Destinations

Toronto's most talked about bars and restaurants

With the locals developing a taste for adventure, venue owners in Canada's largest city have had free rein to get experimental – much to the benefit of those just passing through.

By BTYB Destination Canada
As one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world, Toronto's cuisine is almost difficult to label. Yet, despite its global flavour inspirations, the city's wealth of local produce ensures big-flavoured dishes are standard on every menu. Heading to the Ontario capital? GT rounds up your city hit list.

Midtown

Midtown's mashup of districts promises plenty of creativity. From Bloor-Yorkville's luxury boutiques and day spas to the bohemian vibe of the University of Toronto and buzzy Koreatown, there's a spectrum of eateries and bars to pick from.
Barrio Coreano
Mexico meets Korea in this 75-seat concept on Bloor Street in Koreatown. Owner Dave Sidhu has employed a purposefully distressed aesthetic to the casual dining spot, with exposed brick, red neon lighting and metal seating amping up its gritty personality. Expect generous small plates of shareable snacks such as Korean beef, chipotle kampungki chicken and yuzu tuna; and a fun cocktail list with highlights including Kimchi Sours and Soju Sangrias. At Barrio Coreano, good times are guaranteed. 642 Bloor St, Toronto, playacabana.ca/barrio

Dreyfus
Head to the Harbord Street newcomer Dreyfus for unexpected natural wines, low-fuss French fare and Toronto's hippest crowds. Housed on the first floor of a long Victorian townhouse, Dreyfus has charm and then some: ever-changing menus are handwritten each day and there are only a couple of dozen seats. Chef Zach Kolomeir's (Joe Beef expat) menu of experiential small plates are inspired by his Jewish roots (think Montreal-sourced karnatzel sausages to be eaten with yellow mustard and bread) and come served on vintage china. Every now and then a waiter will come by and ask if you'd like more brodflour baguette — the answer is always yes. Desserts are no after-thought: opt for the warm madeleines dusted with powdered sugar. 96 Harbord St, Toronto, instagram.com/dreyfustoronto

Old Town

Toronto's historic heart brims with beautiful architecture and includes the 10 original blocks that made up the Town of York. Cafe hop your way around The Distillery Historic District and take in the Victorian-era industrial architecture, as well as local works at the many galleries.
St. Lawrence Market
St. Lawrence market is constantly buzzing with locals. Graze on sample plates of cheese, meats and breads and take in the hall's impressive architecture. Part of the Old City Hall, dating back to 1845, still features within the main building, constructed in 1902. 93 Front St, Toronto, stlawrencemarket.com

High Park

Once known as a sleepy community of European immigrants, High Park has emerged as one of Toronto's trendiest, food-orientated playgrounds. In the north, Junction has become a hangout favourite for local artists, replete with small galleries and cool coffee bars. Visit Bloor West Village for the European bakeries and specialty boutiques, and the cherry trees of High Park during peak bloom (late April to May).
Donna's
This relaxed neighbourhood hit is owned by Momofuku alumni and breathes the same brand of uncool confidence. Mismatched vintage decor and furniture lends the 30-seater an eclectic, homey feel that extends to its menu. Thoughtful and hyper-seasonal, the menu draws from Canadian and British classics: steamed clams in a green garlic and ham broth; lamb liver on toast; Lancashire cheese sandwiches with carrot chutney. Clued-in staff will talk you through a list of small-producer wines and craft beer, while the restaurant's open kitchen serves up plenty of entertainment. 827 Lansdowne Ave, Toronto, donnas.ca

City Centre

In the thick of the action, Toronto's City Centre spans the downtown Financial District and Entertainment District, to the Church-Wellesley Village, the unofficial headquarters of Toronto's LGBTQ community. Here you'll find tourist hot spots the CN Tower, the updated Union Station and Canada's Walk of Fame.
Alo Restaurant
Inspired by classic French techniques and powered by international flavours, the dishes on offer at Alo Restaurant don't miss a beat. The tasting menu restaurant (five-course menus start at CAD$90) is housed on the third floor of a historic Victorian building on the corner of Queen and Spadina. It's elegant without being stuffy, and features one of the most sophisticated wine programs in Canada. Since opening in 2015, Alo has topped critics' choice lists around the world. 163 Spadina Ave, Toronto, alorestaurant.com

