Food & Drink

50 Things to Eat in Toronto Before You Die

Published On 10/28/2015 Published On 10/28/2015

Food is a big deal in Toronto. Not only do we need it to live, but we’ve come into our own as a foodie destination. New restaurants are constantly opening, and chefs continue to push culinary boundaries to come up with new and innovative ideas. It’s a bit dizzying just how MUCH good stuff there is to eat here. But don’t be daunted. We did the gut-busting work for you and distilled Toronto’s food scene down to 50 absolute must-eats across the city.

Flickr/Lucas Richarz

1. Peameal bacon sandwich

Carousel Bakery (address and info)
St. Lawrence Market
If Anthony Bourdain says you gotta eat it, well, then what choice do you have? But seriously, this is an iconic Toronto food item for a reason. The deceptively simple sandwich consists of griddled peameal on a bun. No more, no less. The goal here is to highlight the salty, smoky goodness of the bacon.

2. Khao soi

Khao San Road (address and info)
Entertainment District
We’ve talked about the addictive and authentic khao soi from Khao San Road before, but it really can’t be left off a list of must-eats in the city. Get your bowl of egg noodle filled with aromatic golden curry and chicken or tofu.

3. Gran fritto misto

A3 Napoli (address and info)
Little Italy
Meant to be shared, the gran fritto misto platter at this casual spot in Little Italy is a decadent mess of fried snacks. In the golden and perfectly crunchy pile you might find rapini, zucchini, cauliflower, any number of other seasonal veggies, arancini, and a rotating roster of seafood. Everything comes hot out of the friggitrice, a special deep fryer imported from Naples.
 

Flickr/ayngelina

4. Susur's Signature Singaporean-style Slaw

Lee (address and info)
King West

When is a salad not just a salad? When it has 19 ingredients and looks almost too pretty to eat. Susur Lee’s towering tangle of shredded vegetables is a salad like no other and really needs to be seen (and eaten) to be believed.

5. Kings Crown nachos

Sneaky Dees (address and info)
Little Italy
There are countless places to get a plate of nachos in Toronto, but Sneaky Dee’s is usually the first name uttered when the topic of cheese-covered chips comes up. The Kings Crown is a massive, sharable platter of crispy corn tortillas topped with salsa roja, frijoles, ground beef, tomatoes, onions, mixed peppers, jalapeños, melted cheese, guacamole, AND sour cream.

Flickr/Sun Brockie

6. Empanada

Jumbo Empanadas (address and info)
Kensington Market

This Kensington Market staple specializes in authentic Chilean food, and the small yet justifiably popular spot has been turning out beef, chicken, and veggie-packed empanadas since 1991. It’s worth a trip to Kensington to dig into one.

7. Smoked meat sandwich

Caplansky’s Delicatessen (address and info)
Little Italy
We don’t have Schwartz’s, but we do have Caplansky’s. What began as a tiny pop-up restaurant in the Monarch Tavern has grown into a mini empire, with several locations (including two in the airport) and a Caplansky’s food truck. But the sandwich that started it all remains a Toronto must-try.

Flickr/Robert

8. Pupusas

Tacos El Asador (address and info)
Christie Pits
You might assume that we’d be telling you to order tacos at a place with tacos in the name, but there’s more to Tacos El Asador than, well, tacos. It’s hard to go wrong with anything on the menu, but the pupusas, a Salvadorian staple, shouldn’t be missed. The fried corn cakes are stuffed with cheese and refried beans, served piping hot and lightly crisp on the outside and soft and melty on the inside.

Bang Bang Ice Cream and Bakery

9. Ice cream sandwich

Bang Bang Ice Cream and Bakery (address and info)
Ossington

Bang Bang makes all of their ice cream in house in unique flavours like burnt toffee, London fog, and cinnamon toast, as well as the variety of cookies that ice cream gets crammed between. Use them to customize the ultimate ice cream sandwich, one that, trust us, will be worth lining up for.

10. Baja fish tacos

Seven Lives (address and info)
Kensington
Debate about where to get the best tacos in Toronto will continue to rage. But in the meantime, we say go straight to Seven Lives and nab yourself some Baja fish tacos, and let the debate go on knowing that you made a sound decision.

Moo Frites

11. Belgian fries

Moo Frites (address and info)
Kensington
Fresh fries are not hard to come by in most cities, Toronto being no exception. But as we all know, not all fries are created equal. The spuds here are fried up Belgian style, meaning they are thick cut, golden, crisp, and fluffy on the inside. For an extra dollar you can get them fried in beef fat, which we highly advise. Oh, and forget plain ketchup, there are 18 different house-made sauces here to dress up your fries with.

