At long last, Anthony Bourdain has ignored the critics in Montreal and Vancouver and brought his Layover film crew to Toronto to tape an episode. It aired this week in the States and won’t be coming to Canada’s Travel channel until next year. (Update: DailyMotion has a video up that Canadian viewers can watch.)
He praised the comedy scene and slagged the CN Tower (fair enough, on both counts) but we all know that my expertise and the interest we share lies in food. So here, now, a quick summary of Tony’s itinerary:
- St. Lawrence Market and Carousel Bakery: Toronto food writer David Sax takes Tony to Toronto’s most touristy market for our most touristy food: the peameal bacon sandwich (with a few butter tarts thrown in).
- Tosho Knife Arts: A knife store isn’t a restaurant or a bar but it’s pretty damn close.
- Ronnie’s Local 069: Toronto’s dive-iest bar is a nice complement at the other end of the Sax tour. To protect its hidden gem status Sax says: “do not Instagram this place.”
- Agave y Aguacate: This little spot used to be walking distance from Ronnie’s and was home to one of Toronto’s most talented, careful, and precise Mexican chefs. Sadly, all are now past tense. One of my editors, Jon Sufrin, wrote a great article about Francisco Alejandri back in September that gave the chef’s side of why he left the market and his future plans.
- Cocktail Bar: Ezra Title and Anthony Rose hop into the driver’s seat of the Layover’s figurative tour bus at Cocktail Bar for some deeper discussion about the city’s professional chef culture. Also, Jen Agg’s cocktails.
- The Black Hoof: They saunter across the street for dinner at The Black Hoof, ground zero for Toronto’s current obsession with uncommon meat. The food appears in a sort of backwards time lapse of of the Hoof’s classics ending with horse tartare, tongue on brioche, and, naturally, bourbon poured down a marrow bone into Bourdain’s waiting mouth.
- Cold Tea Bar: Toronto-born and raised hardcore punk band, Fucked Up, take Tony here for drinks, clarification that we dislike Celine Dion as much as every one else (outside Quebec and Vegas) and an explanation of cold tea.
- Thirsty & Miserable: more drinks and criticism of the CN Tower as a tourist destination.
- Poutini’s: Bacon-slathered and other novelty poutines are scarfed while the punk rockers try to get Bourdain to pick between Toronto and Montreal poutine.
- Bacchus Roti: As a setting for his laudably self-aware commentary on the running gag that is Bourdain, hungover, and on TV, Tony heads to Bacchus Roti in Parkdale. I’ve been (when the wait for a table at Grand Electric stretched beyond the point of reason) and Bacchus is okay, but as with the dim sum category (mentioned below) there are at least a few Toronto roti joints that are better or just as good. I’m not an expert so save the “oh yeah, like who?” question for Google.
- Porchetta and Co.: The 36-hour tour finishes with a sandwich and chat with Scott Vivian about where Toronto’s diners are at and where we’re going in the future.
- Evergreen Brickworks: and Ezra Title’s Chez Vous Catering for breakfast.
- Belleview: breakfast
- Altona Kebob: skewered and fire-roasted kebobs.
- Bairrada Churrasqueria: Like roti, dim sum, and kebobs, churrasquerias are something that Toronto does well and has a long list of good examples. I’d put this one at or near the top of the list.
- Wvrst: big space, many different sausages, 32 different beers, and dirty duck fries.
- Rose and Sons: Anthony Rose’s new diner-meets-mid-level-restaurant in the Annex.
- Beast: Scott Vivian convinced Bourdain to visit and his King West restaurant deserves a mention.
- Edulis: Very well received by both professional critics and friends who have been. Covers both special occasion and neighbourhood, mid-level categories.
- Sneeky Dee’s: Grungy-ish, known for their mountainous nachos.
- Horsheshoe Tavern
- Dakota Tavern: I’ve only been to both of the Taverns a few times and it was the act on stage that brought me in. That’s not to say they’re not great places, I’m just not an expert.
- Spence’s: Little Jamaica, west Indian.
- Owl of Minerva: All-night Korean classics. They also have a location up in North York.
- The Burger’s Priest: The king of the thin, griddled burger in Toronto is Burger’s Priest, at least in public opinion and media attention. I’ve written about them several times including one post where the group I brought together for a taste test preferred Holy Chuck, the midtown competitor. Also, they have a secret menu.
- California Sandwiches: Big sandwiches; loved by foodsters and normals alike. Also have a second, unmentioned location.
- Forestview Restaurant: If dim sum is Toronto’s strongest suit I’d say that Forestview is not the ace. Here’s BlogTO’s list. I’ll work on finding more ideas.
The locals in those man-on-the-street cut scenes tell Tony to get out of the downtown core and he does in a couple instances but if you’re coming to Toronto there are better guides for the food in our vibrant, ethnically-diverse suburbs. One notable for-instance is Chris Nuttall-Smith’s Eating through Toronto’s east end: the 10 tastiest spots in Scarborough.