Toronto guide essential for tourists and locals

NOW Magazine recommends city hot spots, sites, shops

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Toronto: The Essential Guide to the Best of the City

Toronto: The Essential Guide to the Best of the City
NOW Magazine
ECW Press

4 stars

Stuck in the big city with nothing to do? NOW Magazine’s got you covered with Toronto: The Essential Guide to the Best of the City.

This guide has something for everyone, from city newbies to lifelong Torontonians. With Toronto’s vibrant culture, the possibilities for dining, pub-crawling, sightseeing, theatre-going and shopping are endless. Even Toronto natives can’t possibly be aware of all the hidden gems in the city’s many neighbourhoods.

For vacationers, the guide is even more useful. If you’re visiting Toronto and want more than a green health inspection “Pass” sign in a storefront window to show you whether a restaurant’s worth eating at, NOW’s Essential Guide is worth a read.

Recommendations are divided geographically and nationally, meaning that if you’re in the east end looking for an Indian eating experience you’ll know where to look. The book also includes several city maps and a business index. Each listing includes a paragraph about why the hot spot made the list, price ranges, and the location, phone number, and website of each venue.

The Essential Guide’s tips have been successfully road-tested. Faithfully following the book’s suggestions on my Toronto getaway yielded tasty eats and a happy trip. The guide recommended Café Diplomatico, a bustling Italian restaurant with a killer patio in Little Italy. The restaurant delivered on taste and value.

For a night on the town in downtown Toronto, the guide suggested Smokeless Joe’s, a basement pub that boasts hundreds of varieties of beer and an impressive array of mussels. After one night at Smokeless Joe’s, a return trip was in order. The folks at NOW Magazine know how to make restaurant recommendations.

The Essential Guide’s content is incredibly diverse. Aside from the typical venues one might expect to find in a city guide, the book also boasts listings under the headings Sports and Recreation, Queer Hotspots, Sex and Drugs, and a list of noteworthy patios.

NOW’s guide is not without flaws. The authors may have taken on more than they could handle. At 264 pages, the city guide attempts to discuss and rate more venues than it can fit between its covers. As a result, the coverage is lacking. For example, the guide only mentions two Italian restaurants in the downtown core, a pattern that continues throughout the book.

While hundreds if not thousands of businesses are mentioned, the book’s scope is too vast to delve into specifics when it’s necessary.

Still, Toronto: The Essential Guide to the Best of the City is easily the only Toronto city guide a young academic would ever need. Packed with plenty of sex, drugs, and good eats, at $20 this book pays dividends in the form of truly good times.

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