F&W offers the best Toronto restaurants, from newer indie spots like the auto-shop-inspired Parts & Labour (which features a basement rock venue) to the terrific dim sum destination Lai Wah Heen. » F&W’s Full Toronto Travel Guide

Food & Wine
May 07, 2013

In this Article

Toronto Restaurants: Insider Picks

La Carnita

Marketing whiz turned restaurateur Andrew Richmond parlayed his success running a series of pop-ups that sold local artwork with a side of tacos into this 2,000-square-foot College Street spot. The addictive tacos—including the signature In Cod We Trust with fried fish, pickled red cabbage and green apple—are topped with proprietary Voltron sauce. “It’s kind of like a hot sauce but with Asian flair,” explains Richmond.lacarnita.comThe GabardinePhoto © Cedric Angeles.

The Gabardine

Decorated with wood tables and mismatched china, Alison MacKenna and Katherine Rodrigues’s bright, homey café stands in stark contrast to its slick Financial District surroundings. Young chef Graham Pratt turns out artisanal takes on everything from chicken potpie to smoked trout. His ploughman’s lunch is a generous board of local cheeses, homemade rillettes and pâtés, offered from 11:30 a.m. through dinner.thegabardine.com

The Harbord Room

Toronto’s most respected mixologist, Dave Mitton, partnered with chef Cory Vitiello on this hangout for the city’s fashion, music and media set. The menu offers Ontario whitefish ceviche, duck Bolognese and the best burger in town: a hefty beef patty topped with sharp cheddar and caramelized onions and served on a seeded bun. Mitton’s signature cocktail, the Ronald Clayton, is named after his late grandfather. Made with vanilla-infused Crown Royal, organic maple bitters and tobacco syrup, the drink pays homage to a man who liked whisky and hand-rolled cigarettes.theharbordroom.com Parts & LabourPhoto courtesy of Parts & Labour.

Parts & Labour

Co-owned by Castor Design studio, this auto-shop-inspired restaurant features a basement rock venue and a chef who moonlights as a punk rock singer. Chef Matty Matheson fronts the band Sex Tears and has so many tattoos that he’s started putting artwork (including an eagle and a snake) on his scalp. His signature is a special-order pig’s head that arrives at the communal tables with a giant cleaver buried in the skull; diners carve out succulent cheek meat for DIY soft tacos. Matheson’s not just about fat and pork, however: A rooftop garden grows produce for the restaurant and there’s a large vegetable section on the menu, with dishes like roasted baby carrots with burnt honey and deep-fried gnocchi with mushrooms.partsandlabour.ca

Edulis

Chef-couple Tobey Nemeth and Michael Caballo prep their French and Spanish country menu together during the day, then split roles for service. She oversees the front-of-the-house while he stays in the kitchen to fire rustic dishes like wild hedgehog mushrooms roasted in duck fat, and an incredible heritage chicken that’s baked in hay and has to be ordered in advance.edulisrestaurant.com

Ursa

“Nothing makes the cut for our menu unless it looks amazing and we can confirm a measurable health benefit,” says chef-partner Lucas Sharkey Pearce, who, with his brother Jacob, parlayed a background in sports nutrition into a fantastic restaurant. The pair look to Asian and foraged ingredients, as well as wild game meats, to add flavor. Dishes range from steamed silken tofu in house-made dashi with black radish cake to sous vide bison with rye-berry porridge. No website.facebook.com/URSA.Restaurant

Chantecler

“Parkdale is one of the last true neighborhoods in Toronto where most of the businesses are family owned, and where the original buildings remain,” says Chantecler co-owner Jacob Wharton-Shukster, whose modern Canadian spot is in a building that dates to 1881. In summer, chef-partner Jonathan Poon might serve baked wild Pacific halibut on a puree of sweet peas with sautéed chanterelles, Ontario sweet corn and squid, and in autumn, slow-roasted wild boar with prunes, bacon and coffee. restaurantchantecler.ca

Toronto Restaurants: Classic

Le Sélect

The answering machine message here plays La Marseillaise and the menu is filled with classic French brasserie dishes (terrine de foie gras, boeuf au poivre), but chef Albert Ponzo imbues the restaurant with Canadian flavor through his reliance on regional ingredients. The moules are prepared with Maudite beer from Quebec, the grass-finished bison in the tartare is from Alberta and the choucroute Alsacienne features Ontario Berkshire pork.leselect.com

Lai Wah Heen

This long-standing white-tableclothed dim sum destination in the Metropolitan Hotel Toronto continues to offer exquisite, sometimes unusual Chinese dishes. Seafood is a specialty, with tasty offerings including lobster dumplings, seared rice cakes topped with crabmeat and jumbo shrimp shumai wrapped with glutinous rice and foie gras.laiwahheen.com

