By: Jim Bamboulis
The Entertainment District in downtown Toronto is one big hustle. The list of places to see and things to do are endless. As for where to eat, that’s another animal. With so many options, it can get overwhelming.
Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.
These five spots will not only give you a unique Toronto experience but they’ll hit the spot and keep you full all day.
Le Neuf Cafe
From the outside, it looks like any other house on the block. But once discovered, you’ll surely return to one of the loveliest, often overlooked cafes in the area. Tucked away and located within the row of towns along Wellington Street West across the street from Clarence Square, Le Neuf is one of the best kept secrets in the Entertainment District. A favourite for its beautiful and charming Parisian-inspired setting, decor and atmosphere, you may actually feel as if you’re in Paris as soon as you step inside.
Perfect for a morning or afternoon break, Le Neuf offers traditional French pastries, quiche, soups, sandwiches and salads enjoyed both in side or on the cute patio. Take your time and enjoy Le Neuf’s signature, pain du chocolat and couple it with a latte or cappuccino while people watching, of course!
From the outside, it looks like a door at the front of an abandoned building. But when that door opens and you step inside, you discover a place that will leave you speechless and never make you judge a book by its cover again! Mascot Brewery is one of the coolest and arguably the biggest unknown hidden gem in the area. On the first floor, you’ll find a restaurant, brewery and retail shop. The second floor is a beer bar that operates between 10pm-2am. There, you can enjoy local craft beer and table-side mini keg service all while listening to DJ’s spinning music. Meanwhile the third and final floor is the rooftop, a beautiful and very casual experience. It’s the first beer garden in Toronto, the mood here is relaxed and cool with a feeling like you’re in your own backyard with friends.
Mascot represents Toronto itself. Relaxing, friendly and welcoming, it has a cool vibe, a positive energy, and an unpretentious vibe. Combine that with exceptional dishes and friendly staff and you have a place that offers the complete package whether it’s for a family get together or weekend drinks with friends. The level of care and precision to create perfect cocktails and delicious food, makes Mascot not only a prime destination but a uniquely Toronto experience.
At first sight, you’ll wonder why there’s always a massive lineup of people waiting to get into what seems to be an old, underground industrial space. Nobody would blame you for thinking that considering all you notice from street level is a rustic sign that spells PAI. But once you open the doors, you’ll enter one of the hottest if not most hidden must-experience restaurants in the area and then it will all make sense.
Pai opened just over two years ago and since the beginning, it has attracted everyone from locals to visitors. The reason why it’s so popular is because Chef Nuit Regular prepares her dishes in the most authentic method possible. There’s no cutting corners in her kitchen; she takes the necessary steps to make sure that specific ingredients are used and combined perfectly in order to give customers real Thai food flavour experience. If you want to avoid waiting in line and taste real Thailand for yourself, it’s best to reserve a table ahead of time.
Blink and you may just walk by one of the best restaurants in the area. In fact, this hip, upbeat and friendly restaurant is sometimes considered to be too hidden. Thoroughbred is located in a three-storey Victorian wedged between new developments and serves up some of the best contemporary Canadian cuisine. Enjoy drinks and dinner on the cozy six-seat front porch, dimly lit bar floor complete with a DJ or the more brightly lit second floor. Ideal for brunch, this level features whitewashed tables and three large windows overlooking Richmond Street.
Speaking of the food, Chef Ariel Coplan is passionate about executing each dish with meticulous precision. And there are many delicious ones choose from. Try the beef tartare with truffle and honey mushroom, chicken liver mousse with huckleberry or the Kung Pao Cauliflower. If you love brunch, try the jerk chicken hash with pineapple, maple cream and poached egg. Enjoy all of them with a fine selection cocktails, craft beers and eco-conscious wines.
Town Crier Pub
It has a lovely outdoor patio along John Street and a ruggedly beautiful, comfortable and relaxed upscale pub feel inside. But what makes the Town Crier a truly unique hidden gem is it’s extensive beer selection. In fact, beer here is taken very seriously, in a fun way of course! Considered by many to be a beer lovers paradise, Town Crier not only takes great pride in providing some of the largest selection of Belgian and German beers in Toronto, including 50 beers on tap, all at an affordable price, it also guarantees that there’s a beer here for you – even if you’re not a beer drinker per se.
Town Crier also offers exceptional menu items to go along with your choice beverage. In fact, beer plays such a central role here that it’s often an ingredient in many of the dishes, including the Belgian beer beef stew, lamb shank and Belgian poutine.