If you go to Toronto, and talk badly about Wayne Gretzky, it is about on par with going to London and bad-mouthing the Queen. It may be even worse. Get on board by getting your sports fix at Wayne Gretzky's in the heart of the entertainment district. Wayne's has 32 HD televisions that play "all sports, all the time." A great selection of beers, along with Martinis that sometimes use Wayne's personal ice wine as a flavour enhancer (who better to create ice wine than a hockey player?). Food also serves as a tribute with "The Great One's Burger" with the number 99 (his jersey number) seared onto the bun. The oasis rooftop patio is quite popular in the summer months, with square couches dusted with pillows. A welcome escape from an ice hockey rink.
It is rare to find a restaurant that will satisfy a craving for a hot dog and provide you with sommelier approved wine. E11even is located right near the Rogers Centre and has style without sacrificing friendliness. The food classifies as gourmet comfort food, with choices like the aforementioned hot dog, which is all beef and arrives with devilled eggs and coleslaw. You can also indulge in crab cakes, lobster cobb salad or a very Canadian maple burger. 40 wines are on offer by the glass and the enormous wine cellar holds 3200 bottles. There is also a private dining room for special events and an enormous patio to soak in the fleeting summer rays.
There are a million ways we can get pizza at home, whether it be homemade, delivered or fresh from the freezer. However, it just tastes better when it comes from a wood oven straight to your lips. Pizza Rustica is great at thin crust pizzas, slightly blistered and smoky from hot oven temperatures and covered with toppings that range from gourmet to traditional. Asparagus and goat cheese pizza guarantees vegetarian happiness, while meat lovers can revel in everything from scallops to hot organic sausage. Italian favourites such as pasta, salads and wine are also available if you would like to deviate from the norm. Portions are enormous. Pace yourself.
Le Select takes the meticulousness of French cooking and knocks it out of the park in the heart of downtown Toronto. Dishes are diligently prepared with accents as pronounced as the one in the restaurant name. Most ingredients are organic and local, making exquisite flavours like steak tartare made with grass fed beef even more lavish. Stepping into Le Select is a way to visit Paris without the plane ticket. The duck confit and bacon wrapped rabbit is exclamation mark worthy. Should you wish to do food first, tourist attractions later, the Le Select Bistro brunch is definitely worth making reservations for. Mais oui.
How many restaurants can offer you a main with a side of a glass floor view? The CN Tower's 360 restaurant is a splurge, but it offers a genuine reason to get dressed up for dinner. The restaurant revolves slowly as you dine, so you get more than a fixed view of Toronto. Make your reservations online and check the weather a few days before, as having your view fogged out won't make it worth your while. Menus are seasonal, with steakhouse favourites and vegetarian mains that are garnished with fancy touches like foraged wild mushrooms and truffled beurre blanc. The prefixe menu is worth choosing if you have arrived with an appetite. The desserts come strongly recommended.
Located inside the Renaissance Hotel in the Roger's Centre, dining out at Arriba is the most upscale way to enjoy the game. There are menus that are designed for breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, kids and more, so there is always time to get some food in your belly in between roaring with fellow baseball fans. Floor to ceiling windows provide amazing views of the Roger's Centre and the menu items are often rich and hearty. Canadian specialties with a twist include the duck confit poutine and portobello flatbread which comes garnished with pesto and goat cheese. If you like your baseball with a side of spectacular eats, Arriba is the place to go.
It is not often that you can go to a restaurant in downtown Toronto and be as connected to your food as you are at Hush. Order a burger and be aware of the local beef farmer that is behind your first bite. Locally sourced honey, produce, goat cheese and potatoes round out the experience. This modern restaurant has old-fashioned values and comfort food classics. Try the lobster grilled cheese sandwich that arrives dripping with brie. Or splurge on some haddock and chips, with bacon and apple coleslaw complementing the Canadian flavours. During the summer, the patio is ideal for small groups.
Some people have been to Italy and fondly remember the flavours. For others, the closest they have come is watching Under the Tuscan Sun on the W Network. In either case, going to Tutti Matti is a flavour experience that is rare in downtown Toronto. Chef Alida Solomon trained in Tuscany and her succinct menu celebrates Tuscan flavours. Her kitchen is open concept in the middle of the restaurant. Meals are robust, like wild boar ragu that may make you lose the ability to speak for a moment. The appetizers are equally luscious and well proportioned, like the toscano board that comes with gooey cheese, salumi and house made terrine. You may not want to stuff yourself, but it will be hard not to try to cram as much of this perfectly balanced food into your mouth.
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, usually stands for good luck). Dark wood panelling and Chinese art takes you out of Toronto and into a memorable food experience.
While most produce and meat sources dwindle in the wintertime, it is a happy truth that seafood, specifically oysters, thrive. Therefore, visiting or living in Canada during the colder months of the year can be seen as a happy circumstance. Rodney's Oyster House has some of the freshest seafood year-round. Although their international and domestic oysters are some of the best aphrodisiacs in town, they also specialize in fresh lobster and king crab. The Lobster Club (with 3/4 pound of lobster and bacon) and New England Clam Chowder are hearty and delicious. Craft beers and fine wine round out the experience. Bib up.