Montreal may have long laid claim to being the biggest foodie destination in Canada, but (apart from being just generally better than them) Toronto is slowly turning the tables -- and then filling them with unreasonably delicious food. Soon, it’s going to be not only Canada’s foodie sweet spot, but perhaps North America’s too. Here’s why...
10 reasons why Toronto is going to be the next big foodie city
Toronto knows a thing or two about preserves and pickles
Perhaps due to their deliciousness, brined goods are hot right now. And whether it’s the pickled green tomatoes from farmer’s market favourite Manning Canning, the strawberry rhubarb spread with Ontario cranberries from Stasis Preserves on Roncesvalles Ave, or the hot and sweet beer-brined peppers from Bumpercrop, if you’re craving something pickled or preserved, Toronto has it.
There’s a food truck revolution in the works
For the past few years, eating on the street in Toronto has become about much more than hot dogs & fear of botulism. Where once the city was a total void where mobile eateries were concerned, more and more food trucks are pressing the tarmac. Whatever you’re craving -- be it churros, grilled cheese sandwiches, poutine, tacos, or BBQ -- you can find it on wheels right here.
Any world cuisine you want is here
One of the things that puts Toronto firmly on the foodie map is simply the sheer variety of cuisines that are available all over the city thanks to the multicultural population. Feel like Pakistani food? Head to Lahore Tikka House. In the mood for Ethiopian? Get in line at Nazareth. Craving something Polish? Pay a visit to Roncesvalles Ave for pierogies and pickle soup. The point is, whatever you might want eat -- from Greek to Somalian -- it can likely be found in Toronto.
Cocktails are serious business
House-made bitters, spice-infused spirits, homegrown herbs & garnishes, and unique ingredients have come to define the cocktail scene in Toronto. Great cocktails can be had throughout the city at bars dedicated to the craft (BarChef, Black Hoof Cocktail Bar), and at restaurants with really good bartenders and cocktail lists to match (The Harbord Room, Bar Isabel).
Brunch is a religion
Thanks to the brilliant scientists who discovered a meal between breakfast and lunch, most people around the world thought they had found a way to cure their hangovers. But when it comes to brunch in Toronto, it's more than just an excuse to drink before noon -- the options are endless, lineups long, food hearty, fresh & local, and the Caesars are expertly crafted. Here, it's a religion.
Craft breweries are taking over
It’s no secret that Canadians love beer, but in Toronto, now more than ever, it’s possible that the pint you’re drinking came from a brewery down the street. Kensington Brewing Company, Mill Street Brewery, Indie Ale House, Junction Craft Brewing, and Bellwoods Brewery are just a few of the best beer-brewing spots in the city.
Specialty food stores abound
Whether you’re searching for a specific type of mustard to put on your artisanal sausages, or the right type of peppercorn to grind into your homemade steak spice, you’ll have no problem finding it in Toronto. Some good places to start include St. Lawrence Market and Kensington Market, as well as Pusateri’s, Bruno’s Fine Foods, and The Mercantile.
Café culture is thriving
You can’t walk half a block in any Toronto neighbourhood without stumbling on an independent coffee shop for your daily caffeine fix. Getting a cup of coffee in the city is about way more than staying awake. Get a great-tasting brew at any number of spots in the city including (but nowhere near limited to) Sam James Coffee Bar, Crema Coffee Co., Dark Horse Espresso Bar, and Ella’s Uncle.
You can bar hop for the food as much as the booze
While nachos and wings will never stop being go-to bar food in this (or any) city, eating while you knock back a few in Toronto has become a lot more interesting. From the pork, fish or veggie steamed buns, and Korean fried chicken at 416 Snack Bar, to the smoked nuts with cayenne and honey, and grilled duck hearts with jalapeño oil at Bellwoods Brewery, you don‘t have to settle for the same old snacks while drinking in the city.
Even the airport is getting in on the foodie action
A slew of the country’s top chefs have opened eating establishments at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport. Not that anyone would hope for a layover, but if you have to wait, in Toronto you at least know there’s good food to be found. Restaurants from Rocco Agostino, Massimo Capra, Mark McEwan, and Guy Rubino are already up and running, while spots from Susur Lee, Lynn Crawford, and Roger Mooking are in the works.
1. Lahore Tikka House1365 Gerrard St East, Toronto
2. Nazareth969 Bloor St W, Toronto
3. BarChef472 Queen St W, Toronto
4. Black Hoof Cocktail Bar923 Dundas St W, Toronto
5. Harbord Room89 Harbord St, Toronto
6. Bar Isabel797 College Street, Toronto
7. Kensington Brewing Company156 Augusta Ave, Toronto
8. Mill St. Brew Pub21 Tank House Ln, Toronto
9. Indie Alehouse2876 Dundas St W, Toronto
10. Junction Craft Brewery90 Cawthra Ave, Toronto
11. Bellwoods Brewery124 Ossington Ave, Toronto
12. Pusateri's Fine Foods57 Yorkville Ave, Toronto
13. The Mercantile297 Roncesvalles, Toronto
14. Sam James297 Harbord St, Toronto
15. Crema Coffee Co.53 Bloor St East, Toronto
16. Dark Horse Espresso Bar125 John St, Toronto
17. Ella's Uncle916 Dundas St W, Toronto
Located in Greenwood, the Lahore Tikka House doles out sumptuous authentic Pakistani fare in a festive atmosphere inside, or on their large breezy patio outside.
