Toronto is in many ways a food lovers paradise, and we just wanted to share our thoughts on the restaurants we’ve tried in this wonderful city in the past four years. A * indicates a favourite of ours. We should note that we’ve avoided the pricey places, so most places here can give you a meal for two (without drinks) within about $35 (there are a few exceptions). Write to us with comments and suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. Buon Appetito!
467 Bloor St. W. (416) 840-9988
If you’re looking for a cheap, tasty and authentic Thai meal, this is the place to go. Their lunch specials are amazing; try the pad thai (the best in town, and they DON’T use ketchup!!), or the cashew nut chicken. If you’re going a la carte, don’t miss the Panang curry and the basil fried rice. The mango salad is a bit disappointing, but they do also have some great desserts and young coconut water.
525 Bloor St. W. (416) 588-8424
Though they have the best mango salad we’ve tried, they tend to be inconsistent and the atmosphere is gloomy. The mango salad is always good; the basil chicken is normally good; other things are a bit hit and miss.
179 Dundas W.; (416) 977-4712
Reasonably priced and reasonable tasting food; nothing exceptional.
597 Yonge St. (416) 922-6367
Cheap, convenient, fast Korean, and extremely tasty: better than the others we’ve had. Their bibimbop is excellent, and the Pork Bone Soup and Seaood Udon are outstanding (get the Seafood Udon Korean style for a dollar extra if you like it hot). The Kimchi Fried Rice and bbq options are really good too.
500 Queen St. W.; (416) 366-1220
More upmarket than Thai Thani; though it says it’s been voted best Thai, we found the food just ok; nothing memorable.
730 Yonge St. (416) 928-0021
Mediocre at best; the pad thai is ketchupy.
Probably the most popular chain for this sort of food; judging from the line-ups you would think this is the best pan-Asian restaurant in town. The décor is hip and the food is certainly good, but not as good as the hype.
730 Yonge St. (416) 964-8410
The only ‘noodlery’ in town. You fill a bowl with vegetables, choose your noodle, protein and sauce, and wait for it to be stir-fried and brought to you. It’s fun to do, and pretty good, but probably not worth the price.
578 Yonge St. (416) 323-9819
Greasy, disappointing so-called Szechuan food.
18 El m St. (416) 977-6748
They just re-opened one of our favourite Thai restaurants, which has an extremely elegant dining atmosphere, a good, upmarket (and pricey) Thai buffet (the à la carte menu is outside our price range). One of the treats is the soup bar.
39 Baldwin St. (416) 596-2832
Our new favourite restaurant. Everything is outstanding quality, and the seafood is exquisite. A bit pricey, but the quality is worth the expense. Our favourite dishes: sambal udang, nasi lemak, cashew nut prawn and mango chicken (it’s a bit difficult for vegetarians to find much here). The desserts are excellent too.
126 Elizabeth St. (416) 977-0933
If you like Hakka or Szechuan inspired Chinese dishes, you should try their chilli chicken and Hakka noodles, probably the best we’ve had downtown. It’s greasy but tasty and fast, and the price is not too bad.
130 St. George St. (just outside Robarts)
How can you not be tempted to buy from this cute truck that stands outside Robarts Library? Freshly stir-fried food at by far the best of the food trucks on campus. You get a heaping box of rice or noodles with vegetables or meat for $5; the ingredients always taste fresh (though they sometimes run out of stuff by evening). Our favourites are the Shanghai noodles and the country style noodles.
With many downtown branches, this is a convenient option when you’re craving Korean meat. It’s great for meataholics: the all you can eat bbq gets you several platefuls of raw meat to grill for yourself. It’s a lot of fun, and you’ll always see plenty of spectators on the street looking on as you grill your food on the sunken grill in the middle of the table. Served with kimchi, radishes, tofu and sprouts.
649 Yonge St. (416) 972-7692
This slightly dingy Korean bistro with friendly waitresses (who often speak little English) and Korean-English hip-hop on the stereos is very popular with the young Koreans downtown. They make a mean BBQ spicy chicken with what they call a suicide sauce (for us, it’s never been as lethal as the waitress thinks – she always looks worried when we order it), and reliable bulgogi, kalbi and soups. Not as good as the best in Koreatown, but cheap and convenient if you’re downtown. A word of warning: take a look at the health inspector’s sign on the door.
