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Best bang for your buck? Downtown TO

Oh so many to choose from...

South Indian Dosa Mahal
California Sandwiches
Whopper Wednesdays
Kensington Market
Chinatown - two words - lunch special
Patty King
Chip truck at City Hall (the blue truck)
Banh Mi sandwiches on Spadina
any good churrasquierra
Harbord Fish & Chips

Damn am I ever hungry now...


Good Egg in Kensington Market has Marmite, bought some last week for a friends birthday. It's what he asked for, and who am I to question a bizarre birthday least he didn't want a Marmite cake...

Caplansky's Amazing Smoked Meat Sandwich

Funny. My wife and I, several of our friends, even my in-laws and my folks all frequent the Monarch. Are we sketchy customers? Guess we must be if we're dining in such a dive.

I was in a while ago and realized that there were two senators at one table, and another had some rather prominent businesspeople, the ones you read about a lot. I guess they're sketchy too...

It ain't a dive. It's old yes, but not too run down. The food is, in a word, working-class fare. Meat, fat, starch, with veg low on the list. The staff and patrons can be a tad rough around the edges but that does not mean hygiene, cleanliness in the kitchen and proper food handling go out the window.

To each their own. If some people find it too divey and the patrons too sketchy, well, that's too bad for them. They're missing out on a lot with that attitude. Either way, it means more seats for the rest of us who deign to dine with the proles.

Caplansky's Amazing Smoked Meat Sandwich

Just as an aside - I was at Caplansky's last night for the Mines Action Canada fundraiser. Packed house which is good to see. Zane went out of his way to support what I think is a very worthy cause. And...wait for it...he made a very delicious vegetarian chili. I mean really, really good. Not too fiery and there was a hint of chocolate to it...

And of course the sandwich, slaw, poutine and fries were excellent as usual.

Caplansky's Amazing Smoked Meat Sandwich

We'll all disagree on thing or another, fact of life. But we all (for the most part) agree that it's some damn fine smoked meat. Hell, if he were serving it at the 'cafe' at Bathurst station, I'd be there...

One thing about the Monarch experience. It is one of the last of its kind. It's not a chain, you can bring your own food in and it's not staffed by overly perky servers trying to sell you the latest flavoured shooter or frozen delicacy right from Sysco foods.

Caplansky's Amazing Smoked Meat Sandwich

Divey and dirty? I don't think so. Zane has set up shop in an honest working bar. There's no wine list, no linen, no reservations. You go in, get some great smoked meat and other treats and enjoy the sights and sounds. I've been to Caplansky's, a lot. I've been to the Monarch, a lot. It isn't dirty in any way shape or form. Sure, the stairs are dark and might smell a bit but hey, so do most places at some time or another. I'm sure the language was colourful, but outside of church, you hear it every day, from the lowest food court to the highest end resto. It's a fact of life.

I figure if it's good enough for Madam Justice Abella, it's good enough for me and any kid I know. As to Zane's presence, bear in mind it's a one man show, things have to be bought, delivered, picked up and the like. I'm sure he'd love to be in the kitchen or meeting customers, but it's a business first. I hope he stays there for a while longer, he's brought some great food to the hood, and it's a nice change from California et al.

A private room to show a movie

Try the Victory on Markham just south of Bloor. Easy to get to, and the upstairs has hosted many different things. If you're not into going to Camera, that's the only place I can think of.

Where to find Solomon-a-Gundy?

Have you tried Kensington Market? There's the two Caribbean shops that seem to have everything along with a couple of fishmongers that might be of assistance. And all on Baldwin too...

Bar Italia - bad experience

I think it could have been better handled by the resto for sure. It's definitely sparked a series of discussions on here. My experience with a lot of College street dining establishments is that they expect another customer to arrive shortly. It could have been that they were expecting more people to show, in which case that could have been better communicated to you.

But more importantly, where did you end up going on College?

Unique Toronto Breakfast Recs.

