Toronto: Big City, Bright Lights, Good Eats and Nightlife

How To Overcome Travel Anxiety

First, I would like to start out by saying that this trip was anything but ordinary, so in honor of that this post is going to be just as weirdly emotional as it is informational.

Before going to Toronto I was going through a bit of a rough patch in my life, and because of that my desire to plan and prep for this trip was deeply effected. I researched just enough about Toronto to know what  I wanted to do, and where I wanted to eat, but not enough to know what to expect.

I was actually surprised that I let this happen. I’m constantly battling travel anxiety whenever I’m prepping for a trip, and the added emotional rollercoaster ride I was strapped in to was definitely not helping.

“There’s just something about exploring the unknown that both excites and terrifies all the time, at every moment, all at once.” 

I’ve found that the best way to fight this feeling is to set boundaries for yourself when planning. For instance, I try to avoid looking at photos when I’m researching a new city. It’s just so much more meaningful that way. Seeing a city’s skyline for the first time in real life – the unedited, raw image of its beauty both at night and during the day. There’s truly something magical about that, and I don’t ever let my anxiety ruin that experience.

My trip to Toronto was actually the first time I’ve ever successfully followed my own guide to overcoming what I’ve grown to call “anxiety of the unknown,” and it made for a life-altering experience. I felt like for the first time, I was able to get a real inside look at a city without spending more than five days there.

Call it luck, or maybe just good timing but everywhere I went in Toronto I encountered a handful of locals who wanted to help me see the city and everything it has to offer. In doing this, I was quite literally guided into a food paradise filled with gourmet meals, local wine and even better company.

Thanks to these amazing locals, my late night appetite for a good time and an endless desire to try something new I proudly present to you a short (but oh so decadent) list to all of my must eat and drink places nestled in the bustling streets of downtown Toronto.

Best Places To Eat In Toronto

Brunch Spots

Eggspectation –

A cute little brunch spot located near Toronto City Hall. This is a great place to start your day as it’s in a good location for walking around and seeing a different part of the downtown scene. Pretty obvious from the name but it’s known for its decadent egg dishes. Then a maybe not so obvious fact would be its amazing  fresh fruit juices. Seriously they make their mimosas with fresh squeezed OJ, what more could you ask for?

Smith –

Located in the Church and Wellesley area (also known as the gay district of Toronto) in a converted house, this little restaurant has a whole lot of character and some amazing gourmet dishes on its brunch menu. It’s a bit out of the way in relation to any specific tourist spots, but if you like charming neighborhoods with gorgeous street art on every corner than you will not mind the walk one bit. This place came highly recommended from a Toronto local and it did not disappoint for one second – everything from the staff to the decor to the food is spectacular.

Evviva

This is a good place to stop off for a quick bite to eat either before or after the CN tower, depending on your scheduling. It’s a very straight forward menu, but the presentation and the flavors are done really well. Overall, good portion size and reasonable pricing with a solid location near a must-see tourist location so it’s perfect if that’s the type of meal you’re looking for.

Dinner Spots

Kit Kat (Italian) –

A quaint little restaurant with big flavors located in the heart of the entertainment district. KitKat has been serving up authentic, homestyle Southern Italian cuisine for the past 27 years! Oh, and did I mention their wine list is out of this world. Well, it is and you can fact check that with pretty much any local in the area.

Woods (Canadian Gourmet) –

Where do I even begin with Woods? It’s been a couple months since I’ve eaten here, and I still gush over the exquisite dinner experience I had. The staff is extremely friendly and the chef’s use locally sourced ingredients but there is a gourmet, upscale spin on everything. This place is truly one-of-a-kind, and it’s nondescript location makes it that much more of a gem. On a side note – I would highly recommend making reservations if you plan on going here, especially on the weekend.

Blowfish (Japanese Fusion) –

If you love sushi (and sake) then you absolutely have to visit Blowfish. The chef is half Brazilian, half Japanese and the flavor combination that he creates with the new-age rolls on the menu are to die for. We weren’t really sure what to order when looking at the menu, because it’s anything but your average sushi bar menu so thankfully our waitress was able to recommend some dishes to us. Every bite was memorable, to be honest I would go back here in a heart beat.

George (Canadian Gourmet) –

I just so happened to stumble upon this place after a Whiskey/Prohibition tour in the Distillery District and we were lucky enough to snag a seat at the bar since it’s a reservations only kind of place. Little did I know that this would be the most gourmet meal I’ve ever had. The menu is organized to accommodate a very specific flavor palate with it’s mandatory 3-course arrangement. The course options are unlike anything you’ve ever seen, and the staff is very thorough in making sure that every bite is beyond satisfactory. I could go on, but you really just have to experience it for yourself.

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Best Places To Drink In Toronto

Hey Lucy

A cute little bar right next door to KitKat, Hey Lucy is known for their infamous Martinis. If you happen to be in town on a Wednesday then you must stop here either for a pre-dinner drink or a night cap after you eat at KitKat because their Martinis are only 5 CAD!

Proof The Vodka Bar –

Shout out to our waiter at Woods for showing us this bar! This place is unlike any other, and I’m so serious when I say that. My whole night here was like something out of a movie. There were musicians wandering about playing various instruments, women dangling on ropes from the ceiling, and not to mention an ice room where they hold the most expensive Vodka known to man. Couldn’t tell you if I actually had any vodka that night, but that’s just a minor detail in the story behind the experience I had here…I’ll save that for another time.

Houston –

The perfect bar for drinks and some snacks after a long day of exploring the city. This place is a little off the beaten path in relation to all of the bars on Fourth Street, but it’s still centrally located to Central Station and the Hockey Hall of Fame. If you get the chance to stop in, be sure to sit out on the patio. It’s got a great lounge vibe to it that is very unexpected considering the location faces a busy street in the heart of the city.

East Thirty-Six –

I would have never found this place if it wasn’t for some of the amazing staff from Houston that I quickly befriended. It’s a very quaint little 1920’s style bar that has some really nice craft cocktails. Very unexpected, yet delightful. I guarantee you will be the only tourist in this place if you stop by, even if it’s just for a quick night cap.

Earls –

If you’re staying in the Financial District you shouldn’t be surprised that you’ll be surrounded by suits walking through down the street, but who doesn’t love people watching? (Especially business people watching.) If that’s the kind of thing you’re into then you need to stop by Earls one weekday for happy hour. I just happened to stumble into this place my first night in Toronto and let’s just say, business men know how to party.

Bonus Tip: Best Area to Stay in Toronto

img_7346As weird as this may sound, King Street West is actually the best street to stay on. More specifically, the Financial and Entertainment Districts (which pass through this street) seemed like the most happening areas. They have great restaurants and bars scattered throughout, and the crowd is  a range of ages to accommodate all walks of life. In general, this is the most central place to be in relation to all of the tourist destinations without being in the tourism center itself.

I personally stayed at the One King West Hotel,
and I would highly recommend it to anyone visiting the city for the first time. It’s a historic hotel with a lot of character and it’s centrally located to all of the tourist destinations in the city centre. Being able to walk to most places is always a must for me whenever I travel, so I was happy with the fact that I only had to take public transportation one time while staying here.

In the end, I think the fact that I had zero expectations for this trip is what inevitably made it so great. The city was everything I needed it to be and so much more. I hope to return again someday to explore it all over again and discover even more restaurants and bars (because trust me this list doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface). But until then, Toronto will forever remain in my own personal Foodie Hall of Fame.

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