Home of Hot Taste
710 Yonge St. (416) 975-0000
They say they’re a very popular chain in Korea, and they provide a Korean-style pub atmosphere (two TVs with sports). The blazing fire chicken is indeed blazing, and the pork bone soup and kimchi fried rice are also really good. Be warned that here, some of the really spicy stuff can burn a hole in your stomach.
41 Charles St. W. (416) 967-3388
Our favourite sushi place in Toronto gives you fresh, well-balanced, and extremely tasty sushi; quite cheap – not as cheap as Sushi on Bloor, but much better. They do an excellent job with the usual favourites; the yam tempura and the spicy tuna roll are particularly good.
604 Church St. (416) 934-9990
254 Queen St. W. (416) 848-9456 / 2352 Yonge St. (416) 322-6860
A busy restaurant that serves reliable versions of Japanese/Korean standards. Their lunch bento boxes are good deals, and the kalbi and bibimbop are tasty.
350 Spadina Ave. (416) 593-4274
Pho Hung serves good pho with interesting options like beef balls and tripe. Filling and inexpensive.
328 Spadina Ave. (416) 596-8898
They serve dumplings! To rats!!! (Just kidding – but they did fail the health inspection this year…) We think their dumplings are overrated, but they always seem to draw quite a few people.
Peter’s Chung King
281 College St. (416) 928-2936
Though this restaurant claims to have the best Szechuan in town, we found the food mediocre at best. The service ranges from indifferent to unfriendly.
222 The Esplanade (416) 203-8811
Korean/Japanese, with good lunch specials, and tasty bulgogi in spicy sauce.
487 Bloor St. W. (416) 975-9986
This has the best falafel and shawarma downtown; the ingredients are always fresh and tasty, and you can get it on whole-wheat pita too. It’s also extremely cheap, and open till after midnight (till 4 a.m. Thu-Sat). Expect a line-up at peak times.
508 Yonge St. (416) 929-8893
Good value for money; the kebabs are always extremely tender and flavourful and the saffron-barberry rice is simply exquisite. All meals come with warm, fresh lahvash bread and butter, which is always a treat, and the main dishes also have either salad or grilled tomatoes. The curries are also excellent: try the fesenjoon: chicken in walnut and pomegranate curry. Can get very busy in the evenings and sometimes at lunch.
390 Steeles Ave. West. (906) 764-6440
This restaurant has been voted the best middle-eastern in Toronto for many years, and it seems to deserve that. Everything is fresh and packed with flavour; the kebabs are outstanding and the labaneh and mujadarah are wonderful. You can also stock up on groceries at the store attached to the restaurant, or take out dips and fast food.
668 Yonge St. (416) 916-1272
It’s supposed to be Turkish, but the name itself reveals that it’s not that authentic. If you get it with lots of garlic and chilli sauce, the adana sandwich is excellent, and costs just $5. The other stuff is watered-down Turkish: ok, but not great, and can’t compare to the doners of England and Germany (and they have no lamb doner!). Open till 3 a.m. on weekends
777 Queen St. West (416) 777-2268
This funky Persian restaurant was started by a U of T grad student, and aims to provide something like an Iranian student hangout place. Most things are organic (and therefore a bit pricey); the kebabs are excellent, and come with a lovely flatbread, though we missed eating them with saffron rice.
1365 Gerard St. E. (416) 406-4668
Tasty but a tad expensive, this is probably the most popular Pakistani place in town (evidenced by their never-ending renovation). The kababs and biryani are very good, if oily; the kulfi is also excellent.
11 Charles St. W. (416) 964-1616
Run by a very friendly Pakistani guy, this tiny place provides a ridiculously cheap, but also bad buffet; excellent kabab rolls; and an inconsistent biryani that can be fantastic at times, and at other times is just chicken and rice. The service is extremely iffy.
14 Prince Arthur Ave (416) 962-4678
This is the best Indian buffet we’ve had downtown: authentic, and excellent Indian food (albeit slightly more muted than would be the case in India). Unfortunately the buffet is on only Thursday to Sunday, and the naans – on their à la carte, the best we’ve had in North America – are not so good at the buffet. The butter chicken is the best; other notables are the paneer tawa masala, daal makhani, nawabi seekh kabab, and murg mirch tikka.