Although Ethiopia might be a FAR distance away from Toronto, you can get authentic tastes from there without leaving the city by visiting Nazareth, which doles out authentic fare in Dovercourt. Pro tip: try the vegetarian platter, regardless of your meat preference.
This Queen Street West bar feels like a cocktail laboratory thanks to the jars of bitters and herbs that line the walls. The menu is divided into different categories based on flavor and mood, like sweet & sour, sipping, and modernist. The sultry space is dimly-lit and geared towards the classy cocktail enthusiast.
To put it simply, this boutique-y bar in Trinity Bellwoods has got you covered when it comes to cocktails. Serving up both classic libations and new twists on old favorites, this cocktail bar and resto is all about attention to detail, whether you're talking about their small plate offerings (charcuterie, bread, pickles, etc.), or their numerous craft cocktails. We like the playful and punny "Gold Fashioned:"its an unprecedented mix of buttered-popcorn brandy, yellow chartreuse, bitters, and cherry coke.
Cocktails and their expert mixologists have carved out a scene in Toronto, with restaurants manned by seriously in-the-know bartenders, and equipped with good cocktails lists to match, supporting the renaissance. This pretty, pink-walled, Harbord Street restaurant might be pretty well-known for its burgers for one, but you can't look past the dessert-like cocktail offerings, like the pineapple cocktail served in shareable portions. And don't forget the dessert options themselves, which include Silicina-style donuts made fresh with ricotta batter and orange zest.
The relaxed and fun attitude at this Little Italy bar extends from the bar itself into the food and drinks. The food is dominated by Spanish-influenced tapas, while for drinks they offer beers, red, white, & sparkling wines, sherry, and creative cocktails like "...A Woman Scorned" (Devil's Cut Bourbon, Amero Averna, campari, cinnamon/clove tincture, Deathwish Syrup, Backstabbed Bitters, and orange zest), and "¡Ay Muccismo!" (Tromba Tequila Blanco, coffee & chili infused Campari, Dolin Dry Vermouth, Cocchi Americano, Mole Bitters, and grapefruit oils).
This small, independently owned beer company is located in the heart of Kensington Market (surprise!) and produces a number of popular brews like their flagship Augusta Ale and the robust, West-coast style Baldwin FishEYE-PA
Located in the Distillery District, stop by this brewpub and try one of their 15 beers on tap.
Located in Junction, the Indie Alehouse is a 110-seat upscale pub serving a variety of craft brews.
Junction Craft Brewing has a seriously impressive beer selection and tap room, even if their Cawthra Ave neighborhood is less than hip. The train-themed Junctionbrewery opened in 2011, and has since expanded to producing a rotating variety of more than 10 distinct beers. The tap room at Junction Craft Brewing is a simple, train-themed space with utilitarian pricing at $2.25 per five ounces of beer, available to drink there or to take home in growlers and tallboy cans. There's no food served at this tap room, but that keeps the focus on the beer itself—which the friendly and knowledgable staff is only too happy to talk about.
Small-batch beer and quality food have been Bellwood’s mission since opening in 2012. This craft brewery has a rotating list of taps highlighting their own creations as well as those of other local brewers which changes seasonally or according to demand. Reserve bottles, kept back from popular batches or brewed specially, are available for a higher (but worthwhile) price. The candle-lit bar setting and patio adorned with fairy lights befit its hip Ossington location, as does its long wait at peak times, but the food and the drinks are stunning. Small plates and snackable bar food keep the focus where it should be—on the beer.
This gourmet shop and grocery store is loaded with all kinds of specialty items, as well as an amazing selection of cakes, pastries, sandwiches, and more.
Located in Roncesvalles Village, The Mercantile is a sweet specialty shop chock full of gifts, food, and an array of other interesting and hard-to-find products.
A popular java joint in Toronto's Bickford Park neighborhood, Sam James Coffee Bar has been abuzz with claims (from patrons) that they make the best cappuccino, nay, the best coffee in the city. Chances are your skepticism will be wiped out by that first sweet, sweet sip.
With multiple locations across Toronto, Crema Coffee Co. brews a mean cup of espresso. Accenting the natural flavors of the beans, some talented baristas showcase their skills by serving up lattes and macchiatos that bring out the natural sweetness and flavors, so you won't be needing any cream or sugar.
The Dark Horse is one of the top cafes in the city to grab a cup of java, whether it be their out-of-this-world espresso, or even their selection of teas. And if you're a big hungry, their pastries are also not in this world.