As one of the most culturally diverse cities on the planet, Toronto manages to evade categorization. While other cosmopolitan cities like Paris or Tokyo have iconic, immediately identifiable cuisines and food scenes, Canada’s largest city manages to remain a moving target. Some would say its strong suit is the diversity of cuisines available; others would point out the Canadian influence across all categories, which emphasizes foraged ingredients and provincially sourced meats and produce. The bottom line is, that you’ve got a lot of choices. Whether you’re in for a high-brow dining experience, or just a quick bite at the neighborhood haunt, you will find that Toronto’s food scene—truly—has something for everyone. Read on for our picks for where to eat first.
Standouts at Grey Gardens, part wine bar and part restaurant, include a sweet shrimp with compressed watermelon radishes and a dry-aged Peking-style duck breast, which is served on homemade sauerkraut and duck fried rice. Pop in for a glass of rare Sauternes and a snack after work (no reservations required), or come with a friend to linger over dinner in the back dining room (reservations only). The restaurant lives up to its bohemian-luxe address in Kensington Market; it’s just vintage enough without feeling dowdy.
At Pukka, chef Dinesh Butola’s refined, yet casual, Indian cuisine includes slow-braised beef short ribs with cumin, cloves, and cardamom and sliced paneer with shiitake mushrooms, spinach, and pistachios. The menu of British desserts includes a knockout sticky toffee pudding—a gooey mound with of chai-caramel goodness. For drinks, skip the cocktails and order from the stellar wine list, which includes a good selection of reasonably priced bottles that all stand up to the bold flavors emerging from the kitchen.
Pinky’s Ca Phe
Located on the first floor of a converted house, Pinky’s hardly feels like a restaurant at all and serves a triumphant fusion of Vietnam-meets-Philadelphia cooking. Start off your meal with lightly fried banh xeo (savory crepes) stuffed with broccoli or the Tiger’s Milk ceviche, with yellowfin tuna, scallops, surf clams, chilis, cilantro, tom yum spices, and coconut milk. The “Pho beef dip-you-dip-i-dip,” is at once nostalgic and humorous—it’s a blow-torch-toasted bành mí cheese steak with razor-thin brisket, Asiago, hoisin, Sriracha, and cilantro, all served with a bowl of pho for dipping.
Chubby’s Jamaican Kitchen
Chubby’s is the best Jamaican restaurant in Toronto. There are great burgers and coconut-crusted fish, but the main event here is the jerk chicken, which takes four days to prepare. Each bird is brined for 24 hours, dry-rubbed and laced with scotch bonnet peppers, and left to dry before getting barbecued over maple wood. Save room for dessert, if possible; the passion fruit and coconut cream pie is a nice counterpoint to the spice rub’s satisfying heat.
You wouldn’t expect to find a French-Cantonese restaurant on College Street in Little Italy, but that’s part of DaiLo’s fun. The menu features crowdpleasers like truffled pumpkin dumplings and jellyfish slaw, but the real treats here include the whole fried trout, a dramatic and flavorful dish that’s served pre-chopped with several dipping sauces, the braised lamb neck with banana blossom salad, and the General Tso sweetbreads. A $65 chef’s choice menu, which consists of six or seven dishes, showcases the menu’s full range.
Sotto Sotto’s Italian cooking is flavorful and filling, but it probably won’t impress food-lovers accustomed to more inventive menus. That said, the seafood risotto (which takes about 40 minutes to prepare) is incredible. Italian wines reign supreme on the robust wine list, especially super Tuscans and a couple of frizzy Franciacortas. If you’re hoping to spend upwards of $100 on a bottle, you’ll have plenty of options. And on any given night, you just might spot a celebrity or two.
Located on the ground floor of the Four Seasons condo building, Buca adequately conveys the glitz of the posh Yorkville neighborhood, with polished concrete walls, a sparkling open kitchen, and an impressive marble bar. And yet the food and wine still manage to take center stage. This is refined Italian at its best, and the use of Canadian ingredients—Fogo Island cod, Gaspé scallops, Acadian sturgeon caviar—makes it one of Toronto’s most unique dining experiences.
Tennessee Tavern isn’t high-brow by any measure, but patrons are here to get their pierogi fix in a fun environment—and, of course, dig into the best Eastern European food in Toronto. Anything hailing from the east/southeast of Vienna is fair game here; the menu boasts everything from cucumber salad with feta, sumac, and dill to ćevapčići, a traditional Bosnian sausage. Kick off the meal with assorted pickles and an order of the boiled eggs with kielbasa and whole-grain mustard. Desserts are a bit lacking, but the main dishes are so hearty that you probably won’t have room, anyway.
Richmond Station is a neighborhood restaurant that still manages to be elegant. A giant circular window lets in natural light during the day and creates a buzzy glow at night. The space is fitted with dark wood floors, a row of sleek banquettes, and a showstopper of a bar. Although the menu is on the shorter side, all of the dishes are thoughtful, flavorful, and unpretentious. If you’re unsure where to start, the tasting menu—humbly billed as “Let us cook for you”—is a good choice. No pretenses—just good food.
Canoe Restaurant and Bar
The menu at Canoe is an adventurous, surprising, and just-plain-delicious celebration of flavors and ingredients from across Canada. You’ll find foie gras from Quebec, the flakiest fresh Pacific fish, and fine Ontario produce and dairy. Start with either the Ontario burrata with birch-pickled cucumbers and prairie seeds or the Quebec foie gras with rhubarb, pink peppercorn, and sumac meringue. The tea-smoked duck breast, which is served with duck-liver mousse, parsnip, and poached Niagara pear, is sublime.
