Escape: Where to Eat in Toronto

Lucky me, I was invited to join the annual Terroir symposium in Toronto, Canada, to speak on behalf of my side-hustle, the Feminist Food Club. I joined Soleil Ho, a gifted food writer (and the current restaurant critic for the San Francisco Chronicle), chef and activist who I have admired from afar for a very, very long time, Petra Mutch, a passionate food entrepreneur and activist, and moderator Marie-Claude Lortie, a Montreal based food journalist and restaurant critic, to talk about how to achieve gender balance in the industry. I arrived a couple days earlier to take in the city, meet some people and get accustomed (thank you, cannabis dispensaries). During these days, I mostly just walked the city, watched a show at Second City, read books and fought jet lag by buying loads of ice cream. I haven’t had enough time to explore all worthy parts of Toronto, especially not the less central parts where I have heard is where the best food is to be had (I read about an awesome Egyptian brunch at Maha’s in the east; and a white rabbit candy soft serve in Markham!) So this list is referring to central, mostly downtown Toronto only and is by no way including everything you should eat when there, but it’s a good start.

Glory Hole Doughnuts

Let me start with a donut. If you’ve read this blog for a while, you might know that my love for donuts is, let’s say, limited. But! I’m willing to try again, and again. And this was a good one! It’s a Toast and Butter donut, which means it’s topped with whipped brown butter with sweet breadcrumbs and cinnamon, so it’s quite easy to love. I had it at this small place on the Western end of Queen Street before I took on a long walk all the way downtown (or, where the skyscrapers are) and it gave me enough of a sugar rush to make it. They have a ton of other special flavours like raspberry pistachio, Ferrero Rocher and dulce pretzel that I would’ve loved to try…
1596 Queen St W, Toronto; Mon–Fri 09:00–18:00, Sat-Sun 10:00–17:00

Bang Bang Ice Cream

The first couple of days, I ended up eating mostly sweet things, maybe a jet lag induced craving or just my personality. On the first day, I indeed waited around this shop for 45mins until it finally opened at 13:00, to get that ice cream. The wait was so worth it! I planned trips back to this place for the rest of the trip and couldn’t have been more crushed that in the end, I did not make it back. Mostly because they only open from 1pm (does no one want ice cream for breakfast in CA?), but also because I was pretty busy attending the conference and then having a wonderful day out on a farm. However, I still regret it. For this one time visit I chose burnt toffee which was so incredibly good, had a spot on texture that was neither to dense nor too light, crunchy toffee bits in it, a slightly charred flavour, and came with dripping caramel. And you know how much I love our local hero, Jones Ice Cream, but I have to say, this one was just as good, if not better – especially when it comes to creativity with flavours. Read this: cinnamon toast, Genmaicha-Matcha Tiramisu (that’s ONE flavour), key lime pie, London fog, campfire marshmallow, passion fruit milk, and totaro (a taro ice cream with coconut shavings marketed as Totoro’s fav!). Anyhow, if you’re in Toronto, DO NOT MISS THIS.
Later in the trip, I also made it to Death in Venice, who make good ice cream, but pale in comparison once you’ve tried Bang Bang.
93A Ossington Ave, Toronto; Tue–Sun 13:00–22:00

Mabel’s Bakery

One fine Toronto morning, I walked around the neighborhood I stayed in and stumbled over this bakery and stopped to get a look at the display for a snack and found this: an egg cup – a toast shaped as a cup (or, muffin?) filled with an egg and topped with herbs. All baked together into this very handy, very delicious breakfast to-go. The egg had just the right texture, not too soft to flow all over your hands, but not too done so it’s crumbly and unpleasant. And it was still warm! What a delight! I also tried the almond croissants here and they weren’t half as good as this cup, so I dunno about a full on recommendation but do get that brunch in a toast cup, if you can!
323 Roncesvalles Ave, Toronto; Mon–Fri 07:30–19:30, Sat 08:00–18:00, Sun 09:00–18:00

Planta Burger

Planta is a group of renowned, plant-based restaurants in Toronto and Miami. And since I am always interested in vegetarian / vegan food, I was looking forward to trying Planta, even though it was just their burger place and not the dinner restaurant. And, well, it was disappointing. No, I don’t like burgers that much, but I do enjoy them when well done. However, this one suffered from what so many veggie burgers suffer from: the texture. On recommendation from the staff I went for the Southwest Burger with a mushroom and lentil patty, pickled jalapenos, aioli, avocado and tortilla chips. Unfortunately, everything was the same kind of mush, the salad and tomato were not worth mentioning, and not even the fries could save it.
4 Temperance St, Toronto; Mon–Sat 11:30–19:30

Le Swan

Later that same night, after a whole day of conference and a delightful after party at a bar, some women I had met that day had decided to go to Le Swan for dinner and I talked my way into joining them. This is one of the restaurants of Jen Agg, renowned Toronto restaurateur, outspoken feminist and just overall a very impressive figure I had started to follow on social media several months ago. Le Swan is a French diner, a combination of bistro classics with comfort food, serving Vichyssoise as well as pork chops, fried onion rings as well as Salade Nicoise. The interior is delightful, as is the playlist and the food! I never thought I was a fried onion rings person but I was wrong! These sweet and aromatic little rings are excellent, especially ordered as a side to a grilled cheese. I admit the above photo is a bad representation of how good the sandwich actually was. It’s not burned, but charred, the cheese perfectly melted, the ketchup a great addition. I seriously wished I didn’t ate almost all of that subpar Planta burger! Because then I would’ve definitely ordered one of their milkshakes made with bang bang ice cream. I know it doesn’t look like much in this image but trust me, this place should be very high on your list for Toronto.
Jen Agg also owns Grey Gardens at Kensington Market, where I had a delicious spoon full of ravioli the next night, a cocktail bar called Cocktail Bar on 923 Dundas St, where we had an excellent drink, and she’s about to open another one, Bar Vendetta, a pasta and wine bar. Really, if you only ate at Agg-owned spots during your trip, you’d have done everything right.
892 Queen St W, Toronto; Mon–Thu 17:00–02:00, Fri–Sun 11:00–02:00

Richmond Station

After a superb day out at the farm with Terroir Hospitality, I returned to the city looking forward to a dinner with Soleil Ho and Joshna Maharaj, who I had met months earlier in Berlin. Her work and activism is super impressive, to say the least, and is complimented by her positive and open vibe. We chatted about food politics, the strive for equity and representation over plates of delicious food, starting with polenta fries with truffle aioli, something that I love anyhow. We then shared pierogies, as well as a salad, and went on to a deconstructed apple tarte tatin for dessert. I thoroughly enjoyed all the dishes as well as the attentive service in this place.
1 Richmond St W, Toronto; daily 11:00–22:30

Rosalinda

Vegan restaurants are stressful to me! Why, you ask? Because I can technically order everything on the menu, and I’m not used to making a choice anymore, but rather go for the one thing on the menu (wait for my Paris article…). I will happily take on the challenge though, especially if it’s for lunch with Nancy Matsumoto, a Toronto based journalist. She suggested Rosalinda, an airy, pretty vegan Mexican place in Downtown. While the bowl I had for my main course was pretty much a bowl filled with veggies, and nothing that’s gonna stay in my mind, the dish pictured above did: it’s a young coconut ceviche for which the very thin strips of coconut are served in a apple and celery broth with herbs and pickled shallot. Some of you will know that coconut is topping my (very short) list of produce I don’t really like, however, I am particular in my taste, so I do like young and fresh coconut if it’s of good quality. And this light and subtle yet refreshing dish definitely left an impression with me.
133 Richmond St W, Toronto; daily 11:00–23:00

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