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Where to Eat Toronto

Dandylion is a Sophisticated Oasis on Queen West

CHEF JAY CARTER’S DANDYLION RESTAURANT HAS BEEN LAUDED FOR ITS INTIMATE ATMOSPHERE AND FOCUSED, INGREDIENT-DRIVEN MENU

Dandylion Restaurant Toronto

Dandylion (photo: Craig Moy)

Somehow Jay Carter has managed to fly just below the radar. Though critically lauded, the longtime Susur Lee associate was unlikely to be the first name that came to mind when considering the city’s brightest culinary stars. That’s changing, thanks to the launch of chef Carter’s new venture, Dandylion. The restaurant is an oasis of maturity in a hipster enclave, offering a menu that’s highly focused (a meat, fish and vegetarian option is offered for each of the three courses) yet still quite varied: the kitchen draws on a panoply of culinary traditions and seasonal ingredients to produce sophisticated dishes that could include a medley of mushrooms, sous-vide eggs and savoury granola, or whitefish with carrot sauce and smoked paprika.  —Craig Moy

• Dandylion, 1198 Queen St. W.,647-464-9100; restaurantdandylion.com
Map and reviews

The Carbon Bar’s Filling Friday Lunch

DOWNTOWN BARBECUE-AND-BOOZE HAUNT THE CARBON BAR WANTS TO FILL YOU UP FOR FRIDAY LUNCH

The Carbon Bar Toronto Lunch

Barbecued mac ‘n’ cheese, hamachi ceviche and the rye-and-whisky “Northern Borealis” are among the offerings on the Carbon Bar’s lunch menu (photos: Craig Moy)

If the arrival of warm, sunny weather wasn’t already enough to have you wishing you were anywhere but the office, The Carbon Bar now offers another reason. Last week, the trendy barbecue-and-booze restaurant began inviting patrons to “mail it in” on Fridays by enjoying a leisurely lunch featuring its internationally inspired fare plus signature cocktails. Smaller appetites can graze on savoury starters including a roasted cauliflower and quinoa salad and perfect-for-summer hamachi ceviche with pineapple and coconut. For the proper long-lunch experience you’ll want to add a meaty main: a pit-fired turkey BLT, a cheeseburger with oak-smoked bacon, barbecued mac ‘n’ cheese, and more. Or rustle up a dining date to share in the midday version of The Carbon Bar’s famed pit master platter, which boasts buttermilk fried chicken, pork ribs, beef brisket, fries and other fixin’s.  —Craig Moy

• The Carbon Bar, 99 Queen St. E., 416-947-7000; thecarbonbar.ca
• Map and reviews

Quick Pick: 3 New Hot Spots for Hot Dogs in Toronto

THOUGH STILL A STAPLE OF CURBSIDE CARTS AND STADIUM CONCESSION STANDS, HOT DOGS IN TORONTO ARE GROWING MORE GOURMET WITH THE ARRIVAL OF A PAIR OF NEW WIENER SHOPS, PLUS THE THIRD LOCATION OF THE CITY’S REIGNING TUBE STEAK CHAMPION.

Fancy Franks Hot Dogs in Toronto

Fancy Franks Gourmet Hot Dogs has found success by crafting its own wieners with an impressive variety of toppings. To celebrate the opening of its new Queen West outlet, the eatery has also added a menu of nine unique poutines. 453 Queen St. W., 647-347-3647; fancyfranks.com

• Originally a food truck, Let’s Be Frank serves Nathan’s Famous beef frankfurters in iterations like the panko-crusted, deep-fried and wasabi-mayo’d Katsu Dog and the chili-slathered Coney Dog. 2032 Queen St. E., 647-349-9328; shakesandfranks.com

• The Beach’s Shakes and Franks also boasts Nathan’s-branded offerings, not to mention a creative milkshake menu—try the Sappy Pig, with maple syrup and bacon. 460 Spadina Ave., 416-519-7256; lets-be-frank.ca

—Craig Moy

Curbside Cookbook Takes Street Food from Truck to Table

EL GASTRÓNOMO VAGABUNDO CHEF ADAM HYNAM-SMITH’S CURBSIDE COOKBOOK FEATURES INTERNATIONALLY INSPIRED RECIPES FROM ONTARIO’S PIONEERING GOURMET FOOD TRUCK

Curbside Cookbook Adam Hynam-Smith El Gastronomo Vagabundo Food Truck

Chef Adam Hynam-Smith’s Curbside cookbook features recipes he’s perfected on his El Gastrónomo Vagabundo food truck, as well as at pop-up events (photos: Whitecap Books)

Political and bureaucratic roadblocks have conspired to stifle a Toronto street-food scene that not long ago seemed ready to explode. But that shouldn’t stop you from sampling some delicious food truck eats. Just pick up a copy of Curbside: Modern Street Food from a Vagabond Chef, the debut cookbook by Adam Hynam-Smith, chef and co-owner of El Gastrónomo Vagabundo, generally acknowledged as Ontario’s first gourmet food truck. Though he’s now based in the Niagara region, Australian-born Hynam-Smith has also cooked in Morocco, France, England and Thailand: these global influences pervade his dishes, from crispy cod tacos with smoked pineapple and habanero to braised pork hock steamed buns to son-in-law eggs. (The book also includes a smattering of dishes by guest chefs who’ve inspired Hynam-Smith’s cooking.)

