July 9, 2007

Ten Places to Go in T.O.

(by Girish.)

It's devilishly hard to keep the list down to ten, so forgive me if I do some cramming and cheat a little:

1. Cinematheque Ontario. Alas, it's not in season during TIFF but this is the place that draws me most to Toronto and I just had to begin with a coup de chapeau to it.

2. Little India. On Queen Street, and probably my favorite Indian restaurant in Toronto. It's quite small, and monstrously popular, so I'd suggest lunch either early (11:30-ish) or late (2:00-ish). For a whole cornucopia of Indian food, I'd recommend a trip to the Indian section of town on Garrard Street East. For about three blocks, you could swear you were in the middle of Mumbai.

3. Bookstores: Andrew Tracy hipped me to this chain called BMV (Books Music Videos) that carries discounted merhandise and tons of it. I've been to 2 locations, one off Yonge near Dundas and the other at Yonge and Eglinton. I also recommend a great used-book shop called Eliot's on Yonge near Wellesley for books on art, film, music, etc.

4. College Street West: Adam Nayman turned me on to this books-and-music zone which includes stores like She Said Boom. I've been here just once and scarcely skimmed the surface. I'll be trying to squeeze in a visit during TIFF.

5. The Beguiling: Seriously: the best indie comics shop I've been to in North America and I've been to a few. If you're an indie comics aficionado, leave your credit card at home and take a budgeted amount of cash. You've been warned. Also, close by is one of the largest video stores in the city, Suspect Video.

6. The Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO). The gallery is only partially open because of construction but it'll be running exhibits of Chuck Close and Bernini during TIFF.

7. The Rex. Top-flight music club hosting the best in local Toronto jazz. Very often, there's not even a cover charge. Good food and beer selections. On Queen St., close to Little India.

8. Two More Great Bookstores: (a) Pages on Queen St., not far from the Rex; and (b) Theater Books, a stone's throw from the Varsity and Cumberland theaters. Great selection of film books at both places.

9. The Film Reference Library. Affiliated with the TIFF group. You can't borrow anything but you can watch videos and DVDs from their large collection (lots of rare and unreleased stuff) and consult books and back issues of periodicals. Recommended from their collection (and unavailable in the US): Claire Denis's U.S. Go Home and Olivier Assayas's Cold Water.

10. The NFB Mediatheque. For two bucks, you can get comfy in a large plush chair/viewing station and call up any of the hundreds of films produced by the National Film Board of Canada. The last time I was there, I caught Gilles Groulx's Le Chat Dans Le Sac (1964). My next trip will likely feature some Arthur Lipsett. Located close to the Scotiabank Theatres used by TIFF.

Your suggestions and tips for fun places to go in Toronto? Perhaps we can build ourselves a little trove of ideas here. Thank you!


Darren said...

I will happily second Little India. I can't call myself a veteran eater of Indian food, but Little India has, by far, the best lunch buffet I've ever seen.

Theatre Books has been on my to-visit list for years now, but I never seem to make it over there. Definitely this year.

Dan Sallitt said...

I don't know how y'all find time to live well with all those movies going on. Anyway, the below are more "festival conveniences" than "places to go."

In the same block as Little India (which I haven't tried) is Ho Su (254 Queen W.), a Korean-Japanese place that is my current low-budget favorite in the region near the Paramount.

Near the Varsity, the traditional stop for good fast food is the Green Mango on Yonge. There's a table-service restaurant on the west side of the street, and a faster counter-service spot on the east side. I do believe it's gone downhill a bit since my early visits, but I still hit it pretty often.

Another cheap, decent place near the Varsity is Eat a Pita, on Cumberland, just west of Yonge, across the street from the press office.

To get a good espresso drink, you have to hop the subway to the Bull Dog Cafe, not too far from the Ryerson, just off of Church and south of Carlton (89 Granby St.). It's well worth the trip, which is surprisingly quick - Toronto runs a lot of subway trains. The second best spot in the general area is B Espresso, on 11 Queen E. a bit east of Church. Too bad they use Illy beans, but they make an effort, at least.

The Bull Dog is actually a "place to go" rather than a "festival convenience" - the coffee is top-notch.

Free wireless hot spots are easier to find near the Varsity. The best one is at the press office on Cumberland - just sit in the mall outside the office and pick up the signal. There's another free hot spot near the Cumberland Theater, in that little park on the south side of Cumberland, somewhat to the east of the theater.

