The Path Guide: 24 spots worth getting lost for

The Path Guide: 24 spots worth getting lost for

(All photos by Karon Liu) 

Even those who were born and raised in Toronto have a hard time navigating the city’s underground labyrinth, with its dead ends, identical food courts and utterly useless maps—not to mention the complete lack of sunlight, which can drive a person mad. Still, the world’s largest below-ground shopping complex is like a city of its own, with lots of unique shops, restaurants and attractions that are worth the slight possibility of getting cabin fever. An added incentive for people going to a game or a concert: most of the restaurants offer free parking. Here are 24 places to check out.

Akco Lounge

Sushi isn’t part of the 100-mile diet, but Akco Lounge owner Irene Hickman makes up for regular salmon deliveries by using herbs, fruits and vegetables from her farm just outside the city and purchases organic beef for the bulgogi and kalbi from local ranchers. Unconventional items appear on the tried-and-true Japanese-Korean menu: cream-free shrimp and calamari chowder ($7), chive-shrimp dumpling soup ($7) and, instead of sake, Oroya ($35), a wine created to be paired with sushi. During weekday happy hours, from 3 to 7 p.m., the entire menu is 30 per cent off.

Akco Lounge, First Canadian Place (concourse level), 100 King St. W. (at Bay), 416-368-0125, akco.ca.

Reds Bistro and Wine Bar

Tucked away from the hustle of First Canadian Place, Reds has been a place to unwind with a glass of, well, red since opening in 2000. The downstairs bar accommodates tipple-only customers, who order from a list of 80 wines served by the glass. Executive chef Michael Steh (Canoe, Biff’s) works with sommelier Taylor Thompson (Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar) to come up with a wine pairing for each dish. The menu features more than 30 cheeses from the Cheese Boutique ($7 per cheese, $18 for three) and two charcuterie platters ($20 for eight samples, $49 for about 20) composed of in-house-aged meat from Cumbrae’s.

Reds Bistro and Wine Bar, First Canadian Place (street level), 77 Adelaide St. W. (at Bay), 416-862-7337, redsbistro.com.

Read the Toronto Life review of Reds >>

Eitelbach Baumkuchen Pastries

With two stores located near office buildings, owner Hans Eitelbach serves a lot of flustered businessmen buying last-minute boxes of truffles ($1.50 each, 12 for $19). The treats come in 23 flavours, including pear, banana and bordeaux. For an after-lunch shot of decadence, we recommend the tree cake petits fours ($2)—office workers can be spotted snacking on them throughout the Path—but the largest version ($32.50) is also a unique experience: a classic German dessert that resembles a stack of mouth-watering doughnuts.

Eitelbach Baumkuchen Pastries, First Canadian Place (street level) and Manulife Centre, 100 King St. W. (at Bay), 416-594-6555, eitelbach.com.

Harry Rosen

With just $500, Harry Rosen opened his first store in 1954 in Cabbagetown. Today the business is a menswear mini-empire with 14 Canadian locations (six of which are in the GTA), and the company has been attracting younger generations since the likes of Justin Timberlake and Usher started gliding across the stage in three-piece suits. At the large First Canadian Place location, such classic labels as Ermenegildo Zegna, Canali and house brand Harry Rosen are juxtaposed with modern lines from Seven for all Mankind and J. Lindeberg. Not surprisingly, this location is heavy on suiting; staffers recommend starting with a made-to-measure J. P. Tilford suit (from $1,050) and golf attire.

Harry Rosen, First Canadian Place (street level and lower level), 100 King St. W. (at Bay), 416-981-9097, harryrosen.com.

Sleuth and Statesman

Murtaza Amarshi learned calligraphy as a student in East Africa. “It’s my personal passion, and I’ve been fascinated with it since I was a young child,” he says. “There’s a beauty to the look of the words themselves; they’re like art.” Amarshi opened the Sleuth and Statesman tobacco shop in 1987 in the Exchange Tower, but his love of fine writing supplies resulted in a second location devoted to stationery and collectors’ pens, like an $8,000 limited-edition gold-plated stunner from Mont Blanc.

Sleuth and Statesman, First Canadian Place (street level), 100 King St. W. (at Bay), 416-955-9696, sleuthandstatesman.com.

