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Frequently referred to as “that other pho spot on Ossington” by Torontonians, Pho Tien Thanh holds its own in a city where pho shops are a hot commodity. As most pho places are wont to operate, the food arrives quickly and piping hot, all to the ambient background sounds of slurping and sipping with minimal chatter to be heard. As per norm, cash only.
Toronto’s got a thing for elevated comfort food. Rose & Sons is at risk of being missed among the likes of Bestellen and Farmhouse Tavern. Everything about it feels overwhelmingly akin to Montreal’s Nouveau Palais. From the vintage diner style booths to the smart, focused cocktail menu. Walking into Rose & Sons felt right at home for two Montrealers.
As one of the most multicultural cities in the world, Toronto is home to a large population of new immigrants, most notably from East and South East Asia. Communities have settled across the GTA, setting up restaurants and businesses that fuse old culture with new culture, bringing elements of “back home” to Toronto life in surprising and delicious ways – cue the multitude of Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese, Mexican restaurants (the list goes on) that define the city. It’s no surprise then that a wealth of top notch Japanese restaurants can be found in Toronto.
Another successful restaurant import from Vancouver, Kingyo has made it to the Toronto food scene, following in the footsteps of Guu Isakaya and Sakabar, Kinton Ramen, Ramen Raijin and others. Located in the East end of Toronto, Kingyo Isakaya has got a distinct vibe that differentiates itself from its competitors. Instead of the typically cramped quarters and loud, boisterous atmosphere found in many isakayas, Kingyo gives its customers breathing room and a little more leeway for a normal noise level of conversation.
Lil’ Baci Taverna is that sweet neighbourhood spot you wish you had. It’s got this comfortable low key, local vibe that makes you feel right at home. With the smell of freshly baked bread and eggs in the air, friendly servers that seem impossibly perky on Sunday mornings, it’s hard not to smile and feel at ease.
So, when you think of Liberty Village, what comes to mind? For me, the words “yuppie” and “bougie” take the forefront. You’ve got pricy home decor shops (fun to browse, I won’t lie), fitness gyms, smoothie bars and brunch restaurants all within a stone’s throw from one another. New residential condo projects surround the insular village and as a visitor, there isn’t much of a draw to the gentrified neighbourhood. One place that does make this place worth coming to is Mildred’s Temple Kitchen.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure everyone loves a good bowl of pho. It’s got this warm, comforting flavour that makes you feel right again, or at least helps you along the way to getting there (esp key in winter). The broth is usually made from simmered beef bones, oxtails and onions but unsurprisingly, every pho establishment ends up with a different final product, some preferring to use more onion for flavour, while others rely more heavily on spices like ginger and cinnamon. In terms of toppings and add-ins, the offerings are typically bean sprouts, Thai basil leaves, red chili and a selection of various sauces. I like mine with extra lime, extra bean sprouts and a touch of sriracha.
Electric Mud BBQ in Toronto is the BBQ counterpart to the legendary Grand Electric taco restaurant located around the corner. Holding the crown for the best taco spot in a city with no shortage of superb competition (see La Carnita) is no small feat. We have to admit that we walked into in Electric Mud BBQ with great expectations inherited from it’s elder sibling.
So you’re walking around the Distillery District, checking out art, spending time in Old Toronto, taking in the view… out of nowhere, the smell of warm chocolate hits your nostrils. It’s sweet and thick, fragrant and unmistakable. The smell makes the taste of chocolate almost palpable. You don’t know where it’s coming from or what exactly is going on, but you know you have to find the source. If you follow your instincts, you should end up in front of SOMA Chocolate. Go ahead. Take a look inside.
Make it idiot proof and someone will make a better idiot
decorate the espresso machine
Having recently learned that brunch was back on at the Hoof after a two year hiatus, – this time at the Hoof Raw Bar – and the fervent excitement that accompanied its re-opening, we stopped by for a bite to eat Sunday morning to see what the hype was about. In true Hoof style, the menu is unapologetic, it’s in your face and it’s aggressive. If your idea of breakfast is butter on white toast, you’re in for a big surprise. In other words, this is not the place for you.
This place has so much hype it’s ridiculous. Everyone that I’d spoken to in Toronto had already been to Banh Mi Boys and every single person raved about it. When talking about it in groups, people nodded knowingly to each other and proceeded to discuss their favourite sandwiches and sides… for minutes on end. Having had a relatively consistent reign over UrbanSpoon Toronto’s “Talk of the Town” since last year, I made it a point to check the place out this time around.
The County General is a lot of things – brunch, lunch, dinner, take-out, delivery, cocktails, wines, micro-brews and above all: bastion of southern hospitality. We couldn’t help but feel like we were stepping into a southern home kitchen when we visited the long, narrow restaurant for brunch last weekend.
“Prove that you love me and buy the next round”. Have any words rung truer than that? I think you know the answer. The cheeky little sign sticks out over the restaurant’s entrance, announcing its presence in bright red and white letters, suggesting the place itself might be where you can test that love out. Meet Hawker Bar.
Our vote for Best Coffee in Toronto. Toronto has its’ fair share of independent coffee shops and boutiques, strewn across the city left, right and center. If you’re looking for a proper caffeine fix, we’ve got you covered. Here are some of our top picks
Weslodge is a new addition to Toronto’s dynamic King West street having opened in July of this year to much local media fanfare. From the instant diners walk through the big, bold yellow doors, the saloon style restaurant makes no apologies for its colorful personality.
Just around the corner from where I was staying in Toronto over my visiting weekend, L’Ouvrier seemed like a good bet for brunch time food. A friend had been for a party after a TIFF event and had great things to say about the space and the aesthetic of the place. Open to whatever, I was down to check it out – we ended up going for a nice brunch with a couple people.
Kenzo Ramen is one of Toronto’s prime destinations for quick and easy no-nonsense ramen. There are a plethora of other ramen houses close by that compete for your dollars – we noticed Sansotei Ramen as a big competitor with a lineup that spilled out into the cold noontime weather.
Looking to catch up with a friend in Toronto, we were drawn to Fire on the East Side after hearing about some amazing fried chicken on waffles. Upon getting there and scanning the menu with no sign of the dish, it proved to be totally elusive. According to our server, the dish had never existed at the place. I won’t lie, we were pretty disappointed, as we had chosen the place based solely on the possibility of eating that specific dish. We contemplated leaving for a few seconds, but the thought quickly vanished as we took the first few bites out of the house made banana bread. Moist and soft, the little square of sweetness bolstered our appetites and we sat on.
Intuitively, you might guess that from the name of this restaurant, a mash up of Asian and Western food would be served here. For better or for worse, there is no trace of Asian-ness in the food, the decor or the atmosphere. Instead, it is a modern, rock-themed diner that serves up greasy diner food (for the record, the music that was playing when we went was amazing). Shanghai Cowgirl is simply a name – and an intriguing one at that. I just keep imagining this fierce Asian lady in a flower printed high collared cowgirl outfit on a horse kicking ass somewhere in the South. Is it just me?