I am currently detoxing from the madness of the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival...Read More
No one wants to ruin that amazing post-screening haze with the sudden reality of a stressful, not to mention depressing McDonalds vs. Pizza Pizza vs. Salad King decision.
Here are some suggestions for small bites, drinks, or larger meals in Toronto's downtown core!
1. Classy Pub Style: Czehoski
This is a nice quiet, atmospheric spot for some great and, often times unusual food, however you should probably stay away if you're someone who needs to worry about privacy. Though the restaurant only seats a few groups on the main floor, other groups are paraded past on their way to the back dining room, the second floor, and the patio. One well-meaning tweet, and the festival fans - was going to use a different phrase here - will be pressed against the glass.
On a more serious note, Czehoski's staff pays close attention to mood of the place, and there is anundercurrent of relaxation that makes street's infamous hipsters and onlookers alike feel welcome. If you're looking for a simple, well-made take on pub favourites, try the Palmerston Burger or Turkey Burger, the Czeho Mac n Cheese, and the popcorn, which is made to order with garlic, rosemary, thyme, and parmesan! The staff members here will be able to give you honest recommendations if you need them, and the beer is good! What else does one need?
2. Mexican & Central American: Milagro / Tacos el Asador
Tacos el Asador
Milagro is a good go-to for some classic large portion Mexican food. Do not come here looking for Tex Mex. The most popular dishes include burritos like Cochinta Pibil, a classic pulled-pork dish, or enchiladas like my own tried and tested favourites Enchiladas Rojas and Enchiladas Suizas. If you're feeling more peckish and don't mind spending the higher than market prices, try Tacos Playeros - a very light roasted chicken taco that will leave you feeling just full enough. The margaritas here are stellar. Stellar.
The Mercer Street location is fantastically close to the festival hub, but if you want to branch out a little, check out the Queen Street West location. (If you want to really get lost, visit the Yonge and Lawrence spot.)
If you're not looking to lighten your wallet but still want to enjoy Toronto's best offerings of Central American cuisine, check out Tacos el Asador on Bloor Street West - everything you could want for less than $10 per dish. Dishes here are meant to be ordered by the bunch, and shared with friends, picnic style!
3. Italian: Terroni / Grazie
These are two tried and tested spots or some great Italian cooking. While Terroni is more of a trendy, downtown hot-spot, Grazie is farther out from the downtown core and specializes in more of a family crowd. Don't get me wrong - the clientele of both restaurants is certainly mixed - however, Terroni benefits from its location on one of Toronto's main drags so to speak. What Grazie lacks in downtown sparkle, it certainly makes up for with charm, rustic Italian decor, great wide window views, and more of a straight-out-of-Italy atmosphere.
Go to Terroni if you want slightly more glamour, and a shorter walk to your King West hotel. Go to Grazie to get out of the Festival bubble, and relax a little bit, while still enjoying a formidable level of Italian dining.
Honourable Mention: Pizza Libretto on Ossington, or try out the Greektown location on Danforth Avenue! The best Neapolitan-style pizza around.
4. Vegetarian/Vegan: Fresh on Bloor / Fresh on Queen / Fresh on Spadina
With the diverse international crowd pouring into the city as I speak, I can't forget to mention that growing sliver of the population who fancy something a little cleaner and dare I say, fresher. Fresh Restaurants are a standby for Torontonians, and not just the veg-folk. Fresh offers bowls with brown rice or soba noodles, topped with inspired combinations of veggies, herbs, hummus, and even nuts. Another highlight is the Standard Burger, which is made-from-scratch with their combination of almonds and grains.
Don't leave here without a refreshing smoothie, and a vanilla bean cupcake!
5. Get Well
I have to mention this place. This is a favourite of mine, because similar to Czehoski, the owners and staff have created an atmosphere comfortable for those who live in the area, and visitors who may anticipate feeling like they're at disadvantage walking in for the first time. The candlelit spot is small, but deep - the walk to the back of the venue feels long, but it includes passing the main seating area, the bar, and several jukeboxes and vintage arcade games lined against the right wall - impressive for a spot that could have perhaps had a lot more open space, but a loss less character. Don't forget to sample the local beers on tap here - Beau's Lug Tread is a favourite!
If you have any comments, questions, concerns, feelings, etc., comment below and I'll get back to you!