Toronto Local Guide: Amanda Orlando

Spend 5 perfect days in Toronto through the eyes of a local: Amanda Orlando, founder of the food allergy wellness event Free To Be Me, food allergy blogger, and cookbook author! Not only is Canada’s largest city a safe haven for food allergies, it’s also a perfect place to visit with a vibrant art scene including legal graffiti, over 1,500 parks, and an eclectic vibe, providing both an urban and a small town feel. It’s also surprisingly close to the States—only a 1 hour flight from JFK.

Amanda’s done all the planning for you, sharing the best safe eats for peanut, tree nut, milk, soy, and legume allergies and her best picks to visit. See her guide and tune in as she takes over the Spokin Instagram on Thursday, March 2, to hear why she loves Toronto! Find Amanda on Spokin @amandaorlando to see her 53 reviews in Toronto.


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Breakfast: St. Lawrence Market

“A beautiful historic site in Toronto, the market offers all kinds of fresh ingredients on the main floor, and prepared foods and other goods on the lower level.”

Sightseeing: Underpass Park

“‘Park’ used loosely here—more like an outdoor gallery under the highway on/off ramp. Great jungle gym and basketball court, but most importantly, the ceiling is covered in mirrors and the walls are painted with a bunch of stunning murals. It’s a super cool spot.”


“I’ve had many delicious meals at HOTHOUSE over the years with my family. They are most well known for their buffet brunch, however I would stick to menu items only in order to prevent cross contact. They have been able to accommodate my family’s many food allergies. The meals may be more simple, like a grilled protein and steamed veggies, but that does not bother me.”

Sightseeing: Distillery District

“This historic neighborhood was redeveloped in recent history and is now home to beautiful little shops, cafés, breweries, and restaurants. It’s a lovely place to take a stroll and sit outside. Balzac’s is my favorite coffee spot (their coffee processing facility is nut-free!), and the best seats in the house are upstairs in the loft.”

Dinner: The Keg Steakhouse + Bar – Esplanade

“The Keg is a reliable option for diners with food allergies as they take allergies very seriously, have consistent protocols, and various touch points of communication between the manager and guest. The Esplanade location is in a beautiful part of the east side of the downtown core and close to Union Station, St Lawrence Market, and the Distillery District.”

Drinks: Cluny Bistro & Boulangerie

“A stunning restaurant in Distillery District that is known for taking food allergies seriously and being open to accommodate.”


Breakfast: O&B Canteen

“A great lunch or casual dinner spot! I’ve been able to try several different dishes at this restaurant over the years, from a Niçoise salad, to shoestring fries, to bacon and eggs, to grilled salmon! It’s also a great place to sit and have a coffee. The waitstaff has always made me feel well taken care of, and were happy to communicate my allergy needs to the kitchen. I was always informed of whether my meal was being made in a separate area, made by the head chef, or if an area was being cleaned down for my meal prep. The food is tasty, and it’s in the TIFF building, so perfect for catching a movie afterwards.”

“You can spend a lot of time getting lost at the AGO! There is so much to see, especially with their rotating special exhibits.”

Sightseeing: Chinatown

“Toronto has 3 Chinatowns! The main one runs up Spadina, ending around U of T campus on the north end. It’s a fun place to wander, especially if you plan on visiting U of T or Kensington Market.”

Sightseeing: Kensington Market

“Kensington is unique to Toronto, and a must-see if you are new to the city. It’s attached to Chinatown’s west side, and is a small neighborhood with so much to do. There are no corporate chain restaurants or stores in Kens, so the flavor of the area has been preserved despite Toronto’s development and growth. If you love health food stores, vintage shopping, and people watching, you’ll love it!”

Lunch: Essence of Life Organics

“My favorite health food store in Toronto! They have a wide variety of top allergen-free products, as well as gluten-free, nut-free, plant based, specialty flours, fermented drinks, and other gems. It’s a great place to discover new things. They also carry incense and household products. The store has a lot of charm.”

Coffee Shop: Jimmy’s Coffee

“Jimmy’s Coffee is a chain local to Toronto, with a cult following. I get their teas, black coffee, or just a soda/sparkling water. I have been to many locations but the Portland St one is my favorite. I had coffee there every day for years when I worked a few doors down. It can get really busy at all locations, so I prefer to go when it’s quiet so I can watch them make my drink and ask any questions if needed.”

Dinner: Luma

“I was served the most stunning plate of salmon with roasted veggies that I have ever received in a restaurant. Their food is gorgeous! I’ve eaten there about 5 times now, and have found their processes very consistent. They prefer to be informed about allergies ahead of time if possible. My favorite things that I’ve tried are their kale salad with champagne vinaigrette, oyster platter, and roasted salmon. The salmon came with shavings of courgette rolled into pinwheels like little flowers. I once went for a fixed menu offering and they were able to sub out dessert for a berry bowl at my request. The servers ask about allergies at the table, and have always been receptive to my chef card. Then they report back with the chef’s recommendation, or how they can tweak a dish to suit my needs.”


