TIFF and Toronto are back in person for the 46th edition. It’s not a complete return to pre-pandemic times as numerous health protocols to combat COVID-19 remain in place. Restaurants, hotels and theaters continue to adjust and adapt. Stand-up cocktailing is off-limits, although distanced indoor dining is allowed. To-go dining options are robust; socializing and moviegoing outdoors are the new normal. Open-air cinemas and crowd-favorite drive-ins return to the Ontario Place Festival Village, with the Visa Skyline Drive-In, the RBC Lakeside Drive-In and the West Island Open Air Cinema.
Here’s where else Toronto hospitality is moving forward and rolling out the red carpet for festgoers.
Brilliant remake: Epoch Bar & Kitchen Terrace at the Ritz-Carlton, Toronto
Slated to open Sept. 1 on the lobby level of the Ritz-Carlton, Toronto, Epoch features two culinary pros helming the elevated gastropub concept: chef Jeff Crump and bar manager Jason W. Griffin. Local ingredients will be emphasized; craft cocktails will be at the ready before and after TIFF Bell Lightbox screenings. There are 61 seats inside and 88 are out on the leafy terrace set in Simcoe Park.
181 Wellington St. W, epochtoronto.com
Homage to Greek culture: Myth
Drop into King Street West’s newest Greek restaurant for a contemporary taste and look of the Cyclades. Character comes from the natural finishes and Greek decorative elements such as imported stone from Thessaloniki to curvy tall amphora, all in muted earth tones. Satisfying dishes include the paidakia — grass-fed Australian lamb chops with a hearty dollop of tzatziki — and the horiatiki salata — a mezze plate of tomato, cucumber, bell pepper, red onion and Kalamata olives topped with a generous chunk of feta cheese. The Athena’s Garden cocktail is available by the pitcher and is a refreshing blend of gin, lemon, cucumber and elderflower tonic finished with a dill garnish. At 5,000 sq.-ft., there’s ample room for a large party (150 seated); separately, the outdoor terraces and dining rooms can be privatized for smaller events. A braided rope partition serves as dramatic privacy screen to close off the west dining room.
522 King St. W, mythrestaurant.com
Noodle Delight: Midori Ramen
Not all ramen restaurants are alike. Queen Street West’s Midori Ramen specializes in tori paitan, which features a boldly flavored, creamy chicken broth base rather than a pork one. Also on the ramen menu: a soy milk-based vegetarian broth topped with assorted vegetables. Choose from fresh thick, thin, kale or gluten-free noodles. A quick drive from three TIFF venues (TIFF Bell Lightbox, Roy Thomson Hall and the Visa Screening Room at the Princess of Wales Theatre), the 9-month-old eatery opened in January for takeout only. In July, it added full-service dining including a 10-seat patio. Midori Ramen will offer a special TIFF combo including drink, appetizer and ramen throughout the festival run.
412 Queen St. W, midoriramen.com
Iconic setting: BlueBlood Steakhouse
There’s a celebratory regal atmosphere inside and outside at BlueBlood Steakhouse, located within the 1914-built Casa Loma. Covered wide stone terraces and partitions between booths help keep diners separated at this Liberty Group showstopper popular for grand post-TIFF screening dinners. On site is Toronto’s oldest restaurant wine cellar, original to the Casa Loma when it was a private home. Menu choices incorporate top-end ingredients from Nova Scotia lobster to prime dry-aged beef from Canada and abroad. Contemporary art mixes with the restaurant’s fairy-tale like romanticism. Until the end of the year, the upscale Italian pop-up Don Alfonso 1890 will continue to occupy Casa Loma’s conservatory offering distinctive cuisine inspired by the Amalfi coast.
1 Austin Terrace, bluebloodsteakhouse.com
Grab and go: Sud Forno Temperance
One of the sister spots to the long-running Terroni, Sud Forno makes it easy to grab-and-go Italian specialties from 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Morning pastries, including the decadent Italian croissant filled with Nutella, are a sweet boost. Speedy lunch options range from seasonal salads to a classic prosciutto di Parma panini. The café’s large outdoor patio (capacity 50) can accommodate group reservations for 10-14 people weather permitting. Per management and as mandated, current COVID safety measures are followed at all Terroni locations.
132 Yonge St. (at Temperance), terroni.com
Party Patio: RendezViews
RendezViews is a 45,000-sq.-ft., open-air, art park and patio that’s a recent and colorful addition to Toronto’s cultural scene. Neighboring eateries, the Fifth and the Ballroom partnered to create the summertime sensation. Bold abstract murals decorate and the city’s skyline serves as backdrop; the uber-casual venue welcomes lively outdoor programming (such as sports broadcasts, movie and game nights) and picnic tables are set apart. Burgers (including the Impossible Meat versions), spicy wings and vegan poutine are on the elevated bar food menu.
229 Richmond St. W, rendezviews.ca
Blooming now: 1 Hotel Toronto (pictured)
The former Thompson Hotel was remade into the eco-innovative 1 Hotel Toronto, the sixth property from the sustainability forward hotel group. More than 3,000 plants abound at the 112-room property, where the environmental impact of hotel systems was reconsidered, from the use of locally sourced raw materials as interior design finishes to plans to divert 85% of the hotel’s waste from landfills. Guest rooms have their own filtered water and recycled reclaimed glass tumblers to avoid single-use plastic. Comfort comes in part from the hotel’s partiality to organic cotton linens and custom-made bath products. 1 Kitchen Toronto is the hotel’s daytime eatery, featuring cold-pressed juices and vegetarian options. Like in the 1 Hotel West Hollywood, the h.wood group will produce the rooftop nighttime scene at Harriet’s Toronto, and the comely Casa Madera will also open soon on property.
550 Wellington St. W, 1hotels.com/toronto
Hotel Apartment: The Artist’s Loft, The Drake Hotel
Sometimes room to spread out is what’s needed to inspire. In October, the always innovating Drake Hotel added a two-bedroom, apartment-sized loft (at 800 sq.-ft. with kitchenette) with all the amenities of home and hotel services at hand. With its own private entrance (no need to mix with other hotel guests) and furnishings that sleep up to eight guests, there’s room for creativity and family. The cheerful interior is cozily unpretentious and partially overlooks the action on Queen Street West.
1150 Queen St. W, thedrake.ca
The Toronto hotel scene features a major redo of the venerable 219-room, art-filled Park Hyatt Toronto (4 Avenue Road/parkhyatttoronto.com). It officially reopens Sept. 15 with a re-imagined 17th floor lounge, renamed the Writers Room in a salute to Toronto’s literary talent. Luxurious updates include the presidential suite’s stone-tiled, spa-like bathroom and soaking tub overlooking Yorkville. In-room technology has been upgraded dramatically, with digital check-in and room entry possible, along with Staycast streaming.
Expect Yorkville’s new 254-room W Toronto hotel (90 Bloor St. East/wtorontohotel.com) to open February 2022 or thereabouts. The W’s hotel lobby is wired for pro sound and live DJ sets, among the hotel’s many entertainment-minded amenities. And an ultra-cool Ace Hotel Toronto (51 Camden St./acehotel.com/toronto) will open in the city’s Fashion District surrounded by historic red brick warehouses in late 2021/early 2022, with design by the prestige firm of Shim-Sutcliffe Architects.