Eat Your Way Around the World this Summer
by Alyssa James
It could be said that my wanderlust was inspired by growing up in Toronto: seeing the colours of Chinatown, smelling the spices of Little India, and hearing the sounds of dozens of unfamiliar languages every day. I love to travel and you’ll often find me experiencing a new place through the local cuisine.
One of the many things I love about Toronto is that I can indulge my wanderlust with a short walk or streetcar ride away from my home. Summer is just around the corner so it’s a great time to start thinking about transporting your taste buds abroad. Not to mention Toronto’s beloved summer patio culture – with these restaurants, you can dine al fresco all season long!
Terroni is my first suggestion if I have a visitor craving pasta. They make excellent southern Italian food and have a perfect location in the Yonge and Adelaide area. The historic courthouse building, high ceilings and dim lighting give it a chic yet warm atmosphere inside; the patio in the back is great for sipping a crisp Italian rosé. Classic thin-crust pizza is always a good choice, though I love the homemade stuffed Ravioli di Zio Paperone! Gluten-free? Italy is known for being ahead of the curve for those who eat senza glutine, so you’ll dine well no matter what your needs.
Hungary: Country Style
For many Canadians, Country Style means coffee and doughnuts. For those familiar with the Annex, Country Style is the best (and one of the last) Hungarian restaurants in the city. The restaurant opened in 1961 with dozens of other establishments catering to and employing Hungarian refugees who fled the uprisings in 1956. I heard about this restaurant after my trip to Budapest and this Hungarian étterem is the Real McCoy. The restaurant isn’t aesthetically pleasing but it’s authentic, right down to the faded photos of Budapest. Chicken paprikash is a traditional Hungarian dish, but most people come here for the schnitzel. Meat pounded thin and topped with breadcrumbs won’t disappoint. One tip: Come hungry and bring friends – they serve monster portion sizes.
Thailand: Khao San Road
Owners of this restaurant in the Entertainment District have managed to combine the vibrancy and delicious street food of Khaosan Road in central Bangkok with the chic Toronto gastronomic culture. Thai food in Toronto exploded as a trend and restaurants were popping up around the city. Khao San Road maintains balance – not just between the traditional and trendy but also between the balance of flavours Thai food is famous for. The papaya salad has the perfect balance of sweet, sour, spicy and salty flavours yet remains refreshing. Squash fritters are fried to golden perfection and if I was only going to eat one thing there, it would be that! I love the long wooden tables and dark floors – they remind me of sitting on pillows at low tables in Thai restaurants.
Sushi is old news – head to Guu, the traditional Japanese izakaya style restaurant instead! The Church and Wellesley location overlooks the Garden District of Toronto and you’ll immediately feel welcome as you arrive, mostly because the staff yells “Irashaimasse!” as you enter the restaurant – Welcome! Izakayas are traditionally venues for drinking where food is simply an accompaniment. Guests generally order a few different dishes and share in groups, like tapas. Take your shoes off as you enter and order some sake – I love the Three Samurai, three shots of different coloured sake. For food, grilled shortribs or the blanched spinach with black sesame sauce are good choices. If you’re feeling extra indulgent, deep fried Brie and berry sauce is a revelation.
Martinique & Guadeloupe: Le Ti Colibri
After spending over a year living in Martinique, I had to include this place. I was extremely excited to visit this restaurant in Kensington Market – it was like having a little piece of my second home in Toronto. Martinique and Guadeloupe are islands in the French Caribbean and that means you get a delicious fusion of West Indian ingredients and French cooking styles. The Augusta sandwich is my go-to meal. Warm fried bread – called a bokit on the islands – with a mix of avocado, codfish and cassava flour (called a féroce), tomato and lettuce is guaranteed to leave you wanting more. Accras, or fritters are just like they make on the islands. Le Ti Colibri, or little hummingbird, has a small but cosy patio in the back with plenty of green lining the walls, perfect for a little rum or beer. Owners Matthias and Kristel are very genuine and lively, so be sure to say Mèsi! – thank you in Creole.