These Toronto Entertainment District Restaurants Are Anything but Tourist Traps



Trying to define exactly what constitutes Toronto's Entertainment District is difficult. But if we look at it as the area from Yonge Street in the east to Spadina Avenue in the west, and from the Lakeshore south to Queen Street on the north side, we're left with an area that encompasses great shopping, live Broadway-quality theatre productions, professional sports and some of Toronto's most exciting nightlife and attractions (like that famous CN Tower). Of course, this area is also chock full of many of the city's most talked about restaurants. 

Momofuku Noodle Bar, the sister restaurant to David Chang's New York restaurant, is as unique and comforting as you have heard. Located in a giant glass cube in the middle of downtown Toronto, it is the place to slurp a bowl of ramen and indulge in some steamed pork buns.

If we're talking celebrity chefs, Susur Lee has a bunch of restaurants in this circumference, but we would like to draw your attention to Luckee where you can get an unforgettable dim sum brunch or indulgent dinner.

Our top 10 Entertainment District restaurants are subject to change often, as is the trend for anything downtown. Get busy exploring and replace your missing calories in the most rewarding fashion.



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If you are someone who sees a plate of tacos and thinks "challenge accepted," then you must go to El Caballito. A dark restaurant with loud music and a festive vibe, this is where you go to shake off your day with a shot or two of tequila. Tacos come in flavours like beef brisket adobo and baja-style fish, as well as vegetarian options. Other featured items include chilaquiles with otija cheese, crema, salsa roja, onion, pico de gallo, refried beans and guacamole. Margaritas come by the glass or pitcher in flavours ranging from classic to picante (spiced with arbol chili). Happy hour is from 4-6, featuring different drink specials.


9
Queen West

 

Right smack in the heart of the Entertainment District, it is indeed possible to have uncomplicated, unfussy food that is all about freshness. Nota Bene has a modern vibe, with a luminescent mural spanning the entire back wall of the restaurant. The local seasonal menu can be as hearty as you wish, from Quebec fois gras to B.C. Halibut cheeks. The sparing menu is carefully designed with extravagant choices flavour-wise. It might be wise not to even look at the dessert menu - it is far too tempting. Nota Bene will not disappoint. From the skilled waitstaff to the stunning food presentation, we are not sure it even knows how to.


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Jabistro has food philosophy. It believes that each ingredient must be "brought out to shine at its best." They find the perfect amount of each ingredient to make each menu item original in a sea of Japanese restaurants. Indulge in a fish bowl with assorted sashimi and sushi rice. Or get the Jabistro platter, which changes daily. You may catch them on a day when they are overloading the plates with lobster (or get your lobster fix with the amazing lobster miso soup.). This platter can also be designed for the number of people that you have at your table, if you are lunching with the sort of people who love surprises. The sushi is blowtorched for a light char taste, and there are lots of non raw fish options for those who prefer to abstain.


7
Downtown


 

When news broke that David Chang, the NYC chef with the cult following, was bringing his Momofuku restaurant brand to Toronto in 2012, the city was abuzz with excitement. Momofuku in Japanese translates to "lucky peach." Now that we have the linguistics lesson out of the way, let's get to the details. The prime downtown location in the Shangri-la Hotel has four restaurants in one. Go big or go home. Momofuku noodle bar is prized for its ramen noodles and pork belly buns. David Chang introduces twists on authentic recipes, making them just different enough to keep the eater interested. Slather the amazing house made kimchi on everything. Eat at communal wooden tables and make sure to make a stop at the Milk Bar for some crack pie, which has a "toasty oat crust and gooey butter filling."


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A meal at Byblos will transport you to a Mediterranean island, where the food is fresh and the time is ample. Small shareable plates are delightful. Lamb ribs are so succulent that the meat falls off of the bone. Thick yogurt dishes come savoury rather than sweet. Shakshouka marries duck egg in a thick tomato sauce, served with toasted fluffy bread. Byblos recommend that two people share six dishes, which is a plentiful amount. If you like saving room for dessert by the likes of pistachio cake or baklava, then pace your small plates. Byblos was believed to be the world's oldest city, yet it fits right into modern Toronto.


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Khao San road is the backpacker's ghetto in Bangkok. Judging by the line-ups out the door, Torontonians were desperately seeking authentic Thai food. Small tables, a hip vibe and the freshest of ingredients lead to an eating experience that will blow your Thai takeout out of the water. Menus cater to eating preferences, from vegan to gluten free. Dishes may appear standard, but when you try the Green Curry or Pad Thai with fresh noodles and sauce that has been motor and pestled to perfection, you will think differently. They don't take reservations, so come early to make an informed food decision. Fond food memories await.


4
Downtown


 

Luckee Restaurant is worth every nickel to quell the dim sum craving you didn't realize you had. Located at the base of the Metropolitan Soho, Luckee supplies the kind of meal that you dream about for days afterwards. The ambitious and inventive chef Susur Lee has taken on another restaurant and has again succeeded in surprising the palate. His deliciously modern take on nouvelle chinoise cuisine makes every dumpling, noodle dish and meat lip-smackingly rich. The decor matches the mood, with the Luckee theme extending through red accents (which in the Chinese culture, stands for good luck). Dark wood panelling and Chinese art takes you out of Toronto and into a memorable food experience.


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This is the real deal kind of pizza. You may find yourself enthusiastically affirming the taste of real Neopolitan Pizza at Pizzeria Libretto in Italian. Or, if words fail you, "Mmmm" works well in most languages. This pizza has a soft chewy crust that is beautifully blistered by the piping hot oven. Each pizza is made as a single serving and is not overwhelmed with toppings. Cheese and toppings such as duck confit or housemade sausage merely accent the pie, allowing it to be melt-in-your-mouth delicious. The result is a pizza that feels lighter than it looks. Even people who are convinced they will just have a slice may find themselves downing a whole pizza.


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For many years, Greek restaurants were clustered in Toronto's Danforth neighbourhood. Volos is the exception: a modern Greek restaurant in a spacious, airy room dedicated to good-quality Hellenic cooking in Toronto's Entertainment District. The menu may have some of the familiar ingredients that you associate with Greek food, but they are elevated with fancier touches. Take the grilled octopus that comes with walnut caviar, red wine vinaigrette and grilled figs. The upscale menu focuses on seafood, but has some wonderful meat dishes and baked pies which come smothered in sauces ranging from bechamel to saffron lobster sauce. It will be difficult not to lick your plate clean.


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You would never confuse downtown Toronto with California. Besides having a formidable winter, it also likes a New York pace and prides itself on efficiency rather than a relaxed attitude. However, after avocados reached celebrity status, the intrigue in Californian cuisine picked up momentum. Montecito Restaurant brings a taste of California to Toronto's Entertainment District for those that need a breather from avocado toast (which of course is on the Sunday brunch menu). A collaboration between Hollywood Director Ivan Reitman and Innov8 Hospitality, Montecito is steps from the Toronto International Film Festival Lightbox. Farm-to-table Californian cuisine uses Canadian ingredients, like the Ontario Grassfed Striploin and and B.C. Mussel Tagliatelle. Simple ingredients showcase the best in Canada coast to coast.


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Meet Courtney Sunday

Courtney Sunday has lived in England, Switzerland, Canada and the US, finding her way into the professions of freelance writing and yoga teaching in between travel opportunities. She learned...  More About Courtney

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