If you only have one Italian restaurant to visit in Toronto, this is the one. Yes, Buca is good too but Campagnolo treats you like famiglia. There is a reason the restaurant was voted on En Route's top ten restaurants of 2011.
Everything on the menu is amazing and the menu changes on the regular but the perennial favourites are:
1. House-made Baguette and Gougères
2. Fresh Burrata Cheese with Roasted Grapes and Toasted Bread (NOBODY does burrata like Craig Harding. NOBODY).
3. House-Made Spaghetti All’Amatriciana
4. Papparadelle with braised rabbit (not currently on their menu but you're in for a treat when it is).
5. Budino - they even have mini budinos so you feel like you can treat yo self.
If you have a chance to sit at the chef's table, it's a treat. Make sure to treat yo self to a boozy cocktail too. They're quite good here and executed with perfection.
Campagnolo has a beautiful...
The places where you can be a tourist and a local in Canada's most urban metropolis.
This is one of my favourite recently opened restaurants (out of the seemingly 5000 that opened in Toronto circa 2011-12).
A casual, laid back vibe (no need to dress up if you don't want to) at this 35 seater gives you a choice of a reasonably priced (for Toronto), locally sourced prix fixe of either meat or veg.
The bonus here is that the chefs trained at some of the hottest spots in the world (i.e. Noma) therefore creativity is valued and for the most part very successful.
June is one of the best months to be in Toronto and this year, you're definitely going to want to stick around June 10-17 for one of the best music festivals in North America.
Toronto's version of SXSW has turned into NXNE or North by Northeast, an interactive festival of music, film and digital media, now in its 19th year.
In little bars all across the city as well as bigger and free venues like Dundas Square you can catch a number of live acts with your wristband. The fun part? You get to bar hop and catch some amazing music from all over the world.
It's one of the most buzzed about events in the city and in my opinion, much more fun than the film fest!
You'll always find a lineup outside of Aunties and Uncles tucked away on charming Lippincott Street, a block east of Bathurst and College.
The reason? It's one of the best value brunches in town. From the hearty challah with housemade jam, to its breakfast pockets or stuffed to the toast sandwich creations (Grilled Brie with pear, anyone?), you will leave here satisfied.
There's tons of Canadiana and retro kitsch to look at while you're waiting. (Do expect a 40 minute wait, especially during prime time weekend hours).
Definitely worth the wait and a great start to the day before you explore Kensington Market or Little Italy.
This intimate restaurant has quickly become one of my new favorites. It has all of the marks of an amazing experience: attentive, knowledgeable and friendly staff; simple, yet flavorful dishes; boozy libations and a gorgeous atmosphere (including that perfect date night soundtrack).
Patrons come for the lettuce wraps: braised pork shoulder with Asian-inspired accoutrements like shrimp chips, kimchi, and Sriracha sauce. You wrap up your desired ingredients in one big piece of lettuce. It's interactive and delicious!
You will leave craving the calamari, drenched in a peanut and tamarind sauce. A nice touch—everything is served on pretty antique plates, just like at Grandma's house.
They've also just started serving a tasting menu twice a week.
Everyone raves about Grand Electric in Parkdale, but Chantecler is the underrated underdog restaurant of the neighborhood.
In the heat of the summer there is only thing to do: pack a lunch, grab some beers, hop on a bike, ride the ferry, and get yourself over to the islands. It doesn't really matter which ferry you chose (well, don't head to the airport) because the only thing ahead is exploration.
I recommend the following:
- drinking beers with German tourists at the beach side bar
- borrowing someone's canoe and heading out for a whirl
- sprawling out on the sand with a book
- listening to Afro beats in an aging hippie's house while mowing down on watermelon
- snapping picturesque shots of the city skyline
- biking along the wooden boardwalk facing the Leslie Spit
- tucking into a vegetarian meal at the delightful Island Café while listening to live music
You'll never want to leave...
Rock Lobster hasn't been a proper restaurant for long. This Ossington eatery got its start at the Toronto Underground Market, a monthly event which allows non-pros with a flair for food to show off their chops to masses of hungered folks. When their lobster rolls drew rave reviews and hour-plus line-ups, Matt, the man behind the crustaceans, decided there was no turning back.
Although they serve lobster done every which way (poutine, bisque, mac 'n' cheese, topping steak) the rolls remain a personal favourite. Tucking hard shell Atlantic lobster into a grilled and buttered hot dog bun, the goods are served warm with a handful of chips and a dill pickle on the side. What's not to love?