Aloette
Last year, chef Patrick Kriss opened the decidedly more downscale Aloette, just downstairs from his fine-dining haven Alo. Here, Kriss' haute-cuisine is translated to diner-style bites: mac n' cheese, burgers, steaks. But don't be fooled by Aloette's relaxed demeanour — Alo's little sister maintains the same high level of service, hospitality and culinary smarts. Burger patties, cooked medium, come topped with Beaufort cheese, melted and browned under a salamander grill. 163 Spadina Ave 1st Floor, Toronto, aloetterestaurant.com

Westside

Westside is home to the city's hottest bars, restaurants, galleries and coffee shops. The entertainment district of Queen Street West is set against a backdrop of historic buildings and is the go-to neighbourhood for late-night restaurants and vintage stores. In the vibrant neighbourhood of Parkdale you'll find Vegandale, a burgeoning collective of ethically minded cafes, restaurants, bars and shops.
Giulietta
Simple, sophisticated and nothing like you'd expect. This award-winning Italian restaurant is the second venture by Canadian celebrity chef Rob Rossi, of Top Chef Canada fame. After five successful years heading up the critically acclaimed restaurant, Bestellen, Rossi shut-up shop and opened Giulietta in spring of 2018. Giulietta has garnered culinary cred from the city's in-the-know — a reservation is essential. Pared-back and luxe, Giulietta lets its food do the talking: handcrafted shellfish taglioni; thin-crust wood-fired pizzas topped with pistachios, lardo, cream, and smoked scamorza (order the namesake Giulietta); and special-occasion desserts such as caramelised apple soft serve. 72 College St, Toronto, giu.ca

Paris Paris
Come for the wine list, stay for the late-night bar snacks. Situated in a former gallery space with giant plate-glass windows that let in light throughout the day, Paris Paris offers a refined yet unpretentious experience for serious wine drinkers. Friendly bar staff will help you to navigate the wine list, which favours New World and biodynamic winemakers. Oenophiles can choose from 30 options by the glass, and from more than 150 bottles. Perfect for date nights and long catch-ups, the midnight menu ups-the-ante on bar bites with chicken liver mousse tartine and roast half chicken with piri piri among the highlights. You won't want to leave. 1161 Dundas St, Toronto, www.parisparis.ca

Planta Queen
One of Vegandale's newest additions, Planta Queen does vegan sushi and dim sum. Chef David Lee's menu is fuelled by Asian flavours inspired by his upbringing: kung pao eggplant and pineapple fried rice; plant-based nigiri; and Hakka-style stuffed-and-steamed tofu. Open for brunch, lunch and dinner, there's a wine list that offers sustainable, organic, biodynamic and vegan options, and cocktails made from house-infused spirits. The sleek, Chinese courtyard-inspired dining room is filled with banquet seating (Lazy Susans included). A fun riff on traditional Asian dining. 180 Queen St West,Toronto, plantarestaurants.com

Pow Wow Cafe
The pokey Kensington Market taco joint is the brainchild of Ontario restaurateur Shawn Adler. Wanting to bring the joy of Indigenous foods to Torontonians, Adler's eatery uses an Indigenous-inspired frybread base for all the tacos. Order in and watch Adler at work while you wait for your plate. 213 Augusta Ave, Toronto, instagram.com/powwowcafeto

Eastside

Toronto's east end is known for its indie boutiques and globe-trotting restaurant scene. Take in some of Toronto's best views from Riverdale Park or the rooftop at the Broadview Hotel — a 127-year-old neighbourhood landmark that has recently been transformed into a boutique hotel.

Beach Hill Smokehouse
Take a seat on one of the picnic benches and set yourself up with some paper towels. Run by two former football players (and cousins) from Louisiana, Beach Hill Smokehouse is reclaiming Southern barbecue's African-American roots. Here, smoked meats are offered by the half pound, cooked with oak wood, the most commonly used wood in Texas. Beach Hill serves up sweet-and-salty Angus brisket, finger-licking pork ribs and comforting, Southern-style sides such as poblano coleslaw, mac 'n' cheese and baked beans (a spicy combo of Heinz beans with Beach Hill's own sauces). The homemade peach iced tea and peach cobbler are not to be missed. 172 South Main St, Toronto, beachhillsmokehouse.com
Presented by Gourmet Traveller and Destination Canada
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