I love food. Adore it. It’s one of my favourite things. However, in a world surrounded by vegetarians, vegans, and those with horrible food allergies, I find myself with my own food-based issue. It may not be something attached to consequences like pain or bloating, but it does make the food landscape a little more challenging.
I like it simple. I’m not a fan of condiments or sauces; not a big fan of sauces or marinades. Most vegetables turn me off a meal, as do ‘weird’ textures. This means that most expensive foods are off the table, and I find myself seeking out simple meals when restaurants are loathe to offer foods that don’t come covered in a thousand ancillary ingredients. I eat for pleasure, and there are a lot of things that turn me off. This means that a schnitzel that’s designed to be delicious with lettuce, tomato and mayo may leave me cold, or a souvlaki made with a tzatziki companion in mind may taste bland.
So, if you’re like me, you want to know where some of the simple pleasures of the downtown Toronto may be found. Well, here’s a brief list of the best I’ve found, dining in Toronto for two years…
Chew Chew’s Diner
186 Carlton St, Toronto, ON
Favourite: Grilled Chicken on a Bun + Peameal Bacon; Banana Split
This place is practically right next to my apartment, and I couldn’t be happier about that. The good is great, the atmosphere is very nice, and I’m always treated well. Of everything I’ve tried at Chew Chew’s, though, my favourite is this: the Grilled Chicken on a Bun. The bun is soft and just the right amount of sweet, and the chicken is always tender and delicious. To make it even better, ask to toss a side-order of peameal bacon on it; the two meats mesh perfectly, resulting in a sandwich that has made Chew Chew’s a semi-regular stop for me. Also worthwhile: their banana split, with banana, ice cream, whipped cream and fresh strawberry on top. Best to split that one with a partner; it’s a generous portion.
The Senator Restaurant
249 Victoria St, Toronto, Ontario
The Senator Restaurant is a lovely place, but despite their extensive (and pricey) menu, the thing I recommend most is their genuinely old-school milkshake. I’ve had milkshakes in a number of places around downtown and, while some are very good (The Victoria Restaurant below has great ones as well), The Senator‘s are the best I’ve found. Perfect: sweet, smooth, delicious, and there’s plenty: you almost get two for the price of one.
The Epicure Shop
473 Parliament St., Toronto, Ontario
Favourite: Hungarian Salami and Dutch Edam Sandwich
This wonderful little Cabbagetown deli is a find. They’ve got a great selection of meats, pastas, snacks, etc. The real draw is their sandwiches: They’ve got a smattering of options, as well as the option of your own custom sandwich, all made on the spot. I love to stop by here before heading to class and grab a sandwich, usually hungarian salami and dutch edam, with a small white milk. Delicious!
King’s Noodle Restaurant
296 Spadina Ave
Favourite: BBQ Pork Slices; BBQ Pork Buns; Salted Donut
I am an utterly North American eater in my tastes, but this Chinatown restaurant has utterly captured my heart. I don’t a great variety of the dishes there, but what I do eat, I always enjoy greatly. They are particularly skilled at pork, with both the pork slices and the dim sum menu’s BBQ pork buns topping my favourites list here. Also good and cheap: the salted donut stick, served chopped up into snack-sized pieces. It’s not the donut the North American parlance, but a dish Wikipedia tells me is called (in its native Mandarin) youtiaoa, or a deep friend bread stick. Chewy, salty and delicious, these are the side dish I always over-order and take home for a yummy snack later.
Harbord Fish and Chips
147 Harbord St, Toronto, Ontario
Favourite: Halibut Fish and Chips
Stopped by here with a couple of friends once and was genuinely surprised with how great it was. A tiny little place that offers actual halibut (as opposed to hidden haddock like a load of places) in a crispy, delicious batter, alongside some very good fries. Have only been once, but am assured by folks who go there regularly that its always that good. Also, very affordable, which is pretty nice.
399 Church St, Toronto, Ontario
Favourite: Clean and Simple French Toast w/ Maplue Syrup; Peameal Bacon; Coffee
Whenever I have a desire for breakfast food without the urge to suffer through something I’ve made myself, I make the short walk over to Daybreak. Fantastic service, a light and airy atmosphere, and excellent food. I’ve had a number of things, particularly the grilled-cheese-and-bacon sandwich and the roast beef sandwich, which were excellent. My new favourite, however, is their perfect French toast slathered in their pure maple syrup, with a side of peameal for protein. Also, they have pretty good coffee, a must for a breakfast place.
254 Dundas St E, Toronto, Ontario
Favourite: Half-Chicken with Fries
You want simple? Go to George’s for a meal of simple yet delicious BBQ chicken, merely with a good sprinkling of salt and pepper. Very good fries alongside. Enjoy.
27 Queen St E, Toronto, Ontario
Favourite: Pork Souvlaki on a Bun; Vanilla Milkshake
Best souvlaki I’ve ever had: juicy, with a hint of spicyness, and grilled to perfection. Probably the meal I’ve had most of any on this list. Follow it up with one of the Victoria‘s great vanilla or chocolate milkshake. Warning, though: I’ve loved a milkshake so much I immediately ordered another one, so beware of your own stomach turning against your wallet.
Marble Slab Creamery
330 Yonge Street, Toronto, Ontario
Favourite: Sweet Cream w/ Raspberries and Graham Cracker
This place is dangerous. I’m not exactly a healthy eater when I do decide to eat out, as this list can testify, but Marble Slab is hands-down the least healthy on the list. I’d never go there again, except for the fact that the ice cream there is perfect. Creamy, soft, with dozens of potential combinations of ice cream flavours and mixed-in ingredients, ranging from walnuts to Smarties. After you try this stuff, you won’t ever buy grocery store ice cream again. I don’t.
Daniel et Daniel Catering
248 Carlton St, Toronto, Ontario
Favourite: Chicken Fingers, Coffee, Croissants
This food shop belonging to the prominent catering company is pretty hit-or-miss in my experience, but their chicken fingers are the best I’ve had anywhere. I’ve taken to stopping by when in the area just to see if they have them out. Breaded wonderfully, with great cuts of chicken inside. Heat them up or eat them cold, they’re gold. They also have fantastic coffee and breakfast croissants/muffins, making it a good stop in the morning for those in a hurry.
I’m sure there are plenty more, as my friends can attest. There’s the rundown of the most prominent downtown Toronto favourites, most of whom I’ve been to numerous times and never left unhappy with my meal. Damn it… Now I’m hungry.