Bell Lightbox, TIFF's year-round home for two years now, has shifted the heart of the festival downtown and west, revealing newfound treasures that have transformed the former manufacturing district into a hip new destination for festgoers.
Venture around Bell Lightbox to King Street, and you'll discover Toronto club kingpin Charles Khabouth's newly-opened modern saloon Weslodge (480 King St. West, #113). The eatery combines a casual atmosphere with plenty of high-end comfort food, like dry-aged rib eye (served with the marrow bone) or slow-roasted Ontario lamb shoulder.
Carnivores also will swoon over Buca (604 King St. West), where an artisanal Italian menu means the ingredients come straight from the farm. "We do everything from scratch," says Buca executive chef Robert Gentile. "Bread is made in the morning, pasta is handmade by day."
When you eat out as much as Canadian filmmaker Sudz Sutherland does, you have your favorite restaurants. His latest is The Stockyards (699 Saint Clair Ave. West), billed as an old-school smokehouse that specializes in aging, curing and smoking meat.
"They put love in their food," says Sutherland, whose immigration drama Home Again screens in TIFF's Contemporary World Cinema section. "But if you go there for lunch or dinner, make sure you arrive before the lineup."
There's also plenty to love at Hoof Raw Bar (923 Dundas St. West), which does for fish -- specifically Canadian oysters and scallops -- what its sister charcuterie Black Hoof does for meat. "The bar is the best seat in the house, and it feels off the beaten track but not too far from TIFF," says John Barrack, an entertainment lobbyist and lawyer with production company Marblemedia.
Meanwhile, the downtown move to Bell Lightbox means festgoers now have a choice of five-star hotels beyond the Four Seasons and the Park Hyatt.
In addition to the ritzy Shangri-La Hotel (188 University Ave.), which opened for festival functions Aug. 31 and will begin accepting guests in late September, there is the new Trump International Hotel & Tower (325 Bay St.). No one will say which uber-star will occupy the 4,000-square-foot presidential suite (complete with a private screening room), but it offers TIFF attendees the Stock restaurant on the 31st floor along with The Terrace, an open-air patio, and a lounge/bar that during the fest will stay open until 4 a.m.