Poutini's

12. Poutine

Poutini’s House of Poutine (address and info)
Queen West
Poutine wars might not be as feverish here as they are in Montreal, but that doesn’t mean Torontonians aren’t passionate about their curds. The gravy-and-cheese-laden fries at this tiny take-out spot drew crowds from the get-go. Fries are hand-cut daily and twice-fried before being topped with rich house-made gravy and curds brought in fresh from Maple Dale Farms.

13. Lettuce meal

Chantecler (address and info)
Parkdale
Do yourself a favour and head to this tiny Parkdale eatery and order the lettuce meal. The DIY dinner consists of braised beef and slow-cooked pork shoulder, steamed rice, house pickles, sauces, and lettuce leaves to wrap it all up in. Not only is this dish incredibly flavourful, but fun to eat since you get to mix and match what goes into each bite.

Flickr/jlaceda

14. Margherita D.O.P.

Pizzeria Libretto (address and info)
Multiple locations
There are now several locations of this much-loved pizzeria, but at one time the only way you could get your hands on it was by lining up in the narrow vestibule of the first location on Ossington. No matter where you get it, the beauty of biting into that blistered crust topped simply with tomato sauce, basil, and mozzarella never gets old.

Pancho's

15. Churros

Pancho’s Bakery (address and info)
Multiple locations
You can never go wrong with the cinnamon and sugar-coated fried dough from Pancho’s. Get it filled with dulce de leche for the ultimate sugar high.

Junked Food Co.

16. Smash bag

Junked Food Co. (address and info)
Dundas West
What do you get when you take a bag of Doritos and fill it with lettuce, tomato, onion, cheddar, olives, jalapeño, sour cream, and chili sauce? You get a smash bag, and you disregard the promise you made to yourself to finally eat healthy when you dig in. You can also get your smash bag topped with pulled pork, poutine, chicken, or cheddar mac and cheese.

Dirty Bird

17. Fried chicken and waffles

The Dirty Bird (address and info)
Kensington
Toronto finally has a place dedicated exclusively to chicken and waffles, and they are happy about it. Purists will want to order the ODB, which gets you a crunchy on the outside, moist on the inside boneless thigh & leg atop a maple buttered waffle and coated with “dirty sauce”, the recipe of which is a secret.

St. Urbain Bagel

18. Sesame bagel

St. Urbain (address and info)
St. Lawrence Market, Eglington West
This is about as close to a Montreal-style bagel as you’re going to get without actually going to Montreal. They’re crisp on the outside, dense and chewy on the inside and perfect with a schmear of cream cheese.

Courtesy of Carmen

19. Paella Del Carmen

Carmen (address and info)
Queen West
Shrimp, clams, mussels, chorizo, chicken and saffron come together in a perfect marriage of flavours and textures in Carmen’s signature paella. Order when you arrive, this baby takes upwards of 40 minutes to get to your table, sip sangria and then get ready to sit back and enjoy a taste of Spain.

20. Salted caramel sour cream milkshake

Wallace & Co. (address and info)
Bloordale
There’s something about milkshakes that can instantly transport you back to childhood in one simple sip. But sometimes you want something a little more grown up -- that’s this milkshake from Wallace and Co. The sweet (but not too sweet) combo of salted caramel and sour cream is a standout. But be warned -- this is one thick shake.

Bobette & Belle

21. Raspberry macaron

Bobbette & Belle (address and info)
Queen East
Bobbette & Belle macarons are renowned for a reason. They’re light, fluffy, and full of flavour no matter which one you get your hands on. But there’s something about the slight tartness of the raspberry that perfectly balances the sweetness of the delicate shell.

Flickr/Brendan Lynch

22. Toast and butter donut

Glory Hole Doughnuts (address and info)
Parkdale
Pick a donut, any donut. No matter what catches your eye at Parkdale’s Glory Hole, it’ll be worthy of your hard-earned cash. The signature flavour, though, is always worth a second (or third) look. The handmade frosted doughnut is topped with a house made brown butter frosting, sweet bread crumbs, and cinnamon. Buy two.

23. Butter croissant

Tempered Room (address and info)
Parkdale
There are countless places to get a croissant in the city, but there’s only one place you should be getting a croissant and that’s the Tempered Room. These are the real deal, flakey, light, and oh-so-buttery.

