January 8, 2015 Toronto
Not Your Standard Travel Guide: Toronto
As you may already know, I spent most of December back home in Canada for the holidays. One of my favourite things about visiting Toronto again is seeing how quickly the city changes. I was especially amazed by the evolution of Toronto’s food scene, featuring completely new culinary concepts, authentic offerings from every country on the map, proper cocktails, and spirited atmospheres. A lot of restaurants have also put strong emphasis on decor and service, which makes your whole dining experience even more memorable.
It was refreshing to go back to a city you think you know so well and be pleasantly surprised by its transformations. My days were filled with meetings, delicious lunches and dinners, lovely coffee dates, and Raptors basketball games.
I’m happy to share my must-visits with you for your next trip to beautiful Toronto, Canada.
Colette Grand Café – One of my favourite spots in the city, this French-inspired cafe is just as gorgeous as it is delectable. Colette opened within the past year and serves brunch, lunch and dinner in the most elegant of ways. Step away from the concrete jungle for an afternoon and enjoy espressos, buttery pastries and macarons. Better yet, take the time to enjoy dinner along their velvet banquettes. The French cuisine will not disappoint and the service is impeccable.
Mozzarella with sliced poached pear, candied pistachios.
Halibut with king oyster mushrooms, lentils, watercress, garlic sauce & brioche brown butter crumb.
Whole trout, frisee, poached mussels, soft and crunchy fennel, billi bi sauce.
Bar Isabel – Tucked away at College and Ossington, this spot will make you feel like you’ve have stepped back in time for the evening, with red ambient lighting, wood interior, and vintage decor to create a flirty, intimate vibe. It’s all about Spanish sharing plates here alongside a very impressive list of cocktails. I also love that this place stays open late, which is something Toronto truly needs. It’s a cozy yet active spot that makes you feel like you don’t need any other plans for the night; just gather some people and enjoy their company with communal plates and some very strong drinks. Reservations highly recommended.
East Thirty Six – I loved every one of the five or so share plates I sampled at this relative newcomer to the city’s resto scene, featuring inventive creations both on the table and from behind the bar. I love its New York-style speakeasy ambiance and the service was truly exceptional. Highlights for me were the scallop crudo and Ontario pickerel.
Woodlot – This charming restaurant has a very concise menu comprised of Canadian comfort food with an elevated execution. It’s among my absolute favourites in the city; honest, unpretentious, and prepared using mostly local ingredients. Their breads and wine selection are spot on.
The Chase – The Chase sits on the top level of a beautiful historic building in the heart of the Financial district. The atmosphere embodies upscale dining at it’s best, featuring innovative touches on exceptional selections of fish, meat and seasonal produce. It’s the perfect choice for a refined palette. For a more casual dining experience, head downstairs to the The Chase Fish and Oyster.
Pizzeria Libretto – You really can’t find a better pie in the city. Their gem of a Wood-fired Neapolitan-style oven bakes your pizza in less than 90 seconds at 900 degrees, delivering an unbeatably crunchy crust. I highly recommend starting with the buttermilk-fried calamari.
The Good Press – This is my organic fruit and veggie heaven! You’ll find Acai bowls, free-pressed juices, and smoothies; a great healthy option when you’re on-the-go.
Fresh – My go-to lunch spot for quick, nutrition-packed options. Definitely try the all-star salad with tahini dressing.
The Drake Hotel – The spot for brunch in the West End. Your late start to the day wouldn’t be complete without their famed eye-opening – a Canadian staple, for those visiting from abroad.
R2 – One of the best Americanos in the city with a rotating selection of baked goodness; a great spot to work with your laptop.
Yorkville & Bloor Street West – the whole area is filled with everything from charming boutiques to major international brands and Canadian flagships of the world’s top fashion houses. Be sure to check out Holt Renfrew for a luxury shopping experience, as well as Anthropologie and Free People for the perfect gift.
West Queen West (between Bathurst and Gladstone) – This diverse neighbourhood is strongly influenced by an artistic presence, comprised of unique boutiques, cafes, art galleries, and impressive restaurants flourishing in the area’s growing foodie scene.
Ossington – Your go-to ‘hood for craft brews, unpretentious nightlife and treasures like Jonathan + Olivia (always an amazing piece to be found here), Boehmer Restaurant, and Reposado if tequila’s your calling.
Little Italy – How could I not mention this particularly charming strip of College Street? Impressive restaurants are popping up all over the area, and it goes without saying you’ll find some of the city’s best bakeries, delis, and gelato here (Dolce is worth recommending).
Pantages Hotel – I had the privilege of staying in the heart of downtown at the Pantages Hotel, which was ideally located for all my meetings and just steps away from the subway, Eaton Centre and Massey Hall. It was spacious, hospitable and exactly what I needed during my hurried stay. Not to mention, I had a full kitchenette and bar area to make me feel right at home.
Four Seasons – A luxury accommodation in the middle of Yorkville, classy elegance surrounds your every step from the moment you check-in. Staying the night or not, definitely take the time to head to Daniel Bouloud’s acclaimed dbar at lunch time for the most incredible lobster salad.
THINGS TO KNOW
– Public transit is $3.
– Reservations are almost always welcome.
– Avoid driving anywhere in the city after 4:30pm – this include taking taxis – as traffic is unmanageable.
– Attending a Toronto Raptors game is a great winter option and arguably the city’s best sports experience.
– Last call is 2 a.m. – so get your drink on early!