The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) is about to descend on the Entertainment District for another year, and with it come the pre- and post-show diners seeking to cram in a meal between screenings or digest the day’s viewing over a cocktail. Here’s where we’d suggest heading when your popcorn-bloated belly starts demanding proper nourishment.
Opened just in time for festival partygoers to sweep its sprawling 4,000-square-foot footprint en masse, this massive restaurant and bar (run by a supergroup of Alo and Bar Raval alumni) is swathed in the kind of custom details – undulating lighting installations, sculptural stairwells – that scream “I’m ready for my close-up.” The menu is lush and veggie-forward, with some obligatory steaks for the King West expense crowd. Cinephiles will be geeked to see a “Reality Check” drinks menu, featuring Flaming Moes and a Mos Eisley Cantina cocktail (ingredients: Patron, mescal, the Force).
90 Portland, velatoronto.com
Little Sister Portland
The recently opened secondary location (there’s a term for that – hang on, it’ll come to me) of the uptown Indo-Dutch snack bar offers a front patio, a main dining room and an underground (literally – it’s in the basement) speakeasy for your drinking and dining pleasure. Munch on satay and Javanese braised beef, sip on a tropical house cocktail or drop down to XXX (if they’re open) and see what’s pouring in the 16-seat bar.
102 Portland, 416-293-1079, littlesisterto.com
The Beast is back: After a two-year hibernation as “Beast Bodega,” Scott Vivian’s long-running nose-to-tail spot has a new, more casual incarnation that still manages to be as artful as its predecessor. With Nate Middleton (formerly of Home of the Brave) at the helm, the kitchen turns out wild boar macaroni or pies topped with beef tongue and bacon or smothered in coconut milk white sauce and aloo gobi. Snacks tend toward novel takes on red-sauce apps. (Kimchi olives, you say? We’ll take 20.)
96 Tecumseth, 647-352-6000, instagram.com/beast_pizza_to
But wait a minute, I hear you say: Hasn’t Le Select been open in this city for literal decades? Yes and no: The venerable bistro was sold and shuttered for two years during COVID, but is now back in action, Art deco details and French posters intact, under the eye of new operators Scale Hospitality Group and veteran chef Ted Corrado. The charcuterie and cassoulet aren’t going anywhere, but expect enough gentle tweaks to bring this 45-year-old institution into the modern era.
432 Wellington West, 416-626-6262, leselectbistro.com
Cà Phê Rang
If you haven’t yet checked out chef Rang Nguyen’s collaborative spot with his culinary bestie Matty Matheson, it’s just a quick stroll north of King West. (Fun fact: The two met years ago while working at – drumroll – Le Select.) The menu draws broadly from Nguyen’s upbringing in southern Vietnam, with a few French twists. Pho and banh mi are both hearty, soul-warming options; vegetarians will want to grab the halloumi banh mi (with miso eggplant in place of pate) and mushroom fresh rolls.
147 Spadina, 416-546-8995, capherang.ca
Khao San Road
Dive into a bowl of comfort – gloriously rich khao soi noodles, fruity massaman curry, bold pad gra prao – at this lively, modern Thai spot, or head upstairs to sister bar Bang Sue to crush some satay and spring rolls under the gleam of the disco ball.
11 Charlotte, 647-352-5773, khaosanroad.ca
Those looking to dissect the fest’s films over an elegant plate in an intimate room could do way worse than the Food Dudes’ stylishly minimalist fine dining spot, set into an old Victorian on Portland. Put your fate in the chefs’ hands with the $89 tasting menu, or drop in for the Wednesday night prix fixe.
98 Portland, 416-985-5721, sara.restaurant
Grand Cru Deli
A deli that’s also a wine bar that’s also a wine school? Sounds like a tasty pairing to us. The menu at this intimate spot has somewhat evolved past its “deli” designation, with pastas, pintxos and seafood all making star turns. But whatever you order, the wine program headed by Bruce Wallner (who also operates the on-site Somm Factory training facility), will always have the perfect bottle to match.
304 Richmond West, 416-551-9221, instagram.com/grandcrudeli
This family of beer bars is a perennial fave for the after-work crowd and the after-TIFF crowd alike. Choose your own adventure: The moody, warren-like original location on King, or the three-floor Peter offshoot with the sunny rooftop patio.
137 Peter & 391 King West, barhopbar.com
That early-fall bite is about to be back in the air, and in the Entertainment District, that can mean only one thing: It’s Ravisoups season, baby. The long-running, quick-service soup spot doles out bowls of blue crab and curried apricot-lentil, plus biscuits (complimentary, and necessary). There’s wraps and salads, too, if you’re so inclined (but then again, it’s not like they called it Raviwrapsandsalads).
322 Adelaide West, 647-435-8365, ravisoup.com
If you’re a TIFF veteran, we probably don’t have to tell you where Burrito Boyz is, but it’s always good to be reminded of those brick-like burritos and their meaty, spicy, saucy charms. In fact, we could really go for a small shrimp with some of that creamy burrito sauce right about now.
224 Adelaide West, 647-439-4065, burritoboyz.ca
Belly Buster Submarines
A Toronto original (first established in North York in the 70s), Belly Buster has clung on for a decade in a swiftly changing King West on the strength of nostalgic, dead-simple cold cut subs. Order with caution to avoid conking out midway through your third flick of the day.
389 King West, 647-748-1588, instagram.com/bellybustersubs
Brother brings Scarborough to the world
10 Canadian films to watch at TIFF 2022