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Winterlicious 2014

It’s that magical time of year where the city is bursting with tantalizing fragrances that’ll whisk you away and wet your palate. Winterlicious 2014 is upon us!

For two weeks, starting January 31st to February 13th, over 200 restaurants city-wide will be participating in the Prix Fixe promotion for lunch and dinner menus. That means you could eat a delectable, three-course, gourmet dinner for just under $50.00 or lunch, for under $20.00.

The city produces Winterlicious and Summerlicious every year to highlight our colourful array of global cuisine prepared by some our finest chefs and restaurants. It also gives us a chance to experience different dishes and expand our tastes, without breaking the bank.

And we can’t forget the always popular Culinary Event Series which offers amazing cooking and dining experiences. Spice Route, Ciao Wine Bar, Rosewater, along with many other restaurants, will be providing interactive demonstrations and lessons on everything from Italian braising to creating a divine gnocchi. You’ll leave with a head full of knowledge and gut full of grub.

Restaurants are now accepting reservations and are quickly coming to capacity!

For ticket info CLICK HERE

Posted by Samira Zia Rehman

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The Beverley Hotel Toronto (Menu Tasting)

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We had the opportunity to check out the private menu tasting at The Beverley, Queen West’s newest boutique hotel, which celebrates its grand opening today. Inspired by the heart, soul and creative spirit of the vibrant Queen West neighbourhood, The Beverley boasts 18 modern and contemporary guest rooms, a rooftop patio with a great view of the downtown core, and an eclectic restaurant helmed by Chef Eric Wood, formerly of Hawthorne Food & Drink and Fabarnak.

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“It’s a space catered for young, urban professionals in the Queen West area. So we created a menu that reflects the lifestyle and culture of the neighbourhood and people,” explains Chef Wood of his menu- contemporary Canadian with a bit of international flair and a focus on local and seasonal produce. Highlights of the evening included his take on a deconstructed caprese salad featuring the 2013 Canadian Cheese Grand Prix winner (a local, delicious ricotta); a sweet and savory edamame; a beautiful and fresh crudo dish; and a clever “rags to riches” play on caviar.

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For more info: thebeverleyhotel.ca

Posted by Jenelle Antolin

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The Stop’s 2nd Annual Night Market

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It was a “feast for the eyes, heart, belly” when The Stop’s 2nd annual Night Market descended into Honest Ed’s alleyway for two nights on June 18 and 19. The event, which sold out within the first two hours of ticket sales, raised over $100,000 for the Stop Community Food Centre’s critical hunger and anti-poverty programs, and featured over 60 of Toronto’s best chefs and 35 stunning, one-of-a-kind food carts created by local designers. The Stop’s Night Market offered hoards of foodies a unique chance to experience the iconic space with the best of Toronto’s street food and local design.

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Form and function: Some of our favourite booth designs created by local designers and architects.

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The boys at 416 Snackbar served up some tasty Korean Fried Chicken.

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Chef Nick Liu with the Gwai Lo girls.

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Tori’s Bakeshop’s gluten free donuts in strawberry cream and vanilla bean – served in packages cleverly used as part of their booth design.

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Marben’s tequila-infused rainbow trout ceviche, served in an oyster shell.

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Mini red velvet cupcakes from Sullivan & Bleeker.

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Côte de Boeuf’s house-cured corn beef, homemade grainy mustard, aioli, marrow and pickled jalapeños on a baguette.

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Libations from Tequila Tromba.

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Takoyaki from The Stop.

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Paulette’s Garam Masala donuts.

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Lamb mechovi, smolina flatbread, radish pickles from Yours Truly.

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Generous offerings from Momofuku Shoto included a crab soup, cuttlefish salad, and a beef brisket.

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The Stockyard’s Pig in a Blanket- house-smoked andouille sausage, buttermilk biscuit batter and creole mustard.

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The Gabardine’s take on a classic Indian tikka dish, with a Canadian twist – Ontario pickerel tikka with puffed rice, tamarind chutney and coconut yogurt sauce.

