My friend talked about Honest Ed’s like it was the Holy Land of Toronto. I might be exaggerating, but there was definitely an undeniable buildup to what I can only now refer to as one of the most mind-boggling places I’ve ever visited. Part dollar store, part flea mart, with a dash of yard sale and a hefty pinch of exploring your recently departed great aunt’s spooky attic, Honest Ed’s is 160,000 square feet of the very definition of garish bargain bin. The brainchild of “Honest” Ed Mirvish, a self-made man whose impoverished life during the Depression Era taught him valuable lessons (many of which are scribed in his best-selling biography, also available at Honest Ed’s) Honest Ed’s is decorated with the head shots, posters and playbills of Canada’s men and women of the stage, an ode to Ed’s life as a theater producer.
Tourists flock from all over the planet to visit Honest Ed’s and locals swear by it. As for me? Honest Ed’s is a place and experience I will never forget.
I wanted to partake in some official Toronto garden excursion while I was visiting, and Spadina House caught my attention over its more infamous neighbor, Casa Loma, for its picture perfect early twentieth century preservation. This is a true manor home that was once lived in by the influential Austin family and the house is currently tricked out to reflect the inter-war years of the 1920s-1930s. In other words, this has RACHAEL MUST VISIT written all over it.
Spice and I arrived a little early for the next tour, so we walked around the grounds in the backyard.
Spadina House Gardens
We were lucky enough to come on a slow enough day that our tour was just the two of us – so we had the tour guide all to ourselves!
Art Nouveau Angel
Formal Dining Room
Lady Austin’s Sitting Room
Art Nouveau Vase
My little friend I met while leaving Spadina House:
I’ll call him Chip.
All tour information including hours of operation, maps, TTC directions, info and ticket pricing are at the official City of Toronto: Spadina House.
I feel a certain maniacal glee when my local friends confess that they like my blog despite the hunger pangs it induces – except for when they drool over a particularly scrumptious set of food pictures only to find out that the meal in question took place in another country. Bahahahahaha!
Here is an excerpt from my travel journal:
Friday June 3rd I get up early and have a leisure morning. I make the artichokes and eat one before heading out. I accidentally stay on the bus and get out and go back. Spice and I take a very cute streetcar down to Kensington where it’s like Melrose Ave. and a swap meet all at once. Many of the shops are in old homes. It’s bustling – I’m glad we didn’t go on a weekend. My favorite shop is Fairy’s Pyjamas. Fair-trade clothes from Tibet. I bit the bullet and bought a cute top with a hood. I want a coat and thinking back I really should have just bought it so I don’t have to pay S&H. Maybe I’ll go back but again – fucking taxes.
I’m all for those high taxes, by the way, when the country in question is reaping the benefits as Canada is. I was just bitchy because I don’t get said benefits as I am not Canadian, but I do have to pay their taxes while I’m a guest in their country. I did go back and get the coat – it’s so warm and cozy!
Oh, and the bus ride was hilarious. I was too busy undressing this hot guy (with my eyes, alas) to notice that I passed my stop and wound up almost (but not quite) in the boonies. When I got off only to cross the street and hop right back on the opposite bus, my only explanation to the bus driver was, “I’m from L.A.”
He let me on.
So Kensington Market was a whole lot of fun, but it was plain to see why locals steer clear of it on the weekends. It’s visitors attraction is very high, not to mention teenagers who trek it out there from surrounding suburbs. Very hip place. Spice and I were spending the day together at the market before meeting up with G and Zooz at the CN Tower. We were getting peckish and decided on Tibet Cafe and smoothie bar since it offered decent vegetarian options.
Strawberry Banana Smoothie
Right away Spicy went with a strawberry-banana smoothie, which we contested tasted as it should: banana-y, strawberry and a hint of yogurt.
I waffled for quite some time, debating between pad Thai, soup and fried rice but ultimately went with chicken Pad Thai.
Chicken Pad Thai
This was good, but I wish I had known it came with bellpeppers as that is a deal breaker for me and I had to scoot them to the side. The heat was welcoming, as was the nicely cooked chicken and the fresh cilantro, but I still felt there was something missing – definitely could have used some crushed peanuts for texture.
Steamed Vegetarian Momo
Spicy ordered the vegetarian momo (steamed dumplings) which were stuffed with carrots, mushroom, dried seaweed, tofu, cabbage, yam, green onions served with side salad.
