Where to eat and drink in the Annex during Hot Docs

Each year the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival comes to Toronto to entertain, educate and enthrall documentary fans. This year, the film fest takes place from April 23 to May 3. If you’re looking for a bite to eat before or after a screening, check out one of these Annex area eateries within walking distance of the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema.

Insomnia Restaurant & Lounge

563 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M5S 1Y6

Annex area locals flock to this neighbourhood spot day and night. The late-night menu has plenty of snacks and cocktails, but brunch is Insomnia’s true specialty. Served until 3 p.m. daily, the brunch menu has a wide variety of sweet and savoury dishes to satiate your hunger before a matinee. Hungry film fans can nosh on hearty breakfast sandwiches and egg dishes or opt for decadent treats like baked chocolate banana pancakes and French toast stuffed with berries and cream cheese. Best of all, the coffee is laced with cinnamon, delivering a sweet taste that warrants multiple refills.

Kinka Izakaya Bloor

559 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M5S 1Y6

When Vancouver’s wildly popular Guu franchise launched its first Toronto location back in 2011 it became one of the forerunners in the city’s now burgeoning izakaya scene. The Bloor Street outpost (affectionately known as Guu 2) is a high-energy dining room where enthusiastic staff deliver Asian-fusion small plates to packed communal tables filled with noisy twenty-somethings. The menu is designed for sharing and lists an array of tapas-style dishes like kimchi udon, deep-fried octopus and curry bibimbap. We suggest washing down your meal with an oversized beer stein filled with ice-cold Sapporo.

Hey Lucy Cafe

2-440 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M5S 1X5

You’ll find something for everyone at this restaurant and bar located just a two-minute walk from the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema. The inviting dining room has a funky vibe with its exposed brick walls and zebra-print bar stools, while the food menu offers a range of crowd-pleasing fare, including salads, sandwiches, pastas, pizzas and entrees. If you’re stopping in on a Wednesday night, be sure to take advantage of the $4.49 martini special but don’t overindulge before the show; documentary film audiences are expected to be somewhat civilized after all.

Barrio Coreano

642 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M6G 1K9

Open until 11 p.m. throughout the week and 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, this Koreatown fusion restaurant from the wildly successful Playa Cabana family is a great spot for a bite to eat after an evening show. The adventurous and experimental kitchen turns out traditional Mexican dishes prepared with an Asian twist thanks to the addition of regionally inspired ingredients and spices. Tantalize your taste buds with kalbi beef short ribs dressed in cucumber-radish kimchi or chicken kampungko tacos, which are slathered in a chipotle-sesame gochujang salsa for a sweet and spicy finish.

New Generation Sushi

493 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M5S 1Y2

This cheap and cheerful Japanese joint is a popular choice among the area’s student population thanks to its affordable prices, fast service and relaxed atmosphere. In fact, a second location opened up just across the street in order to accommodate all of the sushi-loving locals. The menu offers an array of inexpensive sushi and sashimi combos, bento boxes, and warm entrees like chicken teriyaki for diners who don’t fancy raw fish.

Kenzo Ramen

372 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M5S 1X2

House-made sauces and a slow-cooked broth set this Japanese noodle house apart from its nearby competitors. Oversized bowls of thin ramen noodles are submerged in a savoury soup base and topped with veggies, egg, meat and seafood. The signature Tonkotsu ramen is a unique dish prepared with Hakata-style pork bone that can be enjoyed classically or with the addition or shoyu or miso flavour. Vegetarians will love the meat-free Sapporo miso ramen served with stir-fried veggies in a rich miso soup base.

By The Way

400 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M5S 1X5

This venerable Annex café has stood the test of time thanks to its cozy ambiance and tasty menu of contemporary Mediterranean and Middle Eastern fare. Open since 1979, the airy dining room is comfortable but a little more sophisticated than the nearby takeout spots and student haunts. Lunch and dinner menus feature freshly prepared meze platters of hummus, babaganough and falafel balls served alongside regionally inspired salads and grilled meat kabobs. If it’s warm enough, grab a spot on the charming side patio and bask in the twinkling lights.

El Furniture Warehouse

410 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M5S 1X5

Everything on the food menu is under $5 at this rowdy hotspot specializing in gourmet pub snacks, loud music and party-like atmosphere. Young revelers snack on mini burgers, poutine plates and bowlfuls of mac and cheese in a chalet-inspired setting complete with wood paneled walls covered in snowboard paraphernalia. The cheap eats and boozy drinks draw crowds throughout the week, which means service can be on the slower side. Your best bet? End your night here and let loose after a late night screening.

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With plenty of cinematic delights to take in, you’ll need to make sure your hungry brood is properly fuelled during TIFF. Forget the typical movie-theatre popcorn and indulge in a meal at one of these family-friendly downtown dining destinations around the TIFF Bell Lightbox. [Image credit: iStock.com/Nastia11]
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