You crazy kids have been hitting the 2012 edition of this post so much (there wasn’t one last year), my site stats are going to be pitiful come December 26th. But it seems that there are an awful lot of you out there who have no intention of sitting around with the family wearing those silly hats that come in the Christmas crackers, and who instead want to have someone else do the cooking and cleaning for you on the big day.
I have concentrated on downtown Toronto, but if you’re in the burbs, I think David Ort of Post City is planning a list with a wider range. Even though my list is cross-referenced and confirmed, I’d still recommend calling to book a reservation at anything other than the most casual places, and reservations are required for any of the hotel restaurants.
Despite the pervasiveness of the festive season, not everybody gives a damn about turkey and stuffing and sitting around with the family listening to some pop singer butcher the holiday favourites, for a whole variety of reasons. Some folks might want a more low-key celebration (one in which they don’t have to do the washing up) and for others, it’s just, well, Tuesday.
I’ve been putting together a “Christmas Day dining for heathens” list since the first year we ran TasteTO, and it was very popular last year when I was writing for Toronto.com. So here it is again, modified and updated and fact-checked for your dining pleasure. (Parkdalers – the Beaver is closed on Christmas Day this year, so check the list below before heading out!)
As usual, I’ve not included a lot of Chinese restaurants because they are usually open on Christmas Day as a default. However, because Christmas falls on a Tuesday this year, and many Chinese-owned businesses are closed on Tuesdays, do yourself a favour and call ahead if you’ve got a favourite spot in mind.
Also, reservations are required for all of the options offered at hotels.
My first experience with Jewish food was at an old Spadina landmark called Switzer’s. I lived in Kensington Market, and Switzer’s (which was one of a handful of Jewish delis in downtown that survived into the 80s) was right around the corner. It was here that I discovered the wonders of latkes, smoked meat sandwiches, egg creams and my beloved blintzes.
I remember that I ordered on a guess, going only by the description and an assurance from the waitress that they were delicious. When the ricotta and cream cheese-filled crepes arrived with their side dish of blueberry sauce, I was hooked, and for the remaining years that I lived in the market, I was a regular at the Jewish restaurants in the ‘hood, from KOS to the Bagel and Free Times Cafe.
As the delis got crowded out and moved on, blintzes became harder to find downtown. They don’t show up on the menu of the average greasy spoon; they’re one of those things that requires some hunting. I’ve been having a craving recently, and this is what I uncovered.
As the last Jewish deli holdout in the Spadina area, The Free Times Cafe (320 College Street) is probably a good place to start in a search for blintzes. In addition to their Sunday brunch buffet (which includes blintzes, latkes and gefilte fish), blintzes appear on their regular menu, both alone and combined with latkes (be still my heart!).
I’ve never tried the blintzes at United Bakers Dairy Restaurant (506 Lawrence Avenue West), but they’ve gotten very postive feedback on local food forums.
The blintzes at Dunn’s (284A King Street West) are passable in a pinch, although based on a review we did of brunch, their other breakfast offering might not be up to par.
I came across some Internet buzz that Canoe (66 Wellington Street West, 54th floor) used to serve a dessert blintz stuffed with ricotta and hazelnut, but it no longer appears on their online menu.
Sadly, that seems to be it. The now defunct Shopsy’s used to serve blintzes, and I’m pretty certain that I once, years ago, had them at Fran’s in the middle of the night, but they’re off the menu there now.
It’s kind of a pitiful list, really, and makes me sad for the loss of the many downtown delis that shaped my love of Jewish food. It’s been a while since I’ve been to the Free Times, though, so a visit there for blintzes is on my to-do list in the coming weeks.