The Food & Drink Scene in Toronto

Toronto was the first big stop in Canada. Seeing how this was our first time in the country, we we’re quiet sure what to expect. We had no idea how large of a city Toronto is, with nearly 5.5 million people, and holding the position as the 7th largest city in North American, it really is an enormous city. We were pleasantly surprised at how clean, modern, environmentally conscious (compost, recycling, & even electric bus system), Toronto is. It was diverse in it’s activities to do with major league Baseball, basketball, trails to bike, run, or walk, beaches to visit and lots of diverse bars and restaurants. There was literally every type of cuisine you could imagine here. We ate out for a few meals here, selectively choosing what we indulged in and did not, we also visited a few bars along the way.

We didn’t realize that we wouldn’t have internet connection with our Verizon Wifi Jet pack which was a big inconvenience when running a business and traveling. So our first day there we drove to a nearby brewery to enjoy some delicious brews and work. It’s nice that you can find a balance of still getting out and enjoying a city (or brewery) and getting some work done. The Great Lakes Brewery is about 15 minutes from downtown Toronto, and was running a small but tight ship. Their beers were clearly adorned by locals, and for good reason – they were yummy! We also found out from the bartender here that alcohol is controlled by the government in Canada. There are government stores that sell all alcohol called LCBO (Ontario) and SAQ (Quebec). You can also pick up alcohol directly from the brewery, vineyard, distillery, etc. but those are your two options. This was wild concept to us since it’s so different from how alcohol is distributed and regulated in the USA. We hit up the LCBO and SAQ during our stay which was similar to a Total Wine for anyone who’s visited one before.

The next night we decided to hit the town and went to the neighborhood around Kensington Market. It’s a young neighborhood with lots of trendy restaurants and bars, that has a dirty dingy feel to it. Graffiti (not always the beautiful mural types) is everywhere, music and chatter pour loudly into the streets from the bars, and the air consistently smelled of weed. I feel like this is a neighborhood you would either love or hate. We however, loved it! We tried MooFrites that night and got the Japo and Kimchi Fries. We loved these and left not a single bit or ounce of sauce behind. We know this isn’t poutine, but the concept is similar. Crisp thick cut fries, covered in a sauce of some sort, with cheese or other topping. We liked the frites we had here more than any of the several poutines we tried while in Canada (sorry if this breaks any of our Canadian friends hearts). Point of the story – go to MooFrites! We also walked to a few bars, but they were rather over priced and a bit swanky for us. If we went back again – we would definitely go to some other bars that were suggested to us by the locals we met along the way.

We also visited St. Lawrence market, which we talk about in greater detail in our post about things to See in Toronto. After our new friend, Andre the Chef, suggested a Toronto classic, the pealmeal bacon sandwich at Carousel Bakery on the top floor of the market we had to try it. We honestly had no idea this sandwich even existed, but Dennis was glad we found out about it. He might have gone a bit overboard on the spicy mustard…there were a few tears when the sandwich was gone. (Want to see Dennis’s reaction as he eats this sandwich? Watch the video here).
We of course had to visit Andre’s restaurant, Barsa Taberna, across the street which was a modern Spanish tapas restaurant. He was super kind to continue our conversation about Toronto, things to see, do and try while we were there. He also brought us his restaurants fusion of patatas bravas (famous spanish tapa) and poutine, adorned with a fried egg on top. Super delicious but super rich. We tried several of his other tapas and enjoyed a 1/2 pitcher of Sangria and Spicy Chili Margarita on the patio. It was such a gorgeous afternoon, indulging just felt right. His menu changes often based on whats fresh, in season, and as local as possible to the greater Ontario region. Summer is a great time to come because their crops are abundant and you can almost get what ever you want. Winter their menu will feature a lot of items they’ve pickled from the prime of the season, which would be its own interesting experience.

Of course work doesn’t stop just because our internet does, so for a 2nd time we made an afternoon of enjoying dinner and drinks while working. This time we spent our afternoon at Snakes and Lattes, it came highly recommended by our fellow full time friends, Amy and Mike. Their restaurant is near the University, and has hundreds of games to choose from while serving food, coffee, liquor, and beer/wine. After we finished our drinks we played a few rounds of Onitama, super fun game that remind us both of Chess with a Japanese spin on it. If you ever see it, try it! I’d also like to mention, Liz kicked Dennis’s ass…but who’s bragging?

To round off our food experience, we had to try poutine. I’m not sure if it’s the official dish of Canada, but it mine as well be. Every Canadian I know tells us when you go to Canada you HAVE to try Poutine. It’s medium to thick cut french fries cooked medium (they don’t make their fries super crispy like in the states), topped with cheese curds, covered in a thick brown beef gravy (there are other types but the base is typically some type of fat/lard/mushrooms).

This will probably get us in some trouble, but we’re just not poutine people. We tried it. We tried a lot of it, in fact we tried lots of different kinds, but it just doesn’t wow us. If your drunk and you need something hearty, greasy, and good then Poutine is your best friend, but other than that it didn’t wow us. We know that we don’t speak for everyone, so I’m going to say what all of our Canadian friends say, when you’re there….try Poutine and see if it’s for you or not!