Toronto might not be known for its year-round good weather, but there’s one thing you’re guaranteed no matter what the season — a fantastic plate of food from one of the best restaurants in Toronto. The last 18 months have challenged an already tumultuous industry and while there have been casualties (Brothers and Woodlot are just two great spots COVID snatched from this list), the innovation and sheer grit of restaurateurs means that we’re still fortunate enough to enjoy an endless array of world-class meals from the best restaurants in Toronto.
From sushi spots with delicately crafted nigiri and Italian joints with heavenly plates of pasta to vegan eateries that routinely blow our mind with their seasonal selections and culinary wizardry, the best restaurants in Toronto are some of the best in the world. Forever looking to New York for culinary comparisons, Toronto is now all grown up, creating a unique food style all of its own — and we couldn’t be prouder. To honour the city, and to say thanks for every full tummy and satisfied customer, we’ve put together this list of the 19 best restaurants in Toronto. There’s no minimum or maximum price tag, and you’ll see new restaurants opened in recent years listed alongside institutions that have been around for decades (although, every restaurant mentioned has a dining room and offers a sit-down meal experience). While food is of the utmost importance, we’ve factored in every part of the evening, taking the general atmosphere and service into account. Knives and forks at the ready, it’s time to take a slice out of the best restaurants in Toronto.
The best restaurants in Toronto
There are many Mexican restaurants scattered around Toronto, but no one does tacos better than Campechano. They recently expanded from their original King West taqueria and opened up a new, even cozier spot on College St. At both locations you’ll find traditional, Mexico City-style tacos made with fresh-pressed corn tortillas. Like their colourful, inviting spaces, the menus are small and simple (Campechano literally means ‘no fuss’), but flavours are bold and big. Each taco’s component, from the chicharrón to the chorizo, stands out while blending perfectly with the other elements for a wonderful, sometimes drippy, always-worth-it bite.
18. 416 Snack Bar
181 Bathurst St.
Tablecloths and cutlery may be absent, but you’ll find no shortage of soul at this atmospheric, quintessentially Toronto snack bar. What started as a food blog committed to popping the hood on the city’s under-the-radar culinary offerings is now a decade-old institution making some of Toronto’s most iconic dishes. Adrian Ravinsky and Dave Stewart can never take their spicy handrolls or the Eggplant Doubledown off the menu, but their experimental fare continues to tickle our taste buds. Crack a bottle of champagne and order a medley of multicultural handheld delights — from jerk fish and Argentinian BBQ to curried fried potatoes and foie gras, you won’t get bored of this menu for another ten years.
17. Tutti Matti
364 Adelaide St. W.
Forget fancy garnishes and Jackson Pollock-esque squirts of molecular gastronomy: rustic, homey plates of lovingly made pasta are what we’re in the mood for 99 per cent of the time. Alida Solomon — who spent years cooking in Montalcino, Italy — has cultivated a stunning landmark in the form of Adelaide Street’s Tutti Matti (Italian for ‘we’re all mad’), where the focus is on simple food done exquisitely. Housemade pasta piled high with wild boar ragu and porchetta pizza fresh out of the wood-fired oven sail merrily onto tables of both newcomers and repeat customers who have been visiting this staple for nearly 20 years — all of whom are treated as if they were a guest in Solomon’s Tuscan home.
16. Le Swan
892 Queen St. W.
Not many best restaurant contenders can say they have a tuna melt on the menu, but that’s okay: Jen Agg has never been afraid to upset the status quo and Le Swan is yet another example of her doing things her own way — to delicious effect. On the surface, this is just an old school diner, but look closer and you’ll find a dual menu with French bistro faves like smoked trout rillette, sole meunière and steak frites on one side, and comforting classics featuring fish sticks, and pork chop with applesauce on the other. Add to that one of Canada’s most exciting sommeliers, Jake Skakun, and manager David Greig, the mastermind behind some of the city’s best cocktails, and you’ve got the unexpected jewel in Agg’s Toronto restaurant empire.
15. Maple Leaf Tavern
955 Gerrard St. E.
Once a spot for bar brawls, Maple Leaf Tavern has eschewed its down and out past, bringing class and a burgeoning restaurant scene to a previously unloved stretch of Gerrard St. E. Slip into a moody booth, order a manhattan and luxuriate in the effortlessly cool, speakeasy ambience at the Tavern. Seasonal salads and appetizers packed with locally sourced produce sit side by side with bold and flavourful wood-grilled meat dishes, like rib steak and their famous eponymous burger, meaning that everyone in your party will find something to salivate over. If you like your fine dining without the attitude, head east for neighbourhood vibes, beautifully balanced libations and some good old fashioned fun.