Though the service was slow, I don’t believe Spicy and I were in a terrible rush. It was a nice day and I even found the energy to walk to the CN Tower (said energy coming from my inner miserly Scrooge McDuck who did not want to pay for more transit). It should be noted that their website is very nicely designed, easy to navigate and obtain basic menu, hours, address and contact information.
Would I recommend/return to Tibet Cafe? Yes. The prices aren’t inflated and the ingredients are incredibly fresh. I’d like to try their hot & sour soup and shrimp fried rice one day.
Tibet Cafe And Bar
51 Kensington Avenue,
Toronto, ON, Canada website
Open 7 days a week
12pm – 2am
It’s my goal to get through all of my Toronto eats before the end of the year, so at least I can say it only took me 6 or so months. Ha. Anyway. Both Mitzi’s Cafe and Mitzi’s Sister was talked up greatly by Zuzu, who was very eager to make sure I got to try out everything she knew I’d enjoy. Wasting no time to whisk me off to their local favorites, G & Z took me to Mitzi’s Sister on day two. Here is an excerpt from my travel journal on the day I ate at Mitzi’s Sister:
3:30pm At Poutini’s – trying very hard to resist poutine until I’m with Zooz. Having Boylan creme soda and trying not to listen to this bratty American girl bitch about Canada – weather, social services and how the government uses money. “Montreal is a dirty city.” ( … ) I’m going to steal their seats. OK, no. Lesbians did. And I don’t thrown down with lesbians.
All the Toronto chicks are smoking, and very unique in style.
Z met up with me and we popped in and out of stores. There was a fab cheap store with cute clothes – I bought a long sleeve. We bought our Batman burlesque tix and then G picked up up to go to dinner.
Riveting stuff, this, don’t you think Jack Keroauc would be pleased? Or am I not just not drinking enough?
Beer battered fish and chips for Mr. G
Sweet Potato Quesadilla for Zuzu
Hot roast beef sandwich for me
I’m usually a bit more daring, but for whatever reason I was just craving a classic. I think it was the promise of gravy; ever since I knew I was going to Canada I got a hankering for gravy (it goes with the lure of poutine). Whatever the case, this sandwich hit the comfort food spot just perfectly. The gravy on top of the sandwich? So simple a gesture absolutely made this. I appreciated teh fresh steamed green beans & carrots and would not have complained if the garlic mashed potatoes had just a wee bit more garlic.
Zuzu’s sweet potato quesadilla equally frightened and intrigued me (as food ought to from time to time). It was sweet, savory and spicy all at once. Intensely delicious.
G’s beer battered Haddock was crispy and tasty and the Yukon gold potato fries were a nice change up from standard russet.
Would I recommend/return to Mitzi’s Sister? Yes. It’s a step up from standard pub grub but with a menu that has both challenging and familiar dishes. Doesn’t push the envelop, just gently nudges it.
1554 Queen Street West
Ask around for the best Japanese restaurant in all of Toronto and many Toronto residents will point you at Guu saka bar – either from personal experience or word of mouth. Guu saka bar is a bizarre mix of hyper-fusion and rigid traditional Japanese izakaya (tapas), located in the West Annex neighborhood. The menu is ever changing (as Spicy had to find out the hard way, having her heart set on fried macaroni and cheese balls) and sharing is encouraged (though very hard to see through). There are three dining areas to pick from: a common, family style area with long tables and benches, the sushi bar or the very traditional area which requires customers to remove their shoes before sitting level with their table.
Spicy was very wary about leaving her Fluevog shoes in a cubby, so she was permitted to take her shoes with her so long as they were off. The menu was extensive, with staples and specials. We were a little overwhelmed, unsure of what was what, but decided to just go for whatever sounded the tastiest.
Udon with spicy roe, kimchi, nori, scallion. I was intrigued by this odd dish. Ingredients I wouldn’t think to put together but that blend so beautifully I was kind of wishing I had more. Deliciously spicy with a mixture of textures to compliment one another. I must try this at home one day.
Chopped spicy tuna, nori to wrap it up. Pretty straight forward. It was spicy and tuna-y, what more could I want? Yum! Oh, and I didn’t need to bother with the soy (and definitely not the wasabi). My tuna was perfect just the way it was.
Seared tuna, garlic chips, green onion, ponzu sauce. “The best tune I ever had,” said Spicy, and she knows her tuna. The texture was very nice, with melt in your mouth tenderness, and the tuna was well seasoned.