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Hakka-style wontons with crispy onions and toasted Ontario nuts from Gwailo.

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We’re always amazed with the preparedness of pop-up-food-event veterans, but this hanging tray takes the cake!

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Among many of the pork dishes, the pulled pork taco from Universal Grill.

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Babi & Co’s padang-style pulled chicken curry on a fried Chinese bun, with cucumber and fried shallots.

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Top Chef Canada finalist and Richmond Station sous-chef Dennis Tay.

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Posted by Jenelle Antolin.

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SPiN Toronto’s Spring Menu

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Spring is in the air, and with the change in seasons, comes a transition from the hearty winter menus, to lighter, fresher fare. We hit up SPiN Toronto – King West’s ping pong social club – to check out their new spring menu launch, featuring local and seasonal ingredients, and a fresh take on classic cocktails. Toronto doesn’t have many places like SPiN – part bar and restaurant, part lounge, all ping pong – it’s definitely the perfect venue to catch up with friends over great food and drinks, while engaging an active but low-key activity like ping pong.

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SPiN’s menu features mostly sharing plates- amped up takes on the kind of low-key pub grub you’d expect to find at a place like this, while also incorporating some more unexpected gourmet fare. House favourite Chicken and Waffles platter ($16) is taken up a notch served with local honey and jalepenos, while the Can O’ Tuna ($12) is really a fresh Ahi tartare – a surprising find on a menu as relaxed as this. Garlic-and-buttery Cast Iron Prawns ($12) and colourful Fresh Veggie Chips ($8) provide healthier alternatives. Other favourites include the Sloppy Joe ($11) sliders, Hogtown Grilled Cheese ($11) sandwiches served with house-made ketchup, and 5 Step Fries Supreme ($9) – an elevated version of the Taco Bell staple, which features their house-made spray cheese. And who doesn’t love a good Cheese and Meats board ($18)? SPiN’s features market cheeses and house-cured meats.

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You can’t go wrong with their cocktails either. Served in mason jars, the Hurricane ($10.60) and Peach Pit ($12.40) are sweeter concoctions, and the 2oz Spring Negroni ($12.40) is bright and fresh with a splash of aperol and a sprig of lavender to lighten it up.

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And you can’t forget about the ping pong!

www.toronto.spingalactic.com | 461 King St. W., Toronto

Posted by Jenelle Antolin

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Sneak Peek: Lisa Marie (Restaurant)

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It started with Fidel Gastro’s – the pop-up shop that first introduced food entrepreneur Matt Basile and his sandwiches to the Toronto food scene. Then came Priscilla – the food truck that brought his sandwiches to the people. Collaborating with local businesses, and food organizations like Toronto Underground Market and Toronto Food Trucks, Basile quickly moved to the forefront of Toronto’s thriving mobile food movement. And now, a little under two years later, we welcome Lisa Marie, a bricks and mortar incarnation of the little pop-up that could, to the Queen West strip. Toronto’s own “Rebel Without a Kitchen” has found his home.

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We scored an invitation to the exclusive media launch party to check out the new space and taste the new menu. The spacious Queen West digs offers ample seating in a rock-and-roll themed space with lots of natural light, and also doubles as both the restaurant and production kitchen for the food truck. A floor-to-ceiling Elvis mural overlooks the dining space and bar, which serves up cocktail pairings- a never-before-seen addition to the Fidel Gastro’s lineup. In the back of the restaurant, a meat counter and wall of preserves allows customers to purchase and take home raw, marinated meats and canned goods.

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The entire menu with the exception of the sharing platters is available for us to taste that night. It’s cicchetti, which the wall graphic above the bar describes as “Kind of like tapas… but not.” Traditionally, cicchetti are small snacks are finger foods like sandwiches, meat boards. Basile’s interpretation stays true to the definition, as reflected in the menu.

