After four summers of working in Toronto, I’ve learned some things. I spent my first summer figuring out the layout of the city, the second summer learning about the main destinations, the third summer visiting the destinations and the fourth summer writing about everywhere I had been. I figured the way to make the most of the money I spent to commute to Toronto was to immerse myself in the city while I was there. I have been able to share my knowledge of the city with friends and family by bringing them to my favourite places or sometimes, as the case may be, to BlogTO’s favourite places. Now that I’m going to be away from the city for a while, I thought I would share some of my favourite places in Toronto so you too can go to some of the best places in the city. Advance warning, as I am not BlogTO and most of my adventures have been self-funded, I am not an authority on the best and worst of all things in Toronto. These are just some of the places I have frequented and enjoyed. Also, as I am not BlogTO, I’m hoping that today won’t be the first day in the history of I’m on a Journey that I receive an influx of comments saying that I suck and this post is awful. (Seriously, you should see the trolls on their Best Of lists.) Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, here’s a list of some of my favourite places in Toronto.
Best Bakery: Bunner’s Bake Shop, 244 Augusta Ave or 3054 Dundas St W
Bunner’s makes vegan and gluten free desserts that definitely don’t sacrifice flavour. I recommend their cinnamon buns and the soft serve ice cream.
Best Bar: Cold Tea, 60 Kensington Ave
I liked this bar so much, I made it the subject of a blog post. It’s a great place to go to if you want to hang out in a more laid back environment. It’s also a great place to bring friends to if you want to impress them with your knowledge of little known Toronto bars or if you want to terrify them by bringing them to a bar you can only access by walking through a sketchy looking mall after hours.
Best Brewery: Bellwoods Brewery, 124 Ossington St
Though I love the beers at Mill Street Brewery and Amsterdam Brewery, and I love the atmosphere at Steam Whistle Brewery, Bellwoods is my new favourite because their beers can’t be found anywhere else. In the summer, the pub area is open, turning the entire brewery into a patio looking out into Ossington.
Best Burger: The Burger’s Priest, 463 Queen St W and other locations
This is a hotly debated category, owing to the number of places in Toronto with good quality, inventive burgers. I had the best overall eating experience at BQM at Queen and Spadina, but I’m giving the award to The Burger’s Priest because I’ve never eaten a burger like the one I had with both a beef patty and a deep fried, cheese-stuffed portobello mushroom. make sure to check out their secret menu before you go.
Best Burrito: Burrito Boyz, 218 Adelaide St W and other locations
Everything I have had at Burrito Boyz has been great. They have a wide range of meat and fish options as well as an impressive assortment of vegetarian options. When I want something more filling my go to is the veggie soy. All of their locations offer vegan guacamole by request. Erica and I may or may not have run through the streets of Toronto one time so we could make it to Burrito Boyz faster.
Best Coffee: Jimmy’s Coffee, 191 Baldwin St
I always have great service and great coffee at Jimmy’s. The barista at the Portland location is great, but nothing can beat the patio at the Kensington Market location. While you’re at their Baldwin St location, consider stopping by Tom’s Place to buy some three for one suits.
Best Cookies: Wanda’s Pie in the Sky, 287 Augusta Ave
Bunner’s is hard to beat for vegan cookies, but Wanda’s definitely has my favourite traditional options. Ask the servers for their recommendations. I’ve found you can’t go wrong with any of them. See the lead photo for a picture of a beautiful cookie.
Best Food Truck: tied between Buster’s Sea Cove and Gorilla Cheese
Buster’s Sea Cove has two to four tacos on offer from their truck, including fish, squid and shrimp. Their food is always fresh and perfectly spiced. The only thing better than their food truck is their St. Lawrence Market location. If you like fish, try their lobster bisque.
Gorilla Cheese is my favourite food truck, but I couldn’t put them alone in this category because they come from Hamilton. All of their grilled cheese sandwiches are awesome but my favourite is the Zesty Mordant, a grilled cheese with jalapeños and Doritos.
