These are all of my recommendations and avoid-at-all-costs! places in the cities I frequent the most.
I will update as I remember some more.
If you want to read all of my reviews in-depth on each item below, check out my profile on Yelp.
Click on each of the cities to hop down to the area.
SIGHTS TO SEE
- Art Gallery of Ontario
- Royal Ontario Museum
- Kensington Market
- Little Italy
- Toronto Island
WHERE TO EAT IN TORONTO
ND Sushi Grill: Go here for some of the best sushi in Toronto; a hidden gem that you shouldn’t pass up. For a treat, go for the omakase (chef’s choice) at $80 per person. Desserts are well worth it.
Japango: Amazing sushi, a small place in the heart of downtown Toronto, but has a real Japanese charm. Omakase (chef’s choice) also available but expect to pay $120-$150.
Craft Burger: Not worth the hype. I feel like I make better burgers at home.
Auntie’s and Uncle’s Brunch: Not worth the hype. I felt like McDonald’s was tastier.
Fujiyama Sushi: For the price, this quick sushi joint isn’t the best but it hits the cheap spot and fills your belly.
J. Town: A must visit if you love Japanese food and hard-to-find items; try their onigiri (rice balls) with unagi (eel) for around $2 each. Yummy!
Joso’s Restaurant: Overpriced “Portuguese” food; it’s really just a place that is milking customers and masquerading as authentic. The fish was cooked all right, but again.. I do better at home with a wok.
Lee Garden: One of the best Chinese restaurants in all of Toronto. Clean, fast, hot and tasty. What more do you want? The waiters have been there for a very long time & know their job.
Matahari Malaysian Bar and Grill: Overpriced, not authentic Malaysian cuisine since it’s cooked by non-Malaysians. Disappointing. Go to Restoran Malaysia instead, if you have access to a car.
Restoran Malaysia: Authentic Malaysian cuisine with the right price to match. Try the roti canai (chicken curry with roti or bread) and the Nonya fried chicken with keropok (shrimp chips).
Pho Linh: The best vietnamese pho in Toronto. Great price, awesome spring rolls and a delicious broth.
Sushi Inn Yorkville: For quick and fast sushi, you can’t beat this place. Run by Chinese, but it’s in the heart of Yorkville and the prices aren’t outrageous.
Messini: Go here for the pork souvlaki. It is delicious, juicy and absolutely amazing. The rice is okay, the roasted potatoes are too oily but focus on the meat here.
Grazie Ristorante: Great Italian food with a great pear and proscuitto salad. The pasta is also delicious and the atmosphere is warm and welcoming.
WHERE TO SHOP IN TORONTO
Eaton’s Center: The downtown mecca of stores.
Yorkdale: An even more amazing mall right by the TTC Station
Danforth Area (Danforth TTC Station): Greektown with lots of great shops and interesting things to look at.
Queen Street West: Starting at Osgoode TTC walking towards west away from Yonge you will see a whole RANGE of stores.
Henry’s Photo’s: A great place to get camera bags, tripods and basically anything you need
Anime Xtreme: A small hidden shop full of comics and great deals on anime and manga (some of them are buy 3 get one free).
Silver Snail Comics: A little more “mainstream” with more American comics, located in a nicely decorated store. A great selection as well.
Solutions Store: Your one-stop shop for organizing bliss. Containers, dividers, and hangers oh my!
Propaganda: Beautiful jewellery. They used to sell clothes but you should go in for their gorgeous necklaces and earrings. Be forewarned, the most beautiful items are not cheap!!
Cat’s Cradle: Go here for unique clothing but mostly for the gorgeous wrap dresses by Canadian brand Bionic. I own no less than 10 of his creations.
SERVICES TO TRY IN TORONTO
Pure and Simple: Go to any of their locations and treat yourself to an amazing facial. They really know their stuff and their products are used in the salon & are more natural, as well as being reasonably priced. Read my entire review on Pure & Simple Yorkville. I recommend getting the LED facial if you have pigmentation or scars you want to lessen.
Sage Health & Wellness Clinic: The masseurs are independent freelancers, and they know their stuff. Small unassuming slightly noisy place, but it is warm, inviting and well-priced at $93 for an hour.
Vidal Sassoon Hair: If you want a good haircut from a great hairstylist and are willing to pay for it, go here. Haircuts will run around $100 or more but it looks incredible when you walk out.
WHERE TO STAY IN TORONTO
No recommendations. I usually stay with family, sorry!
SIGHTS TO SEE
- St-Joseph Oratoire
- Chinatown – two streets
- Little Italy – one street
- Old Montreal
- Ste-Catherine from Atwater to Desjardins
- Mont Royal track and the Summit
- The Plateau Mont Royal — Macarons, Shopping Area, Independent
- Musee des Beaux-Arts
WHERE TO EAT IN MONTREAL
La Maison du Macaron: The best macarons I’ve ever had, even including being in Paris. Try the peppered mango or strawberry & rhubarb macarons.