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Chef and owner Matt Basile hams it up with girlfriend Kyla Zanardi, food photographer and also co-creator of Insight Project as they celebrate the launch of their “food baby”. Lisa Marie opens to the public tonight!

Lisa Marie | 638 Queen St. W., Toronto

Posted by Jenelle Antolin

Follow @1LOVETO #RebelWithoutAKitchen

The Daily Commute: Uptown Part I

DailyCommute

The Daily Commute is a weekly mini-series that introduces some great, affordable dining destinations, right of the TTC lines. From the morning coffee for the subway ride to the office, to post-work drinks right off your streetcar stop, we’ll be exploring some great spots to make your daily commute a tasty one.

We’re back on the commute this week, taking the Yonge-University-Spadina line through the stretch of Yonge between Eglinton and Rosedale. We move through the bustling uptown neighbourhoods of Yonge & Eglinton, Summerhill, and Rosedale, a few of Toronto’s wealthier communities, and home to a plethora of both high-end dining destinations and casual, local favourites. Populated by many prominent businesses, this stretch of the commute certainly is not lacking in working lunch or business dinner locales.

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Sweet Spot
Whether it’s for morning coffee en route to the office, or a mid-afternoon sugar fix, La Bamboche, located a short walk south of the Eglinton subway station is your spot. A wide assortment of hot beverages, and beautiful selection of delectable pastries make this patisserie a local favourite. Try their famous carrot cake, and choose from a great selection of French macarons, all made fresh, in-house, daily.
www.labamboche.ca | 4 Manor Rd. E., Toronto

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Quick Bites
A sandwich isn’t just a sandwich in these here parts. Great bites in-between two hands can be found at a few great cafés and sandwich shops right along this strip. The Black Camel just north of the Rosedale subway station offers a fantastic pulled pork sandwich, but make sure to check before heading down- they are known to sell out fast, and often update their sandwich status to their customers via Twitter. And what don’t we love about Delica Kitchen, just south of the St. Clair subway station, with their great selection of fresh, house-made sandwiches, as well as soups, salads and other baked goods. The Artisan Baker, Delica’s neighbor across the street serves up a similar selection but adds a great variety of delicious pastas and entrées to their lunchtime menu.
www.blackcamel.ca | 4 Crescent Rd., Toronto
www.delicakitchen.ca | 1440 Yonge St., Toronto
www.theartisanbakers.com | 1423 Yonge St., Toronto

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Heavy Hitter
For that truly gluttonous experience that – let’s face it – we all crave, at some point, head down to Holy Chuck Burger, which is also just steps from the St. Clair subway station, in extremely close proximity to some of the great spots already mentioned. Made from aged high quality cuts of beef that are ground in-house hourly, Holy Chuck Burger serves up some of Toronto’s finest patties in their signature burgers like The Mad Cow, and The Holy Chuck. Gourmands will love The Holy Duck, a street-food-meets-fine-dining number that features a single beef patty with foie gras, truffle oil and fresh black truffles- fancy! Other favourites include a breakfast-type burger with a beef patty, pancetta and a fried egg in between two freshly baked croissants that come from their friends at The Artisan Baker across the street (how’s that for co-operative food business!), and a panko-crusted Portobello mushroom burger. Wash it all down with their vanilla milkshake, made with real Madagascar bourbon vanilla bean, and finish it off with one of their sweet-savoury desserts, because who doesn’t love cookie dough, ice cream and bacon? And for Holy Chuck fans a little further out, Chef Johnny Prassoulis let us in on some privy information regarding a second location opening in Woodbridge in July.
www.holychuckburgers.com | 1450 Yonge St., Toronto

Posted by Jenelle Antolin

Previously: The Daily Commute: The East End Part I

Follow @1LOVETO #TheDailyCommute

ShopSmall

As young entrepreneurs we truly understand how important it is to support small businesses within our communities. We’ve always loved to find those one-of-a-kind neighbourhood gems, so we took the American Express pledge to #ShopSmall and visited 5 of our favourite shops in Toronto.

