TIFF 2013 Insider’s Guide: Where To Eat, Drink And Party
Choosing from all the options can be daunting—especially when there are celebrities involved. Here, a highly discerning and painstakingly researched look at the festival’s hottest hot spots
461 Queen St. W., 416-598-4730
During the high point of TIFF festivities, Brassaii is a revolving door: the Hollywood Reporter holds all its interviews on-site and the resto-club is a hot spot for post-premiere parties. Last year, David Blaine performed magic tricks for Selena Gomez and Ashley Benson on the patio, while Jason Bateman chilled at the bar and chatted with staff. During brunch, female staff cooed as Alexander Skarsgård and his doe-eyed seven-year-old What Maisie Knew co-star, Onata Aprile, hung out together. Bartender Jonny Gray makes a killer caesar, which complements the restaurant’s seafood-heavy menu—although Viggo Mortensen is a fan of the bison burger.
192 Adelaide St. W., 416-599-7646
Soho House was last year’s rookie of the year. It was so new, work crews were still frantically painting and bringing in furniture mere minutes before its first scheduled party. They made it, though, and the club hosted three or four different parties (and after-parties and after-after-parties) a night. If you’re willing to drink Grey Goose Le Fizz cocktails all evening (the club and the vodka brand are partners during the festival), you’re guaranteed to run into the likes of Kristen Stewart, Emma Watson and Jennifer Lawrence, who got cozy talking starlet shop last year, or Breaking Bad star Aaron Paul, who one night took over the DJ stand.
190 University Ave.
The three-storey Momofuku complex, adjacent to (but not part of) the Shangri-La Hotel, actually houses four different concepts: Noodle Bar, home of pork buns and ramen; Nikai, the second-storey bar and lounge; Daisho−, which serves family-style fried chicken and pork roasts; and Sho−to−, a 22-seat tasting menu nook on the third floor. Expect all of them to be packed during TIFF, partly because of the restaurants’ proximity to the Lightbox and other party venues—nothing gets you primed for a night of heavy drinking quite like ramen—and partly because all four of David Chang’s places are really, really good (we named Sho−to− the best new restaurant in the city this year).
69 Bathurst St., 416-519-6784
James Franco loves the Hoxton, as do Zoë Kravitz and Michael Fassbender. And what’s not to love? The place is loud and sweaty and consistently puts on a good show. Last year Toro’s After Dark TIFF party hosted 350 people, featured a performance by Bloc Party, and went through 11 cases—that’s 66 bottles—of Crystal Head vodka.
Luma and O&B Canteen
350 King St. W., 647-288-4715
The two restaurants that call the Lightbox home—Luma, the chic dining area on the second floor, and Canteen, the lively café on the ground level—are celebrity HQ. To accompany the films playing upstairs, both restaurants offer special, themed refreshments. Last year, Luma styled a cocktail after Snoop Lion’s doc Reincarnated (fresh mint and, of course, gin and juice). Canteen, meanwhile, is the best bet for a quick between-screening pit stop, offering a solid selection of ready-made sandwiches and pastries—Sarah Polley and Martha Stewart are fans.
89 Harbord St., 416-962-8989
This secluded bistro is one of the few restaurants to draw celebrities year round—Sarah Gadon, David Cronenberg and Jake Gyllenhaal are all regulars when in town. During TIFF, it’s even more star-studded. At one festival shindig hosted by Kate Spade, Jessica Chastain and Bryce Dallas Howard sipped pink champagne and snacked on chickpea fritters, Angus sliders and fresh oysters.
1150 Queen W., 416-531-5042
The Drake’s a bit far off the King West strip, but it’s worth staking out because the hotel always manages to throw at least one incredible party. Last year, it was a massive rock-and-roll themed rager. Electro songstress Peaches and her entourage performed a concert in the basement (which was projected throughout the venue), a Sailor Jerry–sponsored Airstream parked outside administered free tattoos, and haircuts were on offer in one of the rooms (Girls star Adam Driver opted for a quick trim). Adrian Grenier also stopped by regularly over the week, as did Tom Green, Kenny Hotz, Kevin Drew and Cameron Bailey.
131 Bloor St. W., 416-551-9929
Charles Khabouth’s bistro is best known as a hub for power brokers and socialites, but the place can jump with the best of Khabouth’s nightclubs. The writer and director Paul Haggis hosted a party there last year for his cause, Artists for Peace and Justice, and the bar area was so crammed, no one could move. The place was a frequent haunt for Joaquin Phoenix (the vegan actor devoured a specially prepared veggie lasagna during his last visit), Gary Oldman, Amy Adams, Claire Danes and Bill Murray. For a fix of Old Hollywood glamour and excess, order the Grand Plateau—a three-tiered edifice loaded with oysters, prawns, marinated octopus, spicy tuna tartare, seafood ceviche and king crab legs ($189).
