A Definitive List of Toronto’s 18 Greatest Restaurants
Patois Toronto specializes in Caribbean-Asian cuisine | Courtesy of Patois
What defines Toronto’s culinary tapestry is diversity. There are Indonesian snack bars, Caribbean cocktail spots and lauded tasting menus, all of which cater to a range of palates and price points. Here are the 18 unmissable dining experiences in Toronto.
Toronto’s dining scene spans the world. There’s the noodle bar that pulls lamian from fresh dough every hour; the Mexican spot with a masterful approach to the charcoal grill; a rambunctious izakaya serving some of the best fish dishes in the city. With a culinary scene that spans countries – and price points – you’re guaranteed never to walk away hungry, so long as you have this list of the best restaurants in Toronto.
Hit Kōjin for Momofuku’s take on flame-grilled steak
Many come here for stellar views of the downtown core and the location inside the Shangri-La, but the food here is not to be passed over. Named after the Japanese god of the hearth, Kōjin is Momofuku’s take on a steakhouse, with many different cuts and sizes cooked on a wood-fired grill. Though executive chef Paula Navarrete uses global spices and treatments, expect all meats and produce to come from within the province.
R and D for a modern take on traditional Chinese food
Restaurant, Chinese, $$$
After winning the first MasterChef Canada title, Eric Chong joined forces with judge Alvin Leung to open R and D in Chinatown in 2015. Toronto is home to a big Chinese community and is full of fantastic Chinese restaurants. However, R and D is one of the few contemporary, polished and more upscale eateries serving modern Asian fare. Check out some of the other great Chinese restaurants in Toronto – a list compiled by Eric Chong himself.
Alo has held court at the top of best-restaurant lists (including a coveted top-100 spot on the World’s Best list), and it’s obvious why. It’s contemporary French fine dining at it’s finest and a special-occasion splurge. Indeed, the multi-course tasting menu by chef Patrick Kriss will be one of the best meals of your life. Expect top-notch service, unequaled dishes and stellar views of the city. Even the rich pain au lait that greets diners is ridiculously good. Reservations fill up fast, but if you can’t swing a spot, a visit to the more relaxed Aloette downstairs is well worth a visit.
Patois Toronto is a little restaurant that feels as if you’ve stumbled into a backyard party where the music is a little too loud, and the bartenders are cracking jokes as old friends would. As for its excellent plates, the portions assure you’ll never go hungry. Chef Craig Wong’s Dundas West spot highlights Caribbean-Asian cuisine such as make-you-sweat jerk chicken atop a helping of chow mein, and fried chicken with watermelon and kimchi. Cocktails sip like summer even in the denseness of Toronto’s winters, as rum punches and tiki-leaning tipples come in scooped-out pineapples with toy-flamingo garnishes.
Brothers Food and Wine for cozying up with artisanal wine
Wine Bar, Canadian, $$$
Though Brothers is tucked away in an office building above the bustling Bay Station, slipping behind the curtain at the entrance feels utterly transportive. The menu is compact and changes with the seasons, but the shareable plates are beautifully executed. Expect things like crispy sweetbreads with mushrooms, a bright snapper terrine and house-made pasta. Its wine program is in perfect step with the food offerings, showcasing local and global producers with a lean towards biodynamic and natural producers. The occasional rumble of the subway underneath calls diners back to reality.
The cozy Ossington spot is a true bar a vin. It’s a butcher shop during the day, but when the sun goes down, it turns into a buzzy wine bar. French-accented dishes range from the small (escargot, oysters and house-made terrines) to more gratuitous (steak frites, duck confit and the eponymous côte de bœuf), with meat raised locally in Meaford. All pair well with the predominantly French wine list that traverses famed viticultural regions, and includes both more familiar and lesser-known varietals. The intimate space’s dim lighting and the laid-back but lively atmosphere is perfect for celebrating a first encounter or an anniversary.
GB Hand-Pulled Noodles for slurping up freshly made lamian
Restaurant, Chinese, $$$
Hand-pulled noodles are the name of the game here. Every hour, chef Zhiqiang Li’s team pulls, punches and stretches out mounds of dough until they form silken, delicate strands of Lanzhou-style lamian. These wonderfully fresh noodles shine in noodle dishes and soups, topped with braised eggs and beef tenderloin. A spate of sides includes tea-leaf eggs, jellyfish, kimchi and spicy cucumber. The space is tight and unassuming, making it ideal for a quick downtown lunch. Whenever you stop in, be sure to sit with a view of the kitchen – watching the chefs spin the dough is mesmerizing.
Antler Kitchen and Bar for locally sourced Ontario game
Bar, Restaurant, Canadian, Vegetarian, Gluten-free, $$$
Antler showcases the best of wild Canadian products | Courtesy of Antler Kitchen and Bar
The farm-to-plate movement is chef Michael Hunter’s calling. At Antler Kitchen and Bar, the seasonal menu showcases proteins such as pheasant, rabbit, venison and duck liver, as does his Instagram. (The chef spends much of his free time hunting and foraging.) Dishes like foraged mushroom risotto and duck heart yakitori act as a delicious lesson on Ontario’s cuisine. There are also sweeter temptations, including cedar-infused sorbets and maple-bacon krullers with chaga ice cream.
