North America

Hot (Or Cool) Toronto is Staid No More

written by | Posted on November 1st, 2011

Toronto’s ethnic neighborhoods and markets scene reflects the United Nations-like vibe that comes from a city with a population half foreign-born, speaking 140 languages and dialects. Markets are great fun for foodies and indeed, with 120 stalls, the 200-year-old St. Lawrence Market (closed Mondays) is all about food, including the pea meal bacon sandwich with mustard—a classic and hearty Canadian snack. On sale is a huge selection of meat, fish and cheese, as well as hand-crafted gifts. Move over to Kensington Market, once a Jewish neighborhood and with waves of immigration, now adding Portuguese and West Indian flavors. There are great food buys here, as well as treasures in shops selling vintage clothing and guitars, jewelry and African drums.

Food lovers also benefit from a new culinary confidence that has taken hold of Toronto, and the dine-around scene is dynamic. Not only are kitchens updating traditional Canadian fare such as charcuterie and wild boar, but young chefs are tapping Toronto’s global roots in ways that transcend standard fusion. Everyone eats well and cheaply at ethnic restaurants in neighborhoods such as Greektown, Little India with its market bazaars, Little Italy, and a bustling downtown Chinatown where scores of shops and restaurants (including many Vietnamese ones) rub shoulders. And Toronto has its celebrity chefs: Susur Lee’s flamboyant restaurants are always worth consideration; the latest is Lee, acclaimed for Asian fusion cuisine. Jamie Kennedy, Toronto’s original locovore, brings only local food to the tables of the relaxed cafe/deli called Gilead; upscale Canadian dishes—think elk and wild char—are the pieces de resistance from Chef Anthony Walsh’s kitchen at Canoe on the 54th floor of the TD Bank Tower.

where to book Toronto enjoys a broad inventory of hotel accommodations. The celebrity picks include The Fairmont Royal York (fairmont.com/royalyork), a wedding cake of a building dating back to the 1920s where everyone from the Queen to Winston Churchill has stayed over the years and still a grande dame of considerable style. Then there’s the Windsor Arms Hotel (windsorarmshotel.com), a hideaway close to the glitzy shops on Bloor Street whose 28 luxurious suites have long appealed to the rich and famous, from Katherine Hepburn to George Clooney. With 1,500 rooms, the Delta Chelsea Toronto (deltachelsea.com) is Canada’s largest hotel, great for families with two heated indoor pools, as well as a 13-ft.-long waterslide called the Corkscrew. And until the new Four Seasons Hotel Toronto (ritzcarlton.com) opens next year in the Yorkville district, the newest of Toronto’s luxury hotel crop are The Ritz-Carlton, Toronto and the Trump International Hotel & Tower Toronto (trumptoronto.ca). However, in hip hotel spaces, the one-of-a-kind prize goes to the Gladstone Hotel (gladstonehotel.com) on Queen Street West. Built as a hotel in 1889, it re-invented itself to accommodate guests in 37 unique, artist-designed rooms (two suites). The centrally located hotel hosts arts events, has a lively bar and serves meals featuring dishes prepared with local produce.

Toronto aficionados are also discovering the many delightful communities worthy of a day trip away (or longer stay). St. Jacobs is at the heart of Mennonite Country, the best place to buy gorgeous and durable quilts. In the summer, it’s Stratford, known worldwide for its Shakespeare Festival, as well as High Victorian architecture, a garden planted with species named for the great bard, shops selling works by local artisans, and picnic-perfect riverside parks; and the Royal Botanical Gardens in Burlington. And of course there is Niagara Falls—best views from the Canadian side—with the Maid of the Mist boat trip included on May-October excursions, and the charming historic town of Niagara-on-the-Lake. Niagara Falls also puts factory outlet bargains under one roof at Canada One, and the Niagara Peninsula is Ontario’s best wine country.

It’s a tribute to trendy Toronto that her fans keep coming in the winter season. And why not, for in winter, Toronto goes underground, stretching the welcome mat along the PATH, the 16-mile network of underground walkways linking 1,200 attractions, shops, restaurants and the subway stops. Clients can just button up their overcoats and enjoy! Travel Bound’s admiration for toronto is boundless Did you know that Torontos most extreme attraction is the Edgewalk on the CN Tower? Neither did we, until we spoke with Tom Buchberger, director of business development for Travel Bound (booktravelbound.com). He describes Edgewalk as North America’s first and the world’s highest full-circle, hands-free walk – along a 5-ft. circular ledge 116 stories up! He also gives us tips on the Steam Whistle Brewery, home of Canada’s Premium Pilsner, offering a great tour and hosting an unforgettable Oktoberfest party; the Hockey Hall of Fame, a shrine of Canada’s national pastime and must for hockey fans; and Casa Loma, a medieval castle that Sir Henry Mill Pellatt built describes for his wife. With unbounded enthusiasm, Buchberger describes Toronto as “North America’s most exciting cultural and gourmet destination, after New York City.” He also notes that this year, close-by Canada has jumped into the top 10 of company’s best-selling destinations.