550 Wellington St. W., 416-640-7778
The Thompson is at its best during TIFF, when celebs come to take in the killer view of the city. The rooftop is always busy, hosting stars like Bradley Cooper and Kate Hudson last year, as well as a who’s-who of Hollywood power players like DreamWorks CEO Stacey Snider, producer Avi Lerner and Fox Searchlight head Nancy Utley. It’s the ultimate after-party destination—the bar is known to stay open until 4 a.m. every night of the festival.
116 Yorkville Ave., 416-961-9600
The Hazelton Hotel’s buzzy dining room epitomizes the magic of the film festival better than any other restaurant in the city. The swishy Yabu Pushelberg–designed room and spacious wraparound patio are packed with stars: Jon Hamm looking for a light and knocking back scotch, director Brett Ratner hitting on hostesses, and Harvey Weinstein tipping generously. Jennifer Aniston, Robert Redford and Gerard Butler have also been spotted at the bar.
The food—truffled pierogies and $190 Petrossian caviar—is made for diners who treat $40 entrées like cheap eats. And the decadence doesn’t stop at dinner: weekend brunch attracts hard-partying TIFF-goers nursing hangovers with eggs Benny and mimosas.
604 King St. W., 416-865-1600
Buca is one of Toronto’s busiest restaurants on a Saturday night and a Jason Priestley haunt. In past years, Bill Murray, Megan Fox, John Legend and Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter have enjoyed the city’s most delectable Italian food courtesy of chef Rob Gentile. Many diners opt to stay tucked away in one of the private back rooms and avail themselves of the restaurant’s hospitality by venturing off the menu—one Hollywood heavyweight even custom-ordered a raw vegan dinner, though we think the Roman pizza freighted with botarga and quail egg ($21) is better.
478 King St. W., 416-274-8766
There’s much fun to be had behind Weslodge’s big yellow doors. The restaurant is another Khabouth operation, one he likes to call a modern saloon. It’s the sort of place where pomaded bartenders don leather gun holsters over their shoulders (without packing any actual heat, of course), and hunting trophies (or simulacra thereof) are mounted above the bar and throughout the space. The cocktails made by Elan Marks are dangerously good, especially his barrel-aged negroni ($14, or $120 for the whole bottle).
Park Hyatt Roof Lounge
4 Avenue Rd., 416-925-1234
The Hyatt still captures the romance of old Hollywood North. Whether for business or pleasure, the place to be is 18 floors up, where the likes of Ralph Fiennes and Harvey Weinstein have knocked back cocktails while they worked out the details of Coriolanus, and Colin Firth has been known to close the place well after last call. Naturally, they were drinking the hotel’s famous old-school martinis ($16-$21).
333 King St. W., 416-599-6585
This inviting trattoria is an Entertainment District anomaly: it’s done up in warm brick rather than Firkin red velvet and pours $720 supertuscans instead of $10 vodka martinis (though we also recommend mixologist Moses McIntee’s Paese Cocktail, a boozier take on the mojito that includes rum, Campari, muddled orange, lemon juice, basil and bitters). The restaurant’s candlelit recesses are popular with celebrities like Bruce Willis, Atom Egoyan, Pierce Brosnan and Woody Harrelson, who once danced between tables until the place closed for the night. And just in time for this year’s festival, the kitchen will be offering a new late-night “Balls” menu, featuring falafel, meatballs and other spherical treats sure to absorb a night’s worth of revelling.
90 Ossington Ave.
While it’s new and therefore as yet TIFF untested, Leeto and Leemo Han’s latest restaurant is sure to be hot during the festival. The place follows a winning formula: deliciously junky Asian-American bar snacks, cheap tall cans, bourbon cocktails and a prime Ossington location. The Korean cheese steak comes stacked with sweet, saucy bulgogi rib-eye, blessedly gooey processed cheese and a mess of caramelized onions and peppers. It’s the ultimate late-night beer sop. On weekends, the room routinely packs more scenesters and thumping bass than a Junction warehouse party—during this scenester-loving festival, that’s the best possible news.
