City Spotlight: Toronto

Better known as “TO”, at first glance Toronto is just a cleaner version of NYC.  Yes, I am oversimplifying a bit, but it is a first impression and my second and third…  The flight over from NYC is over within a blink of an eye (58 minutes wheels up to wheels down), it is hard to believe you need a passport!  It doesn’t have the European charm of Montreal (the only port) or Quebec City but it is a stout, pragmatic city, a hub for Universities and financial institutions.  And yet, it feels like a residential neighborhood within a city.   It is decidedly less modern architecturally than most big cities and I gather the residents wouldn’t have it any other way.  That is one aspect of that sets it apart.  Thought it was settled by the French, it has a decidedly British feel to the city.  It could be because of the late 18th century turf war….

So lets talk places to stay, see and dine….That is what really matters.

Stay:  when I am in TO I prefer the Park Hyatt on Avenue road. Unfortunately for me, they are undergoing major renovation until 2019.  It is centrally located to shopping and cute cafes’ and restaurants.  There is also the Hazelton, which is centrally located between the Park Hyatt and the Four Seasons.  The rooms are generous in size, the bathrooms are killer but the restaurants falls below expectation.   If you are looking for something decidedly not so “5th Avenue”, I would recommend the Thompson, it was the first hotel in TO to offer a roof deck bar.  It is located in the design district and is every bit as chic as the district in which it resides.  A bit off the beaten path but still cool.

Dine:  I tend to be a creature of habit but of discerning habits, of course.  If you are staying in Yorkville and want a homey, Italian lunch, I recommend Bar Mercurio.  It is owned by an old Italian lady who believe in high-quality ingredients.  The house cured Prosciutto and Burrata cheese is fantastic.  They have thin crust pizza made with spelt, for those that are super health conscious and an interesting wine list too.  The best burger I’ve had is at Cafe Boulud in the Four Seasons. It’s perfect cooked and properly rested with a perfectly dark pink hue in the middle and juice dripping into the bread. Ask for an egg on top.  You can’t have a burger without the egg.   Speaking of eggs, the best breakfast I have had is Over Easy in Yorkville but I’m told they have multiple locations.  It’s a casual restaurant opened only for breakfast.

Drink:  An upscale happy hour spot with great small bites is Sassafraz.  D Bar at the Four Seasons has a great wine list and a killer cocktail.  Be sure to try the “Yorkville Affair.”  I have it on good authority that roses are delivered fresh every day just to make the ice cube that goes in that drink.   Prefer a sportier environment?  Head on over to the Air Canada Centre, to the Real Sports Bar. This is the Disney World of sports bars in that its huge with enough screens to make Times Square jealous.  You can’t miss it.  You can find the bronzed statues of the TO Maple Leafs right outside.  Finally, for those that crave the rooftop and a view of the overrated CN Tower, head on over to the Thompson.

The bottom line:  Toronto is great for a long weekend -3 nights, max.  I would consider an extra night if you are going to take part in an Ice Wine tour, which I keep missing.