The 10 biggest tourist trap restaurants in Toronto
Tourist trap restaurants in Toronto are, for Torontonians and visitors alike, generally like hell on earth. Unless you have one of those cheesy yet masochistic senses of humour, and/or really enjoy mediocre food and overpriced booze or whatever. Long and short of it is that the fourth largest city in North America attracts its fair share of tourism, and in these ten places, you will find people who fall for the worst gaffes or just go to places they saw an ad for in the inflight magazine on the way in.
Here, 10 places you probably avoid if you live in Toronto.
CN Tower 360
Looking at Toronto without the CN Tower in the picture is a pretty strange experience. The food is a tad overpriced for what it is, but it's nowhere near as bad as you might expect. Meals are basic, with your classic meat or fish and rice or potatoes options, but everything is dressed up enough to make it count. Generally, you have to pay to take in the views from the tower, but with the purchase of a main, it's complimentary. Some people come here because they think it's romantic: don't fall for that. Ain't no romance in waiting an hour for an elevator ride that will make your ears pop and then hollering at one another while the children of tourists crawl on your feet 351 metres in the air. Though the food isn't awful, this is one to avoid. Dill that salmon at home, y'all.
Old Spaghetti Factory
The Old Spaghetti Factory is actually an Old Blacksmith Shop. Despite being filled with tourists and thus, yangy children, there is some undeniable historical value that comes along with paying a visit. The warehouse was built in 1898, and converted into a restaurant in the '70s. On the menu, you'll find quintessential, vanilla, touristy foods like a handful of different spaghetti dishes (forgive the obvious, but really), seafood linguine and penne with chicken.
Tappo is an Italian and Mediterranean-themed restaurant in the Distillery District. There's a strong wine focus (PDF) here, and in fact, the restaurant's name means corked in Italian. (This will have bad connotations if you're an actual wine connoisseur. Go with your gut, I say). The Distillery is one of the city's most touristy areas, so places like Tappo are usually cram-jammed, and can get away with charging prices that rival what you'd pay for fine dining, but for less remarkable food.
Big Daddy's Bourbon Street Bistro & Oyster Bar, in case you're unfamiliar with the joint, is exactly what it sounds like, only a little less awesome. It's perched on the corner of King and University, perfect receiving position for unsuspecting, fannypack-clad folks roaming around the downtown core. Seafood, clearly, is the specialty here, with the seafood fondue earning rave reviews. Oysters are a major draw as well, and tourists get their fill with the prix fixe menus, which can be had for either $26 or $31. Big Daddy's does its best to take on that Louisiana feel with the decor, too, which harkens back (sort of) to an old school jazz bar vibe.
If you've never had the...experience of visiting the Sultan's Tent, you may have at least noticed the ads around town for this tourist trap at Front and Church. You will, as the ads promise, be able to catch live belly dancing performances here every night, accompanied by four-course dinners, Moroccan style. Check out their menu here and you'll get an idea of the cheese factor in this place. While the whole idea is just dripping with fromage, there are somewhat authentic options available, like fekkous and, of course, hummus and olives.
Mr. Green Jeans can't help but be steeped in a little tourist trap cred: It's been catering to those who frequent the Eaton Centre for no fewer than 34 years. You'll find the standard steaks, burgs, pizza and "noodles", but they've also hopped on the gluten train. They cater to vegetarians, too, and their menu lists over 200 items (PDF). While it may be an undeniable tourist trap, at least Mr. Green Jeans offers a good variety of stuff, and it's all made in-house.
Le Papillon on Front
Le Papillon at Front and Church serves up French and Quebecois fare, and they aim to offer a relaxed approach to fine dining. They opened the city's first creperie in 1974, and you'll also find escargots, French onion soup and a selection of steaks and duck. The class factor is amplified by $5.50 pint specials. The decor is pretty lovely, though and the menu, though slightly overpriced, is decent. Le Papillon is not the most villainous culprit on this list but if you must eat at a Toronto restaurant with this name you'd be better off heading to the other one on Eastern Avenue.
Fred's Not Here
Fred's Not Here has been serving up steaks and seafood to ravenous tourists for a quarter of a century. Located right in the midst of Restaurant Row, Fred's Not Here is ideally situated to soak up the masses that spill from the Lightbox, Rogers Centre and Royal Alexandra. Their lobster and crab soup is a standout dish, as are their jumbo shrimps, which are roughly the size of a small kitten. They're also known for speedy service, even when it comes to groups, in case you need to make it to a show in time.
Wayne Gretzky's is a giant web of a sports bar, perfectly positioned on Blue Jays Way so as to swallow up the hoards of jersey-clad folk streaming out of the Rogers Centre. Though this is one of the more obvious tourist traps on the list, diehard hockey fans who live in the city have been known to check it out because it's home to Gretzky's own collection of memorabilia. There's a rooftop patio, too, so that doesn't hurt. The dinner menu includes just about everything a sports fan could want, from pub food to steaks. That said, beware the cocktail list, which includes gems such as the Gretzky on Ice, made of Polar Ice and Gretzky ice wine. (Also beware patrons whose teams lost the game).
I'd question whether people of any other city love their own skyline quite as much and in as masturbatory a fashion as Toronto. It's no surprise, then, that tourists love it, too, and they come to Panorama, on the 51st floor of the Manulife Centre at Yonge and Bloor, to take it all in. Views are served with tapas-style apps and cocktails, and during the warmer months, people flock to the patios, which the restaurant says are the highest in Canada.
Did we miss an especially touristy outlet? What would you add or remove from this list? Add your 2 cents to the comment thread below.