Point G: Equally amazing macarons! They have more innovative flavours like foie gras and yuzu. I’d say they’re slightly better made than at La Maison but also cost a bit more.
Bela Vista: Delicious pasteis de nata (custard tarts) outside of Lisbon; great lemony flavour
Schwartz’s Montreal Smoked Meat: I wasn’t a huge fan of them but a lot of people are, and it isn’t a bad sandwich. Very filling for $6.
Casa Mason Minhota: Decent Portuguese food that is a little on the pricey side but still a good meal
Fung Shing: Awesome deep fried battered shrimps, the salted chicken was just all right and the rest of the dishes taste Americanized
Maiko Sushi: One of the most best, most beautiful sushi restaurants in all of Montreal; the dishes are works of art & very fresh, great atmosphere for a lunch
Pasticceria Alati-Caserta: Still very tasty if you are jonesing for some cannoli, but not as good as Mike’s Pastry in Boston
Pho Lien: The best Vietnamese food in all of Montreal, great flavourful broth and the place is always busy
Cafe Triangulo: Not the most amazing authentic Portuguese food in the world, but this hole-in-the-wall bar offers some decent sized portions of good food for a good price. I like their grilled items or their fish. They aren’t so great at pasta.
Rotisserie Ramados: Portuguese grilled chicken. Huge portions, great price, don’t forget to pick up a can or bottle of Sumol Laranja (Orange) soda pop to try. I think ever since they renovated the place, they haven’t been quite as generous with the helpings, but it’s still a good meal.
Kazu: A real Japanese izakaya. I recommend the pork ramen or the shrimp burger and finish off with the Earl Grey ice cream. Delicious, made right in front of your eyes.
Bangkok 2: Not the most amazing Thai food in the world, but for the price and location you can’t ask for too much. I haven’t been back since 2006, so don’t quote me on that.
Odaki Sushi: It seems to be more upscale in nature (at least, bigger for dinners), and is better than Tokyo Sushi across the street, but it still isn’t amazing sushi. Still, for the price and the ambience, it’s decent enough.
Tokyo Sushi: Cheap, all you can eat. Can you really complain? This isn’t high-end stuff, but it isn’t awful either. It’s edible and you get your fill, even if they screw up orders once in a while or take a bit too long.
PA Supermarche: The best place to pick up veggies and fruits for the best price. I would also buy my fish here, the prices are competitive (at least better than any mainstream supermarket’s price). It’s always full of folks, which means it’s a great place to shop. The fresh food is really quite reasonably priced here.
Mourelato’s: Bunch of friggin’ crooks and they are OUTRAGEOUSLY priced for tomatoes and other veggies. They used to be cheap, but now I recommend everyone go to PA Supermarche because they are unethical and their produce is going downhill. HATE.
WHERE TO SHOP IN MONTREAL
Rudsak: MUST. VISIT. I think this is a Canada-only store, and they have the most amazing leather bags. The quality is the same as M0851, but it isn’t as expensive (more ‘mass-produced’). The leather is buttery soft, the store is beautifully laid out. Visit the one on Ste-Catherine not the one in the mall, just past the McDonald’s. The manager there is just simply amazing, he has such a passion for the store and I loved shopping there. Lovely, lovely bags.
M0851: They have a couple of locations, one in the mall and one on Sherbrooke I think. Either one is good, but the prices here are not for the faint of heart. You’re looking at $100+ for a small coin purse, and at least $1000 for a leather jacket. I haven’t purchased a single item here (and probably never will), but I sure like going in here to dream. If you want a more affordable version of M0851, try Rudsak (above). The leather is comparable. Very modern, cutting edge designs.
Roots: Another great leather store, except it is way more mainstream/mass marketed. That said, the bags are reasonably priced around $100 for a crossover, and they will also last the test of time. The leather is a different type of pebbled leather, not like the smooth buttery leathers of M0851 and Rudsak, and therefore is cheaper and more “affordable”. I put affordable in quotes because I find their purses expensive at $300, but then again I’m picky.
Ecco: A great brand for knee-high boots. I’ve never purchased their ballet flats or shoes, only their boots (one pair, singular) and I take good care of them with mink oil to avoid salt stains and to keep them looking beautiful for many years to come.
Le Chateau: I’m fairly sure they’re not in the States, and they’re sometimes priced like Anthropologie ($200 for a DRESS), but they do have a wide range of hit and miss pieces. They’re starting to be more luxurious than in the past, but I’d still be sure what you’re buying is worth the price.
Bluberry: A hit and miss store. The place has decently cheap clothing, but some of the handmade pieces have too-short sleeves, or are not of great quality or style. Still, you can’t miss it. It’s a good place to start.
Boutique Onze: For some reason on Ste-Catherine it’s a hit and miss with customer service. Sometimes they are rude as hell and ignore you (especially if you start in English), but other times they’re nice. Anyways, a good place to go for bags, cute accessories, t-shirts and purses.
Icici Clothing: It’s really a cute shop. Upstairs, you will find lots of great clothes and accessories for quite a decent price. The clerks (if there are any sometimes) are really nice, and the only thing is to watch out for the quality of some items.