Tex Mex for the most part - Huevos Rancheros and the like, and it's good. It's a divey place but in a good way. Grab a booth, grab a newspaper and dig in.

Bar Italia - bad experience

Wow. This is really bringing out the passion in people. I think it's an endless topic and there will always be opposing views. But, here's how I would have handled it from either side:

1) If I have a resto and there are booths, yes I would like to fill them up with larger groups. But, if two people come in and request one during off hours, I would more than happily give them one. However, I would tell them that I would appreciate their help if I need to accommodate a sudden appearance of a larger group. If I did have to move them, I'd find a way to make it easy and pleasant and comp them something.

2) If I go into a place and request a specific table, I don't want to hear that it's a 'just in case' space for a larger group. I don't request these things for the sheer hell of it, I have a reason. Telling me that it's 'policy' or it's only for larger groups isn't on. Did someone specifically reserve it? Will it be filled up in the next hour? Are you sure about that? Should I come in, request a booth, get denied, sit at a table to dine and see that booth (or whatever other special seat it is you want) sit empty the entire time, I'm going to be a tad sour.

It's all about negotiations - you be cool with me and I'll be cool with you. You dick me around with arbitrary seating rules or demand a seat that I know will be needed shortly and the whole house of cards collapses.

Can't we all just get along?

Unique Toronto Breakfast Recs.

Might I be so bold as to suggest Sneaky Dee's? Or, if you're in a south of the border frame of mind, Tacos El Asador at Bloor and Clinton. Salvadoran brekkie to start the day off right.

(Toronto) Thoughts on Caplansky's?

HD - I really disagree. The Monarch has a subtle charm to it, one that you don't find much anymore and as for the service, give'em a break. They've been slammed since day one and I think they're trying very hard to accommodate everyone and explain the rather unusual system of ordering food and drink.

I find the sandwiches are, for the most part, great. When they weren't, I told Zane and he appreciated knowing. As it turns out, he was using a different supplier. As for the fries, the poutine, the slaw and the knish. Suffice it to say I've developed a 12-step program to help me manage my intake.

Toronto street food dumbness

Toronto is never going to have vibrant street food. Period. We might as well get used to it. Sure it's 'possible' to get a falafel stand or empanada stand going, provided you have deep pockets and are willing to be treated the same as a bricks and mortar establishment.

Of course that will eliminate everyone but those with the money, time and facilities. So, no crepe carts, no taco cart, no espresso cart, no smoothie cart etc. I've eaten street food in several cities, in several countries. It adds a vibrancy to the streets, colour, smells, sound. But, Toronto council is just a tad reticent to take that step. It's a big one.

As for the comments about restaurant kitchens being cleaner than home kitchens, I beg to differ. I know numerous cooks who pride themselves on a spotless and sanitary kitchen at home, and I know a few restaurants who wouldn't want you poking through their reach-ins too. And really, if someone is serving food from one of the few carts available, I suspect they'll be under such scrutiny and pressure that the last thing they'd allow to happen is bad or off food to be served.

I say bring on the carts, expand the menu and relax. We'll all enjoy it.

Jan 19, 2009
escoffier in Food Media & News

Mid-Range, locally slanted dinner recs?

While I can't promise on the food, the Cloak and Dagger (College, west of Borden, east of Lippincott, right by Kensington Market) has a great draught beer selection (lots of micro and local stuff) and is a funky little place to hang out. And hey, it's right by Kensington Market and close to some very nice places on College in Little Italy and resto row on Harbord street.

Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee?

Check out House of Spice on Kensington Market. They've got an enviable selection of coffee. If not there, then Salamanca Dry Goods on Baldwin might have it or a reasonable approximation.

Damn. Now I want a coffee...

Lunch recommendation Queen & University

Second Osgoode Hall. Make a reso, don't tell them where you're going and wow'em when they walk in. There's also Cooks on 8 in the Bay at Queen and Bay. I haven't been there in a while though - anyone have any current knowledge?

Marks & Spencers Shrimp Prawn Cocktail Snacks?