71 Jarvis St. (416) 368-8048
The picture of Bill Clinton shaking hands with the proprietor says it all: the food remained good after Clinton left the White House, but seems to have lost heart along the way (with Bush’s re-election perhaps).
1920 Ellesmere Rd. (416) 439-9234
Indian Chinese: if you’ve every tried it before, and liked it, this is the best we’ve had in Toronto. They have everything from Hakka chowmein to chilli chicken and chicken pakoras, and they even give you vinegar chillies with the food! It’s also extremely cheap, and fast.
861 Danforth Ave. (416) 461-9238
Indian Chinese downtown: not as good as Federick’s, but they do affordable, tasty Hakka food (the Hakka chowmein is disappointing, though, and the hot & sour soup is just bad). Try the Indian style chopsuey or the Manchurian fried rice, and be sure to get their special hot sauce.
712 Queen St. W. (416) 306-1896
Run by an extremely sweet couple, this cute restaurant is decorated with breathtaking pictures of Tibet. The momos are excellent, as is the sauce that comes with them.
2646 Islington Ave (416) 745-4449
Excellent, fresh, vegetarian (Indian) Punjabi food. Don’t miss the samosas (though if you’re taking out a lot, you’ll have to haggle to get enough chutney).
4559 Hurontario St., Mississauga Market Place. (905) 290 0769
The most authentic, tastiest South Indian food we’ve had outside of India; their weekend brunch is excellent and good value, and the chutneys are wonderful (the idlis are not so great, though). The brunch is also the best thing to go for; the thaalis aren’t so good. If you go for the weekend brunch, be prepared to queue.
630 Bloor St. W. (416) 483-3593
Good Malayalee food, and the only such restaurant in TO that we know.
880 Ellesmere Rd. (416) 299-4311
Excellent Sri Lankan Food. Ask for it mild, or line your stomach with iron!
307 Wellesley St. E. (416) 929-2099
Pricey, but good; convenient because it’s really the only Sri Lankan downtown.
1460 Gerard St. E. (416) 405-8189
OK South Indian food; nowhere near as good as the Udupi places in India.
1330 Gerard East Toronto; (416) 406-0786
We were delighted when they opened here, having tried the original Montreal branch. Outstanding (Pakistani) Punjabi biryanis and curries – in our opinion, the best Pakistani in Indiatown. The curries are authentic and fiery: try the mutton achari qorma, keema fry, and the Lahrori fish is wonderful. And even better: they deliver downtown (Bloor and Yonge)! Be warned, though, that all the curries are literally (yes, literally!) drowning in oil.
Update January 2009: they no longer deliver L
480 Sheppard Ave E. (416) 298-2228
Although a bit chaotic (they sometimes mix up your order), but according to what we heard, and our own tastes, it’s the best Sri Lankan in the Toronto area. Try the mutton roast.
398 Church St. (416) 595-6434
The cab-driver’s favourite. Cheap and reasonable Pakistani fast food; the biryani is pretty good, the other stuff is ok.
69 Yorkville Ave (416) 961-8349
The extremely affable proprietor of this small but unassuming Yorkville place (with fortunately not really Yorkville prices) serves up good, reliable North Indian food; the saag paneer is outstanding.
820 Church St. (416) 515-8188
Another cab-driver’s favourite; this one has a much larger selection than Mehran, but the quality is about the same, and rather too greasy for our taste.
517 Yonge St. (416) 924 5787
Reliable Indian standards and some Nepali dishes at reasonable prices.
594 College St. (416) 534-4637
A friendly, pleasant café, good place to watch the Euro cup, and they offer you some flexibility, since you can choose the combination of sauce and pasta you want. Try the gnocchi with the rosé or alla vodka sauce, but pass on the pizze.
207 Queens Quay West (416) 861-1028
Ok Italian food; the linguine al frutti di mare is pretty good, but overall, this place disappointed us. But then, we’re big Terroni fans.
