Toronto festivalgoers’ plates overflow with screenings, meetings and splashy post-premiere events, while its dining scene entices as well: it’s a delicious cornucopia representing the city’s multi-cultural diversity. There’s ample local sourcing for a true regional flavor providing a tasty match for any food preference. Here are some ideas on where to drink, dine out and check out Toronto’s culinary riches.
Canteen at the TIFF Bell Lightbox and its patio (open in fine weather) is the go-to spot for convenient eats and conversation. The seasonally updated menu features smoothies, lean proteins and more indulgent options like the classic burger with cheddar cheese. Load up on Yukon gold potato fries, or Canada’s signature poutine — cheese curds topped with gravy. Lighter fare includes an array of salads, grain bowls and fresh salmon. A full bar, daily drink specials and creative non-alcoholic mocktails await those celebrating their TIFF deals.
330 King St. W., obcanteen.com
Popular on Variety
Opened in late May, this light and bright plant-filled Mexican spot is a collaboration between top restaurateurs Grant van Gameren, Jamie Cook and Max Rimaldi. Vegetables, grains and nuts are the prime ingredients: find them in the coconut ceviche, ribbon-like roasted carrots, wild grain chicharrones and cashew crema, and throughout the restaurant’s veggie-centric takes on Mexican classics. Whenever possible, the restaurant sources from nearby Ontario farms. Jared Leto has stopped by to savor the herbivore-only experience.
133 Richmond St. W., rosalindarestaurant.com
Drake Mini Bar
Cool, teal banquettes, vibrant original art and an eclectic of-the-moment menu of small plates and craft cocktails await festgoers at the Drake Hotel Properties’ newest and most compact venue, set across from Drake One-Fifty, in a Financial District tower. Drake Mini Bar has two patios for people-watching: an 80-seat outdoor expanse and one within the tower’s lobby, set behind a modern picket fence. Day-to-night bites from Drake Commissary include bagels topped with house-cured dill salmon gravlax and smoked brisket pie. Cocktails come from The Drake’s esteemed barkeeps and are notably potent and colorful; non-boozy options receive equal attention.
150 York at Adelaide, thedrake.ca/drakeminibar
Labora at Campo Food Hall
Drop in for an authentic Spanish vibe and cuisine at Labora Restaurant and Bar at the rear of the Campo Food Hall. Tapas are on order: start with the Iberico meatballs, move on to the boquerones (lemon-cured white anchovies with peppers and olives) or crispy patatas bravas (fried potatoes topped with spicy tomato sauce and finished with a chive aioli). Pair them all with a red or white house sangria; daily during TIFF (11:30 a.m. – 7 p.m.), there’s a $20 special featuring three tapas with beer, vermouth or sangria.
433 King St. W., campofoodhall.to
D|bar at Four Seasons Toronto
The refined streetside d|bar at the Four Seasons Toronto is getting a chic freshening up in advance of the fest. LED-display art screens and an updated décor with rose quartz tables and olive green seating complement the revised menu of bar bites by chef Daniel Boulud. Now in the mix are options such as a creamy buffalo burrata and seasoned sugar-cane-skewered shrimp plus industry faves such as the charcuterie boards and lobster rolls. The cocktail menu comes from Manhattan’s Darryl Chan of Bar Pleiades (another Boulud enterprise); ingeniously named drinks are his hallmark — “Teach Me How to Forget” has layers of exotic spices, while the flowery “Yorkville Affair” blends rose infused gin, rose petals and Elderflower liqueur.
60 Yorkville Ave., dbartoronto.com
Gastronomic Food Court
Assembly Chef’s Hall
There’s something for everyone at Assembly Chef’s Hall, a consortium of 17 chefs and vendors in an 18,000-square-foot food hall. Coffee bars (Tokyo Smoke), Thai street food (Little Khao), ramen (Ramen Isshin) are among the upscale, fast-casual choices. Canadian and organic ingredients are at the forefront: at Bluenose Lobster, menu items are direct from Nova Scotia, nutrient-rich superfoods are showcased at Nutbar (also satisfying craves for turmeric or matcha lattes) and handcrafted, upmarket desserts are found at Short & Sweet Bakeshop. Assembly is a 10-15 minutes from the Scotiabank Theatre, the TIFF Bell Lightbox and other festival venues. There’s free wi-fi throughout.
111 Richmond St. West at York St., assemblychefshall.com
Buca Osteria & Enoteca
Buca (there’s now all-day Italian-cafe Bar Buca, too, at 75 Portland) is a TIFF staple, although Terroni (a go-to for Meghan Markle during her “Suits” production days) is also booked early and often by TIFF regulars. Buca’s dishes can be adventurous and follow nose-to-nail precepts. However, the offal dishes can accompany rustic crowdpleasers like warm garlic bread knots and Tuscan-style lard dumplings. The menu overall melds Italian tradition with Canadian ingredients (British Columbia Dungeness crab, for instance). House-made pastas and pizzas by chef Rob Gentile modify with the seasons. A recent flood resulted in a short closure and renovations, but expect the kitchen back in high gear for TIFF.
604 King St. W., buca.ca
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