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Just two doors down from the Yonge/Bloor Spring Rolls location (and separated through the back) is this Spring Rolls Go location - a quick and easy way to get your SR fix, without the sit-down fuss.

Alas, it's really just food court food. Stuff tends to get gummy and stale in the warmers as the afternoon wears on, and the place is simple, cafeteria style.

Good things about it include the fact that it's fast and relatively inexpensive. Staleness isn't an issue during the lunch rush, either.

A Go Platter is probably the best deal. You pick a type of noodle dish, a meat dish and a veg dish, and get the lot for about $7 including tax. And yes, they do allow substitutions. I tend to ask for a couple of Har Gow (shrimp dim sum dumplings) instead of veg. My mother would cry at the lack of nutrients.

Another good tip about this Go location is that they will let you order off the main Spring Rolls menu. You'll have to wait to be served, but this is a good way to get take out.

Also, there is plenty of seating, but the caf style nature of the place means there's no reason to tip and almost no waiting. And because more people use the main location, it's not hard to get a seat. (There's also an extra seating area upstairs that tends to be relatively deserted.)

All in all, while the food isn't really anything special, this is a good place for a fast lunch on Yonge. Easier, cheaper and simpler than the regular Spring Rolls in terms of trappings, but the same in terms of taste.

Spring Rolls Go
693 Yonge St.
Toronto, ON M4Y 2B2

*Photo by Daniel Tan from Stock Xchng.

 
 
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The Red Room is pretty enjoyable, I think. I don't think that reflects so much on the establishment as it does on the fact that I always go there with good friends. Having a good group makes for a good time. When I was in grad school, I used to head there every Thursday night after class, and I always had a great time.

I wasn't the only one. The Red Room is frequented by UofT grad students and is all about pitchers of beer and conversation. People eat there, but the food is nothing special. Some might say terrible (and have). And let's face it: it's not the cleanest place ever. Sticking to booze is smart, I think. Fries and that sort of snack are okay too, but the food is all over the place is terms of quality.

I love going there and snuggling into one of the couchy back areas with a chatty group of friends. Downsides include the fact that the music, while often very good, is sometimes way too loud and I have, on occasion, been overcharged when with a big group.

They play whole albums, which is fun for music lovers. I've been there for full rap tracks juxtaposed with Tegan and Sara. It's eclectic, but I like it. Also it's comforting to have a place that stays the same, from the worn upholstery to the slightly grumpy beefcake bartender/server with the army cap.

Be warned that the bathrooms are often is bad shape, but the graffiti down there is wonderful. Look for "Frodo Lives!" in the ladies stall on the right.

The Red Room
444 Spadina Ave
Toronto, ON M5T 2G8
(416) 929-9964

* Photo by G Schouten de Jel from Stock Xchng.

 
 
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BMV is my favorite book store in the city. By far. By a mile. By a million miles. There's NOTHING not to like about it.

Okay, maybe that's going a little far, but BMV is a very good store. Everyone seems to agree, so I'm just throwing my additional two cents onto the top of the pile.

One great thing about it is that they sell new books at a major discount. Perfect remainders. Stuff they're still selling at Chapters for, say, $25, you can often get brand new at BMV for $6.99. I recently bought copies of a variety of David Sedaris books and two Chuck Klostermans this way.

Another great thing is the abundance of used texts. Aisle after aisle of used books, all in great condition, selling for at least 75% less than what you'd pay most elsewhere. I've been known to come away with too many to haul home in one go.

They have a great children's section upstairs, and albums in the basement. Don't shun the bins out front either. Those dollar books and CDs (often sold 3 for $10) are worth a look.

My only real criticisms are as follows: they don't have everything and if you're looking for something specific, you might be out of luck. Specific texts can also be a bit difficult to find because they have smallish sections for things like Canadiana. So books aren't always where you expect them to be unless you know a fair bit about authors.