1861 Boutique Razberry: The clothing here is a hit and miss for me. Some of it is too Hong Kong-ish (and the sizes are small to match), but there are some really great pieces as well. I find the colours bland overall (very beige, black or neutral coloured pieces), but perhaps I’m being too picky.
Jet Setter: Paradise for travelers who are looking for helpful travel items, bags, packing cubes, suitcases, LUG and Eagle Creek
Apple Store on Ste-Catherine: AVOID. This place is full of rude, snotty Apple employees who don’t know their jobs and basically ignore you even if you’re waiting in line to buy $3000+ worth of stuff. Wait until you get back home if you can. RUDE AS HELL.
SERVICES TO TRY IN MONTREAL
WHERE TO STAY IN MONTREAL
Candlewood Suites Montreal: THE BEST!! Right beside the Holiday Inn (actually the exact same building), parking is $9/day and the rooms are great as a hotel or for long-term stays. Internet is decent, they have kitchens and the staff is polite for the most part (the guys are nicer than the girls).
Marriott Residence Inn Suites: THE BEST!! If you have more money to spend, around the $150 – $200 range, stay here. Not a bad breakfast in the morning (hot foods available), the internet is decently fast and the view facing Mont Royal is beautiful. Also comes with a full kitchen, awesome pool and gym.
On the whole, I disliked the city.
I don’t really hate it, but I couldn’t imagine ever moving there, living there (again) or being forced to stay there for more than a month. Perhaps I need a second crack at it, but I’m not willing to try…
WHERE TO EAT IN OTTAWA
Byward Market: Full of butcher shops, cheese shops, and eateries. Don’t bother with clothing or accessories here. Frankly, none of the food appealed to me on the whole so I never ate in a restaurant (I could make better at home). Apparently those beaver tails are good (fried dough rolled in sugar) but they just looked oily and gross to me.
Shafali Bazaar: The ONLY restaurant in ALL OF OTTAWA that I would want to travel back for. They make the most amazing vegetarian potato samosas. THE BEST I’ve ever had. Spicy, full of deliciousness. I really enjoyed them.
Le Boulanger Francais: Where NOT to eat. The pastries are sooooo far from being French, it’s pathetic. They may be well made if they’re fresh, but they were never fresh when I dropped by. They looked dried and were overpriced. Who do they think they are?
La Bottega Nicastro: One of the better grocery shops in Ottawa, especially for Italian stuff! The shelves are packed full of great things to buy and try, and I hear the sandwiches are good but for that price and how much you get in the sandwich, I could make it for a fraction of the price.
Le Moulin de Provence: The better bakery in Ottawa, but still not up to the standards I expect from a “French bakery”. Try the religieuse and take caution with the rest. I found the galette the roi disgusting (made my stomach curl up) because they don’t know how to make the pastry properly and put too much butter to compensate, and the croissants/pain au chocolats taste as sad as they look.
WHERE TO SHOP IN OTTAWA
Rideau Center: Sadly, the Rideau Center is the best mall to shop in Ottawa that is close to the heart of downtown, or else you’re forced to travel farther. It has an Apple store, a Sephora and the basic mainstream shops. Yawn.
Red Velvet: The items are cute, but they looked geared more towards women in their mid-40s. The colours were mostly neutrals and basic, conservative pieces.
Flock Boutique: What a CUTE store. Great accessories and clothing, but not cheap. I suggest going there with your wallet open, or don’t go at all.
Ottawa Leather Goods: They sell LUG BAGS!!! And lots of other great things like Eagle Creek Packing Cubes, but LUG!!! A good place to stop by for traveling needs.
WHERE TO STAY IN OTTAWA
Ottawa Stays: THE BEST!! of all the hotel apartments with the best locations. They modern, clean and are always booked. You can negotiate rates for how long you are staying and you should try to get into one of these places instead of trying Minto or of the other crappy places. The prices are about the same per month, so don’t worry about it costing more.
Econolodge: Really close to the Rideau Center and heart of downtown. If just sleeping in a place with a bathroom and a TV is your thing, the Econolodge is enough. A bit noisy and full of transients but not bad for the price. I’d stay here over Minto Suites any day.
Minto Extended Stay Apartment/Suites (Carlisle & Eleanor): AVOID!! They are not part of the regular Minto brand, and they are the worst of all the hotels available. I left ASAP. They have a full kitchen and parking is around $200/month. I found the residents to be better, but the management needs to get their act together.
Extended Stay Deluxe: AVOID!! Internet is worse than dial-up, parking is awful (outside in a gravel lot without proper lines), and it was painful to stay in. Left ASAP.
Les Suites: AVOID!! They are cheap as hell but the location is in a shady area, full of ghetto residents, and the management is rude and unable to speak properly to you without feeling like they own the world.
WHERE TO EAT
Mike’s Pastry: THE best Italian pastries I’ve had. Ever. Every time I go near an Italian bakery, I try their cannolis if I can, to see if they measure up.