It's tricky near the Paramount, but there's a hot spot in the 401 Richmond complex to the west of the theater - I picked it up sitting outside the Roastery Coffee House.

Darren said...

J. Robert Parks took me to Green Mango during my first trip to TIFF, and I've eaten there two or three times each year I've gone back. Toronto has no shortage of great Thai food.

Thanks for the Bull Dog Cafe tip, Dan. It's just a couple blocks from where I'll be staying.

girish said...

Dan, thank you for taking the time to give us those detailed tips! Great ideas in there. Darren and I went back to Hosu's a few weeks ago when he flew up for the Costa films. And those wi-fi pockets will come in handy. For some reason (or I should say, for no reason at all), I've never been to the Green Mango...

Let me also paste a comment the Siren posted over at the other blog:

Fantastic vintage clothing store on Queen Street West, called Gadabout, but maybe buying 1940s handbags wasn't what you had in mind. Ah well. Also, let me know if you have a huge itch to go shopping for hard-to-find perfumes.

I think you hit most of my favorites, but these are a few restaurants I loved:

Swan, 892 Queen St W
Gio Rana's, 1220 Queen St. E (at Leslie)
Amuse-Bouche on Tecumseth
Cafe La Gaffe, 24 Baldwin (a favorite of Michael Moore's crew when he was filming there some years back)


Michael said...

I was all set to add Sam the Record Man to the list as an indispensable place for music, but I just learned that it closed its doors for good at the end of June. Total bummer. I made a few stops there last year, and that shop sign (those two towering neon LPs) was almost iconic.

Darren, if I recall correctly, I think you and Doug took me to the Green Mango last year. Really good food; I'd love to return to it.

Walter said...

I'll second Girish's recommendation of the Beguiling, which is easily the best comics store in North America. A few other treats near the theaters:

1) Greg's Ice Cream [750 Spadina Avenue (at Bloor Street West)]. Ice cream to die for, particularly the roasted marshmallow flavor. This will be a daily stop for me at TIFF, and I'm happy to lead any takers.

2) [327 Bloor Street West (between Spadina and St. George)]. It sounds bizarre because it is--a two-story museum devoted entirely to the history and design of footwear. It's also awesome, and might be a much-needed lifesaver after we've gorged ourselves on too many movies and need a break.

Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art [111 Queen's Park (across the street from the Royal Ontario Museum)]. Incredible collection of stuff, ranging from the functional (bowls, plates, busts) to the avant-garde and non-representational.

Walter said...

*sigh* Link #2 should be for the Bata Shoe Museum. Sorry.

Darren said...

Walter, this site is the first time I've used Blogger's built-in commenting feature, and I'm amazed to learn that I can't edit your post. Feel free to leave it as is. Or, if you want to repost it, I'll delete all of the other comments.

Darren said...

Michael, Girish and I took one last stroll through Sam the Record Man when we were in town for the Costa films a few weeks ago. I was hoping to pick up some kind of memento (or at least some good close-out deals) but came away empty-handed.

James said...

Oops, posted over at Girish's blog by mistake:

If you're at the NFB or the Scotiabank (formerly the Paramount) Cinema at Richmond and John, make sure you get to Burrito Boyz, which is at 120 Peter Street, just a bit west. It's easy to miss because it's a tiny takeout place down a few stairs, but their food is incredible and a great value.

C.K. Dexter said...

Cinematheque-goers probably already know this, but leafy, laid-back Baldwin St, one block north of the art museum, is a very pleasant place to find a patio and a drink.

Another must is La Paloma on St Clair West--superb gelato.

And a couple of nice bookshops: Atticus on Harbord (especially for academic books) and Balfour Books on west College St in Little Italy.

Larry said...

Thanks, All. I will be checking out several of the mentioned food places.

Do any of you guys know where to get sushi good and fast?

C.K. Dexter said...

There's 4 or 5 decent Japanese/sushi restaurants on Bloor St. between Bathurst and Spadina Avenue. There's also one half a block east of the art museum on Dundas (Tokyo Sushi maybe?), but I've never tried it.

girish said...

Thank you, everyone, for the plethora of suggestions. CK, I didn't about the sushi strip on Bloor. It'll come in handy. Also, Ho-su's, which Dan recommended above, has good (and fairly quick) sushi.

James said...

Sushi on Bloor is the best one in my opinion. It's about a five minute walk east of Bathurst on the south side of Bloor.

etalon said...

many thanks for your info
nice blog...

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