Vertical

The chatter and music from Vertical’s second-floor patio make passersby on King West wonder how to get into the party. The entrance may be hidden (it’s in the mall’s food court), but all are invited to sample chef Tawfik Shehata’s Mediterranean menu. Shehata (Boba, Truffles, Rosewater Supper Club) uses produce from his quarter-acre farm in Stouffville and plans to open a green roof in the city this summer. First-timers should try the grilled octopus appetizer ($15) followed by a whole fish ($28–$33), but those seeking the full Vertical experience (and more bang for their buck) should opt for the monthly four-course prix fixe menu ($45, $60 with wine pairings). Cocktails are also popular: the Vertical Sour (bourbon, lemon and lime juice, syrup, chianti, $12) and the Blackberry Cabernet Caipiroska (blueberry vodka, crushed lime and blackberry, organic sugar and cabernet, $14).

Vertical, First Canadian Place (second level), 100 King St. W. (at Bay), 416-214-2252, verticalrestaurant.ca.

Read the Toronto Life review of Vertical >>

Amaya Express

This fast-food outpost of Hemant Bhagwani and Derek Valleau’s Amaya in Leaside is an economical option for those who forgot to pack a lunch. Since the midday crowd at the food court reaches Boxing Day proportions, ordering here is kept simple: pick a base (basmati, naan, roti, biryani or seasoned rices) and a topping (butter chicken, coconut curry fish, beef vindaloo, spicy chicken curry, sweet and sour eggplant or masala lime lamb). A side of curried vegetables and naan is included in the $7 combo. New to Amaya: a butter chicken poutine, which is, surprisingly, the top seller.

Amaya Express, First Canadian Place (second level food court), 100 King St. W. (at Bay), 416-214-0005, amayaexpress.com.

Teaopia

Located in the passage between Scotia Plaza and First Canadian Place, Teaopia’s underground location offers over 100 alternatives to office kitchen coffee: greens, oolongs, blacks, rooibos, fruit blends and premium white. Customers crowd a stand filled with tins of leaves to smell the varieties before ordering at the counters ($4 per 50 grams to $20 per 50 grams). Teas can also be ordered brewed (from $2.75), hot or cold, and sipped at the back of the store. The Market Spice black tea ($6.50 per 50 grams)—orange peel, cloves, marigold, red peppercorns—is a favourite of the Path crowd.

Teaopia, Scotia Plaza, 40 King St. W. (at Bay), 416-640-1405, teaopia.ca.

Canoe

Consistently rated one of the city’s best restaurants, Canoe sits on the 54th floor of the TD Bank Tower. Mixologist Jeff Sansone has been behind the bar since the restaurant opened 15 years ago: “I’ve watched these Bay Streeters climb the ladder from the time they started their job to when they got promoted to be company presidents. It’s nice to see that they haven’t changed.” Other things that haven’t changed include the grilled Provimi calf’s liver ($21) and the Canoe lobster clubhouse ($21)—Sansone says, “There would be a mutiny if that was ever taken off the menu.” Sansone changes his drink menu every six weeks and recommends the Canoe Caesar ($14), with celery salt and double-smoked bacon rim, served with a shucked oyster. “It’s an appetizer and drink in one.”

Canoe, Toronto Dominion Bank Tower, 66 Wellington St. W. (at Bay), 54th flr., 416-364-0054, oliverbonacini.com/Canoe.aspx.

Bymark

Long before Mark McEwan had a TV show and a supermarket, he united premium ingredients (USDA prime beef, Brie de Meaux, king mushrooms) and premium pricing ($35) in Bymark’s famous burger. But no restaurant can survive seven years on notoriety. Manager Darlien Scott believes people come back for luxurious extras, such as weekly wine tasting lessons (available upon request). The expense account set favours Bymark’s steaks, which range from 10-ounce strip loins ($38.95) to 22-ounce bone-in rib-eyes ($54.95). The downstairs dining room offers a candlelit setting for dates; suits rant about work at the glass-walled bar upstairs.

Bymark, Toronto Dominion Bank Tower, 66 Wellington St. W. (at Bay), 416-777-1144, bymarkdowntown.com.

Soup Nutsy

Unlike its Seinfeldian inspiration, this food court stalwart makes ordering fast and easy by posting the day’s menu on its Web site each morning. The diversity of soups is astounding, and choice depends on the luck of the draw, but meat and veggie soups ($6.50) include popular options, like fresh tomato and wild mushroom florentine, Caribbean chicken, vegetable rice and, of course, old-fashioned chicken noodle. New England clam chowder is ideal for office workers fighting a cold, starved shoppers or anyone who wants a comforting midday hug.

