It was a hot day. The kind of hot where there is not one cloud in the sky and the sun pierces your skin from the moment you walk out the door. It was an unfamiliar city. The kind where the currency was different and a passport was required. A little unsure and a little bit sweaty, we took on the day with no set plans and no where to be. The first stop: St. Lawrence Market.
My trip to Canada was on a whim and was the second destination during a spontaneous weekend full of travel. From Albany to Rochester, north to Toronto, and rounding out the weekend in Buffalo, one thing was without fail, we were always on the move to the next food destination. Typical of almost any vacation, I did my research beforehand. Using resources like the Toronto Food Bucket List, making mental notes of places (and food) that were absolute musts, I knew the St. Lawrence Market was going to be an important stop.
Venturing through downtown Toronto on a hot Saturday morning, pre-coffee and ready for breakfast, we slowly made our way to the St. Lawrence Market, a large two-story market full of fresh produce, meats, and Canadian classics. Walking through the market was chaotic. Imagine how busy your grocery store is on the weekend, then add a bunch of tourists in and there you have it.
Lines spiraled around the most popular stands as couples picked up their freshly baked bread and decided between chicken and steak from the butcher. Gift shops lined with maple syrup and hockey paraphernalia drew in many tourists, but we’re not regular tourists. We’re foodies, so naturally we were drawn to the Carousel Bakery, famous for the peameal breakfast sandwich. A large hard roll, freshly made and wrapped in foil was stuffed with peameal bacon, scrambled egg, and melty orange cheese, the kind you know is no good for you but always tastes the best. On the side of the stand stood bottles of ketchup and hot sauces, with just a dab of each, my sandwich left me stuffed yet looking for more still craving it now 3 weeks later. It had never occurred to me after all these years that Canadian bacon might actually have a real name. Not only did Toronto bring me a delicious breakfast sandwich, I learned something new in the process.
After kicking off the day at the market, a long day of walking across the city followed as we visited the Distillery District a neighborhood once known for it’s distilling, now a hub for restaurants, shops, and coffee. We grabbed a cold brew and enjoyed the temporary shade before venturing in and out of the shops and the sun, only stopping once more for a combination the creamiest, most satisfying mix of chocolate and vanilla gelato at Soma Chocolate.
Being a tourist is hard work so we decided to reward ourselves by stopping for a flight at Goose Island Brewery. Yes, I know, Goose is an American brand. Yes, I know, I was in Canada. But sometimes opportunity knocks and you have to take advantage of it. So we sat outside in a hidden beer garden, surrounded by towering brick buildings and sipped on flights of beer until it was time for another authentic Canadian snack.
After spending 3 years in Rochester, I had seen and heard of Poutine, but never could quite wrap my head around the idea of cheese curds. I decided that visiting Canada was as good of time as any to finally take the plunge and try it for myself. I searched for the best poutine in Toronto and decided that we would venture to the Fashion District to try Poutini’s House of Poutine. I ordered the traditional and waited only a few moments before I was handed a steaming hot bowl of poutine. I sat down outside where I concernedly poked at the steaming, gravy soaked, french fries, unsure of what I was about to consume. After the initial hesitation, I dove right in and kept going. Turns out, poutine is really, really good.
Around 5 p.m. we found ourselves exhausted and returned back to the hotel to relax and refresh. Laying in bed I opened my most trusted app for finding new restaurants, OpenTable, and started browsing our options. The previous night we had walked by Earl’s and I had hoped that they would have an opening for dinner that evening, but of course they did not. Then I stumbled upon Terroni, an Italian restaurant I had seen on Instagram. The earliest reservation was 8:30 p.m., later than we usually go for dinner but perfect as we were moving slow and in no rush. We got the best of both worlds and stopped at Earl’s for a drink, a mojito for me and a moscow mule for him, before indulging in our heaping bowls of pasta.
Before making our way back across the border to Buffalo, where the Bills took down the Broncos on a record hot day at New Era Field, we stopped for one more Canadian classic: Tim Horton’s. Sipping on iced coffee and timbits, we jammed out to Taylor Swift and our Canadian adventure came to a close.
There’s something unique about Toronto that I still can’t quite articulate. It’s a huge city, full of tall building and people walking with purpose. Less aggressive than New York City but full of distinct neighborhoods, each with their own intricate story to tell. Crossing the border is intimidating, as is the unsettling feeling of walking through an unfamiliar place unsure of the proper customs. But the city is full of life, and there was never a question of whether we were unsafe. There is something for everyone, from art to food to fashion, and even sports. Would I recommend Toronto? Absolutely. Fries covered in gravy and cheese curds? Surprisingly good. Peameal bacon on a roll with egg and cheese? Turns out Canadian bacon has a real name. Bite-sized fried dough otherwise known as Timbits? That’s Canada. Eh?