Samba Room: this place is in the posh looking Dr. Philips area with lots of Benz, Beamers, Navigators, and Escalades in the parking lot. Us tourists were sat amongst business crowd with not one speck of Disney-weary folk. We ordered the skirt steak, paella, and the crispy chicken with the paella being the stand out. The view of the lake wasn't half bad either.
Garibaldi's: We took the I4, then 408 all way out to this place in the North Semoran and East Colonial Dr area. Definitely out-of-the-way non-tourist joint. Not really knowing what authentic mexican is suppose to taste like, I still have to say that this restaurant was great! Had the chimi lunch special. And finished off with the fried ice cream, which wasn't so great. There was more cornflakes than ice cream. Amazing...lunch followed by breakfast in one sitting.
Johnson's Diner: The best dining experience of our trip. Soulfood is one of those food-types poorly represented/executed in Toronto (the others being BBQ and mexican/tex-mex). We had the catfish and oxtail with the sides being mac-n-cheese, corn, green beans, black eyed peas, and rice. The catfish and mac-n-cheese were so good, I now know what "stick to your ribs" goodness means. We topped it all off with some lip smacking sweet potato pie. For other tourists, be warned, this is a TINY place on the scale of walk-in-closets. I'm not exaggerating.
tourist traps: despite army-grade precision planning, the best iteniraries fall apart and we inevitably fell into some tourist traps. Namely, the Crab House and Smokey Bones. I can't believe we had to wait for a table at the Crab House. And Smokey Bones BBQ just plain sucked. It reaked of heat lamp beyond over-cookedness.
good chains: Although chain restaurants, Papa John's and Bahama Breeze are absent from the Toronto landscape. Papa John's make great pies. Don't giggle. Their zesty pizza sauce kicks butt and I love the "surprise toy" jalapenos. Although my doctor would scold me for scarfing down those "garlic" dipping sauces. I honestly don't think Bahama Breeze would make it in Toronto, a city with a strong Caribbean population. There are just too many great mom and pop places for it to do as well as it seems to be doing in LBV. But I must say, those jerk wings were nicely spiced and on definite re-order for next visits.