was, in my view, the maddest buy in resto desserts throughout the GTA, has been bumped up in price to $4.55. That'll teach us to praise, praise again, then praise once more this enjoyable nosh. Management could clearly not resist a 50% price increase.

Jun 07, 2014
juno in Ontario (inc. Toronto)
1

Need North York recommendation for a 50th wedding anniversary dinner

Quince, mentioned above, is a good choice. I'd have mentioned it, but the OP indicated a preference for Italian, and Quince is more French bistro-ish. Limited menu. (Free corkage on Mon. and Tues.) Zucca, also suggested, is indeed better than Paese, as it should be - it's substantially more expensive. Imaginative menu, quality execution. But you can run up a pretty big bill there, and the OP suggests his/her crowd is price-sensitive. Suliko, off Steeles Ave. west of Dufferin, is an inspired choice, and certainly the best value buy so far on this thread, but Georgian nosh might be construed as too extreme for a group unfamiliar with the cuisine, and more comfortable with solid mid-level Italian. Good place, though, and easy parking. (I didn't know you could bring your own wine for free - there's nothing about it on its website. Thanks for the tip, Vinnie). Coppi? Haven't been in a while. After its last makeover, with all those hard surfaces, it's quite noisy. With prices trending upwards. Wildfire is essentially a good steakhouse, but not for the price-sensitive.

Jun 02, 2014
juno in Ontario (inc. Toronto)
1

Need North York recommendation for a 50th wedding anniversary dinner

If they blanched at the price of Scaramouche, they'll certainly do so at the well-regarded Auberge du Pommier, recommended above - even though your inlaws presumably won't be paying the bill that night. I guess they're price-sensitive no matter who's paying. So let me suggest Paese, an Italian joint on Bathurst St., just north of Wilson Ave. I've been going there for years, and have never been disappointed. Stylish, relaxing atmosphere. Good service from old pros. Just a tad above mid-level pricing - you can check out the menu prices online. Popular with a fussy older crowd that lives nearby. No corkage on bring-your-own-wine every night but Saturday. It's not great, but it's pretty good (certainly better than Paesano's) and, more to the point, consistent. The menu straddles the line between traditional and more modern Italian dishes, so there's something for everyone. Paese has its own parking lot and, if that's filled, there's easy parking on the residential streets off Bathurst.

Don't know Kwan, Origin and, like Otonabee, haven't been to Grano - after a couple of dud dinners - in years. Right around the time I discovered Paese.

Jun 01, 2014
juno in Ontario (inc. Toronto)
1

Bread Lovers Rejoice ! (and get your car keys).

Thanks for the correct translation. I learned something today. It's the "korn" part of the word "Vollkorn" that had me simplistically guessing it was a corn bread. My friend from Cobourg should be delivering a loaf of it to me on Tuesday, and we'll see how it matches up in taste against the wonderful filone integrale at Forno Cultura.

May 16, 2014
juno in Ontario (inc. Toronto)
1

Bread Lovers Rejoice ! (and get your car keys).

To me, it means there is only one Forno Cultura bakery. There are no others. No branches. Nor is it a part of a chain, or a franchise operation. Most everything on its premises is made in house.

May 16, 2014
juno in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Bread Lovers Rejoice ! (and get your car keys).

The tastiest loaf I've sampled in a long, long time is the filone integrale (sourdough and whole wheat seed bread), $5 from Forno Cultura, a smallish one-off Italian bakery on King St. West, just east of Spadina. I was tipped to it by an article in the Globe and Mail some months ago. But I'd be intrigued to taste the Vollkorn recommended by the OP (I'm guessing it's a corn bread loaf). Any loaf that presumably sustains taste the second and third day must be thoroughly investigated. Happily, a friend in Cobourg - who doesn't eat bread - has promised to bring me a loaf of it the next time she ventures into Toronto.

May 14, 2014
juno in Ontario (inc. Toronto)
1

Sandoozles BBQ

It's a pleasant enough joint, as I and a couple of friends - one of whom lives in the neighbourhood - discovered when we dropped in for lunch some months ago. Mid-level pricing, decent enough nosh - though I think the slickly-run Stack, on Yonge St. north of Lawrence, does some of the same menu items better at roughly the same price - and, as noted above, exceedingly casual service. Some menu items unavailable. I got the feeling that the owners, one of whom I think served us, were still feeling their way at the time. The menu has since been tweaked a little, I understand. On a strip of Mount Pleasant with some high-priced resto competition, it offers an lower-priced alternative, but I wouldn't schlep across town for it. Easy-going atmosphere. I liked the brisket well enough, but then, I'm a sucker for brisket, no matter how mishandled it has been. Some good beer choices, but how this place will fare against the long-running Granite Brewery, just up the street, is hard to tell. In short, it's acceptable - "mediocre" would be too harsh a descriptor - though hardly memorable. But then, the same could be said for about two-thirds of all restos in Toronto.

