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Some rights reserved - Mary Crandall

That'll Be a 40 Minute Wait: St. Lawrence

By: Eklectish Toronto

The Toronto food scene is incredibly diverse, and arguably the best in North America. However, it is also susceptible to fads propagated by lazy blogs. This means the biggest compliment you can get from a Torontian is for them to be a repeat customer. We’ll be exploring the city with a rating system that uncovers which restaurants are one-offs and those which should become an institution.

Rating Description
Five Star The speechless lean-back
Four Star We’ll be back
Three Star Good, but unlikely to return
Two Star Something forgettable
One Star “You WON’T believe what Toronto JUST got”
(AKA: beware at all costs)

This month’s article comes out on the heels of Ontario having reopened indoor dining, albeit with capacity restrictions and precautions. Regardless of your beliefs on this policy from a public health perspective, the move is welcome news for long-suffering bar and restaurant management and employees. Until very recently, we have been unable to enjoy any new restaurants over the past couple of months, and want to help deserving restaurants stay in business during this tough time. As a result, this month’s reviews will focus on our favourite local restaurants in the historic Old Town/St. Lawrence area that deserve your business as we all start to venture back out to eat. Next month, we’ll be back to normal reviewing our latest new discoveries.

Bolet’s Burrito

134 Lower Sherbourne St, Toronto, ON M5A 4J4

No website - Check out Instagram

Rating - ★★★★

Bolet’s Burrito is truly a hidden gem. Located away from the action a bit south of Front and Sherbourne, and adjacent to two prominent grocery stores in the neighbourhood, Bolet’s can be easy to miss if you aren’t careful. Those unfortunate souls idly passing by on their way to get groceries are missing out on some of the tastiest and most generously sized burritos this city has to offer. Bolet’s is an independent Filipino burrito place that serves classic overstuffed burritos in a similar vein to San Francisco’s famed ‘Mission-Style’ burritos, with some subtle yet significant personal touches. For example, my favourite menu item is the basa fish burrito, with a delicious deep fried fillet covered in their burrito sauce. Their burritos are large, filled to the brim, and priced in the eminently reasonable 8-10 dollar range (and this is only the result of a recent price increase that they respectfully explain to their patrons as being necessary due to the financial toll of covid-19). They also happen to have the best chicken wings in the neighbourhood, tossed with delicious honey garlic or beer chipotle sauce. You’ll be hard pressed to find better quality (and quantity) at such a great value. Pro tip: pay in cash, and get a side of their excellent homemade guacamole for free!

George St. Diner

129 George St, Toronto, ON M5A 2M6

Rating - ★★★★

This is one of the most venerated and beloved local restaurants in the neighbourhood, and not just because it has been the setting for a Shawn Mendes music video, as well as for a pivotal scene in a rom-com starring Daniel Radcliffe and Adam Driver. Seriously. George St. Diner offers classic diner fare, with some Irish-infused twists. These include excellent dishes such as the Irish curry poutine, or the Irish Breakfast. One thing that elevates the Irish breakfast from other similar diner breakfasts elsewhere, is the homemade local legend of Farelly’s Irish soda bread served alongside the meal - a significant improvement on the usual side of white toast that remains untouched on many breakfast plates. Side note: for those of us who didn’t catch the bread-baking memo in the early days of the pandemic, the diner also sells the mix for this delicious bread. Reasonably priced and with friendly staff, George St. Diner has more than earned its glowing reputation.

88 Foods

55 Sherbourne St, Toronto, ON M5A 2P8

Rating - ★★★★

If Bolet’s Burrito is a hidden gem, then 88 Foods is hidden nearly beyond description. 88 Foods is an unpretentious counter-service Vietnamese restaurant, in a tiny storefront split with a convenience store just south of Adelaide and Sherbourne. It has no website, no social media presence, and is not in a bustling location. However, they continue to serve their fiercely loyal customer base fortunate enough to discover it. Walking into the restaurant, you can instantly see that it has the no-frills authenticity of an establishment that lets the food speak for itself. 88 Foods has a wide variety of Vietnamese food, both popularly known and obscure. Their bahn mi sandwiches are well constructed, large, and shockingly affordable (in the five dollar range). Other great menu items include their wonderful fresh Vietnamese salads and the chow mein. They have all manner of beverages, from Vietnamese coffees, to fresh fruit smoothies and milkshakes. We have heard directly from the staff here about the difficulties they have had supporting their business during this pandemic, and cannot recommend 88 Foods strongly enough.

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