1214 Dundas St. W.
It may seem far too new to be on any best restaurants list, but GIA comes to us from the team behind Ufficio, with all of their expertise carried over to the new concept. Like a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis, GIA is everything we loved about Ufficio, transformed into a more sustainably-minded concept right in the same space. The plant-forward menu sees vegetables and mushrooms given the full treatment here, served as the stars of beautiful plates of pillowy, handmade, fresh pasta, dripping with sauces that you’ll want to lick clean off your dish. Local suppliers like 100km Foods and Clearwater Farms provide their produce. With marble tables and white brick, the atmosphere here is polished yet relaxed — sink into a glass from their curated wine list or a craft cocktail and let the night take you away.
80 Ossington Ave.
Back when Greek taverna-style restaurants felt a little gimmicky (styrofoam Ionic columns, giant murals of the Acropolis), Mamakas blew us all out of the sea with their refined, yet approachable homestyle cooking and not-in-your-face coastal atmosphere. At this Ossington hideaway, the Agean summer is endless even when it’s negative-something and the outside air hurts your skin. The cuisine expertly balances the teachings of past generations while embracing modern touches for some truly remarkable dishes from land and sea. And you haven’t really tasted feta until you’ve tried their barrel-aged brick.
2 Lakeview Ave.
No reservations, no signage, no phone number and barely any online presence — the food here is so good that this unmarked hole in the wall has relied on word of mouth alone for years, and still sees long wait times on weekends. Situated on a side street off Dundas near Dovercourt, Hanmoto doesn’t look like much from the outside, but stepping into this divey snack bar under the glowing red lights feels like you’ve been transported elsewhere. There’s a warmth and energy here — it’s the kind of place where the bartenders will take shots with you. The Japanese-style fare comes in the form of unique snack plates, unmatched by anything else in the city. The Dyno Wings — deboned chicken wings stuffed with gyoza filling — are a bite of crispy, juicy heaven served in an old-school takeout box.
488 Wellington St. W.
Marben was one of the city’s first farm-to-table restaurants. Before that became a buzzword, this Wellington Street gem was sourcing ingredients locally and sustainably and turning them into exquisite, creative dishes year after year. When you walk into Marben, there is a sense of warmth and welcomeness that is sometimes hard to come by in this concrete jungle. Maybe it’s the way diners’ voices echo off the brick walls, or the sound of hot plates hitting the line in the open kitchen, or the laughs you exchanged over their famous Sunday roast dinners and classic English-style breakfast fry-ups — whatever it is, Marben is magic.
18 Duncan St.
Big lineups in Toronto aren’t always justified (dick waffles, we’re looking at you), but this is definitely not another fad. Pai opened its doors in 2014 and has been filling our bellies with northern Thai food worth waiting for ever since. PAI has been recognized by the Royal Thai Government, giving chef Nuit Regular’s authentic and love-filled dishes a well-deserved accreditation for authentic Thai food and ingredients. Enjoy khao soi, with beautifully braised short ribs; pad gra prow, a holy basil stir fry; or their best-selling pad thai in PAI’s colourful dining room. Can’t get a reso? Takeout (and elasticated waistbands) was invented for indulgent dishes such as these.
96 Harbord St.
A restaurant named after the wrongly convicted French artillery officer at the centre of a political scandal (the Dreyfus Affair) might not sound like the most romantic locale for dinner, but our feelings for this Harbord Village spot are particularly warm and fuzzy. Nestled inside a red-brick row house, the cuisine served could best be described as ‘French-ish’ — expect meaty marvels from an impressive larder, as well as seafood forward plates, veggie dishes like green bean almondine and maybe even a madeleine or two for good measure. Joe Beef expat Zach Kolomeir was raised Jewish in Montreal, so expect plenty of Quebecois influence across the menu — handwritten daily on a chalkboard, naturally.
1 Benvenuto Pl.
This isn’t your average trendy spot, frequented by influencers and popping up all over the ‘gram. Rather, Scaramouche has been quietly serving their meticulously crafted dishes to celebrities, politicians and big wigs for over 40 years. Hidden amongst high-end rental apartments in a residential area near Avenue Road and St. Clair, everything about Scaramouche is quiet elegance. Your visit starts with complimentary valet parking — a sure sign you’ve made it to the top. Inside, the space is relatively modern, complete with white tablecloths and impeccable service. From top to bottom, Keith Froggett’s menu is a total knockout, with dishes like roasted duck breast and plump scallops ready to bring a tear to your eye.
