Sibos 2017: entertainment guide – return to Toronto
Swift’s annual event, Sibos, was last held in Toronto in 2011, so many delegates will already have explored the city and know what’s in store. But for those who have yet to visit, read on.
Home to 2.8 million people, Toronto is Canada’s largest city and the fourth largest in North America. It’s rather indistinguishable from any other developed-nation city and is unlikely to provide Sibos-goers with an exotic experience.
However, there are some gems to be discovered, including one of the most famous tourist spots in North America, Niagara Falls. The Falls, which comprise three waterfalls that straddle the Canadian and US border, range in height from 21 to 57 metres. During peak flow (not during Sibos week), 6400 m3 per second cascade through the Falls.
Niagara Falls are only a 90-minute drive from Toronto and coach company Gray Line operates trips from Toronto. Once at the Falls, there are plenty of options to explore the natural wonder in more detail (short of going over the side in a barrel).
Hornblower Niagara Cruises offers a variety of options including a ‘full mist’ experience of 20 minutes for $25.95 through to an extended 40-minute night time cruise with illumination of the Falls for $39.95. If you fancy your Niagara experience a little racier, white water jet boat tours are available from Whirlpool Jet Boat. These boats speed along at 80 kilometres per hour, guaranteeing passengers get very wet and probably quite queasy.
If your expenses are easily signed off, try a helicopter tour of the Falls. Niagara Helicopters is quick, offering a 12-minute experience that includes boarding time. Passengers are given headsets to hear a taped commentary available in 12 languages. Prices are around $144 for an adult. A more comprehensive flight is available at National Helicopters, whose services leave from both Niagara and Toronto. National operates 20-minute flights over the Falls, historical landmarks and the surrounding wine country. The cost for a single passenger is $200 and falls depending on the number booking in one group.
The more cautious can view the Falls from the 236 metre-high Skylon Tower. The Tower also hosts two restaurants, one revolving.
Closer to base
The busy and important may not have time to take in Niagara and will have to make do with Toronto. But they won’t miss out on a tower experience as the city boasts one of the world’s tallest, the 553.33 metre-high CN Tower. The website features a live camera that gives exciting views of a motorway, among other sights. The 360 restaurant at the top of the Tower offers two fixed price menus of $65 and $79 or an a la carte menu. The restaurant specialises in Canadian food and wine. Judging by the menu, vegetarians and vegans should seek other options.
In Toronto’s fine dining category, one of the top restaurants is Alo, which offers tasting menus. Diners can also eat at the restaurant’s bar. Alo is open Tuesday-Saturday from 17:30-22:30 (the bar operates from 17:00-01:00) at the third floor of 163 Spadina Avenue, tel: +1 416 260 2222.
Scaramouche is a more traditional, refreshingly unpretentious (if its menu is anything to go by) a la carte restaurant. Starters range in price from $23 for warm white asparagus through to $29 for a foie gras terrine. Main courses include roast duck breast at $42, halibut $45 and grilled filet mignon for $49. There are more than 200 wines from which to choose and the restaurant is famed for its coconut cream pie dessert ($14). A Pasta Bar & Grill, which offers a more casual (and cheaper) dining experience, is on the same premises. Scaramouche is at 1 Benvenuto Place, tel: + 1 416 961 8011.
The North American dining experience isn’t the world’s healthiest cuisine and steak is a big feature. Jacobs & Co Steakhouse serves a comprehensive range of beef, from local North American varieties through to unfortunate beasts from as far afield as Australia and Japan. For $200 you can dine on a 40oz porterhouse steak or you can really push the boat out and spend $800 on a 16oz ribeye steak from Kobe Black Tajima-Hyogo Prefecture in Japan. With such prices, you can imagine what the wine list has in store for you. Open Sunday to Tuesday from 17:00-22:15 and Wednesday to Saturday at 17:00-22:45, Jacobs & Co is at 12 Brant Street, tel: +1 416 366 0200.
