The 10 Best Restaurants In Toronto's Trendy West Queen West

Jess Dawdy

West Queen West has been attracting global attention since being named runner-up on Vogue’s list of the world’s coolest neighbourhoods. Despite comprising only a short strip between Shaw Street and Gladstone Avenue, West Queen West manages to pack in more than 50 diverse restaurants. With cuisines ranging from local to Ethiopian, here are a list of spots to check out in Toronto’s hippest creative centre.

1. The Café at the Gladstone Hotel

Boutique Hotel, Hotel

The late 19th-century red-brick and stone facade of the Gladstone House, complete with arches and ornamental elements
Courtesy of Gladstone House /

The Gladstone Hotel is a Toronto institution that perfectly captures the feeling of West Queen West’s indie scene. This Victorian-style hotel is home to the Café at the Gladstone, which is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The menu is mainly bistro-style cuisine with a few unexpected dishes like pad see ew and vindaloo pork adding interest to the selection. With an ever-changing rotation of beers and creative cocktails, the café is ideal for a full meal or even relaxed post-work drinks. Plus, the Melody Bar, found just across the lobby, features live music and DJs on most evenings.

2. Carmen

Restaurant, Spanish, Tapas

Courtesy of Clafouti
Carmen offers a menu of bold Spanish flavors in a casual yet chic setting. The tapas menu consists of traditional offerings, such as fresh cod and potato fritters with parsley powder; along with ‘tapas del carmen’, a selection of more modern dishes like ‘Salmón Antoni Gaudí’ which is made with wild BC sockeye salmon, gazpacho sauce and ‘Gaudi-esque’ vegetables. There’s also a short but sweet choice of large paellas, along with Spanish wines and sangria. The restaurant’s interior features a bright yellow and red colour scheme, decorated with beguiling wood finishes, along with black-and-white photos of flamenco dancers.

3. Clafouti

Bakery, Pastelaria, Pastries

Clafouti, Toronto
Courtesy Poutini's House of Poutine
Clafouti is a charming bakery that specializes in European pastries and sandwiches. In addition to its namesake, the bakery is known for its signature ‘crookie’ which is an Oreo cookie baked inside a croissant. The bakery also offers a great selection of sandwiches, which are filled with delicious ingredient combinations like tomato, bocconcini, fresh basil and olive oil. The small menu is rounded out with Montreal bagels, a variety of fresh breads and a selection candies and chocolates imported from France. With only three small tables found inside, most customers take their sandwiches and snacks to-go, and enjoy a picnic at Trinity Bellwoods Park across the street.

4. Poutini’s House of Poutine

Restaurant, Canadian

As the name suggests, Poutini’s House of Poutine specializes in poutine. This little takeaway restaurant more than does justice to the Canadian classic, preparing the dish with hand-cut PEI potatoes, fresh cheese curds from Mapledale Farms, and gravy made in-house. Seating is offered at semi-communal tables or it’s also a perfect spot for grab-and-go late-nights eats. The restaurant gains extra points for its eco-friendly use of biodegradable containers and compostable cutlery. The small menu also includes a vegetarian poutine with gravy made from an onion, leek, celery and carrot stock; in addition to bacon, pulled pork and gluten-free versions of the dish.

5. The County General

Restaurant, Bar, Contemporary

The County General serves up an eclectic menu of Southern-inspired comfort food and Korean bar snacks, with ingredients sourced from Ontario farms and producers. The interior of this casual restaurant evokes a rustic, country theme, with a recycled barn window and laid-back outdoor seating available in the warmer months. The fried chicken thigh sandwich is a must-try at lunch, consisting of buttermilk chicken and avocado chutney sandwiched between a sesame and poppy seed milk bun. The dinner menu focuses more on burgers and tacos, along with an extensive wine, beer and cocktail list.

6. Nunu

Restaurant, Ethiopian, Vegetarian

The name Nunu literally means ‘come come,’ a fitting name for this welcoming Ethiopian restaurant. This restaurant’s interior is surprisingly modern, with full-length front windows, sleek white tables and soft lighting. With this décor, you might expect an equally contemporary menu, but this is one aspect of the restaurant that’s actually quite traditional. The speciality is the ‘misto misto’ platter, a sharing plate designed to be eaten with a kind of flat bread called injera. This is the best way to get the most out of this dining experience, allowing you to sample a variety of classic flavors and dine the traditional Ethiopian way, sharing with family and friends.

7. Oyster Boy

Restaurant, Seafood, Canadian

Oyster Boy is laid-back, affordable and known for shucking some of the best oysters in the city. The staff is friendly and knowledgeable, and every platter is served with homemade shallot mignonette, sweet cocktail sauce and banana pepper hot sauce. While oysters on the half-shell are the star of the menu, there is also a selection of other mains like fish tacos and beer battered fish and chips; a place made for seafood lovers. With a relaxed atmosphere and great selection of beers, the restaurant provides a pleasant setting for casually hanging out over a meal; try the popular date-night idea and package it up for a quick takeaway.

8. Ravi Soups

Restaurant, Soup, Canadian

An ideal antidote to Toronto’s icy winters, Ravi Soups is one of the best places in the neighborhood to enjoy a wholesome, hearty meal. This family-run restaurant now has three branches across the city, with the West Queen West location featuring warm yellow walls and a simple chalkboard menu. The space is divided into two dining areas, separated by an open kitchen in the middle. The restaurant’s unique flavor combinations, such as curried apricot and red lentil, make a bowl of soup alone a filling and fully satisfying meal. Or you can go for a tasty wrap, such as the ‘Curried Lamb’, which is made with roasted yams, edamame, baby spinach, mango-pineapple salsa and a mint- cilantro mix.

9. Smoque N’ Bones

Bar, Restaurant, BBQ, Canadian

Smoque N’ Bones serves up slow-cooked ribs and other smokehouse BBQ favourites. The down-home-inspired interior features exposed brick and filament bulbs, with seating for about 30 people offered at high-tops and along the counter. A Southern Pride smoker is prominently displayed near the entrance, showcasing juicy racks of ribs being cooked. In addition to pulled pork, wings, ribs, brisket and sausages, the menu includes a variety of Southern-inspired side dishes like candied yams and collard greens. The restaurant’s creative cocktails provide an additional draw in the evening, emphasizing the bar’s selection of more than 50 types of bourbon. Try an old-fashioned with bacon-infused bourbon or the ‘Not So Traditional Bourbon Sour,’ topped with frosted egg white.

10. Terroni

Pizzeria, Restaurant, Italian, Vegetarian, Fast Food

© Dylan + Jeni/Courtesy of Terroni
There are plenty of Italian restaurants in Toronto, but Terroni set itself apart with its home-style dishes, friendly service and inviting atmosphere. The restaurant now has a number of branches across Toronto, but the West Queen West location is the original site. The traditional menu features a selection of regional Italian dishes prepared from recipes that have been passed down for several generations. Expect thin-crust pizzas, hand-made pasta and a superb selection of Italian wines. In the summer, the restaurant’s patio is a popular spot, with big umbrellas and a towering mature tree providing shade for diners.

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