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Quick Pick: 3 Fish-Focused Lunch Counters

CHECK OUT THESE TORONTO LUNCH COUNTERS TO GET A QUICK (AND DELICIOUS) SEAFOOD FIX.

Seafood Fish Lunch Counter Market Street Catch Toronto

A few of the fresh ingredients available at Market Street Catch

Junction-area fishmonger and lunch counter Honest Weight offers unique options for your midday meal. Try the okonomiyaki, a Japanese fish pancake, or just choose a fish from the display case and get it grilled to order. 2766 Dundas St. W., 416-604-9992; honestweight.ca

A quick-service spot from the owners of acclaimed restaurant The Chase, Little Fin serves up a smattering of sandwiches on distinctive charcoal-coloured buns. Larger appetites can also get a half or whole lobster dinner. 4 Temperance St., 647-348-7000; littlefin.ca

No matter your craving—be it fried halibut, barbecued octopus, an oyster po’ boy or lobster poutine—the diverse menu at Market Street Catch is sure to have you salivating. 14 Market St., 647-391-8140; marketstreetcatch.com

—Craig Moy

Pearl Diver Proffers Delicious Jewels from the Deep

PATRICK MCMURRAY STILL KNOWS HOW TO SHUCK ‘EM AT PEARL DIVER, HIS REVAMPED, RENAMED RESTAURANT

Pearl Diver Restaurant Toronto

A few of the offerings at Pearl Diver (photo: Peter Moscone)

Depending on the species, the lifespan of a starfish can range between three and 35 years. Oyster expert Patrick McMurray’s Starfish restaurant lasted 13—certainly a healthy age. This past winter the downtown seafood spot was reborn as Pearl Diver, a significantly more casual venue for savouring the champion shucker’s global selection of shellfish and crustaceans, ranging from B.C., East Coast and European oysters to Atlantic lobster to gooseneck barnacles. The inclusiveness of the dining room extends further into the menu: diners seeking turf over surf are accommodated with meaty mains including rib-eye steak and bone-in pork chop with a concord grape reduction. Wash it all down with the owner’s unique Scrimshaw Oyster Stout, a dark beer brewed in part with P.E.I. Malpeque oysters.  —Craig Moy

• Pearl Diver, 100 Adelaide St. E., 416-366-7827; pearldiver.to
Map and reviews

You Are Here: Eat & Shop in Rosedale & Summerhill

ROSEDALE AND SUMMERHILL, AN ADJOINING PAIR OF TONY RESIDENTIAL NEIGHBOURHOODS JUST NORTH OF DOWNTOWN, ARE BISECTED BY YONGE STREET’S STRETCH OF LOW-KEY BUT UPSCALE BOUTIQUES, CAFÉS AND JUST-UNDER-THE-RADAR RESTAURANTS.

Rosedale Summerhill Toronto

Want Apothecary

1 The Monk’s Table offers sanctuary (though of a decidedly non-monastic variety) to seekers of harder-to-find European ales and hearty pub fare. 1276 Yonge St., 416-920-7037; themonkstable.com

2 A boutique, café and studio, Room 2046 is all the better for being hard to pin down: its design-savvy stock runs the gamut from stylish stationery and indie magazines to artisan skincare products and housewares. 1252 Yonge St., 647-348-2046; room2046.com

3 The antler-adorned logo of Love the Design offers some indication of the wares within: vintage and vintage-style furnishings and art that would be at home in any contemporary Canadian cabin (or, say, cabin-chic condo). 1226 Yonge St., 416-855-9991; lovethedesign.com

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Buca Yorkville is Toronto’s Hottest Seafood Spot

CHEF ROB GENTILE’S STAR CONTINUES TO RISE AT BUCA YORKVILLE, A SEAFOOD-CENTRIC OFFSHOOT OF KING WEST’S BUCA THAT’S ALREADY EARNING ACCOLADES AS TORONTO’S BEST NEW RESTAURANT

Buca Yorkville Toronto

Double-stuffed lobster-filled pasta at Buca Yorkville (photo: Renée Suen)

