Toronto dining: From high-in-the-sky to dives

The elusive poutine with vegan gravy. Found, in all places, Toronto (and not Montreal).

The elusive poutine with vegan gravy. Found, in all places, Toronto (and not Montreal).

Toronto prides itself as being one of the most diverse cities on the continent, with more than 50 percent of its residents hailing from somewhere outside Canada. Its culinary scene is no different, offering a smorgasbord of tastes for every palette – even the sometimes overlooked and simplified vegetarian. Here are some our top picks from our recent trip to Canada’s largest city.

Lunch/dinner:

Sadie’s Diner – With seating for only about 10 up front (a small area in back can seat another 10-15), what Sadie’s Diner lacks in seating, it makes up for in outstanding “dive-quality” food. It was here, at this all-vegetarian diner, we finally got to try the Montreal-staple poutine, which are French fries doused in cheese curds and, in this case, vegan gravy. The taste and look of the dish was a bit odd at first but, like the many vodka drinks I like to now consume, it quickly turned into an acquired taste. Also try the bean burger with avocado and keep an eye open for Groupons to this great hole-in-the-wall just west of downtown. Prices are reasonable, typically around $12-$14 per dish. Make sure to check out the random Pez dispenser collection in the back room.

360 Restaurant – Perched more than 1,100 feet up the CN Tower, 360 Restaurant is Toronto’s premier rotating restaurant, offering diners a 360-degree panoramic sight of the city. The ambience and food presentation are quite the contrast from Sadie’s Diner (make sure you put on your Sunday finest), but the restaurant boasts menus for both carnivores and herbivores. Caitlyn and I both went with the “selection of seasonal vegetables.” While delicious, each plate set us back $35 and one can only eat so many vegetables without fear of having “asparagus pee” for the next week. The price did include a free trip to the observation deck, somewhat nullifying the pricey produce. But carnivores beware: Don’t expect to escape for less than $50 a head.

Price produce at the CN Tower's 360 Restaurant. I suppose you're paying for the view ...

Pricey produce at the CN Tower’s 360 Restaurant. I suppose you’re paying for the view …

Earth RosedaleThis was a pleasant gem we never would have discovered if not for Groupon. With two locations (we visited Earth Rosedale), Earth offers locally sourced, in-season dishes and a normal menu, as well as a prix fixe menu for Groupon users. We were treated to black truffle gnocchi, a salad with fennel and apple, and, in my case, a surprisingly tasty milk chocolate custard and, in Caitlyn’s case, sticky toffee pudding. The shocker was that all this food for the two of us came to less than $30. With low lighting, dark hardwood floors and modern lighting, the ambience was ideal for a date and the location was just a block from the Rosedale subway station.

Breakfast:

Load up on toppings at The Cereal Bar.

Load up on toppings at The Cereal Bar.

The Cereal BarLocated in a food court within the bowels of Toronto’s underground city (the PATH), The Cereal Bar allows diners to pick from one of a half dozen or so cereals (or oatmeal, if you’d prefer) and add up to three toppings and milk. I picked organic granola with banana, strawberry and chocolate chips. Prices are reasonable, at less than $4 a bowl and it’s a good alternative to downing a venti coffee or Tim Horton’s “Tim Bits” (U.S. equivalent: Dunkin’ Donut’s Munchkins) for the sixth straight day.

Dessert:

Greg’s Ice Cream – Everyone on Yelp gushed about Greg’s – and the gushing was warranted! Don’t expect to find cookie dough, chocolate chip or any other “normal” ice cream flavor here. The “roasted marshmallow” ice cream tasted just like sitting around the campfire, skewering marshmallows on a branch. One thing to watch out for: It’s a bit tricky to find, snugly located between two other businesses. Caitlyn and I walked by it about three times before we even saw it. If worst comes to worst, go to the college next door and ask for directions (like we did).

 

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