Queen West’s upscale vegan eatery Fressen announced on Facebook and Twitter that it will be closing its doors for good at the end of the month. Apart from the date, details are scarce—perhaps the space will be taken over by sister restaurant Urban Herbivore?—but come new year, regulars will have to swing by the likes of Fresh or Feel Good Guru for their animal product–free fix.
Trying to choose a selection of our favourite lunch picks from the last year proved too much like choosing a selection of our favourite children. So instead we present a complete year of lunch picks, ranked by price, from a humble porchetta sandwich (a reasonable $6.75) to a somewhat less humble five-course feast (treat yourself for $100).
Urban Herbivore’s barbecue tofu sandwich on the Urban Eatery’s reusable crockery (Image: Renée Suen)
Some things you don’t expect to find in a food court: reusable dishware, stainless steel cutlery, a vegan restaurant. The new Urban Eatery at the Eaton Centre has all three. The shiny outpost of Kensington Market vegan mecca Urban Herbivore in the food court has a short yet highly customizable menu with five vegan sandwiches, each available on one of three choices of bread.
The Eaton Centre’s new food court, featuring Panton S chairs. No, really. (Image: Caroline Aksich)
The food court experience is a notoriously horrible one. The ambiance is nonexistent, the options are limited to the typical fast-food chains, and the waste produced is enormous. For years, the Eaton Centre food court has been no exception—that is, until Cadillac-Fairview embarked on creating Canada’s first “destination food court” there. It took $48 million and 14 months of renovations to transform the subterranean food court into an “urban eatery”—something that feels more like Copenhagen (mid-century modern furniture, a red, white and wood colour palette) than Toronto—until you see the A&W at least.
This raw food café brings fresh life to St. Lawrence Market with dishes even a carnivore will love
The place: The two-month-old raw food joint (“cruda” is Spanish for “raw”) is the brainchild of chef Claudia Gaviria, who proudly offers mostly uncooked options to office dwellers who work too far from Rawlicious or Urban Herbivore. Tucked away in the northeast corner of the lower level, Cruda is a welcome reprieve from the market’s long-standing deep-fried lunch options. Don’t be turned off by the “raw” and “vegan” labels; this is satisfying food by any standard.
When it comes to flouting moderation at the dinner table, Toronto may not be Texas, but it definitely has its share of big food. Vegetarians have a few outsize items to choose from—Urban Herbivore’s mega-muffins, the three-inch falafel balls at Tov-Li—but it is meat eaters who have most of the opportunities to attack large portions with primal zeal. We hit the street to find the establishments able to satisfy that deep-seated lust. From upmarket foie gras to a diner’s mile-high burgers, here are eight of Toronto’s biggest restaurant dishes, each begging to be conquered.
<u><strong>Dangerous Dan’s Diner</u></strong><br /> The truly overindulgent will want to get their hands on this gem: the Colossal Colon Clogger Combo ($23.95), or the “Quad C” for short. The burger comes complete with a 24-ounce patty, two fried eggs, and a quarter pound each of bacon and cheese. A small poutine and a 24-ounce milkshake accompany as sides. All in all, it’s about five or six pounds of food.<br /> <em><a href="http://www.torontolife.com/guide/restaurants/diner/dangerous-dans/">Dangerous Dan’s Diner</a>, 714 Queen St. E., 416-463-7310. </em>
<u><strong>Lone Star Texas Grill</u></strong><br /> This chain restaurant requires a full day’s notice to prepare its mammoth 72-ounce sirloin steak. True to the Texan vibe of the place, the giant piece of meat comes with a challenge: anyone who can finish it (along with the trimmings) in under an hour gets to waive the $55 price tag. But don’t expect a glamour shot on the wall; staff say it’s fairly common, and customers frequently make <a href="http://www.youtube.com/embed/N_zWhEWCOAQ;>YouTube videos</a> of the feat. Furious Pete, a Toronto-based professional eater, managed to down the half-cow in about seven minutes. <br /> <em>Lone Star Texas Grill, 200 Front St. W., 416-408-4064. </em>
<u><strong>Dutch Dreams</u></strong><br /> This monstrous royal Dutch baked Alaska ($20) is basically an ice cream cake covered in lemon meringue, then topped with fruit and almonds. To complete the extravagance, the dessert arrives flaming, set alight with a Jamaican rum flambé. It’s intended for a minimum of two people (though the owner confides that the smallest size could probably feed four to six people).<br /> <em>Dutch Dreams, 78 Vaughan Rd., 416-656-6959.</em>
<u><strong>The Corned Beef House</u></strong><br /> These sandwiches come in three absurdly titled sizes: huge, giant and colossal. The colossal rendition of the corned beef sandwich ($15.25) is one of the biggest in the city, with a pound of meat stacked so high that the addition of bread seems a little pointless. <br /> <em>The Corned Beef House, 303 Adelaide St. W., 416-977-2333. </em>
<u><strong>Country Style Hungarian Restaurant</u></strong><br /> The six ounces of chicken, veal or pork used to make the schnitzels ($16.95) at this Annex spot may not sound like much, but by the time they are hammered out, dipped in egg and flour, breaded and deep-fried, these cutlets take up most of the real estate on the wooden plates on which they’re served. Enjoy them with nokedli dumplings drizzled with chicken paprikash sauce or some cucumber salad. <br /> <em><a href=" http://www.torontolife.com/guide/restaurants/other-european/country-style/">Country Style Hungarian Restaurant</a>, 450 Bloor St. W., 416-536-5966. </em>
<u><strong>Cataplana</u></strong><br /> As tradition dictates, this Portuguese seafood dish comes served in the wok-like copper pan in which it’s cooked. There’s enough shrimp, monkfish, skate, scallops and clams to feed two people. The seafood is simmered together in a tomato-based sauce infused with saffron and vermouth.<br /> <em>Cataplana, 938 College St., 416-538-1562. </em>
<u><strong>Gio Rana’s Really Really Nice Restaurant</u></strong><br /> This Leslieville mainstay serves an Italian meatball that’s traditional in every way, except for its girth: it’s about the size of a baseball, packing in over eight ounces of meat ($7.95). The globe of ground veal and pork is served in its own bowl, dressed with tomato sauce and flakes of parmesan cheese. <em>Gio Rana’s Really Really Nice Restaurant, 1220 Queen St. E., 416-469-5225. </em>
(Photo courtesy of Amazon. Provided as an example of size only)
<u><strong>One</strong></u><br />The entire foie gras that appears on One’s winter menu is meant to be shared between four to six people, but that all depends on one’s appetite and how much one loves the dish. At $120, this delicacy features about a pound of liver that’s roasted whole and accompanied by some slow-braised seasonal fruit and fresh black truffle shaved on the top.<br /><em><a href="http://www.torontolife.com/guide/restaurants/hotel/one/">One</a>, 116 Yorkville Ave., 416-961-9600.</em>