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Our first stop was Magic Pony on Queen Street West. If you’ve never been there before, let’s just say it makes you feel like a kid again. They have everything from designer toys, cool housewares, giant poster art, plus some hard to find books and magazines. We bought “Back Alleys and Urban Landscapes” by Toronto artist Michael Cho, who we blogged about back in September of 2012.

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We made our way down Queen Street West until we got to Spadina where we ate lunch at What A Bagel! We managed to get the last available table during their busy lunch hour rush and ordered the “Old School” and their vegetarian breakfast. If you get the chance to eat here, ask for the owners Ely or Isaac and tell them that we sent you!

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Our 3rd stop was Another Story Bookshop located in Roncesvalles Village. One of the reasons why we love this independently owned bookstore is because they focus on literary themes such as social justice, equity and diversity. They also highlight local authors and hold book readings and launches for local talent.

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After a long day of shopping we needed to relax and refuel, so we headed to Yorkville to visit our friends at Sotto Sotto for dinner. This famous Italian restaurant has played host to celebrities for years, including Brad Pitt, Oprah, Diddy, and of course our very own Drizzy Drake. If you’re looking for a small, private dinning experience, look no further, Sotto Sotto is perfect for date night. (pay attention fella’s)

Shout out to Angelo for always taking care of us!

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We decided to end off our night with a few cocktails at SpiritHouse located at 487 Adelaide St W at Portland. This specialty “spirit” bar has over 400 bottles to choose from, including a small selection of local beer such as Mill Street Organic, Steamwhistle, Tankhouse and Amsterdam Blonde. Next time you’re looking to try a new drink, try the “Toronto Cocktail”.

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American Express recently conducted a survey to see how Canadians feel about shopping small and “Word-of-mouth” was the #1 way we find out about small businesses in our neighbourhoods. Do you have a favourite Shop Small business? Get out there and spread the word! Show them some love by voting in the Neighbourhood Gems contest on Facebook. Each vote earns you an entry into a draw to win a $50 Amex Gift Card!

We would love to hear about your favourite Toronto business! Tweet your recommendations to @1LOVETO @AmexCanada #ShopSmall

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We’ve always loved to support local artists, creators and business owners, which is why we’re so hyped about the new Amex #ShopSmall program. The program is designed to celebrate the significant role that small businesses play in driving Canada’s economy, while adding to the culture and diversity of each unique neighbourhood, and we’ve teamed up with our friends at American Express to help highlight some of our favourite neighbourhood businesses.

We encourage you to join us in taking the pledge to #ShopSmall by supporting your favourite local businesses. These businesses are owned and operated by people just like you, who help to make our communities a better place to live.

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American Express is also looking for Toronto’s Neighbourhood Gem to help celebrate the role small businesses play in our community. Show some love and vote for your favourite Shop Small businesses in the “Neighbourhood Gems” contest!

HOW TO ENTER
- Visit the American Express Canada Facebook page and search for your favourite #ShopSmall business in Toronto
- Vote for your favourite Shop Small Merchant once a day from April 1-21 and you’ll automatically be entered into a daily draw for your chance to win a $50 Amex Gift Card
- The Top 5 businesses with the most votes will move on to the final round of voting
- You can vote from the Top 5 Shop Small Merchants from April 29 – May 5

www.neighbourhoodgems.ca

Good Luck!

Follow @1LOVETO & @AmexCanada #ShopSmall

Paintbox Bistro

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Toronto’s Regent Park has never been considered a dining destination. Enter Paintbox Bistro, a colourful new restaurant with a social mandate, that seeks to empower the community through food. At the very least, it’s given Regent Park a cozy neighborhood joint, where the cooking is solid, and the service, sincere. A desire to revitalize the community through social mission and community initiatives takes this restaurant to another level.