Best Izakaya: Guu Izakaya, 398 Church St
A crazy atmosphere, gigantic glasses of Sapporo and great Japanese bar snacks make Guu Izakaya a place you have to check out. Inside is always loud because each group that enters the bar is greeted with cheers by the kitchen staff and hosts. The wait can be long if you go later on a Friday or Saturday ( or if you go on any day, actually) but it’s worth the wait to be there when the place gets loud.
Best Japanese: Fin Izakaya, 55 Eglinton Ave E
Though Fin is a bar like Guu Izakaya is, there as more emphasis on shareable main dishes than on bar snacks. Go for the food rather than the bar atmosphere. It was only half full when I was there at around 7:00 on a Thursday. Order anything and everything that’s stone grilled.
Best Lunch: Urban Herbivore, 220 Yonge St (Eaton Centre)
Urban Herbivore has great options for a take out lunch, especially if you work in the Financial District or around the Eaton Centre. The sandwiches tend to have a strange taste if you get tofu or tempeh in them, but I’ll put up with some strange tasting tempeh if it means I can get a vegan sandwich at lunch. The lines can be long and the sandwiches don’t come quickly, but the portion sizes are worth the wait. The sandwiches and salads are enormous. Go on Thursday and get a half sandwich and a half salad for $10.
Best Music Venue: Horseshoe Tavern, 370 Queen St W
I love the Horseshoe for its atmosphere. The small venue makes performances feel intimate without losing the energy of a larger venue. When I saw Fucked Up during NXNE, the place was packed and the area in front of the stage was crazy. (So crazy, I saw a couple of high school classmates crowd surf by me.) The Horseshoe draws a good crowd with an interesting mix of people even on nights when there aren’t any big shows going on. It also feel really cool to go to a bar where Willie Nelson and the Ramones once played. There’s a reason why the Horseshoe Tavern is considered legendary.
Best Salad: Fresh, 326 Bloor St W and other locations
Fresh makes salads so good, my friend Alex and I often text each other about them even when neither of us are in Toronto. The Ironman is great salad if you want something more filling because it comes with falafel. The Phytosalad is definitely the prettiest salad because it mixes greens with edible flowers.
Best Sandwich: Uno Mustachio, 95 Front St E
Uno Mustachio serves enormous sandwiches in the basement of the St. Lawrence Market. I have had the chicken parmesan and the eggplant parmesan, and both were amazing. It’s a well known fact that Uno Mustachio’s sandwiches make the world a better place.
Best Tacos: Seven Lives, 69 Kensington Ave
At one point I would have argued for Grand Electric as the best taco place in the city, but Seven Lives is even better. They have a great range of fish and seafood tacos, as well as an awesome mushroom cactus taco.
Best Thai: Khao San Road, 326 Adelaide St W
I’ve been to a number of Thai restaurant in Toronto and Khao San Road is definitely my favourite. If you’re going for your first time, order the squash fritters as a starter and the khao soi as a main. I recommend drinking the Thai iced tea or the Singha. The place is crazy busy, so I recommend getting there when it opens at five for dinner.
Best Veggie Burger: Fresh, 326 Bloor St W and other locations
Though it’s Fresh’s salads and bowls that are the most talked about, they also have great veggie burgers. All of the burgers are vegan but cheese can be added for a few dollars. I’ve gone back time after time for the BBQ burger. If you’re going for the first time, get your burger with a side of quinoa onion rings.
If you happen to be in Toronto, say hello to all my favourite places for me. Next time I’m in the city, I can almost guarantee you’ll be able to find me somewhere near Burrito Boyz. Until then, I’m on a mission to find the best burrito in Vancouver. If you know of any places I should check out in Toronto or Vancouver, let me know in a comment. I’m always out looking for a good cup of coffee or a good pint of beer.
Song of the Day: Crabbuckit by k-os