Somewhat hidden in Kensington Market, Anice is a charming boutique, dripping with gems. The inviting space is home to baubles for the bod, with one-of-a-kind pieces incorporating both the vintage and the new.
Brittany—the lovely owner—has a great eye and will transform old metal belts into necklaces, or add charms to bracelets for added flair. If you don't know what to do with a broken heirloom, she'll help bring it back to life, even teaching workshops so next time you can work at home. Despite the 'mish-mash' of materials, the pieces are quite delicate and very easy to wear. Great for gifts.
Roncesvalles is definitely a neighborhood worth visiting, and this gift boutique is a great excuse to do so. It's only been open for a year but has plenty of loyal followers and lots of fun finds ranging from baby gear to napkins with faux wine stains.
Best of all are the cards: the extensive selection covers pretty much all the bases with tons of surprising picks. I'm always drawn to the Kid Icarus and The Regional Assembly of Text goods—especially the latter's cards which involve hilarious checklists or occasion-ready buttons.
Seven Lives is a relatively new addition to the city's taco scene, which has been dominated by Grand Electric and La Carnita. Formerly tucked into a food court, this Kensington eatery has branched out into a home of its own thanks to the buzz surrounding it.
Owner Sean focuses on Southern California- and Tijuana-style tacos (he learned the chops when living a stone's throw from the Mexican border) and picks include a surf 'n' turf number with steak and shrimp, and the so-called Gobernador, which pairs shrimp with smoked marlin. Best of all? Nothing costs more than $7, and it's all pretty filling.
Perched across the street from the ROM (or the Royal Ontario Museum, to be official), Museum Tavern is a great spot to rest weary gams. The nostalgic brasserie is outfitted with a copper ceiling and tufted stools by the bar.
Undoubtedly, these cocktails are popular: boozy beverages from the menu are often found splayed across local papers. House picks include the French Tonic with Cointreau and falernum; I sipped on the Mumbai Special, a spiced mix of vodka and curried-jaggery syrup that conjures up visions of India's most energetic city.
this longstanding little locals spot is one I've been to before and forgot about some time ago. Don't know why. Rediscovered it again this past week and still love the vibe and the unique drink they specialize in. I promise to not be a stranger. A slice of Buenos Aires in Toronto. Don't forget to practice your espanol. pronto.
image by arden street*
When champion oyster shucker Patrick McMurray of Starfish opened up his very authentic Irish pub on the edges of Leslieville, the area all of a sudden got a little more interesting. Locals could enjoy the craic without crossing the Bloor Viaduct.
Even more interesting was how to maximize their patio in the winter.In previous years, they've tried creating a skating/curling rink or a mini bonfire. This year, they built a yurt! When you climb inside the yurt, it's probably even warmer and cozier than the traditional bar. Lots of lamps and antlers hand from the very decorative detailed panels of the yurt. It is one of the coolest things I've seen in Toronto. It's like a slice of Mongolia in the city. It also solves the problem of a packed bar inside the regular quarters. Curious to see what they'll do next year!
Photo: The Ceili Cottage
Founded by Canadian Celebrity Chef Lynn Crawford of Food Network Canada's Restaurant Makeover and Pitchin' In, Ruby Watchco is her farm to table labour of love. For $49, you get a four course meal: an appetizer, main course, cheese amuse bouche and dessert. You don't have a choice in the menu that changes nightly. They do make accommodations for vegetarians/allergies. Wine suggestions accompany each course on the menu.
Staff are hilarious and theatrical.
A definite must-reservation if you are in Leslieville, Toronto!
At this most hipster of hipster espresso bars, Portland meets Toronto. And it is good. Don't let the hipster vibe deter you—the 'spro is solid, tunes are fine, and the baristas will even crack a smile (occasionally). They also bake their own muffins. A floor-to-ceiling corner window ensures great people watching on a leisurely afternoon.
Photo courtesy of Capital Espresso/Facebook.
here is a cafe almost feels old school with it's record store/live music back room vibe. The staff is more chill than hipster and there is no "reclaimed from a old bowling alley" bar. Whenever I'm in Kensington Market I love to stop here first for a nice cappuccino (or homemade ginger beer in the summers) and watch the market crowd go by while listening to some great music and plotting my day's adventures.
I don't know of many places where you can grab a coffee, read a magazine, pull a pint, flip a tractor tire, swing a sledgehammer, and finish off with an organic wheatgrass and kale smoothie, but then I don't know many other places like the Academy. There are no Cowardly Lions here—this place is billed as a hybrid CrossFit/functional lifestyle outfitter, and every employee I met could kick my ass. This is an atmospheric place in the heart of Hipsterville, well worth a visit if you're wandering one of Toronto's coolest neighborhoods and in need of a quick fitness fix—and a great cup of Joe—before hitting your next destination.