Put yourself in the hands of superstar duo Rob Rossi and David Minicucci, of L’Unità fame, as they perfect standard, simple, Italian fare where ingredients shine. The sleek bistro, complete with terrazzo floors and a Carrera marble bar, makes sipping cocktails (most notably, spritzes and Italian-leaning collins) easy, though a requisite selection of old-world Italian wine is also available.
This all-day café is laid-back. The decor is low-key and set with benches, an open kitchen clanks away, and an upbeat soundtrack gives the space the feel of a neighborhood hang-out. Though sandwiches, soups and salads feature prominently on the menu, don’t think it’s basic. Former Shōtō chefs Peter Jensen and Jed Smith reclaim familiar flavors such as ham plates, short-rib soups and sausage rolls. The easy, neighborhood affability of this spot means you don’t have to save your visit until a special occasion.
Named after the town in which chef Justin Cournoyer grew up, Actinolite Restaurant points the spotlight on Canadian cuisine. Cournoyer and his network of farmers forage almost everything on the menu, turning it into a string of artful tasting dishes. If a two-hour tasting dinner isn’t up your alley, the neighborhood menu keeps local ties strong. Passers-by can stop in for two courses and a glass of wine for a set price of 45 Canadian dollars ($34).
In an ideal world, you’ll be able to sit right at the counter at Skippa where you can watch the string of chefs carve up utterly fresh seafood flown in from around the world. Opt for the omakase. It may cost a little extra, but it’s worth it at this Harbord Street spot. There’s maguro (tuna) from Hawaii, tako (octopus) from Morocco and the list goes on. Each piece, however, will be treated ever so slightly with ingredients such as yuzu and seaweed, and the servers will instruct to “dip or no dip” in soy-based sauces. Skippa’s beverage program offers large-format pours and single-serving cans of sake.
Stepping into Quetzal, you’ll immediately smell the wood-fired grill. This restaurant by Owen Walker and Grant van Gameren highlights lesser-known elements of Mexican cuisine far beyond tacos and burritos, so expect carefully folded blue masa empanadas and coal-roasted sweet potatoes. Sit in eyesight of the grill to watch house-made corn tortillas light up and octopus, sweetbreads and a wagyu steak receive a succulent char before they’re sent off to diners. If you’re looking for other after-hours eats, check out this list of great late-night restaurants in Toronto.
Dreyfus for cross-cultural dishes in an antique space
Among the newest and more exciting additions to Toronto’s dining scene is Dreyfus. The 30-seat Harbord spot pulls inspirations from owner Zach Kolomeir’s French-Jewish heritage (the name Dreyfus stems from the 19th-century anti-semitism scandal of the same name). Food flits between cultural identities – expect croque cubanos and old-school classics. It’s cozy and welcoming, complete with antique plates and silverware plus a friendly staff. Though natural wines are well-represented on the menu, the list also includes those that traverse countries, styles and varietals.
Imanishi checks off many desired boxes. Not only is it cozy, but it’s also still large enough to bring the full gang. It’s casual enough for a quick cocktail on a Friday night, but always appropriate for a celebration. The Little Portugal izakaya serves up home-cooking-style Japanese fare, such as tebasaki chicken wings, tai carpaccio and seaweed taro chips. More substantial dishes include a chicken katsu doused in curry sauce. Cocktails are of note here, as Imanishi looks to ingredients such as umeshu, tea and shochu.
Tennessee Tavern for smoked meats and handmade pierogies
Restaurant, American, $$$
Tennessee Tavern specializes in Eastern European fare | Courtesy of Tennessee Tavern
Though Tennessee Tavern sounds Southern, it pulls cues from Eastern Europe – the name is a reference to the 1950s Tennessee Open Grill that once occupied the space. Much of the original interior remains, including bars from the 1800s, but the food doesn’t feel dated in the slightest. There’s a sharing attitude to the menu, curated by owners Max Rimaldi, Alec Colyer and Grant van Gameren. Highlights include house-made pierogies and the monstrous Tennessee platter with cevapi, wood-smoked pork, veal schnitzel and debracyna sausage. Visit on the weekends when the central stage draws DJs and live music events.
The Roti Hut for the most delicious Trinidadian doubles in Toronto
Located in a strip plaza in one of the eastern suburbs of Toronto, The Roti Hut is a culinary institution of the Greater Toronto Area. The restaurant serves Caribbean dishes and street food in a space decorated with warm lighting and tropical paintings. Home-made favorites include hunks of boneless goat and tender potatoes served on soft, open-faced dhalpourie roti; deep-fried doubles (deep-fried puffy flatbread) filled with curry channa (curried chickpeas); and vegetarian and vegan options such as pumpkin and spinach roti. While it’s a little out of the way, it’s worth it. For other budget-dining options within the downtown core, check out this list of cheap but delicious restaurants in Toronto.
Don’t skip the most important meal of the day while you’re here – Toronto is big on brunches and has a number of restaurants offering unique twists on the meal. For a TO stalwart, head to the Drake Commissary and try some smørrebrød, a Danish open-face sandwich made with rye bread that is topped with seasonal ingredients. It makes for a tasty and satisfying breakfast.