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Paintbox’s cultivating nature is not unlike the student-run Chef’s House at George Brown College, and the many similar programs across the city that provide training, support, and opportunities to the community. But the mandate is even more ambitious at Paintbox- train inexperienced locals, adopt and promote socially responsible values, and attract others to an otherwise stigmatized community – all while turning a profit. It’s these bold ideals that set Paintbox Bistro apart from other restaurants.

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The restaurant itself is charming and lovely, and quaint details -like mini easels to hold up table numbers, and paintbrushes in the flower arrangements – lend themselves to the artistic theme. The dinner menu showcases a comfortable selection of ‘primers’ (appetizers), ‘grand strokes’ (entrées), and ‘finishing touches’ (desserts), all prepared by an in-house kitchen staff of locals and students in training- some never having even yielded a knife prior to this. Nevertheless, technically sound cooking, whimsical presentation and amiable, earnest servers make for a pleasant dining experience, such as has never really been seen before in Regent Park. It’s this kind of recipe for social change that breaks down barriers in a community and brings people together.

www.paintboxbistro.ca | 555 Dundas St. E, Toronto

Posted by Jenelle Antolin

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#TBT: The Miller Tavern

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#TBT stands for “Throwback Thursday” and it’s our newest weekly feature where we’ll be posting pieces of Toronto’s history.

This Thursday we explore a historical site serving up some landmark food. The Miller Tavern Yonge St. was originally known as the York Mills Hotel, and dates back to the 1860′s, where it was originally used as a resting spot for horses and carriages. Ownership changed hands and it became The Jolly Miller, named after the happy owner of the local mill.

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Today, The Miller Tavern still plays host to casual diners looking to relax over a pint or two, and serves up some “serious seafood, superb steaks and sophisticated spirits”. An oyster bar, large outdoor patio and casual fine dining atmosphere make this a great venue to check out for the history, and the food.

www.themiller.ca | 388 Yonge St, Toronto

Posted by Jenelle Antolin

For more #TBT follow us on Instagram @1LOVETO

The Daily Commute: The East End Part I

DailyCommute

The Daily Commute is a weekly mini-series that introduces some great, affordable dining destinations, right off the TTC lines. From the morning coffee for the subway ride to the office, to post-work drinks right off your streetcar stop, we’ll be exploring some great spots to make your daily commute a tasty one.

We move out to the east end of the city, as today’s commute spans the Bloor-Danforth Subway line through Greektown, along the stretch between Broadview and Pape. A heritage strip, big on old-time charm, this neighbourhood boasts one of the highest concentrations of restaurants per kilometre in the world, and is home to a populous group of Greek-Canadians. The claim-to-fame in these here parts is the annual ‘Taste of Danforth’ festival. And while looking for a Greek restaurant is like looking for sand in a beach, there’s more to find here than just souvlaki and moussaka.

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Morning Fix
Because starting the day on sugary loukoumades may not be the best idea, Broadview Espresso is a quaint corner cafe just a minute north of the Broadview subway station, which offers a quiet respite to grab coffee and a muffin before hitting the bustling downtown core. For the late commuter, enjoy a sit-down breakfast quiche at Café Fiorentina, a minute away from the Broadview subway station. Weekend commuters can relish the brunch menu, where the brioche French toast with blood orange marmalade, whipped cream and maple syrup may just give you that sugar rush to start your day off.
Broadview Espresso | 817 Broadview Ave., Toronto
www.cafefiorentina.com | 236 Danforth Ave., Toronto

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Got Beef
If souvlaki on a pita ain’t your thing, go for ground beef goodness with some great burger staples this strip has to offer. Allen’s, just off the Broadview subway station is practically an institution, and their classic burger has graced the top of many “Best of” burger lists- and for good reason! An extensive beer selection and amazing patio make this place a fantastic spot for lunch, dinner or post-work drinks. Burger Stomper, steps from the Chester subway station serves up a great bacon cheeseburger so cleverly dubbed “Better than the other guy”. Enjoy with a side of their sweet potato fries and a classic milkshake.
www.allens.to | 143 Danforth Ave., Toronto
www.burgerstomperbar.com | 364 Danforth Ave., Toronto