I think you can find an ersatz substitute in Chinatown. Some of the larger grocery stores carry shrimp flavoured chips that are similar to the M&S kind.

Great Mexican in Toronto?

I've been three times over a year and a half, and each time I've found both the food and the service to be lacking. They've managed to consistently get our orders wrong, they've served us food that had to be sent back to be reheated, somehow they put meat in the vegetarian order (twice), and really, the food is boring and bland - there's no spice, no heat, no passion in the preparation. If I'm looking for that kind of thing, I can find it all over the city. If I'm looking for well executed and tasty Mexican food, I'll head to El Trompo or Dos Amigos.

But that's just me - chacun a son gout.

Hawaii Restaurant on Dovercourt

I don't know if you'll find it here. It's more Chinese if I recall correctly. Mind you I usually found myself in there with some mates after a pint or seven so my memory is what you might call hazy. Give it a whirl, buy the ticket, take the ride and let us know what it's like.

Great Mexican in Toronto?

I second El Trompo. There's also La Tortilleria down in Kensignton Market and, when they were there, those wonderful ladies in the back of Perola. And although it's not Mexican, Tacos El Asador is my favourite place in town for latino cooking.

I've heard great things about El Jacal but haven't been, yet.

Two to avoid at all costs are El Sol on the Danforth, nothing but grease and gristle and Mexitaco at Bloor and Shaw, an exercise in tasteless cuisine.

What's your most disappointing dining experience?

Most disappointing? Cafe du Lac. First the space - Quebecois style cuisine served in a space better suited to College street is a tad off-putting. It felt cold, uninviting and generic. I don't mean the walls need to covered in tchochkes but something to warm up the space wouldn't be a bad thing. The service? Verrry average. They could barely decant our lovely '93 Bordeaux and had to be asked for water and cutlery. And the food...well, in a word, meh. I've had worse, and I've had much much better. Duck that was flavourless, soup ditto, dessert an adventure in bland. My dining companions all had the same reactions to their food. Boring with a capital B. Finish it off with a most unadventurous cheese plate and call it a night.

Most fulfilling? Caplansky's. And the Gallery Grill.

Cooking wine??

I'd hit the LCBO and pick up a 1 litre bottle of one of the plonky French reds and white. It's cheap and cheerful and will meet your needs. That's pretty much the only place you'll be able to purchase anything decent. Anything you pick up elsewhere won't be the same.

Best brunch in Roncesvalles/Ossington/High Park area?

If you can make it to College and Bathurst there's always Sneaky Dee's, Nirvana, Maggies or Utopia.

FISH HEADS (and bones)! FRESH. (preferably sole, turbot, rockfish or snapper)

Two words for you; Kensington Market. There are several fish stores on Baldwin between Augusta and Kensington that have all number of fresh fish and will have all the parts you need. You'll also be able to pick up all the other ingredients at the same time. LCBO on Spadina, and all the other items are readily available in the market.

Bonne chance.

Tapas-like restaurant

Ah. Well then. I haven't been in a while. When they did have the tapas style I liked it but if that's gone then really, what's the point. Just another Italian place on College...

Wine newbie, what to pair with medeterranian food? (Shawarma, falafel, rice, potato)

I've always found that a good vinho verde goes remarkably well with Mediterranean cuisine. It's a good cheap and cheerful standby that compliments the food and goes with pretty much anything.

Tapas-like restaurant


Torito on Augusta south of College is a good one.
Black Hoof on Dundas west of Bathurst is another.
Mezzetta on St. Clair at Christie is a personal favourite.
Sorrisso on College at Clinton isn't bad either.

a nice wine

I'd really suggest going to an LCBO with a decent sized Vintages and speaking to the people there. Summerhill, the mother ship on Lakeshore, any larger Vintages with a dedicated staffer. Once you've decided on wine and/or cheese combinations, you can buy appropriately.


Get thee to College Street. Little Italy to be precise. You'll find them at Riviera Bakery and Centro Formaggio.