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Exclusives | A Taste of Toronto

Exclusives | A Taste of Toronto

Far too long overshadowed by its glitzy French-accented sister (Montreal), Toronto has come into its own as a vibrant gay destination.

Sure, garnish your trip north of the border with a few days in Montreal or Vancouver, but if you?re hungry to discover the absolute best of Canada, choose Toronto. As each new wave of immigration dilutes the steely reserve left over from centuries of polite British dominance, Canada?s friendliest metropolis gets more and more appealing.

A tasty bonus of all this diversity is a burgeoning crop of ever more enticing ethnic eateries. Toronto?s dining scene has become a smorgasbord of the world?s flavors, served up in village-sized portions. With its slew of well-defined neighborhoods, where you choose to eat will give your Toronto trip its distinct flavor. Set off to explore this easy walking city and snack your way through Chinatown, Little Italy, Little Portugal, and Polish-tinged Roncesvalles Villages. Or trot east and tuck into Greektown or Little India.

This vast, vibrant city shakes off its chilly winters and throws itself into summer with a fervor that has to be experienced to be believed. Sidewalks come alive with crammed patios, perfect for people watching. Walk through the city?s diverse neighborhoods and it seems there?s a festival going on round every corner, with flavors to match. It must be statistically impossible to throw a dart at the city?s summer calendar and not hit a festival.

The LGBT community lives and plays throughout the city, but Toronto has two distinct homo hoods -- the traditional and more mainstream Church-Wellesley gay village, and the stretch of West Queen Street West, home to a hip alternative set, that has been nicknamed ?Queer West.? Both have some surprisingly good options for eating out. In the Village, check out Mela (459 Church St; 416-916-6104; C$15-30) for modern Indian and Nepali food, and upscale resto-bar Slack?s (562 Church St; 416-928-2151; C$15-25), the neighborhood?s top lesbian spot. A couple of blocks west Fire on the East Side (6 Gloucester St; 416-960-3473; C$9-30) lures local gay men and lesbians with an array of Southern-influenced dishes and a wonderful off-the-main-drag patio.

In Queer West, the unique Gladstone Hotel (1214 Queen St W., 416-531-4635; C$9-19), a lesbian-owned hipster haunt with artist-designed rooms, an art bar, music bar, and ballroom where weekly gay shenanigans take place. The cheerful staff of the lofty, bright corner caf? serves up inventive fare such as slow roasted porchetta and green chutney sandwiches (available as delicious gluten-free options) and entr?es from Gasp? Tourti?re pie to maple cured trout. Other mouthwatering menus star at chic Brazilian delight Caju (922 West Queen West; 416-532-2550; C$14-26) and Foxley (207 Ossington St; 416-534-8520; C$6-21), a trimmed, sleek venue, home to Asian thrills, including a killer sea bream ceviche.

Go beyond the gay villages and work up an appetite for Toronto?s other must eat neighborhoods; Chinatown/Kensington Market, College Street in Little Italy, upscale Bloor/Yorkville, the Annex. Head further off the main streets and you might stumble upon gems such as seafood haven and grill Pure Spirits (55 Mill St; 416-361-5859; C$23-32) in the hip Distillery District, the shady patio at neighborhood bistro Bodega (30 Baldwin St; 416-977-1287; C$19-30) nestled among Baldwin Village?s cluster of delicious addresses, or authentic French fare at Tati (124 Harbord St; 416-962-8284) on the Harbord restaurant strip.

It should also come as no surprise that cosmopolitan Toronto offers some exceedingly stylish drinking dens, from the self-explanatory Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar (9 Church St; 416-362-1957) and gay martini mecca Byzantium (499 Church St; 416-922-3859) in the Village, to more cutting edge imbibing emporia, such as premium tequila parlor Reposado (136 Ossington St; 416-532-6474) on the up and coming Ossington strip, and Soju den, Rice Bar (319 Augusta Ave; 416-922-7423) in funky Kensington Market.

For that quintessential Toronto meal, you?ll want to reserve ahead for big names Jamie Kennedy at the Gardiner (111 Queens? Park Cres; 416-362-1957; C$15-18; lunch only), celebrity chef Mark McEwan?s North 44 (2537 Yonge St; 416-487-4897; C$39-54), and the (architectural and culinary) stunner C5 at the R.O.M. (Crystal 5, Royal Ontario Museum, 100 Queens? Park; 416-586-7928; C$22-28).

But for a true taste of Toronto, forget the big names and big prices, trot down to St. Lawrence Market, and sample market stalwart Carousel?s (416-363-4247) peameal bacon sandwich. It is yet another taste of this delicious city that you?ll having you coming back for more.

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