This is a straight up wine bar with minimalist decor in an old automotive shop but the food needs to be mentioned. The raves about the cripsy fried chicken tails are also en point. They are the perfect bar snack, especially if you like salt. the potatoes that come with the tails are nicely seasoned. They don't skimp on the snack portions either.
I had the Perth Pork Belly with arancini and octopus salad. At first, I felt like the items were disjointed but they really worked well together. The pork belly was succulent; the bacon added a crispy layer to the texture and flavour of the dish. The fried arancini was a big portion and the octopus salad gave the dish a nice, acidic touch. I would definitely recommend this dish.
Make no bones about it - this place is a really nice addition to Leslieville. It's a great location and a trendy restaurant that is going to make the west-enders cross...
this 10 acre cultural "facility" located on the shore of the mighty Lake Ontario is especially popular on summer weekends but I enjoy it just as much in the winter. A lakefront outdoor Skating Rink (free) brings in the kids (curated DJ Skate nights are popular with everyone) and a contemporary dance programme titled "Next Steps" brings in the adults. All told Harbourfront Centre hosts over 4000 events a year.
and sadly I'm not the only one that thinks so, so make sure to make a reservation to enjoy one. In warm weather the backyard patio is a nice getaway. Also good to note is that the cocktails here are some of the best in Toronto as well. Double Win!
Do you love their tagline ('What creams are made of'), or do you love it? Ashley Jacot De Boinod—former pastry chef at Buca—has taken her doughnut creations to new heights. Tim Horton's 'tim bits' these are not.
If you want peanut butter, bacon, and marshmallow, she's got it (that's the Elvis doughnut); A beer doughnut? Yup, she's got that too. Lemon Meringue? Yes, indeed!
She's also very active on Twitter with her fanbase. Go in. Support her. Her shop is super rad and she even crowd-funded it, too. The doughnuts aren't cheap, but I'll pay for the love and care that she puts into it.
Pictured: Nutella Puff
Located in Leslieville in the East End, Swirl is in a small, converted apartment above a dog store in Leslieville. I love the decor here, from the tables made from doors or antique sewing machine bases to the artwork by local artists FAME. It's a tiny place but it packs a punch.
There’s no kitchen, so they have these amazing appetizers and desserts preserved in small Mason jars. Wine prices are affordable (and they have about three beers available now).
On top of all of that, they host theme nights. For instance, you can watch Mad Men whilst sampling accurate cocktails from the era; board game nights; bubbly nights; and cinema Sundays.
Suffice it to say, it's one of my favorites.
Warning: it's tiny in here. Not meant for a big group, but perfect for a date.
If you want to indulge on decadent desserts, this is definitely your place. From the cotton candy macarons to my favourite, the salted caramel tart, the desserts here are simply divine.
This is also the perfect place to get a gift for the foodie: they have marshmallows and lovely packages of chocolates, one for each letter of the alphabet.
There's two locations but the shop right beside Trinity Bellwoods Park offers patio seating in the summer and indoor seating in the colder months.
If you want lunch, you can nibble on a variety of sandwiches -- on croissants of course (you can buy those too!).
Photo: Knot PR (Flickr)
From their site: Magic Pony is dedicated to the exhibition and promotion of the best in young contemporary art. They operate as a studio, gallery and retail environment, combining elements of art, design and popular culture to create an unique shopping experience. As curators, printers and publishers, Magic Pony functions as a outlet for communicating and sharing new visual concepts.
Their gallery space is called Narwhal Projects, an expanded gallery space dedicated exclusively to exhibitions. They have their own separate website.
They have really unusual products here from designer toys imported from Japan (Kid Robot, Tokidoki) to books on Hello Kitty.
This is a bartender's bar, where you'll find many of those Toronto industry folks during their free time. The drinks are strong, the cocktails are delicious, and you're bound to bump into someone you know. If you want good trouble, it's likely to happen here.
They also have a pretty decent food menu.
There are a lot of great food trucks in the city but for me, this one trumps them all in terms of a complete experience. From the fun music they play (a wee bit too loud) so you can dance while you wait for your lunch to the food quality, this truck is your best bet.
PS They have NUTELLA BOMBS. Little drops of deliciousness in your mouth.
No wonder these guys have the catering market covered.