Soup Nutsy, Toronto Dominion Centre (Ernst and Young Tower, concourse level), 222 Bay St. (at Wellington St. W.), 416-304-1383; Metro Centre (concourse level), 200 Wellington St. W. (at Simcoe St.), 647-351-1723, soupnutsy.ca.

Essence du Papier

This Montreal-based paper company offers embellished cards, notebooks of all patterns and sizes, and gorgeous invitations, like Vera Wang’s elegant collection. Cards by Montreal’s Pierre Belvédère, which range from simple and elegant to quirky and humorous, are an original alternative to mass-market greetings. A large section of the store is devoted to colourful Semikolon planners, photo albums, files, boxes and notebooks ($3–$75).

Essence du Papier, Toronto Dominion Bank Tower (concourse level), 66 Wellington St. W. (at Bay), 416-601-9461.

Far Niente

The specialty here is luxurious twists on comfort foods, such as signature lobster pot pie ($44)—a quarter pound of Yarmouth lobster with a tarragon cream sauce, fingerling potatoes, leeks, carrots and wild mushrooms under a puff pastry crust—and mascarpone cheesecake ($9). Misty Beazley—the vice-president of SIR Corp., which owns Far Niente—believes that the restaurant’s willingness to accommodate requests is what keeps diners coming back. “Over the holiday break, a woman called and said that she couldn’t have dairy or gluten, or eat anything with a face. She was coming with a group of 65 in three hours,” she said. “The chefs made her a vegetable soup, cold rolls stuffed with tofu and soba noodles and a fruit salad with a mint–passion fruit syrup.”

Far Niente, Commerce Court, 187 Bay St. (at Wellington St. W.), 416-214-9922, farnienterestaurant.com.

Jump

This aptly named bistro is the Path’s premier place for a quick business lunch. “We march to the beat of our diners, whose time is very important to them,” says Oliver and Bonacini operations manager Jerrett Young. But flavour isn’t compromised by efficiency; dishes include lobster shepherd’s pie ($38) and miso-glazed black cod with a coconut red curry over jasmine rice ($30). Despite the restaurant’s name and the frog statue behind the hostess booth, there are no amphibian appendages on the menu.

Jump, Commerce Court East, 18 Wellington St. W. (at Bay), 416-363-3400, oliverbonacini.com/jump.aspx.

Four and Petit Four

Far Niente’s more health-conscious counterpart prides itself on steaming, grilling and broiling techniques that keep every menu item below 650 calories (diners are invited to look over the nutritional information of each dish before ordering). Beet salad ($8) and smoked sablefish with edamame–sweet corn succotash ($20.50) are among the favourites. And yes, they even have dessert ($2): shot glasses filled with tiramisù, chocolate cherry crush or double chocolate cream. Lunch crowds often prefer Petit Four, located next door, with its takeout focaccia sandwiches ($7) and salads ($4).

Four and Petit Four, Commerce Court South, 187 Bay St. (at Wellington St. W.), 416-368-1444 (Four), 416-368-1221 (Petit Four), fourtoronto.com, petitfour.ca.

Brava Boutique

When Christine Lackan says her 13-year-old store caters to women of all shapes, she’s not kidding. The lingerie boutique carries sizes 28-54, A-K, and Lackan has done fittings for more than 50,000 women. Expect to spend at least $90 for a good bra from such designers as Chantelle, Prima Donna, Fantasie and Marlies Dekkers. The store specializes in prosthetic fittings and carries plenty of flirty items, like a black-and-white Andres Sarda bra with a little black tie in the middle ($158). Every August, the store holds a drive during which customers donate their gently worn bras to women’s shelters in exchange for a store discount.

Brava Boutique, Commerce Court North, 25 King St. W. (at Bay), 416-363-1843, bravaboutique.ca.

Allen Lambert Galleria

Having served as a backdrop for television shows, music videos and film, this futuristic space designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava is one of the most photographed places in the city. Throughout the year, the galleria hosts free exhibitions for such events as World Press Photo, Luminato and Nuit Blanche, stopping hurried office workers in their tracks as they gaze at award-winning war photographs and, most recently, a preserved human body from the Ontario Science Centre’s Body Worlds exhibit.