May 13, 2014
juno in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

The Costco Thread - Ontario - 2014 - April to June

Boxes of California navel eating oranges - about 15 oranges per box - for $10.99 at the Wilson and Dufferin warehouse: it'd be worth the price if the oranges were tasty and reasonably juicy. But of the 10 oranges already sampled, four were dry, two were juicy, and four were neither here nor there. I'm not hopeful about the quality of the remaining five. Not the first time I've been disappointed in Costco's bags and/or boxes of oranges. In short, not particularly good value. I suppose I could drive back and wait in that long, long returns line at the warehouse, but it's not worth the time it takes. I'll just remain gun-shy from oranges at Costco.

May 12, 2014
juno in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Chowfind- Suliko- Georgian- Alness and Steeles

I'm sure most everyone who's not an outright naif already does tread warily. Still, if you know how to read - and who to read - with skeptical amusement, you can do reasonably well on sites like Chowhound. I've picked up more good tips than duds on this site over the past few years.

May 08, 2014
juno in Ontario (inc. Toronto)
2

Chowfind- Suliko- Georgian- Alness and Steeles

Thanks for taking the hit at Georgia. It doesn't sound like my kind of joint, though the over-the-top decor may be good for a laugh. If I'm in the mood for that kind of nosh up that way at dinner, I think I'll stick with Suliko, where I know the soups and salads are solid, and the occasional main, as well as the mad-buy $3 carrot cake (so long as it stays at $3).

May 08, 2014
juno in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Chowfind- Suliko- Georgian- Alness and Steeles

A peek at Georgia's website - a resto I'd never heard of before - reveals that there is some, but not all that much, difference between its menu and Suliko's. Or, for that matter, Aragvi's. A few menu items seem out of place if you want authentic Georgian, I suppose - a Cobb salad here, a Caesar salad there, maybe a carrot cake for dessert, or a couple of items you'll usually find in an Israeli and/or Middle Eastern resto - but you can't blame management for wanting to expand its reach beyond those who yearn for nosh just like it was back home in good ol' Georgia. So long as they properly execute the basics.

About Kavkaz, I don't know a thing - other than a review a while back in the Toronto Star. It seems that Kavkaz is a fancier joint, with prices substantially higher than its competitors. My instinct is to try Georgia, to see how it matches against Suliko and Aragvi. Perhaps sakartvelo, who seems to know the place, could advise me what to order there to get the essence of true Georgian cooking.

May 05, 2014
juno in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Yonge & Sheppard

Nine banchan? Wow! That, for sure, wins the banchan award. As to whether the number of banchan on offer has any significance, I knoweth not. (I'll leave that to more learned noshers.) But in my view, the more banchan, the better - so long as they're tasty and diverse. I'd be intrigued to learn the name of the resto that offers you nine.

May 05, 2014
juno in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Yonge & Sheppard

For the past several years, my favourite Korean resto up that way has been Cho Sun OK, in a small plaza on Yonge St. at Clark, north of Steeles Ave.(which I learned about from a tip on this board). It doesn't have quite the wide-ranging menu of Mot Na Son, but what it does - mainly soups/stews - is does well. Locally popular with the Korean community, it's always busy. Attractively priced. I invariably go for the #3, shredded beef brisket stew with scallions in a spicy broth. Highly flavourful. Seven tasty banchan (side dishes), more than most Korean restos offer, come with whatever you order. It's about a 15-minute drive from Yonge and Sheppard.

May 04, 2014
juno in Ontario (inc. Toronto)
1

Chowfind- Suliko- Georgian- Alness and Steeles

A $3 dessert in a town where the average mid-level resto now charges $8-$9 for a sweet ending! How could I resist? I couldn't. So when I and a friend found ourselves driving by Suliko around dinner time last night, I thought I'd give it a whirl. Too late to take advantage of VVM's much-lauded lunchtime deals, alas, but still modestly-priced at dinner. Russian-style nosh is nothing to swoon over, but if you're in the mood, it can be satisfying - and substantial. As at Aragvi on Sheppard Ave. West, the only other Georgian resto I've been to, the soups, salads and small dishes seem better executed, and more attractively presented, than the mains. Borscht and harcho soups are tasty and filling. Cobb salad - Cobb salad in a Georgian resto? - tasty as well, though there's no blue cheese in the salad to stitch all the ingredients together. (Ver vaste: maybe that's how the Georgians do the Cobb.) Didn't try the dumplings, but a nearby table seemed to be enjoying them. A garlicky Cornish hen main was okay - the accompanying, pablum-like mashed potatoes could use some zip and some texture, though. Dreary wine and beer list (with Georgian wines hilariously overpriced), but the same could be said for most Russian-style restos. It's vodka they care about, not wine. As for the $3 carrot cake: it's exactly as VVM describes it. Being a carrot cake buff, I've had better, I've had worse, but at $3 it's just about the maddest sit-down dessert value in town. I'm told it's house made. Available at both lunch and dinner.