720 Queen St. W. (416) 504-0320 / 1 Balmoral Ave. (416) 925-4040 / 47 Adelaide St. E. (416) 203-3093
From starters (try the funghi assoluti) to desserts to booze (try the limoncello, or the vin santo with biscotti), it’s wonderful, wonderful, wonderful!!! Italian food as good (and sometimes better) than Italy! They have a rustic interior with wooden booths and pictures of Italian villages on the walls. Almost everything we’ve tried is outstanding. The pizzas are on amazingly thin crusts with very flavourful toppings, the daily pastas (all homemade) are exquisite (try the ricotta and chestnut ravioli in porcini and marsala cream sauce if they have it, or the ravioli di mamma rita). If you like it spicy, ask for the hot peppers in olive oil. Their desserts are also outstanding (tiramisu to die for!!!). We’ve found the Balmoral location to be the most consistent in terms of quality, but the Queen West location is cuter; the Adelaide location is massive but cool, and draws an upmarket crowd.
97 Harbord St. (416) 920-2186
Skip the pizzas, but go for the delicious Mediterranean inspired food. The goat cheese phyllo triangles are a wonderful start to the meal and the Cornish hens delight! The desserts are delicious too.
300-225 King St. W. (416) 351-9393
An excellent place for pre-theatre or pre-concert Greek mezes; they do good tzatziki and taramasalata, excellent lamb chops, ok moussaka. Don’t miss the flambéed saganaki!!
1475 Danforth Ave (416) 778-7870
The only Tunisian restaurant we know of in Toronto. The service is a bit slow – the proprietor does everything on his own. The couscous isn’t as great as what we’ve had in Paris, but still good; the merguez platter is amazing.
270 Bloor St. W. (416) 960-3877
Good, reliable Italian food; the pizzas are very good (try the bocconcini pizza), though we think not as good as Terroni’s.
36A Prince Arthur Ave. (416) 323-0636
This cozy Yorkville trattoria has a romantic patio with a lovely leafy canopy, and does really good southern Italian food; all their seafood pastas are especially good.
2035 Yonge St. (416) 440-1986
This cute and charming restaurant with wooden tables and vintage posters lining the walls has good Italian food; it is also a favourite among the literary circles of Toronto, and functions as a sort of salon for the artsy crowd, with plenty of readings and other events.
15 Toronto St. (416) 366-4657
This cutely-decorated popular Italian bistro draws in the Bay Street crowd till it’s busting open at the seams at lunchtime on weekdays. They have the usual fare of panini, pasta and pizza, all of which are pretty good – but nothing to get genuine Italian mammas too excited.
302 College St. (416) 967-0527
Go here for those midnight cravings and indulge in a slice of cheesy goodness. Try the hot peppers if you like it spicy.
189 Harbord St. (416) 535-4444
Good place to grab a slice for a quick bite.
Latin American (inspired)
872 Bloor St. W (416) 913-4227
This small Bloor Street place has an extremely friendly proprietor, who loves to talk about Nicaragua and even put on a documentary on the tv for us. The food is simple but tasty, and reasonably priced. For $10 you get a heaping plateful of rice, beans, plantains, avocado and cheese.
161 Harbord St. (416) 961-7676
This is a cute, charming and romantic restaurant, and a long-time favourite. The menu is Peruvian and Peruvian-inspired, and most things on their relatively short menu are excellent. Skip Lick’s to try the amazing boulevard burger with a spiced patty topped with guacamole and served with outstanding Yukon gold fries and salad. The char-broiled brochettes are also exceptional, and come with a great dipping sauce. They also do a pretty good Sunday brunch, but though it’s good, it’s not the best way to try their stuff. In the summers, they have a wonderful covered patio, and in other seasons you can sit in their cosy indoor rooms decked with pictures of Peruvian villagers. They also do some wonderfully boozy cocktails – try their mojito. The upstairs has a fireplace and is even cuter than the downstairs, but sometimes the food takes a little longer to get to you there.
Big Fat Burrito
285 Augusta Ave (416) 913-7487
Filling, cheap and tasty burritos; you can choose what level of spice you want (and very spicy is very spicy). They have limited seating, and the line-ups can be long at lunch. The yam burrito is excellent.
202 Dovercourt Rd. (416) 532-7397
A very cute and cozy tapas place, which occupies the ground floor of a house in a nice west-end neighbourhood. The food is good, but not great; go for the atmosphere.