By now there’s hardly a Toronto diner that hasn’t heard of Buca, arguably the city’s best contemporary Italian dining room, or Bar Buca, its small plate–focused sibling. The brand’s dominance continues at recently opened Buca Osteria & Bar (or, as it’s colloquially known, Buca Yorkville). An instant hit in the heart of tony Yorkville, the refined yet energetic restaurant sees executive chef Rob Gentile stretching into seafood (his menu at the original Buca is more meat-centric) with such dishes as braised octopus with B.C. clams, double-stuffed lobster ravioli, and a whole raw branzino carved tableside. If you’re with a group, the daily crudo misto platter is a shareable stunner. Bonus: a front-of-house café space opens before lunchtime and offers indulgent pastries and espressos.  —Craig Moy

• Buca Osteria & Bar, 55 Scollard St., 416-962-2822; buca.ca
Map and reviews

Nana Brings Bangkok Cooking to Queen West

FROM THE OWNER OF KHAO SAN ROAD COMES NANA, A RESTAURANT THAT TAKES THE STREET-STYLE THAI TREND TO ITS LOGICAL CONCLUSION

Nana restaurant toronto

Traditional Thai dishes at Nana include khao soi, tom yum soup with shrimp, and pad Thai

Nana, an approximation of Bangkok’s entertainment district on one of Toronto’s hippest strips (Queen Street West), serves up more than a smattering of Southeast Asian ambience to go with a menu of street-style Thai fare. Cobblestone flooring, plastic stools, strings of Thai flags, and, we’ll admit, somewhat tight quarters, do well to conjure a quasi night market atmosphere. As for the food, it’s an amply spiced mix of familiar favourites—the likes of khao soi and pad see ew are also offered at Nana’s popular sister space, Khao San Road, though the recipes are different—and lesser-known dishes such as “riverboat” noodle soup and southern fried chicken laab. Gelato sourced from Kensington Market’s Millie Creperie makes for a superb palate cleanser. —Craig Moy

• Nana, 785 Queen St. W., 647-352-5773; stnnana.com
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Maple Syrup Season Begins in Ontario

THE TENTATIVE ARRIVAL OF SPRING IN ONTARIO MEANS THE MAPLE SYRUP HARVEST CAN BEGIN FOR ANOTHER YEAR!

maple syrup ontario

The tapping of maple trees (or, at least, practicing to do so) is, of course, a vital step in harvesting their sap, which is then boiled down to become maple syrup

THE SWEETEST SAP
As winter wanes, maple trees’ sap starts to flow. All month long, festivals celebrate one of Canada’s tastiest exports—maple syrup. You’ll need to head out of the downtown core to fully experience this sweet extract, but it’ll be worth the journey. Both Woodbridge’s Kortright Centre for Conservation and Bruce’s Mill Conservation Area in Stouffville offer a full range of family-friendly activities, including maple syrup demonstrations and samples, pancake feasts and horse-drawn wagon rides. Navigate to maplesyrupfest.com for a full schedule and admission rates.

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You Are Here: Eat, Shop & Hang Out in Little Italy

10 GREAT DESTINATIONS IN TORONTO’S LITTLE ITALY NEIGHBOURHOOD

you are here Little Italy Toronto

Bar Isabel (photo: Paula Wilson)

West of the University of Toronto, College Street and its surroundings were historically home to a large Italian population. The area’s heritage has long since been diluted, but its main drag is still filled with tasty restaurants, cool cafés and more.

1 The hospitality of the Highlands is in full effect at The Caledonian a Scottish pub that pours nearly 200 whiskies (scotch or otherwise) alongside contemporary twists on hearty dishes like steak pie, butter chicken and haggis, naturally. 856 College St., 647-547-9827; thecaledonian.ca

2 Bar Isabel is one of Toronto’s most popular eateries; every evening it’s stuffed with patrons from first seating ‘til well past midnight. Go for the Spanish small plates. Stay for the excellent, boozy cocktails and craft beers. 797 College St., 416-532-2222; barisabel.com

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Borealia Serves Canada’s Culinary Heritage

WEST QUEEN WEST-AREA DINING ROOM BOREALIA OFFERS CONTEMPORARY VERSIONS OF EARLY-CANADIAN CUISINE

Borealia restaurant toronto

Among the menu items at Borealia are braised whelk and bison “pemmican” bresaola (photos: Nick Merzetti)

Nowadays there are many Toronto restaurants known for serving Canadian cuisine, but few do it with such specificity as Borealia. The cozy Ossington Avenue restaurant takes its cues from the historical recipes prepared by Canada’s native peoples and those who settled here—from England, France, China and elsewhere—during the country’s first great wave of immigration. The culinary aim, however, is less about preservation than it is reinvention: chef Wayne Morris uses modern techniques to interpret pre-Confederation fare for today’s discerning diners. The results are both reverent and novel in dishes such as éclade (mussels smoked in pine needles), pigeon pie and braised whelk (a giant sea snail).  Craig Moy

• Borealia, 59 Ossington Ave., 647-351-5100; borealiato.com
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