24. The house special

Porchetta and Co. (address and info)
Dundas West
This tiny shop churns out porchetta sandwiches the city has been raving about since they opened. Go for the house special: 4oz of porchetta and crackling with truffle sauce, parmesan, mustard, and hot sauce.

Flickr/snowpea&bokchoi

25. Phố đặc biệt

Pho Tien Thanh (address and info)
Ossington
This is one of mega-chef Susur Lee’s go-to spots for pho, which could be incentive enough to drop by. But the bare bones eatery on Ossington can stand behind its slurp-worthy dish without the need for Top Chef star power. The special beef noodle soup is a big ol’ bowl of rich star anise-kissed broth you won’t mind ignoring your dining companion to get to the bottom of.

Home of the Brave

26. Buffalo cauliflower

Home of the Brave (address and info)
King West
Sure, chicken wings have their place, but we’ll do you one better, and it’s even (kind of) healthy. Home of the Brave turns the humble floret into a cruciferous cousin of the chicken wing by dousing it in a beer batter and serving it up with Buffalo hot sauce and ranch dressing.

27. Fish sandwich

Honest Weight (address and info)
Junction
Pan-seared fish (what you get varies depending on the day) gets paired with herbaceous dill mayo and served up on a squishy fresh bun with a side of coleslaw. It’s messy, it’s tasty, and the simplicity highlights the nuances of whatever catch is being featured that day.

Abokichi

28. Onigiri

Abokichi (address and info)
Annex
This adorable Annex eatery is one of the only places in the city to get onigiri, Japanese rice balls in varying flavour combos. Try the gomoku -- shiitake, fried tofu, burdock root, carrot mixed with sweet and savoury rice.

29. Charcuterie

Black Hoof (address and info)
Dundas West
If you’re going to get charcuterie anywhere in the city it should really be Black Hoof, which singlehandedly tuned Toronto in to house-made, offcut-centric charcuterie. The tiny spot has been going strong for almost a decade and continues to pack in long-time fans and first-timers alike.

Black Camel

30. Beef brisket sandwich

Black Camel (address and info)
Rosedale
Black Camel has been serving up solid sandwiches since 2004. The briskets they use for this sandwich take five days to prepare. After being given a dry rub they marinate for three days, get slow-cooked for 12 hours and then rest for 24 hours -- so it’s safe to say that it’s gonna be ridiculously tender.

31. Pressed Cubano sandwich

La Cubana (address and info)
Ossington, Roncesvalles
Gruyère cheese, red onion, slow-roasted pork shoulder, black forest ham, grainy mustard, and mayo get squished together in harmony between slices of house-baked bread. It’s a beautiful thing.

Hawker Bar

32. Laksa

Hawker Bar (address and info)
Ossington
Now that we’ve marching steadily towards soup season, it’s time to get your spoons primed and ready. One of the best bowls on the block is from Singapore street-food joint Hawker Bar where the hearty laksa sees rice noodles, Chinese eggplant, tofu puffs, and other veggies swim in spicy coconut curry broth for a belly-warming dish that’s perfect for dealing with dropping temperatures.

33. Big mac bao

LoPan (address and info)
Little Italy
Sorry golden arches, there’s a new big mac in town. This one, from Nick Liu's LoPan, is a playful take on the fast food burger and gets you a steamed bun filled with pork, beef, pickles, lettuce, and special sauce.

Carens Wine and Cheese Bar

34. Brie and blue fondue

Carens Wine Bar (address and info)
Yorkville
Blue cheese, brie cheese, melty, rich, and bubbling away together in what has to be the perfect combo of oozy fondue goodness. Need we say more?

35. Quinoa onion rings

Fresh (address and info)
Multiple locations
Fresh is a restaurant known for its healthy vegetarian and vegan food, so you might be wondering why we’re telling you to get the onion rings, but trust us when we say get the onion rings. Battered in breadcrumbs and puffed quinoa they’re impossibly crunchy and highly addictive.

Patios

36. Kimchi potstickers

Patios (address and info)
Dundas West
There are a lot of interesting, worthwhile items on the menu at this Jamaican-Chinese fusion spot, but if you’re going to get one thing, make it the kimchi potsitckers. The pierogi-style dumplings are served with caramelized onions, bacon, and kimchi flavored sour cream with a sprinkle of scallions on top.

37. Ultimate grilled cheese

Uncle Betty’s Diner (address and info)
Lytton Park
Do you like your grilled cheese like a sandwich or like a meal? Hint: like a meal is the only acceptable answer, and you can do that with ease at Uncle Betty’s. Their classic cheesy sandwich consists of melted cheddar, a slab of homemade mac and cheese and topped with either pulled pork or all-beef meatloaf. It’s like three dishes in one, AND it’s fried. You can’t go wrong.

