Yum, Yum: Best snacks in the city

As common sufferers of food envy, we enjoy restaurants that take the pressure off ordering the perfect entree and encourage sharing a variety of nibbles. This tapas-style eating allows us to sample a bunch of menu items, plus we heard that food has no calories when shared with friends. Grab a few of your best pals and try out a few of our fave places below.

416 Snack Bar

The mini-Mac!

We’d be remiss if we didn’t include our favourite after-work hangout on this list. Besides being across the street from our office, 416 offers an ever-changing list of scrumptious small plates including scotch eggs, steamed pork buns and tacos. Our favourite item, the mini-Mac (think: a mini Big Mac), was taken off the permanent menu but makes an appearance on Sunday nights as the day’s “special thing”. We can’t think of a better way to end a weekend.

Yours Truly
 

Portugal meets Japan meets delicious.

Yours Truly is a relatively recent addition to the popular Ossington restaurant strip, but has quickly distinguished itself from the pack with creative cocktails and inventive food. While they do offer meat and vegetarian prix fixe menus, we highly recommend ordering off the snacks menu. The inari-wrapped salt cod and rice is a must-have, but our favourite touch is the chefs delivering the food to your table.  

Swirl

Looking for a cute place to meet your girlfriends for drinks? Then look no further than Leslieville’s Swirl. The tiny restaurant is a bit tricky to find (it’s on the second floor), but once you get there the pretty decor and reclaimed furniture have you hoping you’ll never have to leave. There’s no kitchen, so almost everything on the menu is served in mason jars. The menu includes duck rillettes, marinated olives and cheese, and charcuterie plates.

Guu

It’s never this empty.

Guu originated in Vancouver, opening five restaurants before bringing their concept of the izakaya to Toronto. Pairing traditional Japanese tapas, such as deep fried oysters, carbonara udon and seaweed salad, with a fun, energetic and boisterous atmosphere made Guu an instant hit when it opened on Church St. Their second location in the Annex is equally as popular and no less loud. Be prepared for the entire restaurant staff to yell greetings as you enter and leave.

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Rave: Piola Aperitivo Italiano

The holidays, with their unending parties and gift-buying obligations, may be long gone but that doesn’t mean we want to sit at home twiddling our thumbs until spring arrives. With our wallets and stomachs on diets these days, our social activities tend to err on the lighter side. Thankfully, Piola has heard our prayers and launched their Aperitivo Italiano this month at their Toronto location.

Piola is the new kid on the Queen West block, having recently opened across the street from the Drake Hotel in early December. Their menu centres around light, homestyle Italian cooking with a strong emphasis on their signature thin crust pizzas. The Aperitivo Italiano is the latest tradition they’ve imported from Italy. From 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., Monday to Friday, Piola treats guests to a delicious assortment of complimentary traditional finger foods while they enjoy drinks at the bar and unwind after a long day’s work. Piola’s Aperitivo Italiano features a variety of light and tasty nibbles, offered for free (!) to bar patrons.

Aperitivo Italiano is a common ritual in Italy, particularly in the northern region where Piola was founded. “Aperitivo” refers to the custom of enjoying drinks and snacks after work, allowing guests to open their palate, socialize and relax before dinner.

The base for the delicious Villa Hibiscus cocktail – a beautiful hibiscus blossom.

Nosh on Italian pinwheels, Caprese salad skewers, mini-calzones, brie polenta squares and Italian breadsticks with a variety of dips. Paired with a glass of antioxidant-filled red wine or a light cocktail (such as the Villa Hibiscus – Prosecco-infused with a hibiscus flower), the Aperitivo Italiano is the perfect place to meet a friend for a quick drink before heading to the gym (or staying for a pizza – we aren’t judging).


Piola is located at 1165 Queen St. W. Follow them on Twitter: @PiolaToronto

Yum, yum: Macaroni mania

Now that the holidays have passed, we’re fairly fed up with turkey and mashed potatoes. But the cold weather means that we still crave comfort food – something hot, delicious and filling. Ideally with lots of carbs.

One of the best foods to cure this craving is good ol’ mac and cheese. This childhood favourite has made a big comeback on the foodie scene, with restaurants serving up a classic version with rich, creamy cheddar or taking it to the next level with inventive ingredients.

Here are some of the best macaroni and cheese options in Toronto.

This downtown hot spot on Queen Street West is the place for comfort food prepared with an upscale touch. Credited with starting the gourmet mac trend, Czehoski is the restaurant of choice for mac and cheese enthusiasts. Made with medium aged white cheddar, Czehoski’s macaroni is a creamy, melt-y bowl of delicious. Portions are big and can easily be split, but this is one bowl of mac and cheese that’s just too good to share. 

Trevor Kitchen and Bar, named after chef Trevor Wilkinson, opened in 2006 and quickly made a name for its delicious, inventive culinary creations. Word of their cheesy gourmet macaroni quickly spread; the fancy indulgence will impress even the toughest of food critics. Their infamous dish is a sophisticated twist on the classic, made with Asiago cheese and topped with seared foie gras. The upscale ingredients make this one of the most interesting pastas in the city, and a must-try for anyone who considers themselves a macaroni connoisseur.


The Dakota Tavern
This Ossington country hot spot boasts some truly tasty eats, with locally sourced products and very few pre-made ingredients. Their mac and cheese is no exception, and it’s quite different from the others we mention above. The three cheeses used include a spicy jalapeno havarti that gives it a Tex-Mex kick. The homemade pico de gallo that tops the rich dish adds a refreshing taste of tomato and cilantro. It’s extremely filling, so grab a friend and share a bowl while listening to some guitar and killer vocals.

Drake Hotel

Not to be outdone by other Queen West restaurants, Drake serves up a mean mac and cheese. The rich, gooey dish is packed with four delicious cheeses – blue, parmesan, goat and a two-year-old cheddar. The combination of such flavourful cheese makes this version a standout, and the housemade catsup on the side is much better than store-bought (sorry, Heinz. There IS another Keinz). It’s also made with a whole lotta Drake love, which takes it from great to amazing.






Although, we do admit to tucking into a bowl of KD from time to time, you don’t get much better than these favourites. Where are your go-to spots for mac and cheese? Tweet us @rockitpromo!