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Toronto's fine dining on display for MLS Cup Final weekend

Toronto boasts its share of fine dining establishments -- including this internationally appreciated steakhouse. Photo: Robert Jonas,

So far my adventure in Toronto has consisted of finding my way to BMO Field every morning, scrounging for lunch somewhere at the stadium, and then heading back downtown after training to pare down all the audio collected from both teams. At least the evenings have been free, though even then there are events to attend surrounding MLS Cup 2010. I am certainly not complaining — I have had some incredible conversations with other journalists, MLS executives and team representatives, and even some US Soccer and Canadian Soccer officials. Through it all, the search for a good meal always requires my attention.

Since I am not staying at the official MLS hotel — though I do share the tower with the ESPN television crew and personalities (Ian Darke sounds just as cool in person) — I make often repeated walks through the city center to get to the different event and workplace destinations. The path I normally follow from the media accreditation rooms at the InterContinental to my hotel next to the old City Hall is resplendent with countless fine dining establishments. One in particular that always draws my gaze is the Ruth’s Chris Steak House. I pass this famous chain steakhouse outpost each day right around dinner time, and I am always seduced by the idea of having a huge Porterhouse with all the trimmings. Maybe a fine French Bordeaux to pair with the medium rare steak is in order too. And don’t get me started on the myriad dessert choices that float through my conscious. Toronto, like all big metropolitan cities, has an excellent blend of restaurants for food connoisseurs.

Usually by this time I am wiping away the drool from the side of my mouth with the sleeve of my jacket — a nice black drool-hiding fleece number that is perfect for the chilly local weather. As I lower my arm, it brushes against my thin wallet in my jacket pocket, and I am reminded that I am not on an all-expense paid trip to cover MLS Cup 2010. Rather, there is a fraction of the cost of this journey that is coming out of my own pocket — the one containing the aforementioned thin wallet. And since the taxi rides in this town cost an arm and a leg — at least I’ll have more room in the airplane when I fly back to the Bay Area — what’s left in Canadian dollars of my per diem can be counted on my remaining hand.

So, with a fancy meal on the brain but not in my future, I reluctantly trudge to my destination knowing the next steak I eat will be of the Costco variety cooked at home on my grill. But, I’m okay with that. Those who know me well understand I don’t require the best in food to keep me content. And so, it was with some pleasure on that first night passing Ruth’s Chris and venturing along the next city block that I found my culinary salvation. They’ve been a part of the Toronto dining landscape for over 30 years — at least according to the sign on the window. They serve the meat and potatoes I crave, along with an unlimited supply of trimmings, but the price is more to my budget this weekend. Rather than try to describe it further, I believe the following picture says all that needs to be said.

Don't knock it til you've tried it -- the $4 hot dog and fries special also includes all the onions and relish you can carry. Photo: Robert Jonas,