Editor’s Letter (April 2012): The App of My Eye

Editor’s Letter (April 2012): The App of My Eye

The last couple of years have been fantastic for Toronto diners. The city has experienced an explosion of hole-in-the-wall masterpieces, opened by people you’ve probably never heard of, doing inventive, surprising things with small kitchens. They often don’t care much about decor, and the rooms are usually noisy, but the places are packed night after night. A few weeks ago, on a Monday, I called one such restaurant to book a table for the following Thursday, and the man on the other end of the line laughed at me. He said he had an opening on a Thursday—six weeks from the day I had in mind. Other terrific restaurants don’t even take reservations. If you want a table, plan to wear comfortable shoes, because you’ll likely wait in line. At about 7 p.m. toward the end of the week, Dundas West and Queen West and East are the sidewalk gathering places of curious foodies in from Mississauga and Lawrence Park, eagerly awaiting the opportunity to rack up points on their credit cards. (That is, if the low-tech restaurant in question takes credit cards.)

This year, there has also been good news for food lovers who aren’t fond of round-the-block lineups and dumpster decor. A handful of exquisite white-linen restaurants, in well-appointed rooms, have opened downtown, offering the same creative excellence in the kitchen. Our dining-out options have never been so superb and so varied. In our 30th annual best restaurants issue, we have chosen and ranked the top 10 new restaurants, and it’s an exceptionally diverse collection.

You can find reviews of 400 other Toronto Life–approved restaurants in our annual Best Restaurants guide. Long-time readers of the magazine love the booklet. They tell me they keep it at their bedside or next to the phone in the kitchen. Some mark them up with highlighters and sticky notes, and some even have multiple copies—for the office, for home, and for the glove compartment.

I’m pleased to announce that our Best Restaurants guide is now also available as an iPhone app (for downloading instructions, click here). The app is much like the printed guidebook in that it features 400 star-rated reviews. But because it’s on the iPhone, it has the great advantage of location-based information—so you can find out what Toronto Life–endorsed restaurants are in your vicinity, or search by cuisine or star rating, applying various filters to zero in on exactly what you’re looking for.

I recently tested it out in the bustling, always evolving condo capital of the city, King West, which has an abundance of restaurants—some good, some less so. My husband and I had booked tickets to see a film at the Lightbox, and we wanted to eat dinner first. I opened up the app, picked the map view, zoomed in on King West and started checking out the little red pinpoints. I was in the mood for steak, so we chose Jacobs and Co., which is a bit of a throwback but has great caesar salad and preposterously good service. Once we were seated, I referred again to the Toronto Life review. I read the following quote: “The crowd of millionaire jocks…considers Jacobs the finest steak house in the city.” I looked up and saw exactly that: a room full of rich athletic types, including a couple of guys who might have been former CFL players–turned–sports agents. As the review promised, the steak was superb.

I’m biased, of course, but I love how the app works: it makes you feel like you’re carrying around loads of good advice from a trusted friend who loves food, has eaten everywhere and has impeccable taste. In this ever-expanding restaurant landscape, good advice is increasingly important, and Toronto Life plans to be there to help you navigate it all—in whatever format you like best.

(Image: Nigel Dickson)