Toronto's College Street - An International Food Fest

 Last Saturday in Toronto was a gorgeous warm
late summer's day.  The perfect day to get out for a walk
and rediscover a changing area of our great city.

College Street has an area known as Little Italy but in recent
years, this section of Toronto is leading the way new
and innovative restaurants not necessarily Italian.

But, we did start off our day with a latte
and the most delicious almond croissant filled with
decadent almond paste at an Italian bistro called 
Il Gatto Nero on College Street.
The only thing they serve in the morning are pastries and
the best Italian coffee just like you are in Rome.
If it's warm enough, their terrace 
is a lovely way to watch the area wake up.
Lots of locals start their day here which I think
is always an excellent sign.
 After we walked for a couple of hours, we decided
to stop at the rather infamous Bar Raval. It is a newer addition 
to this ever changing area and is probably one of
the most beautiful new restaurant/bars in Toronto.  It was
fashioned after the tapas bars in Barcelona.  It's the third
restaurant opened by Chef Grant van Gameren and he is
known to sweat the small details in both food and decor.
He didn't disappoint.
It's the decor that takes your breath away as you enter Bar Raval.
You feel like you are in Barcelona and Gaudi has had a hand
in the design of this baroque styled bar.  The mahogany pleated wood
that swirls throughout the bar warms you up to this new
dining experience.  Like in Barcelona, there are few stools as customers
are expected to stand and lean against the bar to enjoy the interesting
drinks and the most delicious tapas.  I had to beg ageism to get a
young man to give me his stool.  
I do better sitting while I am having a drink.
The Spanish tapas are very, very good and
so creative constructed.  Every small plate offers
a different palate experience.
 (photo-bar Raval)
Bar Raval opens early so that you can grab an espresso
on your way to work, meet friends at 5:00 for cocktails and
tapas and late at night for a lovely way to end your day....
just like they do in Barcelona.
On the other side of Little Italy on College Street,
is the other restaurant opened by Grant van Gameren.
Bar Isabel has been open for a couple of years now
and has received the number one best new restaurants
in Toronto.  It still heads the list among the tough competition
in foodie city.

My son took me here for my birthday.  He is like a
younger version of Anthony Bourdain and loves trying
interesting eating spots as soon as they open their doors.

Grant's interpretation of Bar Isabel is also Spanish
with heavy menu influence on fish and meat.
My son chose Horse Tartare to start
off our meal.  I was a little reluctant at first
but by trying new things made the whole
dining experience so much more fun.
It was very good too.. sorry Trigger.
I didn't realize this mural was on the side of the building
of Bar Isabel but it's an easy way to spot the restaurant.
Reservations are a must.  I have had difficulty
getting back in when I act spontaneous about
trying something different at the last minute.
(photo ..Bar Isabel)
The interior is dark and cozy and makes
you feel as if you have walked into a hidden Barcelona
gem.  The staff is great at both restaurants and
very knowledgeable.  Both Bars Raval and Isabel
might be considered a bit pricey but the food quality is
excellent and a lot of thought has gone into making your
dining experience a memorable event. 

It is so important to get out and explore your city.
There are so many great restaurants in this area
that are trying new approaches food and dining.
Not only are young people everywhere enjoying themselves
as patrons of these new bistros but also as entrepreneurs
setting the pace of this exciting food industry.

Il Gatto Nero
656 College Street

Bar Raval
505 College Street

Bar Isabel
797 College Street

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