Gilead Café

Renowned Canadian chef Jamie Kennedy created the perfect fries—crispy-tender Yukon Gold sticks tossed with thyme and served with cider vinegar mayo—at his Corktown bistro. Also don’t miss his melty jambon and Gruyère breakfast croissant and an unrivaled chicken liver pâté that’s scooped onto a plate like a large quenelle and served with house-made cornichons. jamiekennedy.ca

Toronto Restaurants: Best Value

King’s Noodle House

Toronto chefs swear by the hangover-healing properties of King’s Noodle. The broth for the wonton soup is made from the bones of all the smoked duck and pork parts that hang in the front window. Servers race to deliver large bowls of it along with other popular orders such as Chinese doughnuts and steamed rice rolls. The lacquered ducks in the window are fantastic to-go. No website.

Terroni

With three locations in Toronto and one in Los Angeles, these family-owned restaurants are been turning out crispy superthin Margherita pizzas, pappardelle with house-made sausage and hefty sandwiches stuffed with Italian ingredients to a growing group of regulars. The atmosphere is anything but chain-like, with wine bottles covering the walls and celebrity sightings including multiple Jake Gyllenhaal spottings.terroni.com

Porchetta & Co

Chef Nick auf der Mauer runs this tiny shop specializing in one thing: porchetta sandwiches. He marinates pork shoulder for 24 hours in a mixture of lemon zest, herbs and garlic oil, then wraps it in prosciutto, and again in pork belly. After slow-roasting the meat until the crust is crackling, Mauer stuffs slices of it in a local sourdough roll. His fan base is so rabid that they recently fumed at Anthony Bourdain’s camera crew when they blocked the door to shoot an episode of The Layover.porchettaco.com

Toronto Bakeries, Coffee Shops and Breakfast Spots

Sam James Coffee Bar

Sam James has three cafés serving stellar coffee as well as doughnuts made by his friend Rachelle Cadwell, of the pop-up Dough by Rachelle and Beast gastropub. All of his coffee is brewed with ultra-pure water that’s been filtered through reverse osmosis. Order a cappuccino and one of Dough’s apple fritters, before they sell out.samjamescoffeebar.com Glory Hole DoughnutsPhoto © Kristina Groeger, Swallow.

Glory Hole Doughnuts

With her bright red lips and sleek black updo, Ashley Jacot de Boinod looks like a ’50s pinup, but she’s a rebel baker doing the most innovative doughnuts in the city. The Elvis and Marshmallow Doughnut gets a swipe of peanut butter frosting before being topped with banana chips, bacon bits and a toasted marshmallow; Boinod collaborated with the local Kensington Brewing Co. on a beer-and-brown-sugar frosted chocolate creation sprinkled with beer nuts. gloryholedoughnuts.com

Toronto Hotels

Hotel Le Germain

The Hotel St. Germain’s Mercer Street address is discreetly hidden among the clubs and condos of downtown. This isn’t a place for shy couples; each room features all-glass showers—with no walls dividing them from the bedroom. Drinks downstairs at Victor Restaurant and Lounge can be paired with items from Top Chef Canada finalist David Chrystian’s menu. Dogs are welcome for a fee, and the concierge will even send up doggie bowls and a bed. germaintoronto.com Drake HotelPhoto © Justin Adam.

Drake Hotel

The Drake’s in-house art collection is sprinkled throughout the 19 rooms and six on-site venues, included the Underground concert hall, the Lounge on the main floor and the Sky Yard patio on the roof. The collection is ever-evolving, with works by Canadian artists Diana Thorneycroft, Evan Penny and Micah Lexier, among others. The UK’s Mark Titchner is the current artist in residence.thedrakehotel.ca

Toronto Shopping

Good Egg

“We like to keep our customers entertained with new and wonderful objects, but we also stock mainstays like Lodge skillets, Wüsthof and Opinel knives, Bauer Pottery, Mauviel copper and Kusmi teas,” says Mika Bareket, owner of this beloved kitchen and home store. Her Kensington Market shop is filled with beautiful things, unusual tchotchkes and a quirky selection of cookbooks and food books. She also hosts a knife skills class here taught by Olivia Go, an alumna of Per Se and Momofuku.goodegg.ca

The Cookbook Store

Celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2013, the Cookbook Store hosts book signings and lectures with the best: Past guests have included Nathan Myhrvold, Ferran Adrià, Andoni Luis Aduriz, René Redzepi, Magnus Nilsson and Paul Bocuse. This is also a great place to browse books from notable Toronto authors, like Burma, by Naomi Duguid; Laura Calder’s Dinner Chez Moi, and Jennifer McLagan’s Odd Bits. cook-book.com