Allen Lambert Galleria, Brookfield Place, 181 Bay St. (at Wellington St. W.).

Tidy’s Flowers

Tidy’s Flowers opened in 1877, making it the city’s oldest florist. Classic orchids and roses are always popular, but Tidy’s also does such showstoppers as a four-and-a-half-foot-tall bouquet of roses for a wedding anniversary. Right now, tightly packed European-style bouquets with gerberas, roses, hydrangeas and calla lilies in acid green and purples are most fashionable.

Tidy’s Flowers, Brookfield Place (lower level), 161–181 Bay St. (at Wellington St. W.), 416-364-5475; Commerce Court (North Corridor), 187 Bay St. (at Wellington St. W.), tidysflowers.com.

Ki

From the outside, it resembles a nightclub, but beyond the black and orange façade is one of Bay Street’s best sushi restaurants. The restaurant receives four to six shipments of fish every day to support a menu that incorporates such unconventional ingredients as Canadian AAA strip loin and pineapple. Ki caters to sushi connoisseurs (try the uni) and novices alike with a big selection of both raw and cooked dishes. The tempura butterfish makimono ($14) is a popular choice, served with Alaskan king crab, salmon, butterfish, avocado, cucumber and flying fish roe deep-fried in tempura. A sake sommelier is on staff to help with rice wine selection.

Ki, Brookfield Place, 181 Bay St. (at Wellington St. W.), 416-308-5888, kijapanese.com.

Game Trek

No Zhu Zhus here; this isn’t an average kid’s toy store. Game Trek focuses on model cars and planes, hard-to-find European board games and chess sets. The giant wall of board games in the back features such imports as popular German strategy games Settlers of Catan ($50) and Ticket to Ride ($70). When not browsing through the selection of board games, adults can be found ogling glass cabinets containing model warplanes and limited CMC car model kits.

Game Trek, Royal York (shopping concourse), 100 Front St. W. (at York St.), 416-597-0149, gametrek.ca.

Sandwich Box

Though it has the longest lunch queues in the Path, this spot employs a crew that can get 10 orders done before the Dow drops a single point. For each sandwich order ($8), patrons choose a bread (whole wheat, rye, multigrain triangle, rosemary, onion focaccia), a spread (vegan sun-dried tomato, vegan curried apple, black olive, basil pesto, hummus, roasted garlic and cumin, avocado, chipotle mayonnaise) and three toppings (a variety of vegetables, cheeses and meats).

Sandwich Box, Royal Bank Plaza (two floors below street level), 200 Bay St. (at Front St. W.), 416-913-4444, sandwichbox.ca.

Brooks Brothers

This legendary American chain with the celebrity clientele (Cary Grant, George Clooney, Stephen Colbert and Abraham Lincoln, who was wearing a Brooks Brothers coat when he was assassinated) finally opened its Toronto flagship last August. Though its suits are pricey—the signature 1818 line starts at $1,298—the company has almost 100 years of tailoring to back it up. Assistant general manager Deepak Chopra tells us that the $98 silk ties are made in the company’s own factories in the States. But this isn’t strictly a boys’ club: half of the massive space is dedicated to womenswear and kidswear, to complete that perfect family portrait look.

Brooks Brothers, Royal Bank Plaza (concourse level), 200 Bay St. (at Front St. W.), 416-368-0162, brooksbrothers.com.

Epic

Avoid the tour in the Royal York Hotel’s lobby and head up to Epic’s onyx bar or roomy booths for a meal. Chef Ryan Gustafson describes his menu with three simple words: local, sustainable and seasonal, as evidenced by the apiary on the hotel rooftop, which provides Epic with its honey. “We pair it with cheese, make honey ice cream and make bread with it,” says Gustafson. His menu is a seasonal showcase that lists all the ingredients that are available locally at the moment and promises seafood from Ocean Wise, a program that promotes sustainable fishing.

Epic, Fairmont Royal York, 100 Front St. W. (at York St.), 416-860-6949, epicrestaurant.ca.

The Roy Thomson Hall Music Store

Few know about this store, which arguably has the biggest selection of classical music in the city. The knowledgeable staff love to play trivia with customers, but neophytes who don’t know the difference between Beethoven’s fifth and ninth shouldn’t feel intimidated, says store manager John Slavik.

The Roy Thomson Hall Music Store, 60 Simcoe St. (at King St. W.), 416-593-4822, ext. 358, roythomson.com.

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