828 Bloor St. W. (416) 537-6693
Reliable Mexican food; be warned that the vegetables are essentially heated up from bags of frozen stuff.
The Real Jerk
709 Queen St. E. (416) 463-6055
It lives up to the name by serving excellent jerk chicken; the rotis are better (but much further away) at Vena’s.
606 Yonge St.; 450 Yonge St.; 45 Overlea Blvd (416) 966-2005
OK fast-food Caribbean.
1263 Bloor St. West; (416) 532-3665
Many signs proclaim that they’ve been voted the best roti in town, and after the closing of Marcia’s lovely Island Thyme, this certainly is the best we know of. Every year, inspired by their daughter’s birthday wish many years ago, they serve up over 1,000 free meals to the homeless of their neighbourhood.
Sandwiches, burgers, pub food
58 The Esplanade (416) 862-7575; 600 King St. W. (416) 862-1175)
Outstanding pub food! Their mussels are the best, the sausage platter is excellent, and they have over 100 beers to choose from. Not cheap at all, but a great place for a special treat.
483 Bloor St. W. (416) 922-5875
A popular café for the midnight student crowd – after 11 pm Thursdays to Saturdays, it’s hard to find an empty spot on the patio. The sandwiches and burgers are decent, as is most of the regular ‘pub’ fare. Most people come for the deals on the beer… Don’t miss the fabulous cheesecake!
152 Spadina Ave. (416) 504-4494
If you’re looking for a relaxing, fresh-brewed cup of coffee to go with reading the paper, this is the place to go. Their croissants and cookies are excellent, and they have lovely sandwiches and salads too.
100 Bloor Street West (416) 961-6226
A very chi-chi, very pricey place that serves tasty, fresh, and innovative sandwiches; way overpriced for what you get, but what d’you expect: it’s Yorkville.
490 Bloor Street West (416) 516-7776
Funky place that serves outstanding fish and chips (the halibut is best). Try their hot pepper and garlic mayos; the other sauces and the coleslaw are also really good. Weirdly, they don’t stay open late.
603 Yonge St. (416) 920-6288
A friendly Yonge street joint that’s very popular on weekend evenings, and quite affordable. They do a good New York steak, and nice weekend brunches; some of the daily specials are also really good. Live music on some weekend nights.
197 ½ Baldwin St. (Kensington Market) (416) 340-6262; 293 Roncesvalles Ave. (416) 537-1882
We’ve only tried the Kensington location, which serves up very tasty organic beef and bison burgers, a range of wraps and salads, and decent brunches. Some of the daily specials are really good, and if you want to imbibe the vibe, they have a few stools and a counter outside so that you can stare at Kensington pass you by as you dig into the outstanding sweet potato fries with garlic mayo – the best thing on the menu.
New Yorker Deli
1140 Bay St. (416) 923-3354
Head to this cool New York taxicab-themed deli for classic Reubens and latkes with sour cream. Not cheap, but tasty and very filling, and the homemade lemonade is zingy.
Mel’s Montreal Deli
440 Bloor Street West (416) 966-8881
They’re always open – but that’s the main draw. If you want deli food at less unusual hours, the New Yorker Deli is your best bet; the food at Mel’s is fine for after a night of excessive imbibing at the Annex, but at other times, it will probably disappoint.
The Rectory Café
Ward’s Island (416) 203-2152
Good sandwiches and dip platters and very good desserts – try the Calebaut brownie. The best part, of course, is being on the island, just off the boardwalk – this is the only place on the island that serves genuinely good food, not just the usual fast food junk.
67 Front Street East (416) 867-9499
Go here for your favourite pub fare: the lamb burgers and the chicken strips are especially tasty, but everything is good, and they have live music on many weekend nights.
Ok panini, freshly squeezed juices; a good place to hang out with your laptop while getting a quick bite.
Le petit dejeuner
191 King St. E. (416) 763-1560
This is a cute and charming breakfast joint that often has line-ups just to get in; the delicious breakfast fare is definitely worth the wait – wonderfully light Belgian waffles with strawberries, organic maple syrup and chantilly cream and delicious eggs that come with an apple coleslaw. If only their orange juice were freshly squeezed.
