Food and Drink Spots in Toronto
I spent over two weeks in the culinary potpourri of Toronto recently and collected some great dining experiences. Although I didn’t find the perfect smoothie (no one makes them like I do), I did end up eating and drinking in some places worth mentioning. Many of these are in the city’s east end, where I spent much of my time:
On weekend mornings expect a lineup of hungry Torontonians waiting patiently outside the door of this casual Belgium-style eatery near King and Jarvis streets. Seeing the massive queues, I couldn’t help but wonder why the bistro had so many devotees. One Wednesday morning I went and sat down in one of the sparkly green diner booths.
The fresh beet-apple-pear juice was a delicious start – but it was the Ham & Cheese Crêpe that opened my eyes to the restaurant’s popularity. Four types of cheese are melted inside and on top of layers of ham infused crêpe, covered in piperade and chive sauce. But could it be a one-hit wonder?
I returned a few days later and tried the Seafood Savoury Crêpe – containing shrimp, cod (substituted for mussels that day), spinach and green onions, smothered in an Asian spiced rosé sauce. Outstanding. The bistro scored two-for-two in the crêpes department, and became, in my mind anyways, a many-hit wonder.
Hidden inside an old, brick office building at King and George streets is a powerhouse of a pizzeria called Mangia & Bevi (meaning “eat and drink” in Italian), or M&B as locals call it. Their thin crust pizzas are irresistible.
The Zucchina seemed to be created just for my palate: tomato sauce, grilled zucchini, mozzarella, goat cheese and mint. It was paired with the server’s perfect wine suggestion – Ripasso Valpolicella – and is a meal that still lingers hauntingly in my memory.
Lots of hip coffee shops line Toronto’s main streets – but just east of the Don Valley Parkway and a couple of blocks north of Queen Street East is a historic jam factory that houses one of the better ones. Merchants of Green Coffee is a social enterprise café that roasts its coffee fresh daily.
Its signature roast is the Cafe Solar®, coffee that is dried using renewable energy from solar panels. The rustic-looking café also offers coffee roasting demos. The space is large and scattered with mismatched tables and chairs in varying sizes. It was one of my favourite places to bring my laptop and work from – their cookies are particularly tasty.
My other favourite place to work is the newly opened Impact Kitchen. Located just west of the Don Valley Parkway on King Street East, this wellness-conscious eatery is full of natural light and healthy vibes.
Lunch is all about the salads and bowls. Try the Kale Caesar or Heartbeet salad (mixed greens, roasted beets, avocado, red onion, walnut, radish and broccoli with a jalapeño cilantro vinaigrette). The warm bowls are mashups of various items including root veggies, seeds, avocado and sprouts. Protein dishes like salmon or bison meatballs feature for dinner. I love that the owners are often there to help bring evening meals out to diners.
An inconspicuous storefront on King Street East, east of Parliament, conceals the adorable daytime eatery, Morning Glory. With only a handful of tables and a small bar top, it’s a tight fit but worth the snuggle.
Although the dishes are diverse and include breakfast standards like omelettes, French toast, smoked salmon and breakfast burritos, I ordered the simple granola and yogurt with fresh fruit. Healthy granola is hard to pull off without dousing it in sugar or honey, but here it is a nice complement of natural crunch with a strong hint of cinnamon. While they sell condiments and other small items for take home, I was disappointed the granola wasn’t available – though they do sell homemade ketchup!
A happening Japanese restaurant located on the west end’s bustling College Street. My friend and I started with the new Mushroom Salad, a mélange of five types of fungi slathered in sake, greens and an olive oil soy dressing. We also ordered the Sushi Bites, as per the server’s suggestion, which was a creative take on maki rolls – for example, there was a bacon and scallop roll, and a fish and chips roll. We finished off with the Scallop Tar Tar appetizer, another bacon and scallop combo with karashi mustard mayo (for a nice kick) and wonton chips.
The food was washed down with a flight of sake (one from California and two from Ontario) and a Red Dragon shot: a deceptively dangerous fruity shot containing Bacardi 151 comprised of 75.5% alcohol. A DJ played the packed joint at 10pm, adding to the buzz. As for the food, it was pricey but incredible.
Necessary disclosure: a friend of a friend owns it.
On the topic of drinks, I was thrilled to stumble upon this little sake factory in the east end Distillery District. As well as brewing sake under their IZUMI brand, they have a tasting bar with flights of locally brewed sake made with Ontario spring water.
A friend and I tried the unpasteurized sake (not available anywhere else on the east coast), which has a richer, complex taste and consistency. We also sampled five other types of sake, two of which the sake master threw in for free. The flavours were more unique and potent than other sakes I’ve tried at restaurants. Although the company doesn’t export its products, you can buy bottles from them at The Distillery to take home.