Where To Eat Before a Game/Show/Concert

Since I started this blog, one of the most popular questions I get is where to eat before a concert, a Jays/Raptors/Leafs game or a show.  Over the last few years, the dining options in the “Entertainment District” of the city have really grown.  Most recently, Union Station has upgraded its food scene to accommodate not only travellers but those who have time to kill before their evening plans.  So, if you want to beat the traffic and commuter crowds, head to the city a little early and check out one of these options.

Closer to the ACC

Image: Entro.com

SOCO Kitchen
Located in the Delta Hotel, Soco Kitchen is exactly what you would expect of a hotel restaurant.  The menu covers a variety of different cuisines including poke, pizzas, pastas and meat centric mains.  The prices are a little on the higher side but they do have a kids menu and a late night bar menu.  I’ve personally never dined here but I have popped in for a drink after watching the game.

Taverna Mercatto
I have been here a few times before a concert and it’s probably my go-to recommendation.  It’s a well-known Italian restaurant chain in the city with a mid-range price point so you can’t go wrong.  Pizzas, pastas and a pretty decent selection of vino.  Mangia!

This one is definitely the pricier of the options near the ACC and probably the most upscale.  I’ve been here twice, once for dinner and once for drinks, both a really long time ago.  If your evening is more of a special occasion then I’d suggest this spot both for the ambiance and convenience.  However, their 3200 bottle wine list may be a reason to just pop in for a glass of vino.

Real Sports
So admittedly, I’m a fan of Real Sports.  If not for the over-the-top sports bar experience and people watching, it’s also an AMAZING atmosphere when there’s a game on.  With 200 TVs and 100 beers on tap, you won’t feel like you’re missing out.  The food is described as “elevated pub grub” so expect nachos, poutine, wings and all the deep fried goodness you could ask for.  What else are you going to use the beer to wash down? The price point is not bad but it does break my heart when I pay $16 for a pound of wings.

Union Chicken
Well friends, we are officially living in the day and age where even your fried chicken can be organic. Who knew? Union Chicken is known for their rotisserie chicken but they also serve sandwiches, fried chicken and some pretty kick ass sides.  I’ve been to the one at Sherway Gardens but they just recently opened another location in Union Station.  One small tip, opt to share whatever you decide to order.

Amano Pasta
Another recent addition to the Union Station dining revamp is Amano Pasta.  It’s a causal Italian eatery serving a large selection of house made pastas, shareable starters and authentic desserts.  I haven’t been but I have heard good things.  Might have to try some take-out one day or as a dining option the next time NKOTB is in town 😉

Closer to the Rogers Centre

Image: blogTO

The Rec Room
A 40,000 sq. ft. entertainment complex with big screen TVs at every corner, a grown-up arcade and special events, there is something for everyone here.  I’ve only been once and I have to admit, playing racing games and Pac Man into the wee hours of the night was hilariously amusing.  Their menu is said to be inspired by Canada – so think a little bit of everything.  Pizzas, pastas, share plates, sandwiches, salads, mains from the grill, pub favourites and one vegan bowl. Great stop before the game, during or after.

Hunters Landing
If you live in Toronto you’ve been to one “Landing” or another.  Hunter’s Landing is a hop and skip away from the Rogers Centre on Fort York Blvd.  They more often than not have open tables (I don’t think I’ve ever had to wait) and the food is decent.  Nothing to write home about but if you want to get away from pub food then this is your spot.

Fionn’s MacCool’s
You don’t get more of a pub than Fionn MacCool’s.  I don’t even think I know how many locations there are but, if you have one near you then you can expect classic Irish pub fare, local beers and best of all, drink specials.  There is one right on Front Street across from the Rogers Centre so they’re pretty used to seeing game going patrons.  Best part, even though they’re a pub they still have a pretty stellar selection of wine.

Kinda In the Middle

A few restaurants find themselves in the middle of the two venues so you can have your pick no matter where you’re headed.

Kelly’s Landing
I told you there were many “Landings” in the city!  This one occupies the space that used to be Casey’s and has the reputation of being one of the better of the Landings.  It comes with a both indoor and outdoor spaces and is known to be the flagship location serving the best of all the different menus.  I’ve never been but have only heard good things so it warranted being added to this list.

The Pint
The Pint opened up last summer in Toronto next to the Metro Toronto Convention Centre in the heart of tourist land.  It’s a huge sports bar/pub known for serving wings done in 40 ways and 40 draft beers on tap.  It has two levels, tons of TVs and a little bit more of an upscale vibe from your typical watering hole.  I’ve been a few times since I was lucky enough to score one their “Free wings for a Year” promo cards when they first opened.  However, that means I’ve only tried their wings which are on point.  Great to stop in before the game or watch it right there.

Scaddabush is part of the group of restaurants that includes Red Wine Bar, Jack Astors and Canyon Creek.  They opened at Front and Simcoe a little while back taking over the spot formerly owned by Lone Star.  The big advantage of Scaddabush, aside from its central location, is how big the restaurant is.  It’s actually pretty easy to get a reservation for a large group on a busy night and the food isn’t bad at all.  I’ve been twice, once for a work dinner and another time with a big group.  They are known for their house made meatballs, focaccia and pasta and their hand-stretched mozzarella which is made to order.

The fact of the matter is, the Rogers Centre and the ACC are literally a few blocks apart from each other.  So no matter which of these restos you pick, you’ll be in a pretty convenient spot.  If you want to venture out of the immediate area, then I’d recommend looking in the Financial District (Cactus Club, King Taps, Reds Wine Bar) or King Street between Blue Jays Way and York (Khao San Road, El Cabalitto, Earl’s).  You’ll still be close and not necessarily be paying tourist prices.

The most important piece of advice I can give is to book a table in advance.  Especially for those restaurants that are right by the venue, they will undoubtedly be booked up if you wait until the day of.

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