Located just off Steeles Ave. West, three stoplights west of Dufferin, in a small, bleak plaza - mind, all the plazas up that way are bleak - with lots of parking. The joint was about one-third full on an early Friday evening, with what I take to be a mostly Russian/Georgian emigre clientele of a certain age. Charming, if somewhat amateurish and slightly overwhelmed, service - they could use another server on the floor. Some erratic pricing. Most dishes are less expensive than at Aragvi and other similar restos, but some are startlingly higher. Altogether, a positive experience, if you can discover and stick with what the kitchen does best. And then, of course, there's that remarkable $3 carrot cake platter.

May 03, 2014
juno in Ontario (inc. Toronto)
1

Best Hummus/Baba Ghanouj

Thanks for resuscitating this old thread, allowing me to blather on about my favourite dips, hummus and baba ghanoush. I lean more to hummus than baba, and many of the names bandied about here are still going strong, especially Arz, Me Va Me and Mashu Mashu. Though I find the once-solid hummus at Jerusalem, on Eglinton Ave., to be kinda lack-lustre nowadays. But there are lotsa good hummus joints around. In my end of town, I like Dr. Laffa, in the Steeles-Dufferin neighbourhood, for sit-down. And, for takeout, the ever-reliable retail store attached to Sababa, on Steeles Ave. West, where three freshly-made and differently-spiced hummuses are dispensed, all delicious. I also find that any good hummus joint usually delivers the goods on other dips, like baba ghanoush, as well.

Apr 30, 2014
juno in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Help me find this Moroccan restaurant - Toronto

You're referring, I think, to the Boujadi Cafe, that popped up on Eglinton Ave. East, was wildly popular, then moved to Eglinton Ave. West - and pooped out. A family-run place, it was solid for awhile, but couldn't sustain consistent quality at comparatively low prices.

Apr 10, 2014
juno in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Help me find this Moroccan restaurant - Toronto

The Walima Cafe turned up at its present location on Avenue Rd., between Lawrence Ave. and Wilson Ave., about a year or so ago, a transplant from its previous long-time location on the Danforth. Nor sure how long it lasted on the Danforth, but perhaps the OP doesn't recall the address correctly (memory does indeed grow furtive with the years), and that it was the Walima on the Danforth where he/she inhaled Moroccan cuisine. In any event, the Walima on Avenue Rd., I've decided in my one visit there last week, is acceptable, but hardly memorable. A charming little spot with stilted service, and some dishes better than others. Flavours seem to be muted. Nothing with much Moroccan zip. From the Danforth to north Avenue Rd. can be quite a change in demographics, with much menu tinkering. Not something I'd travel across town for. Mind, the place was packed the night I was there, and everyone seemed to be having a better time than I was. There's no accounting for taste (including my own), I guess.

Apr 10, 2014
juno in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

The Old Toronto Restaurants you make the wishes for the comeback

Ah yes, Archibald's. Bold flavours. Everything a good-value steak house should be. First-rate ribs, as nostalgiaD recalls. And also a classic Caesar salad, with lots of garlic and anchovy kick, long before timid, bastardized versions of the Caesar began appearing on menus all over town. Good service, a comfortable room. Owned by a genial fellow, whose name I forget, who at one time was a son-in-law in the family that owned Barbarian's. As correctly noted, Archibald's was on Eglinton's north side, several blocks west of Bathurst St., back when you could actually find a place to park on that now-chaotic stretch of Eglinton.

Apr 10, 2014
juno in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Sunday evening feasts and Monday evening dinner deals in Toronto

The Miller Tavern, at Yonge St. and York Mills Rd., offers a prime rib dinner from 4 p.m. on Sundays (and Saturdays as well). In three sizes, starting at $25 for 10 ounces. Includes mashed potatoes, veggies and Yorkshire pudding. Whether it qualifies as "delicious", "memorable", "amazing" or even a good deal, as the OP requested, I knoweth not, because I've never sampled it. But the Miller, which I drop in to occasionally - it's just a five-minute drive from my lodgings - usually does reasonably well with basic dishes like prime rib, steaks and such. Not so much "amazing", more like "satisfying" - if you stay with the tried and true menu items. Spacious, comfortable upstairs dining room overlooks a park. Good service. Attached free parking lot. Reasonably priced wine list (for uptown Yonge St.), with $1 corkage on Mondays.

Apr 07, 2014
juno in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Liver

Here's another vote for the liver and onions at Steeles Deli. It's a deli classic. One of the delis's most popular mains. Maybe not top-quality provimi, but mighty tasty nonetheless, and at about $13-$14, with potatoes and veggies, it's a mad buy. Comes in two sizes, substantial and more substantial. Beats many fancier joints charging $25 and more for just about the same thing. And as farmgirl1836 advises, go for it medium rare.

Apr 03, 2014
juno in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Chinese food with good veg/seafood options near Bayview and Sheppard?

If you go to Sun Star, be aware that the more highly-priced fish and seafood specials - listed on a wall blackboard - are not translated into English. (They used to be, but not any more, probably because the clientele is overwhelmingly Asian.) Which means you'll have to ask the staff for a translation - or, better still, ask a nearby table of regulars. Seasoned veterans that they are, they'll invariably be delighted to recite the merits - and drawbacks - of each dish. A fun place.

Mar 19, 2014
juno in Ontario (inc. Toronto)