Breakfast: 1 Kitchen Toronto

“This is another favorite coffee spot of mine. Not only is it beautiful inside, but the staff is super friendly and helpful. They serve Bluestone Lane coffee, so yummy. The servers are knowledgeable about allergies and often tell me they can make me something to eat lol. I haven’t tried their food yet but I do enjoy going for coffee. My mom was able to enjoy a three course meal there with nut and peanut allergies, and felt very comfortable. They were even able to give her a safe dessert.”

Lunch: Goodness Me! Natural Food Market

“A great health food store with lots of allergy-free and gluten-free options. Very friendly staff.”

Coffee Shop: Ace Hotel Toronto

“The Ace Hotel is a great place to go for coffee. The ambiance is peaceful and visually intriguing and the coffee is Sam James, a delicious local brand. I usually stick to drip coffee, but they are very accommodating and I’ve found the staff knowledgeable about allergies. It’s usually pretty quiet (it’s a hotel lobby bar), which is better than trying to navigate a crowded Starbucks.”

Sightseeing: Graffiti Alley

“When the city was faced with complaints about graffiti, especially along Queen St. West, they decided to embrace it and pay artists for their work. Graffiti Alley is ever evolving, and something we locals are very proud of. My friends and I have even made an informal contribution to it. Street Art Toronto now hires artists to create murals all over the city, so keep your eyes peeled.”

Dinner: The Keg Steakhouse + Bar – King West

“The Keg must be the gold standard for restaurant food allergy awareness. Their protocol is so consistent. It brings me great comfort. I must have dined there a hundred times over the years across their various locations. My favorite locations are King St. West, York St., and The Esplanade. The manager always comes out to discuss the allergy meal, then oversees its preparation, and delivers the meal themselves. They have an allergen guide for each menu item. I like to order shrimp cocktail to start and a steak with asparagus for dinner. Their food is delicious too! It’s my family’s go-to restaurant for a night out, or any special occasion.”

Dessert: On Third Thought

“On Third Thought is a dairy-free, gluten-free, and nut-free gelato shop on Queen West. They also serve really fun cocktails! They have a great patio, and a fab location near Trinity Bellwoods park. The owner has family members with anaphylactic food allergies, which led her to start this business. She’s very open minded and willing to answer questions about ingredients and protocols.”

Drinks: Flora Lounge

“A great place to grab a drink! Stunning inside, with lots of pretty nooks and crannies. They serve Fever Tree sodas (my go-to!) and I have been able to get alcoholic drinks from the bar that were made without cross contact. I specifically asked the bartender to use clean tools and not use a shared measuring glass. They were receptive and made me a really nice drink. The rooftop at the One Hotel is a similar experience.”


Breakfast: Whole Foods Market

“The only downtown location of Whole Foods, and it’s larger than it might seem from the outside. They have a very large selection of allergen-free products and always carry the seasonal flavors and many flavors and varieties of things that are hard to find elsewhere.”

Sightseeing: Royal Ontario Museum

“It’s easy to spend a whole day getting lost in the ROM. The nature and dinosaur exhibits are my favorite, followed closely by Ancient Egypt. Canada was the discovery site of so many dinosaur remains, including a new one that was discovered a few years ago, so we take great pride in our dino display!”

Sightseeing: Philosopher’s Walk

“A gorgeous little walking trail between the ROM and U of T campus. In the spring when everything is in bloom, it’s the sweetest spot to have a picnic or sit with a coffee.”

Lunch: Trattoria Nervosa

“I’ve dined at Nervosa several times and always had a delicious and safe meal. I find it best to go at slightly off peak times as the restaurant gets packed and the kitchen is small. A chef card is very helpful. I always order something from the grill, and a side salad. It’s a great spot for lunch.”

Dinner: Yamato Japanese Restaurant

“This is my favorite sushi restaurant in Toronto! Their sashimi platter is the best. I skip the salad and miso soup that comes with it, due to soy. I always ask for the manager and tell them about my allergies. They run a very clean kitchen and are always able to clear a space to prepare my meal. Sitting at the counter, where you can watch them prep the food, is always fun.”

Drinks: The Rec Room

“The Rec Room is a great non-food activity to do with friends. It’s a bar and arcade combo, and kids are allowed at certain hours. Very fun and casual atmosphere to grab a drink and play arcade games, of which there are plenty.”


Breakfast: Balzac’s Coffee

“Balzac’s Coffee is produced in a nut and peanut-free facility, and their different blends are delicious. Great place to enjoy a hot black coffee in a beautiful cafe.”

Lunch: Cantina Mercatto

“I’ve dined here twice, and found the manager very willing to oversee a safe meal was made for me. Both times I had steak, with different sides. They were receptive to my chef card and checked in when they had specific ingredient questions.”

“Not allergy related, but The Power Plant is my absolute favorite gallery in Toronto. It’s always free, which is remarkable when you consider the scale and intricacy of their exhibitions. When I came here as a little kid, for their ‘hands’ exhibit, it changed my life forever. I still visit regularly, and recommend it to anyone visiting Toronto.”

Dinner: TOCA

“TOCA knows how to serve a great allergy friendly meal without compromising flavour or presentation. Always let them know about your allergies ahead of time as they do a lot of prep work to take good care of their customers. The waitstaff is always informed ahead of time about allergies at the table, and it is clear that they take communication seriously.”

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