480 King St. W., 416-367-0505
Patria opened with a TIFF party last year—a bold move by impresario owners Hanif Harji and Charles Khabouth. The place is a faithful reproduction of an upscale Barcelona tapas bar, with its long list of Spanish wines, artisanal goat cheeses from La Mancha and a dedicated station where a cook hand-sabres jamón ibérico de bellota, the lusciously cured meat of an acorn-munching pig. All of that made a good backdrop for last year’spremiere party. Kirsten Dunst showed up—although lingering paparazzi were really hoping for no-show Kristen Stewart—downed a cocktail and fled 20 minutes later, taking the party with her. Stephen Dorff and Bill Murray came by later in the week, presumably just for the paella. Expect this place to be bumping all festival long.
600 King St. W., 416-368-8448
The club is a playground for media types—festival director Cameron Bailey is a member, and he often entertains visiting filmmakers—but during TIFF, staid exclusivity gives way to full-on eccentricity. Clive Owen hits the rooftop bar and orders his favourite gin and lemon grass martini dyed red in honour of his beloved Liverpool FC. Owen Wilson and Woody Harrelson once subjected amused onlookers to a break-dancing duel. And once again, the Spoke will play host to the annual Nikki Beach pop-up, which last year saw Harvey Weinstein, Bradley Cooper, Eli Roth and Christina Hendricks make spirited appearances.
Drake One Fifty
150 York St.
The Drake’s newest outpost, in the heart of the financial district, might be seen as a departure for the iconically hip Toronto brand. The hotel that single-handedly gentrified Queen West is trying its luck on Bay Street, attempting to edge up a mostly corporate restaurant scene. The place won’t open until around TIFF week, so we’re not sure exactly what to expect—what we do know is that there will be a few epic parties in the works. And we really want to go there—no doubt those parties will attract a high-profile crowd.
Cabana Pool Bar
11 Polson St.
The brand new 50,000-square-foot pool and bar at Polson Pier can host as many as 2,500 people on its sprawling patio. There are cabanas stocked with low-slung white banquettes and gauzy curtains framing the skyline. The snacks—fish tacos, wraps and sushi platters—are nothing to write home about, but celebrities in bikinis might well be.
333 Bay St., 416-860-0606
Blowfish is often forgotten amid the city’s sea of newer, trendier restaurants, but it shouldn’t be. The place is consistently good—and consistently crowded with local film industry vets like Ruba Nadda, Alexander Siddig and Atom Egoyan. Last year, the cast of Inescapable held their post-gala party there, which meant Joshua Jackson and his girlfriend Diane Kruger got in on the action.
181 Wellington St., 416-572-8008
The restaurant and bar at the Ritz is an excellent star-gazing destination. They even serve complimentary bar snacks (maple-glazed bacon, pan-fried capers and corn nuts), which makes lingering that much more pleasant. The place is a favourite of George Clooney, Diane Keaton and even curmudgeonly celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, who devoured multiple steaks on two consecutive nights while in town with his wife last year.
116 Avenue Rd., 416-962-0011
Sotto Sotto is yet another reason to hang out north of Bloor during TIFF. As recently as last year, A-listers like Ewan McGregor and Johnny Depp were spotted at the restaurant, likely chowing down on the famous antipasti. Dustin Hoffman even brought his family out with him to celebrate the premiere of Quartet, his directorial debut. And because it’s so small—and so familiar—celebs tend to let their guard down and joke with legendary proprietress Mamma, which makes it a great place to snag an Instagram photo with a genuine smile.
124 Ossington Ave., 416-535-4586
We predict this year-old spot will be irresistible to anyone who loves a good beer. With candlelit picnic tables on one of the city’s top patios, a rotating list of house-made drafts and a short menu of delicious nibbles, this is a good place to recharge after a long day of screenings and celeb stalking.
Café Boulud and dbar
60 Yorkville Ave., 416-963-6000
Daniel Boulud’s restaurants hold pride of place in the new Four Seasons, which makes it a veritable hub for those who refuse to believe that the festival has migrated southward to King. Chef Tyler Shedden prepares a variety of exquisite global dishes and delicate desserts. But Café Boulud isn’t about the food. It’s about people-watching, plain and simple.
1095 Yonge St., 416-925-4020
Terroni has long been a favourite of visiting actors: Jake Gyllenhaal, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck all stopped in at the Queen Street location last year. While the original spot is a good bet, we think the uptown location will get a lot of action. The patio is a Miami-meets-Milan open-air lounge at eye level with the Summerhill clock tower, and for food, there’s Terroni’s legendary, cheesy baked Funghi Assoluti.