Yakisoba, tonkatsu, mayo. My first (I think) official okonomiyaki. It was spicy, sweet and savory. Spice wasn’t fond of the yakisoba’s flavoring and the sauce was a bit too abundant, but it was otherwise tasty. I don’t think I’d go out of my way for okonomiyaki but it was satisfying to finally try it.
My first ever beef carpaccio, thanks in part to Pixel, who had to bow out prematurely. Dear mother of meat, this was a treat! I don’t know if I will ever eat another of its likeness. Flavorful, tangy and juicy I just wanted to go behind a screen and have a private moment with this dish.
Would I recommend and return to to Guu? Hell to the yes. If anything, I wish I had gone back to Guu, with Zuzu and Mr. G in tow so they could experience the Japanese heaven that is Guu. Not only was it one of my best meals in Toronto, but I have yet to find its equal here in Los Angeles. Yet another reason (on my steadily growing list) to return to Toronto!
Toronto city is full of art. Art is EVERYWHERE. It’s on the streets, it’s on the sides of buildings, sidewalks and of course, in galleries. The bigger galleries, while tempting to visit, are costly. Smaller galleries around Parkdale, where I was staying with friends, are typically free or ask for a modest donation of your choosing. They offer the works of young and/or not-as-widely-known artists. Such a gallery is North Gallery, which at the time of my visit, was featuring the work of high school students at a local arts academy. Here is some of their work.
Conventions of language – Claude Watson, Cindy Huang
Anatomical Studies – grade 12
Water Color Cards (grade 10, artist name unknown)
Jar Observances (Kristin Xie, grade 10)
Water Color Lego
Product Painting – grade 11
I would love to give you the address for this gallery, however, all Google searches for it have turned up fail. Either I copied the name down incorrectly, it’s been renamed/closed, or it was a smaller gallery attached to a bigger gallery/store that I did not pay attention to. Either way, it’s on Queen Street West before the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art. Near Poutini’s House of Poutine.
Why is all of the good stuff in Toronto? Huh? Polish food, Portuguese pastries, customized cookies and now this – this! – the tastiest ice cream I ever did taste. OK, did that totally ruin the surprise for you? I hope not. Let’s proceed.
Greg’s Ice Cream is situated in the heart of Toronto in the Annex district. It is an assuming, no-frills storefront on a busy-ass street in the middle of a noisy city. From looks alone, there is nothing special about Greg’s Ice Cream. OH! Except for that gigantic line winding out the door and down the sidewalk. Yeah, there must be something special about this place after all.
The fanart that decorates Greg’s Ice Cream store
The line was a little insane, but it wasn’t as if Spice and I hadn’t already had dinner (review coming soon!) so we patiently waited as the one-man on duty slung cone after cone for the dozen+ customers. As we got nearer, I could make out the flavors and prayed to the Supernatural Forces of Nature and All that is Good in Food that my top picks would not run out by the time it was my turn to order. Luckily, my prayers were answered.
Behold, all that is good in life.
To the untrained eye, that looks a lot like vanilla and chocolate ice cream, doesn’t it? FOOLED YOU because it’s actually toasted marshmallow and strawberry chocolate! I don’t know enough about the food sciences to figure it out, but the toasted marshmallow actually tasted like a marshmallow that had been medium-toasted over an open flame. HOW WAS THIS ACHIEVED? I will never know. The strawberry chocolate genuinely tasted like fresh, plump and juicy strawberries dipped in a creamy, thick chocolate milkshake. It was ice cream heaven.
My friend Spice was thoroughly impressed with her choice, pistachio:
Notice the lack of sickly colored fake green? Yeah, that’s fresh, that is. Spice loved the juxtapose of the creamy texture of the ice cream and the crunch of the pistachios, which had just a pinch of salt to really give it depth.
Doing a little homework I found out that Greg’s has not only been around for roughly 30 years, but is the first of its kind to serve premium, all-natural ice cream in Toronto. I have no doubt it will continue to thrive for many more decades to come.
Would I return to Greg’s Ice Cream? Yes! I actually regret not making the effort to return to Greg’s before I left. Next time I’m in Toronto, though, I’ll definitely be swinging by. Thoroughly recommended!
The Glass of Win Non-Patent Pie Rating System gives Greg’s Ice Cream five out of five pies!