That said, just wander the store for a bit and you'll soon figure it out. (They also sell gift cards and have a buying desk in the back corner if you're looking to sell.)

One final word of advice, though: if you are perusing the bins out front, beware harassment from nutbars. I have regularly been accosted by weirdos while trying to peep some books. That's not BMV's fault, but it is something to look out for.

BMV Books
471 Bloor Street W
Toronto, ON M5S 1X9
(416) 967-5757

*Photo by Sanja Gjenero from Stock Xchng.

 
 
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I admit it: I have a bit of a chip on my shoulder and I naturally recoil from the wealthy, but really, is it their FAULT they're rich? The truth is, I'm just jealous.

Considering this jealousy, I'm wary of anything Yorkvillian, but nonetheless, my recent trip to One was pretty mind blowing, food-wise.

YES, it's expensive. My first drink was $17. No joke. (Luckily, my boss was paying. I was there for a corporate dinner with five others.) We were on the corporations dime (sketch-o? yes-o!) so my boss chose to get us all tasting menus.

I almost hate to say it, but the food was delicious. Truly delicious. Rare beef, perfectly cooked seafood, tiny amuse bouches with ingredients that I can't name, but that ganged up on my tastebuds for a serious little party, and a cheese-based dessert with chocolates that made me want to eat dessert exclusively, for breakfast, lunch and dinner, for the rest of my natural life.

(During my unnatural life, I intend to drink blood. Obviously.)

I can't give One five stars because it IS pretentious and it IS overpriced. Our bill came to over $1500. There's grey pony hair on the walls. We were seated steps away from a Cougar sucking face with her boy-toy, and mere feet from Ben Mulroney of TV and Daddy-o-political fame. That said, the food was truly impressive.

Damn those richies. They get all the breaks! ;)

One Restuarant
116 Yorkville Ave.
Toronto, ON M5R 1C2
(416) 961-9600

*Photo by Charles Thompson from Stock Xchng.


 
 
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I hit Mezes up for a birthday dinner with my boy's family recently. It was my first time (though the place is a family staple for them). I must admit, I was pretty impressed. I usually find the Danforth's Greek restaurants to be carbon copies of each other. Relatively boring.

Mezes was a little different, and I liked it.

We were a group of eight and they accommodated us perfectly (with a reservation) in a back corner at a large square table that kept us close enough to communicate in the din, but not too close for comfort.

The emphasis here is on sharing. We ordered a load of appetizers, include the mixed filo packets, and grape leaves stuffed with meat and rice. My favourite items were the taramosolata and the pitas. Other reviewers didn't enjoy either, but I thought the dip was delicious, whipped and with a delicate fish flavour. The pitas were meant to be thin, i think, almost crispy. And while they were buttered, I'm personally of the sort who thinks butter makes things MORE delicious rather than less.

Fat is tasty. No one wants to admit it anymore, but it's true. I'm a-ok with lard.

The flaming cheese thing gave everything a very festive atmosphere. For those who've never tried it, I recommend you do. it's very salty, but nice.

We topped off the evening with our own cake that we brought with us. The wait staff served it up happily, complete with a very loud rendition of Happy Birthday (which sounds funny when sung by a pack of baritone waiters who don't know the name of the birthday boy).

All in all, a good time.

Mezes
456 Danforth Avenue
Toronto, ON M4K 1P4
(416) 778-5150

*Photo by Vangelis Thomaidis from Stock Xchng.

 
 
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So I had lunch at Focaccia recently. And I must say ... it's didn't impress.

It was so very meh. There was really nothing especially wrong with the food, but still, I'm not in love with the place by any means.

Three problems:

Space: This is a tiny place. There are literally only 11 tables for 2 in the entire restaurant. One long banquette runs along one wall, and most patrons sit here, annoyingly close together if you ask me.

Staff: My waiter was beyond bizarre, with an affected manner and tone that was so over the top, I had to suppress laughter every time he spoke to me. He was also a little pushy about drinks and dessert even though I told him I was in a hurry and wasn't interested.