In the category of “they would say that, wouldn’t they?” George Restaurant boasts that “many rave” it is the best restaurant in Toronto. It also offers an “elevated food experience”, but not from the top of a tower, so what this means is anyone’s guess. There’s only one way to find out… George offers a tasting as well as an a la carte menu. Dishes include pheasant ($24), wild boar ($35) and lobster ($26 as a starter). The restaurant is open Tuesday to Saturday from 17:30 until 21:30 at 111C Queen Street East, tel: +1 647 496 8275.
Finally, Canoe, which featured in Daily News at Sibos’ 2011 entertainment guide, remains a top destination for fine diners. This is another restaurant that prides itself on a Canadian produce focus, with menu items including northern woods mushroom soup ($16), cured arctic char ($23), great lakes pickerel ($39), newfoundland cod ($40) and Quebec red stag ($55 – probably not the whole beast). Canoe is on the 54th floor of the TD Bank Tower, at 66 Wellington Street West, tel: + 1 416 364 0054.
More humble eating experiences, for those on short rations, can be found in plenty of areas of Toronto. In Downtown is Salad King, at 340 Yonge Street, which serves Thai food for under $10 per dish. The Burrito Boyz chain of outlets (including one at 73 Dundas Street) offer a range of burritos from $5-$10. Ritz Caribbean at 211 and 450 Yonge Street, offers Jamaican food, including vegetarian dishes, for under $10.
Greektown, which is on Danforth Avenue, is the largest Greek neighbourhood in North America. It features many restaurants, including Astoria, a shish kebob house at 390 Danforth Avenue, tel: +1 416 463 2838.
Christina’s has all the Greek favourites along with belly dancers. Dishes range in price from $10 to $20. Christina’s is open until midnight most nights and 2am on Friday and Saturday. It can be found at 492 Danforth Ave, tel: +1 647 503 5186.
Meze’s at 456 Danforth Ave, tel: +1 416 778 5150, has an extensive menu including seafood – whiting, anchovies and sea smelts – flown in directly from Greece. There is also a very good selection of vegetarian mezes. The restaurant is open until 11pm most nights and until midnight on Friday and Saturday.
If you love the nightlife
Toronto is host to plenty of bars and clubs, many of which broadcast ice hockey games, aka fights on ice.
The Loose Moose at 146 Front Street West, is very close to the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. It has an extensive collection of draught beers and features a live music bar.
Very close by is Jack Astor’s at 144 Front St West. Also on Front St West is Azure Restaurant & Bar at number 225, which is located inside the Intercontinental hotel.
If you’d like to stray further from the Metro centre, try Amsterdam Brewhouse on the Lake at 245 Queens Quay West, South Building. As the name suggests, the bar is on the lake, just beyond the Gardiner Highway. A restored 1930s shipping warehouse, it features an onsite brewery and 12 beers on tap.
The CC Lounge and Whisky Bar at 45 Front St East, is themed on the 1920s-prohibition era (without the actual prohibition, you’ll be relieved to read). There are more than 300 whiskies stocked here, so should be something for everyone.
Crocodile Rock at 240 Adelaide St West is a nightclub with DJ, dancing and cheap drinks (no doubt also cheap drunks – Ed). There’s also a large rooftop patio, but as the building is low-rise don’t expect spectacular views.
Fionn MacCool’s at 310 Front St West is the obligatory Irish pub. With the decline of the Celtic Tiger, Irish craic isn’t what it used to be, but those loyal to the halcyon days of Sibos party HQ being the nearest ‘oirish’ pub may want to check it out. The establishment features drinks as well as freshly prepared, authentic Irish dishes.
Lula Lounge is a bit further afield, at 1585 Dundas St West. It is Toronto’s home to live Cuban, Brazilian and world music. If you are less loyal to the craic, Lula’s is probably a party-lover’s must visit.