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Taste of Danforth
Danforth, in its inherent Greek-ness, is known for some of the best Greek restaurants in the city, and ‘Taste of Danforth’ is a summer food festival showcasing the various establishments on the strip. But even on a daily basis, the “taste” is prevalent, and many a foodie will flock to this side of the city for the most authentic Greek eats. A few of our favourites are clustered just steps from the Chester subway station. Avli is cozy and quaint, and offers a prix-fixe lunch menu at a steal of $15. Enjoy gyros of epic proportions (literally) at Messini Authentic Gyros, or a pork souvlaki with the Greek fries. Pan on the Danforth is great for dinners and parties and even has live music and belly dancing to accompany Greek wine and some moussaka. Opa!
www.avlirestaurant.com | 401 Danforth Ave., Toronto
www.messini.ca | 445 Danforth Ave., Toronto
www.panonthedanforth.com | 516 Danforth Ave., Toronto

Posted by Jenelle Antolin

Previously: The Daily Commute: Mid-Town

Follow @1LOVETO #TheDailyCommute

The Daily Commute: Mid-Town

DailyCommute

The Daily Commute is a weekly mini-series that introduces some great, affordable dining destinations, right off the TTC lines. From the morning coffee for the subway ride to the office, to post-work drinks right off your streetcar stop, we’ll be exploring some great spots to make your daily commute a tasty one.

We hit mid-town in today’s commute, following the Bloor-Danforth Subway line through the Annex and Yorkville, along the strip between Spadina and Sherbourne. Dotted with high-end fashion retailers, designer boutiques and classy hotels, this area is known as Canada’s most exclusive shopping district, and a mecca for international celebrities come film festival season. But in between the shopping and people-watching are some great eats that don’t necessarily reflect the hefty price tags often associated with this upscale neighbourhood.

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A Head Start
Start your day off right with breakfast at Matisse Restaurant, just off the Yonge subway station, inside the Marriot hotel. Early risers can enjoy a bountiful breakfast buffet to fill up for the long day ahead, while commuters cutting it close can drop in to grab breakfast pastries and Starbucks coffee for the ride to the office.
www.matisserestaurant.ca | 90 Bloor Street E., Toronto

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Warming Up
Long before the infiltration of ramen brought throngs of foodies flocking to numerous Toronto noodle houses, Kenzo Ramen, off the Spadina subway station, was the spot to get your fix of the ubiquitous Japanese soup. Warm up from the cold with their classic Tonkatsu ramen with extra pork, and a side of Gyoza dumplings. Lineup-free, as the crowds tend to gravitate to the more recently opened ramen spots across the city.
www.kenzoramen.ca | 372 Bloor Street W., Toronto

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Get Away
Tucked away on a quiet side street steps from the St. George subway station, Fiermosca Trattoria transports you from midtown bustle, to southern Italy, both in atmosphere and in the cooking. Commuters with longer lunches can enjoy a brief escape to the Italian countryside with a genuinely portioned lunch out on the patio (which, of course, doesn’t sound appealing in the frigid weather, but rest assured, is absolutely beautiful in the warmer months). Reasonable prices, large portions and sincere and quick service make this a great place to catch up with a friend, or get away from the office for awhile.
www.fieramoscatoronto.com | 36A Prince Arthur Ave., Toronto

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The Post-Work Watering Hole
Whether you’re looking to satisfy those immediate post-work munchies, or somewhere to watch the big game with a few friends, Hemingways just across from the Bay subway station is the perfect venue. A snack menu (available after 4 pm), extensive drinks list, and rooftop patio make this a great post-work hangout. Unpretentious and low-key, but can definitely fill up on game nights. They have 24 beers on-tap and offer great lunch and dinner menus as well.
www.hemingways.to | 142 Cumberland St., Toronto

Posted by Jenelle Antolin

Previously: The Daily Commute: The West End Part II

Follow @1LOVETO #TheDailyCommute