Photo via facebook.com/wilcohq
After a long drive and the headache of dealing with border patrol, the only thing your musician friends wanna do before heading to the venue for soundcheck is eat some food. It’s good to have some buds in town to show you all the right spots, especially when you’re on a tour budget or in a time crunch. Chances are your friends call you and think of million places in Toronto you wanna take them.
If you’re that friend that always gets the call about recommendations, there are a few things you should keep in mind:
1. No Lines: Your friends don’t want to wait in line for a restaurant that BlogTO has been raving about. It may seem like a good thing to do at the time, but there’s only a small window between soundcheck and their show. Quick and easy is the best way to go.
2. No Fuss: Just pick a place! Your pals trust you. It’s your city after all, so just figure out a place that’s big enough for everyone to sit down and eat. If you like it, they probably will too!
3. Options: Every spot should you pick should at least have some vegetarian options. Your friends with special diets will appreciate you going that extra mile to make sure they eat.
4. Pass On The Gas: Your friends want to kill the stage when they come to Toronto, not clear the venue. If there’s certain foods that cause upset stomachs, your friends will probably tell you. However, be sure to ask again just in case.
And with that, here are five hidden restaurant gems that are delicious, have good Yelp ratings, and are usually free of line-ups.
Chinese Traditional Bun (536 Dundas Street West)
You might’ve heard weird stories about this place, and yes, some of them might be true. However, most things on the menu are under $10 and the portions are perfect for sharing with friends.
Traditional buns are usually the way to go. Soup filled pork and shrimp buns come in orders of 6 or 10. The red bean paste puns are a sweet and savoury veggie option or a really good desert. Xi’an slow cooked pork sandwiches are good for a quick snack and there’s no shortage of soups and noodle dishes.
It’s midway between Chinatown and Queen West, about 10 minutes away from the Horseshoe Tavern, if you wanna grab some buns and run back to the venue.
Tacos El Asador (690 Bloor Street West)
Unless your friends wanna spend $13 on guac and chips at Grand Electric (I doubt they do), your best bet for tacos, burritos, and tamales is Tacos El Asador.
This counter serve taco joint is located in Koreatown, not to far from the Annex and Lee’s Palace (if you have friends playing there). It’s pretty cozy and has benches big enough for a small group of people. It may get busy, but never unbearable and there’s never a long wait.
Your friends from LA and New York probably visit taco heaven daily via food trucks in their neighbourhood. Needless to say they’ll feel right at home eating here.
Mars Food (432 College Street)
In the off chance there’s a bit of time for brunch in the morning after the show, the greasy diner vibe might be the best bet after a night of drinking.
Mars has gotten some love from the food bloggers, but somehow it’s still the safest bet for a weekend brunch. You never have to wait and the menu is the perfect balance of light and hearty breakfast options, with a few sandwiches and burgers thrown in the mix. The waffle combo is $13 bucks and comes with eggs, fruit, sausage, bacon, and toast.
Best waffles and best breakfast vibes in the city if you’re not trying to wait for Aunties and Uncles (if you can sneak into Aunties before it’s busy you definitely should, but that’s rare).
Sky Blue Sky Sandwiches (605 Bloor Street West)
This cute little deli is one of Toronto’s finest. The meat sandwiches are good, but the veggie options are even better. Service is excellent and it’s super quiet. Most sandwiches sit under the $10 price point. You can also create your own custom sandwich for $4.99.
If you’re still on the fence, please note that this spot pays tribute to the band Wilco, with sandwiches named after some of the band’s most famous songs. This seems like a no-brainer if you’re trying to wow your musician friends.
Here’s a 2011 review from Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy himself: “Lunch was really good, but, to be honest, I prefer their earlier more experimental sandwiches.”
New York Cafe ( 757 Broadview Avenue)
Friends playing The Danforth Music Hall probably have the worst luck finding food in the area. Luckily, this little gem is tucked away about five minutes away from the venue and it’s pretty delicious. This spot has a great patio and it’s got the old school diner job down to the tee.
Burger and fries (with a pop) is $8, chicken souvlaki is off the charts and under $10 as well. There’s plenty of greek food on the menu and their pizza is said to be the closest thing to a New York slice Toronto has to offer, but you’ll have to be the judge of that.
If these aren’t enough options for you, here are a few honourable mentions:
Bitondo’s Pizzeria & Sandwiches (3 Robert Street): Toronto’s pizza elite. It’s tucked away on Robert Street, so it’s rarely busy.
Khmer Thai (1018 St. Clair Avenue West ): Worth the trip north of Ossington if you have the time. The Golden beef will change your life.
Pho Linh (1156 College Street West): Best Pho in Toronto. Lunch time is usually the slowest.
Dumpling House (328 Spadina Avenue): Another Chinatown goodie.
The Rooster Rotisserie & Grill (942 Bloor Street West): Portuguese chicken, meatballs, and seafood. Sandwiches are $6 and they’re huge. Perfect for quick and easy tour eats.