7. Richmond Station
1 Richmond St. W.
A restaurant helmed by a Top Chef Canada winner might sound like a glitzy, flash-in-the-pan, but almost a decade on, Carl Heinrich is still serving some of the best food in Toronto. Beyond the glowing service, consistently delicious food and robust wine offering, the friendly neighborhood spot is also flying the flag for sustainable eating. Heinrich is so committed to local and regenerative agriculture, he runs an organic garden at the New Farm in Creemore. The resulting seasonal fare and innovative takes on veggie dishes make skipping meat a no-brainer. Though, pastured beef and a stunningly house-cured charcuterie board give carnivores a guilt-free reason to keep coming back.
6. Akira Back
80 Blue Jays Way
From chef Akira Back, who garnered a Michelin Star for his restaurant in Seoul, his namesake Toronto restaurant offers an incredible experience, from the expertly crafted food and beverage program and the exceptional service right down to the show-stopping design. Created by Studio Munge, the charcoal black interior, outfitted with black marble columns and layers of gold detailing underneath a curving blue graphic ceiling is absolutely stunning. This magnificent space offers the perfect setting to tuck into the delectable menu of Japanese cuisine made with Korean flair. The sushi here goes way beyond your average maki, with rolls like the Brother from Another Mother, unagi topped with ponzu aioli and foie gras. The 48-hour wagyu short rib is so tender and juicy, it almost falls apart — if our mouths could climax, this dish would take us to the top every time.
5. Taverne Bernhardt’s
202 Dovercourt Rd.
We’re just gonna come out and say it: Bernhardt’s is the most fun you can have with your pants on. Which is exactly what we’d expect from Joe Beef alumni, Carmelina Imola and Zach Kolomeir, who bought Julie’s Snack Bar (note the old sign still hanging) back in 2020 and transformed it into this hidden oasis. Tucked away on Dovercourt, the bistro just oozes Montreal charm, with pretty plates adorned with colourful, local veggie dishes and their famous rotisserie chicken, delivered by attentive servers only too willing to wax lyrical on their splendid wine list. Bernhardt’s twinkly-lights patio is a real gem, but a meal inside their charming dining room is hardly chopped liver. C’est magnifique.
169 Niagara St.
Ahhhhhhhhh. That’s the sound of us ruminating fondly on the last meal we had at Edulis and Toronto collectively sighing with relief at the restaurant’s endurance. COVID might have thrown everything it had at this small-scale, unassuming tasting menu spot on Niagara Street, but Michael Caballo and Toby Nemeth are back at it, serving seasonal treats from their rooftop garden and wine pairings so spot-on they have been known to cause a string of expletives. Any time is a good time to scoff albacore tuna from B.C., wild chanterelle mushrooms and eye-wateringly excellent cheese — but if we had to pick, black truffle season might be the best time to splurge on a lights-out meal here.
163 Spadina Ave.
We get it — there’s a notable, tasting-menu-shaped hole on this list, but hear us out. To leave off Alo might seem like a glaring omission, with Patrick Kriss’s ambitious, culinary flashes of brilliance in evidence with every squeeze of his chef’s tweezers. But, Aloette — its cool sister, located below the Spadina spot on street level — has been serving up inspired (and hella delicious) dishes that have amassed a cult following all of its own. There’s a special time and place for white tablecloth dining, but not a day goes by when we wouldn’t crush Aloette’s jiggling slice of heavenly lemon meringue or that iceberg wedge salad (if you know, you know). What can we say? The student has become the master.
2. Bar Isabel
797 College St.
Few restaurants can swell the hearts of Torontonians with pride quite like Bar Isabel, Little Italy’s answer to the moodily lit tavernas and tapas bars of Barcelona. Step underneath the neon sign and through the wooden facade of this Iberian icon, where a world of fun and flavour awaits you. Music blasts and panache-filled dishes (hello, theatrically stabbed octopus) swirl around diners in such fashion that it’s scientifically impossible to dine at Bar Isabel and not want to keep the party going. Let the good times roll and live out those postponed Europe plans with cocktails like the Rambla Highball or the Spanish Fizz, and do not (we repeat, do not) skip the basque cake, slathered with piping hot sherry cream.
503 College St.
Nick Liu is not a fan of the term ‘fusion cuisine,’ but what he’s doing with Asian cuisine on College Street is anything but traditional (and we mean that in the best way possible). Liu, who grew up as the son of Hakka parents in Canada, frequently wows palates with a unique brand of Chinese food made with French cooking flair. From the whimsical Big Mac Bao, a steamed bun stuffed with ground beef, pickles and chef’s secret sauce, to the more sophisticated tasting menus that excited gastronomically starved Torontonians mid-pandemic, this cuisine has carved out a cultural blueprint for the city that others can only try to emulate. Order the hakka wontons and truffle fried rice, sip on a well crafted cocktail in the moodily chic dining room and watch your worldly worries slip away.
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