Canada Day is coming up very soon and there is a very long list of must eats Toronto foods that I am definitely homesick for in Toronto. I lived in a bunch of different neighbourhoods for the 10 years I lived dowtown.
My first apartment with Paul was on Brunswick Avenue in the Annex, near Dupont station. We then bought a house in Danforth Village, then we sold it and decided to give condo living a try and moved to St. Lawrence Market. Our landlord sold the condo, so we moved to another condo at Queen & Dufferin before moving to Los Angeles. Living in all these different neighbourhoods exposed me to so many great restaurants and must eats in this amazing food city.
I can’t hit all my favourite food places during my short visits back, but if you have the chance or are visiting for the Pan-Am Games, here are my top 10 must eats Toronto:
1) Mixed Gyro at Messini’s
When I lived on the Danforth and worked late-nights as a DJ, my greasy food stop would be at Messini’s for an authentic Mixed Meat Gyro with Pork, Chicken and French Fries stuffed into the sandwich. Split it with a friend or save half for tomorrow because it’s a big, greasy, delicious sandwich slathered in Tzatziki with tomato and onions. I usually pair it with a coke and a Greek salad or sometimes more french fries. Messini’s is located on the Danforth, open late on the weekends and their gyro sandwich is under $5!
2) Montreal-Style Bagel at St. Urbain Bagel
If I’m going to splurge on a big toasty bagel, THIS is where it’s worth every single calorie. I would also like to add that St. Lawrence Market deserves it’s own category and I’ve written about my Must-Eats of Toronto’s St. Lawrence Market because I am so damn passionate about this place. There is SO much more to eat then just bagels, but if I had to pick one – this is probably it. I can’t visit Toronto without a Onion Bagel with Garlic Cream Cheese from St. Urbain Bagel. Pop downstairs to the coffee roasters and grab a cup to go with OR head over to Freshly Squeezed for an orange or grapefruit juice.
3) The Traditional Poutine at Poutini’s
Before I moved to Los Angeles, I lived ACROSS the street in a condo from Poutini’s. It literally took ALL my willpower not to eat poutine every single day. If I had to pick the best poutine in Toronto, I would have to go with Poutini’s for their slick homemade gravy, melty curds and perfect hand-cut fries. And if you’re going to go big, add an extra layer of curds for only $2. Best when shared with a friend.
4) The Chicken Roti @ Island Foods
The roti landscape in LA is pretty barren. Which is why I am always dreaming of the Chicken Roti at Island Foods – a West Indian restaurant at King & Dufferin. First of all don’t mess around with the white meat, you want the chicken roti made with the dark meat / chicken thighs. Each roti includes potatoes stuffed inside and curry sauce that spills out as soon as you cut into it. I always go for a side order or plantain and a beef patty to go.
5) The Beef Empanada from Jumbo Empanadas
I’ve eaten many an empanada on my food journey and every time, I compare it back to the Beef Empanda at Jumbo Empanadas. It cannot be beat. First of all, they are jumbo – it eats as a meal. Secondly, the mixture of beef, olives, raisins and a hard-boiled egg inside is just pure filling perfection. I love the crust on their Chilean-style empanadas and they are baked instead of greasy and fried. Jumbo Empanadas is a grab-and-go kinda place, make sure you get a side of salsa with your order.
6) Fish & Chips from Chippy’s
My favourite fish & chips joint in Toronto has got to be Chippy’s Fish & Chips. The fish is just lightly battered (they use Guiness beer in their batter), the way I like it and the fries are crisp, golden and cooked-to-order. My usual is the Halibut + Chips. I like to take a big squeeze of lemon over the whole thing and then sprinkle with malt vinegar, salt and pepper. Tartar sauce, mushy peas and coleslaw on the side are musts. I love their fish because it’s not all heavy batter – it’s what makes Chippy’s the best. Pick-up a box and a bottle of coke and walk your ready made picnic across the street to enjoy in Trinity Bellwoods Park.
7) Cake from Yummy Stuff
I discovered Yummy Stuff when Paul ordered a birthday cake for me from their Parkdale bakery. It was one of the BEST cakes I have ever tasted, that we try to go with Yummy Stuff whenever we can. The cake is oh-so-incredibly moist and the buttercream is just full of flavour and just heavenly. I don’t know what they do to their cake, but they do it well. If you can’t eat a whole cake right this moment – they do cupcakes too! Yummy Stuff takes custom orders and my favourite has got to be their coconut cake with raspberry buttercream. Get on this stat.
8) #99 Crispy Beef from Rol San
Rol San was my late-night Chinese food spot after a night of partying, clubbing and drinking through most of my 20s and early 30s. I’ve been there at 4 AM with friends or at Noon with my parents at dim sum. The staff know us there and ask where we’ve been if they haven’t seen us in awhile becuase we’ve going for over 10 years! Since my U of T days! The must-order here is the #99 Crispy Beef for that salty, deep-fried crunch slathered in sweet ginger sauce. It’s perfect for a hangover. Rol San is also my go-to dim sum spot in Chinatown. It’s affordable, they have a great selection on the weekend and everything is fresh.
9) The Pad Gra Prao at Khao San Road
I know Khao San Road does a pretty good Bangkok-Style Pad Thai. However the biggest surprise crowd-pleaser is The Pad Gra Prao made with stir-fried minced beef with holy basil, topped with a fried egg and served over rice. It wasn’t too spicy and we broke the runny egg yolk up all over the rice. This is a dish I couldn’t re-create easily at home, so whenever I in the Entertainmet District, I try to hit up Khao San Road.
10) Quinoa Onion Rings at Fresh Restaurants
Fresh is one of my favourite places for a healthy bowl of vegetables, tofu and rice. I do splurge on the Quinoa Onion Rings and share them with a group whenever I’m in town. The quinoa makes them extra crunchy and I don’t eat onion rings ever outside of the ones at Fresh Restaurant – so they are definitely a treat. Read my interview with Ruth Tal, founder of Fresh.
So those are the 10 dishes I’m usually dreaming about when I think of all the great food in Toronto! Do you have any favourite must eats Toronto? What do you usually order with it?