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I travel to Toronto for business at least once a year. Each of these trips, I am surprised at how expensive hotels are. It’s tough to find a decent hotel in downtown Toronto for less than $400CAD. For this trip, I searched and searched and the most inexpensive Marriott I could find downtown was the Courtyard Marriott Toronto Downtown, on Yonge Street. I’m just a few more nights away from retaining Platinum Status for 2019 with Marriott – so I had to choose a Marriott Property.
I’ve stayed at this hotel many years ago, during a loud and frustrating renovation. I’ve never heard of a hotel renovation starting before 06h00, but it did. It was torture. The renovation is now complete and the hotel is quiet again. I arrived at 11h00 and waiting behind several people attempting to check in. Each of those guests were reminded that check in was 16h00 and they’d have to come back. I approached, expecting to drop off my bags and working in the lobby before my meetings. Without missing a beat, the woman working reception told me my room was available and I could check in immediately.
The groups in front of my, who were denied a room, were still milling about the lobby and became very frustrated and pushed back up to the check in desk, demanding a room. I quickly headed toward the elevators to the relative peace of my room.
My room was a standard king room on the eighth floor. My view was of one of the dozens of construction sights in Toronto.
I hadn’t stayed in a Courtyard Marriott in several years. I’d been focusing most of my stays with Starwood, but now that the merger is complete, I’m open to branching out across the super chain. I slept remarkably well the two nights I was in Toronto – probably the best hotel sleep I’ve had in years.
Have you stayed at the Courtyard Marriott Toronto Downtown before? What is your favorite Marriott property in Toronto? Where should I stay on my next visit?
I spend a bit of time each year in Toronto. Coming from Chicago, Toronto is a very easy city to navigate. While I do find the comparisons between these two cities to be pretty accurate, there are some things that I think Toronto gets right and Chicago fails. Here’s why I love Toronto.
Both cities have really great food scenes. From fine dining to casual street food you can’t go wrong in Chicago or in Toronto. Canoe, in Toronto has an amazing view that is only matched by the food itself. The Michelin Guide doesn’t visit Toronto, so you can’t find any official Michelin Starred restaurants, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have great options.
The transit in both Cities is great. I don’t have a car in Chicago and I’ve never needed to rent one in Toronto. I get everywhere I need to go by foot, streetcar or subway. Worst case scenario, taxis, or ride share options are plentiful.
Why I Love Toronto
The one thing that I love about Toronto, much more than Chicago, is the diversity. Both cities have a few million people and a strong immigrant community. When walking around Toronto, I often hear several language. Not only do you frequently hear English and French, but it isn’t uncommon to hear Arabic, Hindi and Mandarin. While these language exist in Chicago, I never hear them when I’m walking around in the central business district. This worldliness gives Toronto a more cosmopolitan feel than Chicago. This is really why I love Toronto.
What do you think about Toronto? Is there just one thing that you really dig about the City that you can’t get back home? What’s the one thing you suggest to people visiting Toronto?
I needed to be in Toronto for work last week. Almost every trip I take between ORD and YYZ results in delays, cancellations and without an extra “travel day” built in, missed meetings. I’ve been burned too many times on this leg. That being said, my meetings were Tuesday morning, so I flew into Toronto midday on Monday. I was delayed a bit, but I still arrived in plenty of time for my meetings.
Since I had an evening in Toronto without any business plans, I decided to treat myself to a nice dinner and a quick search showed that Canoe met my needs. Basically, I wanted a highly rated and reviewed restaurant with a quality tasting menu. Unfortunately, the only time I could book online was either 17h00 or 21h00. I called to see if alternate times were available – no luck. Surprisingly, the day of my reservation (which I booked for 17h00), the restaurant called to confirm and I told them that 17h00 was an ungodly hour for dinner and they agreed. I was able to change it to an 18h45 reservation at the Chef’s Counter.
Canoe is located on the 54th Floor of the TD Bank Tower and offers stunning views of the city and the lake. The chef’s counter seating, that I had, didn’t have those views, but did provide for equally interesting views into the inner workings of their kitchen. It was a great view and period of observation. Their kitchen ran like a well oiled machine and wasn’t like those awful restaurant shows where Gordon Ramsey is screaming like a fool at everyone.
One thing that this seat did offer that I hadn’t been exposed to before was how kitchens handle allergies. Almost every table that was served had some sort of allergy tagged to it: gluten, dairy; garlic; cilantro; egg; high pH. Are these people really allergic to these, or is it just a preference? One table eve had a diner who claimed to be allergic to salt. I don’t really like poached eggs and I’ll mention that during a tasting menu, but come on…a salt allergy?
I started off with Canoe’s famous Dill Pickle cocktail, then moved into a couple glasses of wine as the meal progressed.
At the end of the day, I would say this was one of my favorite meal experiences in Toronto. The food itself was great – showcasing vegetables at their prime (the Ontario Corn was something that everyone was raving about). My server was knowledgeable, personable and left me enough space to enjoy my meal, but didn’t forget me, like can happen so often when you’re just a single diner at a restaurant.
The meal at Canoe wasn’t cheap – and I made it even pricier by adding on an entree, so this isn’t a place I’d visit every week (unless someone else is paying), but I will definitely push for a return visit next time I cross the border.
What are your favorite fine dining places in Toronto? If you have an old staple that you visit regularly, I’d love to hear about it and add it to my list for future trips.