My New York City friend who happens to be a 12-year TIFFaholic veteran said the funniest thing when I told her that my next TIFF blog would be about where to eat after a show: You're supposed to eat during TIFF?
It's true, eating comes down to a fine art during the fest, especially for those hardcore fanatics who see over 30+ films during these 10 days -- we're talking about 12 plus hours a day in theatres. These guys carry around back-packs full of lunches and snacks. While I will only see a measly 18 films this year, I will likely start my day around 11 a.m. with one big meal then I subside on coffee, popcorn and some wine until really late. Honestly, this is pretty normal. Besides, some of my best celeb run-ins have occurred while I'm grabbing a late-night bite. So if you're planning on catching a film or two and want to know where to go for lunch or dinner, here's a list of some of the best spots close to the most popular TIFF theatres.
Roy Thomson Hall and Princess of Wales
The Ritz - DEQ: This is a popular place for the talent and regular folk alike. It's rumoured that in 2011 Brad Pitt, Angelina and George Clooney reserved one quarter of this fantastic patio bar making it restricted for the rest of us. If you weren't part of the party, you weren't being allowed in. Luckily that didn't happen in 2012 when Ralph Fiennes took his entire Great Expectations cast and VIPs to DEQ. My NYC friend and I decided to hit up the patio bar after this gala and to our amazement, they sat at a table just behind us. Plus, no one insisted that we leave. It was very cool. We left them alone and they left us alone. Of course, when the producer came over to buy another bottle of wine, we had a small chat with him about how excellent the film was. He was very friendly and encouraged us to talk to the talent. (We kind of already had....) Anyway, the food is excellent and changes with the season. The staff is super, the service is impeccable and it's a great place to people watch. Oh, and the DJ plays late.
The Shangri-la: While their massive foyer/piano lounge is fantastic, I prefer the bar where the best mixologists do their magic. These guys go the extra mile when treated with patience and kindness, especially since they work really long TIFF hours and sometimes deal with overbearing patrons. Last year, it was Twelve Year A Slave central. Not only did I nearly bump into (read: crash into) Michael Fassbender when I was there enjoying their famous sliders, one night we sat across from Alfre Woodard as we chowed on the best poutine in all of Canada.
El Caballito: This excellent new and authentic Mexican place has just opened up at 220 King St West across from Roy Thomson Hall. It will be a go-to spot when King West closes for the first four days of the festival. It's cosy and dimly lit, but spacious enough for your own little fiesta. I loved their al pastor taco and margaritas. While their menu is small, it's rich enough to suit every taste including vegetarian. And if you're in a really good mood, they have a wide selection of tequila too. Tell Adi I sent you.
Scotia Bank Theatre
While this area is known for its great restaurants and take-out spots, there are two pubs that are also worth looking into. The Town Crier Pub boasts over 30 beers and has a reasonably priced German pub-food menu. It reminds me of the Beer Bistro, but it's more approachable. Its patio out front is a crowd favourite and the inside is very cosy for rainy days. Right next door is The Office. During TIFF, their claim to fame is that they stay open until 4 a.m. This place is huge too for the area. It has a front patio, a main floor with a back patio and an upstairs where they run karaoke nights. Their menu is large as is their portions, which is good if your last meal was twelve hours ago.
Lou Dawg's: There's no need to fly down to North Carolina if you're dying for some pulled pork. This crowd-pleaser smokes everything in house -- ribs, pork butt, chicken and brisket -- and all the sides and sauces are also home-made. They have a small take-out/stay-in section downstairs. The upstairs dinning room and patio are best for when you want to have a few bevies with your BBQ. Their Southern Tea is southern but definitely not tea; it's a must-try. On weekends they have a great brunch and if you head to their other location on King West, your eggs benny with pulled pork comes with a side of great blues.
Z-Teca: I personally think this is the best place for burritos in the city. The beef barbacoa is my favourite. But if you're not hungry enough for a burrito, you can have the same toppings made into tacos, rice bowls and salads.
The Elgin and Winter Garden
The Beer Bistro: This is still one of my favourites. It literally has a wall of beer of all kinds (including gluten-free) and its starter menu is the right size when you're at the point of ordering with your eyes instead of your stomach. This place is very European and eclectic considering the area, which means you never know who you might be sitting next to at the bar.
Firkin on Yonge: What I like about this place is its laid-back, London feel -- not merely brought on by its decor or the Brit-pop. The menu is very reasonable and approachable, especially if you have to dine and dash before your next gala.
Off the beaten track
Last but not least, I've just discovered Prohibition on Queen East at Broadview. This place isn't new, but it's worth the cab ride over the bridge. The menu is fantastic, full of pub favourites with a bistro feel. The taps are plenty and the music is cool retro with videos over the bar. This is the place to fall in love with Duck confit - it's featured in a number of dishes, including poutine. And after several hours spent in over-air-conditioned theatres, this place should be on your list for post-show comfort food. By the way, their kitchen closes late.
Drop me a line if you share a pint with any A-listers.
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