A dear friend of mine who lives in Toronto always welcomed me for a visit — but said not to come between November and April. (The joke is on everyone else, as she’s been living in Paris for the past year and a half as a correspondent for Canada’s Globe and Mail.) While I went there in the summer years ago, recently I ignored her wisdom and spent a long weekend in the city in the heart of winter.

We stayed downtown at the Hotel Ocho, a renovated loft-like building. (I couldn’t help but be reminded of ESPN: The Ocho from the movie Dodgeball, a channel that, by all rights, should exist.) Our room, oddly, lacked a bathroom door but had plenty of outlets.

The frigid outdoor temperature in Toronto was mitigated by friendly waiters and taxi drivers, all of whom used personal credit card machines to process payments. (“Do you have a chip?” was the common refrain.)

Meals were the highlight. We found four great restaurants:

Le Gourmand, which my writer friend recommended. It’s a little café with great coffee, pastries, brunch, lunch, and gourmet groceries. (French toast with architectural bacon pictured below.)

Gusto 101, to which a Toronto acquaintance directed us. A scene-y Italian restaurant with a renovated basement feel, the bar has a great view into the kitchen. We ordered kale and beet salads and grilled fish, and one of the chefs made us delicious beef carpaccio, gratis. (Next door was a long line for a new nightclub inexplicably spelled Uniun.)

Khao San Road (top photo), considered the best Thai restaurant in Toronto. We found it on Foursquare and expected a wait on a Friday night. The maitre d’ put our name down on the list along with an expected seating time, and kept us updated about our status — a nice touch. The restaurant has a vegan version of its regular menu. We had delicious garlic shrimp, vegan pad thai, and their specialty, beef with egg noodles and coconut curry milk.

The Grove, a nouveau British pub in the fashionable Dundas West district that was recently reviewed in The New York Times. The ever-changing menu (below) includes black pudding, snails, bone marrow, smoked Chinook, porridge, and guinea fowl. The meal was served with a sampling of their delicious home-made bread.