To enjoy a meal in one of Toronto’s oldest and most popular areas, head to the Distillery District. Known for its Christmas Market and historic architecture, there’s so much to see and eat.
If Queen Street West is the hippest street in town, then the Distillery District is the cool, up-and-coming younger sister. From French and Spanish to Mexican and Canadian cuisine, there are plenty of options for every type of traveller looking to restaurant hop.
And while on the burgeoning end of the food scene, the Distillery District is one of the oldest areas in Toronto with historic Victorian-era architecture, meaning it also makes for a popular tourist destination. With some of the original buildings still in use today, the Distillery District is a can’t-miss destination, not only for food lovers, but also for history buffs.
“The Stone Distillery and Fermenting Cellar which includes the Distillery, Mill, Boiler House and Fermenting Cellar are still standing today. Something really interesting that people may not know: some buildings were created in 1859 through 1861 to align with the new Grand Trunk Railway from Montreal,” said Lori Harito, on behalf of The Distillery Historic District.
Be sure to book a reservation far in advance to experience the charm of these historic seven restaurants in the Distillery District.
This upscale Mexican spot is anything but basic. Brimming with colour and Spanish charm, El Catrin is located right in the heart of the district. You know you’ve found it when you spot the giant, black and yellow chandeliers gracing the outdoor patio. Famed executive chef Olivier LeCalvez moved from Mexico to head up the restaurant, bringing with him authentic Mexican dishes with a touch of Canadian flavour. Try one of the ceviches for a sample of his signature dish, while sipping on a Mezcaltele cocktail.
Cluny is as much of a feast for the eyes as it is for the taste buds. With stunning tiled floors and intricate ceiling medallions, this spot feels like an homage to classical French design. The food though, is the main star here. Each dish is crafted with a well-trained eye, served on copper pans and dishes that look sourced directly from the famous Parisian flea market, Porte de Vanves. For a unique twist on a traditional dish, try the tomahawk meatball served on a bone and with gnocchi.
This laid-back spot can easily be mistaken for a gin bar from the outside. While the space once housed whiskey barrels during Prohibition era, today it is home to some of the best spirits in the city. Not only do they serve a fantastic selection of drinks, but the seafood is also outstanding, and has continuously been named the best in Toronto. Try the oysters, fresh from Canada’s surrounding oceans, or crack open the stemmed lobster for something sweet.
For more relaxed dining, try the locally loved Mill Street Brew Pub. Upon its inception, Mill Street Brewery was East Toronto’s first commercial microbrewery to open in more than 100 years. Now, Torontonians can find Mill Street craft brews across the city, though you still have to make the trek to the original brew house for unique seasonal beers. Find delicious pub food on offer, with the fish and chips being a long-time staple dish.
CACAO 70 Eatery is the ultimate dessert destination in the Distillery District. While everything from cakes to waffles and fondue is on the menu, it’s the signature hot chocolate drinks that steal the show. Try the CACAO 70 factory hot chocolate made from melted dark chocolate directly from its Montreal factory. For something a little more savoury, it also offers brunch from 10am to 4pm daily.
For a taste of Spain, try this airy tapas bar. Housed in an industrial space with brick walls and exposed beams, the room feels warm thanks to the natural, light wood furniture and bell-shaped lights overhead. At the helm, you can find chef Ramon Simarro who previously worked in Michelin-star restaurants across the globe. While everything that leaves the kitchen looks like art, be sure to try the atunrojo, consisting of buttery yellowfin tuna and, of course, a cold glass of sangria.
Tucked away and under the radar, this might be the Distillery District’s best-kept secret. Serving up delicious Pan-Asian dishes, this casual spot is perfect for lunch or a quick dinner. Although the menu includes an array of meat and fish dishes, it also has a great selection of vegetarian and vegan options. During the Christmas Market, it serves up a new, exclusive menu, so be sure to visit during the winter months. For something unique, ask for one of the craft cocktails featuring sake.