Moo Milk Bar

38. Red velvet cookie

Moo Milk Bar (address and info)
Queen East
You’ve have red velvet cake, you’ve had red velvet cupcakes, now meet the cookie. Savour the cookie. It deserves to be savoured. Or just get more than one. We’re not judging.

39. Vegan crispy fennel sandwich

Brock Sandwich (address and info)
Bloordale
This teeny shop near Brock and Bloor was a hit as soon as they served their first sandwich, and while everything is worth a try, the crispy fennel will make meat-eaters, veg-heads, and vegans happy. Braised and breaded fennel gets paired with cashew “cheese,” sun-dried tomato pesto, arugula, and charred tomato.

Flickr/Lucas Richarz

40. Vatican City burger

Burger's Priest (address and info)
Multiple locations
There’s decadent, and then there’s the Vatican City burger from Burger’s Priest. This mammoth beast of a meal is a messy two-hander that sees a double cheeseburger squeezed between two grilled cheese sandwiches.

41. Doubles

Drupatis (address and info)
Multiple locations
Drupatis is all over the city because people really like Drupatis, and their doubles have a particularly loyal following. The traditional Trinidadian lunch time street sandwich consists of flat fried bread and curried chick peas, and it’s only $1.50.

42. Bymark burger

Bymark (address and info)
Financial District
Another bucket list burger for Toronto comes with a hefty price tag -- a whopping $38, but this isn’t just any burger. Chef Mark McEwan introduced Toronto to the gourmet burger concept nearly a decade ago, and this one gets you an 8oz grass fed beef patty topped with sinfully oozy brie de meaux, shaved truffle, and grilled porcini mushrooms.

The Senator

43. Senator breakfast

The Senator (address and info)
Yonge & Dundas
Breakfast at the city’s oldest restaurant has been featured on You Gotta Eat Here! and been highlighted by the New York Times. Start your day here with bacon and eggs, house-baked challah, maple-cider baked beans, and home fries.

44. Italian sausage sandwich

Sorella Toronto (address and info)
Junction
A fiver is all you need to plunk down in order to sink your teeth into this soon-to-be classic Toronto sandwich. Sausages are made from an Italian recipe dating back to 1913 from 100% pork butt in small batches. The sandwich, made to order, consists of Italian sausage and rapini with mustard on a toasted bun.

45. Mutter paneer roti

Gandhi's Indian Cuisine (address and info)
Parkdale
Torontonians have strong opinion on where you can get the best roti in the city, but Gandhi’s is the name uttered more than most. Their rich, creamy, and spicy mutter paneer roti is the stuff that dreams are made of. OK not really, but it’s seriously good.

Courtesy of The Carbon Bar

46. Pit Master platter

The Carbon Bar (address and info)
Moss Park
Get your BBQ fix here with a plate of pork ribs, beef brisket, buttermilk fried chicken, pickles, fries, and chipotle mayo. This is a meal meant to be shared -- bring eating buddies.

47. Steak

Barberian’s Steak House (address and info)
Downtown
If you want a steak in Toronto you’re pretty spoilt for choice, but you should really make sure you get one at Barbarian’s, one of the most well-known steakhouses in the country.

48. Cote de boeuf

Nota Bene (address and info)
Entertainment District
Bring a friend and order the built-for-two cote de boeuf. You’ll sigh a carnivorous swoon when you see the Cumbrae Farms dry-aged rib steak and roasted bone marrow alongside punchy chimichurri.

Flickr/Lucas Richarz

49. Boston blue fish & chips

Buster’s Sea Cove (address and info)
St. Lawrence Market
The massive plate of fish and chips at this St. Lawrence Market mainstay has been a crowd pleasing favourite for over 20 years. Get the fish with fries, salad, or onion rings. They now have a food truck and a new location just opened on Bremner.

50. Fresh burrata cheese with roasted grapes & toasted bread

Campagnolo (address and info)
Dundas West
We encourage you to eat everything at Campagnolo, but the thing you will end up ordering again and again is this burrata-based starter that hits the spot every time. The simple antipasto works so well thanks to the combo of crisp, garlic-scented toast, creamy burratta, and sweet grapes.

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Jessica Padykula is a Toronto writer who has probably eaten 50 smoked meat sandwiches alone. Follow her at @JessicaPadykula.

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