Billing: They overcharged me. I ordered the "spaghetti, with sausage, spinach, olive oil and garlic" which (and I've now double checked this through their website http://www.focacciares...) is listed at $15. They charged me $18. Not a lot, I know, but I was and am irritated about it.

Being in a hurry and not wanting to make a fuss, I accepted in the moment that the billing mistake might have been mine (maybe I read the menu wrong?), and tipped anyway, meaning my lunch of one bowl of spaghetti and a glass of tap water came to $23.50 including tax. Having come home and double checked the prices online... I'm annoyed. I wish I'd said something. At the same time, there are only 11 tables in the place! They shouldn't be making this kind of error. I wonder if they did it on purpose because I looked like a rube?

(Do I look like a rube?)

Whatever.

Anyway, to be absolutely fair, the food was fine. The pasta was light, the spinach was not overdone, and the sausage was pretty tasty, though it was of the light pink variety - a bit fatty - and I like a dryer sausage better.

I was also served a little bread and they gave me my own little shakers of parm and hot pepper flakes, but the holes were undersized and I barely got any out of either. Annoying.

I would give this place another chance, but at the moment, I'm not very impressed.

Focaccia Restaurant
17 Hayden Street
Toronto, ON M4Y 2P2
(416) 323-0179

*Photo by TouTouke (G & A Scholiers) from Stock Xchng.

 
 
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Everybody seems to know that Paupers has patios (3) and pints, but I recently discovered they also do a good brunch.

Most breakfast foods are more delicious than lunch or dinner foods, don't you think? Sort of in the way that Creatures Of The Sea are more delicious than Land Beasts and Bird Meat. (Is this only me?) Never mind. My point is this: I love brunch, I'm always looking for places to get my egg on, and and Paupers is a new find.

For about $8 you get a full classic breakfast, complete with eggs, bacon, sausage, toast, etc. They offer bennys and that sort of thing too. What I like about these breakfasts is that they're hearty. Think three eggs instead of the usual measly two. I also like the grizzly, pony-tailed waiter. He's been around for ages, both literally and in terms of his employment at Paupers.

Admittedly, there are a few downsides. I don't recommend that you order poached eggs, for example. Like a lot of places, Paupers uses vinegar in the water to help the eggs stay together during the poaching. They must use a LOT because the sour taste really lingers. The first time I did poached, it ruined my whole plate. You're better off with sunny-side up or over-easy if you like your yolks on the run. Yes, you gain some calories, but the taste bump is huge.

Paupers Pub
539 Bloor Street W
Toronto, ON M5S 1Y6
(416) 530-1331

*Photo by Rob Owen-Wahl from Stock Xchng.

 
 
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De.Lic.Ous.

I've been to Le Paradis Brasserie several times, most recently with my pseudo-boyfriend for some faux-romance, and I enjoyed every mouthful and every minute. The lamb was melty and flavourful, the beans were simple and sweet, the sauce was AMAZING (dark and beefy, but still light, not fatty and jiggly like a lot of gravy can be) and the dessert - a dense chocolate cake - was so decadent, I think I'm still recovering. We had wine, we had port, the waiter had a giant pepper mill (not a euphemism). All was well.

Yes, parking can be an issue, but you should be able to find something, perhaps on a side street. And on a warm summer night, or even in the spring, you might want to walk. Both Dupont and St. George stations are close-ish. And there are meters out front. Inside, it's charming and casual, but classy. Very Parisian. In the summer, there's a back patio, hidden away and a bit enclosed to feel very outdoorsy, but lovely all the same.

The clientele is a little geriatric, but if you like real French bistro food, I say, brave the greys.

Le Paradis Brasserie Bistro
166 Bedford Road
Toronto, ON M5R 2K9
(416) 921-0995

*Photo by Ove Tøpfer from Stock Xchng.