The most striking thing about Gusto 101 isn’t the fact that it’s located in a former auto body shop—it’s that the space actually feels cozy and convivial. The ground floor is pared-back, allowing an open-plan kitchen with a roaring wood-fired grill to take center stage. The restaurant delivers crowdpleasing Southern Italian classics, including a near-perfect rendition of cacio e pepe. Grilled entrees are also exceptional, especially the branzino, which is served with escarole, cannellini beans, and a lemony, garlicky salmoriglio sauce. One of the reasons Gusto 101 has become such neighborhood stalwart is its $1/ounce house wine—a real bargain in this area.
Barberian’s Steak House
To dine at this old battle axe of a restaurant is to step back in time. Founded by prominent Toronto restaurateur Harry Barberian in 1959, the downtown institution has made a name for itself as the quintessential steakhouse in town. Few places in town can compete with Barberian’s top-quality, dry-aged, butchered-in-house steaks, which are perfectly prepared over a hardwood charcoal grill. Its proprietary steak spice blend is a mouthwatering complement to the meat, and accompaniments are pretty standard: Caesar salad, French onion soup, mashed potatoes, and so on. The impressive wine list purports to be one of the most robust in Canada.
Chef and co-owner Jason Carter refers to Dandylion’s seasonal cuisine as “simple”—there are few extraneous flavors and ingredients—but his food is far from boring. The monkfish comes blanketed in a generous portion of warm carrot soup; seared scallops complement a bed of shaved fennel and bitter greens. The “Egg, Mushroom, Savoury Granola” is a surprisingly tantalizing concoction of wild rice, foraged mushrooms, kelp powder, and a house blend of seeds. Seafood, such as trout fillets served under velvety beurre blanc with snap peas, shine especially bright here.
The corner of Queen and Spadina was never the most posh or even interesting address in Toronto, so when chef Patrick Kriss announced he would open a restaurant on the third floor of a historic Victorian building right there, local foodies were skeptical. Once Alo opened in 2015 with high-concept, French-inflected cuisine, it soon topped critics’ choice lists around the world and Kriss’ naysayers became believers. The menu changes with the seasons; you’re as likely to encounter 30-day dry-aged rack of lamb as you are Hokkaido sea urchin with fennel, wasabi, and yuzu.
Ku-Kum sources ingredients from fresh, humane, sustainable suppliers from indigenous communities in northern Quebec. Trust us: The first time you bite into seared seal loin drizzled with black garlic puree, smoked apples, and candied beets, or the just-as-scrumptious seared elk loin, you’ll understand why Ku-Kum jumps through all the hoops. Save room for dessert—the pine-needle sorbet is an unexpected, yet entirely refreshing, home run.
Toronto’s in-the-know food obsessives clamor for tables at Bar Raval, a warm and bustling joint known for its stellar tapas and pintxos. If the dining room feels like something out of Barcelona, owners Grant van Gameren and Robin Goodfellow has done their jobs; after all, they used Raval, a neighborhood in the Spanish city, as inspiration for the sexy vibe and colorful decor. Be prepared to order lots of stuff and share it all, from the house-smoked mussels with chili and fennel to the pancetta with rhubarb.
La Banane, where whole sea bass comes baked in a criss-cross croûte drizzled with yuzu beurre monté, reminds us that French food doesn’t have to be stuffy. The flatiron steak au poivre is as good as any you would find in a Parisian brasserie, and the raw bar is one of the best in town, with everything from marinated mussels to Dungeness crab. For desserts, the Ziggy Stardust Disco Egg, a Technicolor-painted chocolate shell filled with coffee beans, apricots, spicy chilies, and rich chocolate truffle, is in a league all its own. The bar’s playful and inventive cocktails come from Chris Weaver, an alum of Toronto’s Momofuku outpost.
The restaurant swears by its “unobtrusive and respectful” waitstaff, which has helped keep Scaramouche a Toronto favorite for 35 years and counting. Scaramouche’s bread service—several crusty slices served with local Stirling Creamery butter and sea salt—will set you back $3, but half the proceeds benefit Community Food Centres Canada. This philosophy—ethical sourcing and civic engagement—suffuses the rest of the menu, which includes sustainable British Columbia caviars, Ontario AAA beef, and Quebec suckling pig. Chef and owner Keith Froggett pays close attention to his ingredients, employing cooking techniques that celebrate their inherent flavors. The Pacific halibut is a standout.
Located past the reception desk and down a short hallway in the newly renovated and buzzworthy Anndore House boutique hotel, Constantine glows at all hours of the day and night. The menu celebrates the Mediterranean and places an emphasis on coastal Italy. Standouts include the grilled halloumi with chickpea fritters and a healthy shmear of labneh, the braised rabbit pappardelle, the roasted sweet potatoes with fresh figs, and the creamy fire-roasted eggplant. The grilled seafood is also tremendous; the Fogo Island cod with leeks, saffron, and walnut is a revelation.
Stepping into Honest Weight is like entering an honest-to-goodness New England clam shack. The no-frills establishment is big on rough-hewn woods, fishmonger memorabilia, and an oversize case filled with the catch of the day. Helmed by four of the city’s noted seafood chefs, the restaurant takes its seafood seriously, and Torontonians will cross the city just to get their fix. There’s always something a little unexpected and rare to try, like house-steamed cockles or Azorean limpet clams. Grilled squid served atop romesco is a favorite, as is the fish sandwich.