Vietnamese subs – Nguyen Hu’o’ng
322 Spadina Ave. (416) 599-9927
Of the many places for these fusion sandwiches, this is the one we prefer. The subs come in half-sized, sort-of-French baguettes, with paté, cold cuts (both not quite French, but not quite what you’d associate with south-east Asia either), some vegetables and chilli if you like it spicy. At $1.75, it’s a steal.
Canadian, Fusion, and other cuisines
4 Gilead Place (647) 288-0680
This cute café with walls lined with bottles of pickled vegetables, sauces and preserves is just off King Street E., and is the latest edition to Jamie Kennedy’s stable of restaurants. Drop in to sample wonderful cheeses, tarts and salads; or enjoy their freshly prepared sandwiches like the fried halloumi with heirloom tomatoes and caramelised onions. Everything is fresh and delicious and of the highest quality and the best part is it’s AFFORDABLE!
7 Hart House Circle (416) 978-2445
One of our favourite restaurants. The main dining room overlooking the chapel in Hart House (University of Toronto), and the cozy lounge has a display case with antique violas, and a beautiful view over the park. They offer a fresh and seasonal menu, with each dish carefully crafted to highlight the time of year, and paired with a local wine; everything on the menu is excellent. Closed Saturdays, but try their Sunday brunch. It closes in July and August.
478 Queen Street West (416) 504-5127
Vegan, cute, atmospheric, and serves tapas-style food; for us, somewhat overpriced, and not so tasty.
696 Queen Street West (416) 203-8882
One of the most charming and romantic restaurants ever, with very cute couches and lamps, and pictures of cats. The many teas are excellent; the main dishes are unique: fusion that actually works. Their desserts are atrocious, however: dry and flavourless and drowned in inches of icing. Be warned that this is also a very pricey place, with somewhat eccentric timings and changing menus
1033 Bay Street (416) 923-8159
Though the menu offers innovative items like Asian pear salad with mango chutney and blue cheese, lamb roganjosh with mashed potatoes and feta, and grilled mahi-mahi with coconut sauce and rice pilaf; the food is on the whole underwhelming and the high prices seem to only be justified by the cutlery.
4 Irwin Ave. (416) 923-5438
Good downtown Ethiopian, though for the real thing, try one of the places on Bloor, west of Koreatown.
750 Bloor Street W. (416) 962-4734
Interesting flavours and good home made ice cream (try the roasted marshmallow); for us, nothing beats good gelato (rare in Toronto).
787 Queen St. W. (416) 584-2870; 2638 Yonge St. (416) 484-9080; 1917 Queen St. E. (416) 699-4900
One of the best patisseries we’ve tried in Toronto. They supply many of the big restaurants and coffee shops (including Second Cup). The lemon tart is one of the best we’ve tried: wonderfully tart, silky texture and perfect crisp pastry. The white chocolate raspberry mousse cake is the best we’ve ever had; a must for all birthdays!
287 Augusta Ave. (416) 236-7585
It’s all about the crust – and this has got to be the best pie-crust we’ve tasted in Toronto! They have all your favourite pies: strawberry-rhubarb; Swiss apple; wild blueberry; peach; chocolate pecan – get a slice with a scoop of ice cream or a whole pie to go in a charming box!
1801 Lawrence Ave. E., Unit 9 (416) 755-6323
The most exquisite baklava in the GTA! The Syrians are known for the best sweets and food in the Middle East; unlike Greek baklava (too sweet and syrupy for our taste), or the cheap stuff you get at Rabba, this is pure heaven in a bite!!! They’re so popular, they offer UPS delivery of baklava to your door, anywhere in North America…
1095 Yonge St. (416) 927-1105
Excellent pastries and elegant cakes for special occasions; the almond croissants have a lovely texture (but not sufficient filling).
215 Madison Ave. (416) 926-0303
If you like nuts, pastry and fruit, go here! Their frangipane tarts are simply scrumptious, and the other stuff is excellent too.
1357 St. Clair Ave. West (416) 656-2340
Good gelato is hard to find in Toronto, and this is one of the few places that supplies it (though it’s not as good as the best in Italy). It’s a bit far to go just for gelato, though.