(via INDYCAR) – James Hinchcliffe grew up in the Toronto suburb of Oakville. Robert Wickens grew up in the city of Guelph just to the west.
Hinchcliffe resides in the hip King West district. Wickens has a cottage a few hours north in the picturesque Muskoka cottage country. Still, their tastes tend to trend similarly when it comes to a place for a good beer, good meal or, if you must, a plate of poutine. Wickens might ask to skip the Italian for once and hit a sushi spot.
With two homegrown INDYCAR ambassadors offering opinions, here’s Hinchcliffe, 31, and Wickens, 29, on some places you might see them if they weren’t busy with the Honda Toronto Indy this weekend.
Q: Beer. What’s a cool place to get one?
Hinchcliffe: Chill Ice House … cool little bar …. there’s a speakeasy in the back called Gatsby’s … it’s good for a drink and music.
If it’s an evening thing, definitely we would go to Chill or Gatsby’s. If it’s something more afternoon or weekend, I’m a big fan of Steam Whistle (Brewing Company), which is a local brew from right down in Toronto there and they’ve got a super cool facility right next to the Rogers Centre.
Q: Food. We’ll need some. Have any?
Hinchcliffe: There’s a great place for tacos, gourmet a la carte tacos, called Campechano. It’s at Portland and Adelaide. It’s an unassuming little white building, but the food is just incredible. Right across from that is a place called SpiritHouse. Great cocktails.
There’s tons of restaurants. One of our favorites is called Sotto Sotto, Italian.
Q: I remember throwing tomahawks as something Toronto folk liked to do while drinking. That still a thing?
Hinchcliffe: It’s still a thing for sure and it’s expanded to Indianapolis. Places like that and dive-y bowling spots are popular. Arcade bars have popped up.
One of the things that has become really popular, whether you’re going out for lunch during the week or during a weekend and you don’t want to drink but have something other than Diet Coke, there’s a lot of mocktail places that have popped up.
Q: How different will Robert’s list be than yours?
Hinchcliffe: I think it’s probably pretty close. We enjoy socializing the same way. We enjoy dinking some of the same things, eating some of the same food. He might have a sushi restaurant ahead of the Italian spot I picked. Both of us, for the little amount of time we get to spend back home, we try to spend as much of it up north in Muskoka as possible. It’s nice to spend time in the city, but it’s really nice to get away to the cottage a little bit.
Q: Poutine. French fries with stuff on it?
Hinchcliffe: I’m not the biggest poutine fan, not that I dislike it. But there are other people more passionate than me. If you’re going to get it, Smoke’s Poutinerie, definitely.
Q: What’s to like about Toronto?
Wickens: It’s kind of unique for me because I’ve never lived in Toronto. I don’t actually spend that much time in Toronto, although I lived in Guelph for the majority of my childhood. But by the time I had a car, I was pretty much living over in Europe and pursuing my career there. So, I think James is the one who knows the spots. Any time we meet for dinner in Toronto, he’s picking the venues and I’ve just been enjoying them.
But one thing I will say is you can do anything and everything on any day of the week in Toronto. There’s something for everyone. If you want night life, there’s going to be a good spot. It’s kind of a city for everyone. It doesn’t matter what district you go to, you can feel at home and it’s a lot of fun. I like the Queen West area, the King West area.
Q: What’s this Muskoka?
Wickens: It’s a county north of Toronto, two hours, a lot of beautiful freshwater natural lakes. Hundreds and hundreds of people own cottages there, or they’re for rent for a weekend and you can do whatever to have a little getaway vacation. Luckily a few years ago, I bought my own, so I try to get up there as much as I can and relax. I find there’s no better way to relax than to put your phone on airplane mode and be out on the lake with no one around.
Q: Fisherman? Skier?
Wickens: I try to stay away from any potential dangerous activities during the season, so you won’t see me on water skis or wake boards or anything like that during the season, but I like getting out on the water and just anchoring out in the middle and just relaxing.
Q: All right, back to Toronto food. What’s on your menu on a guy’s night out with James?
Wickens: We’re both easy. We’re both not picky eaters. I’m never going to say “no” to a pizza but Japanese is my favorite cuisine. I love sushi when I get the opportunity. I don’t want to say I’m a sushi snob, but I really appreciate better quality sushi over kind of your grocery store sushi.