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The Arepa Republic
Photograph: Courtesy of The Arepa Republic

The 19 best restaurants in Toronto

A wildly diverse and energetic population have turned the best restaurants in Toronto into real foodie destinations

Written by
Sandra Osojnik
&
Mary Luz Mejia
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Toronto excels in all areas, yet its thriving culinary scene still flies under the radar. Truth be told, that is sort of how things are done in the great north, but the best restaurants in Toronto are ready to reward hungry visitors in a wide variety of ways. Canada's most populous city is a stunningly diverse city, and Toronto’s gastronomy scene has well and truly embraced that.

The Six is a thriller of a place, with fantastic bars nestled next to spas perfect for revitalisation after a big one. The best restaurants here will fill tummies and warm hearts all at once, giving energy for more sightseeing (or maybe one more bar, just one more).

Best restaurants in Toronto

When the elevator doors open to reveal a sleek bronze bar in a stunningly restored heritage building on Queen and Spadina, you’ll swear you’re in London or New York. Michelin-pedigreed chef Patrick Kriss’s technically brilliant and creative tasting menus are expertly crafted. Go if you’re looking for a high-end dining experience ideal for a special occasion or a romantic night out. The dishes are as beautiful and as meticulous as the service and space. If you can’t get a table (book in advance) or can’t justify the splurge, try sister spot Aloette, conveniently located downstairs.

Price: Blowout

Located on the first floor of a posh condo building in midtown near Casa Loma, this entry actually consists of two restaurants in one. Lucky you! One side features haute cuisine, while the other is a more casual pasta bar and grill. Both offer unbeatable views of the city with fabulous food – an often hard-to-find combination. Scaramouche consistently wins awards and accolades for its sophisticated yet accessible fare. Free valet parking, expert service, and a knock-out view of the city are the reasons why locals and visitors have been coming back for over three decades. Well, that and the divine food, of course. 

Price: Pricey

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The husband-and-wife team behind Edulis makes eating at the King West locale feel like home. That is if your family dinner table consisted of a seasonal, five or seven-course tasting menu that could be customized to suit your tastes or dietary needs. Edulis strongly focuses on seafood, locally sourced ingredients and warm service – and succeeds at it all. There is a reason why this restaurant keeps making it onto national best restaurant lists, and it is in part because Edulis promotes the tradition of cooking and feasting together. The menus may change with the season, but the knack for hospitality is ever-present. As for libations, the wine and champagne menu is gloriously extensive.

Price: Pricey

Byblos is an Eastern Mediterranean restaurant that embraces coastal influences with contemporary technique, on display within each family-style dish flying out of the kitchen. Case in point: the whole grilled branzino with chermoula, saffron toum and watercress with an accompaniment of sweet jewelled barberry-flecked rice. Downstairs is a more laid-back affair in a beautifully designed lounge space. Upstairs, a moodily lit, dark forest green dining room with quiet nooks here and there, is ideal for couples looking for a romantic meal together.

Price: Pricey

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Named after Jamaica’s national lingo, Patois is best described by chef/owner Craig Wong as “Caribbean meets Asian soul food.” It’s like a beach party in the west end of Toronto, where the music is loud, the cocktails creative, the room colourful, and the clientele ready for a good time. Go for one of the juiciest jerk chickens around, stay for the I-can’t-believe-that’s-not-meat crispy fried cauliflower and Chinese “pineapple bun” burgers. Next-level delicious with a side of party atmosphere? We’re in.

Price: Average

Since 2004, this small shop has dedicated itself to making stellar, flavourful sandwiches. Located in upscale Rosedale, the concise menu is restrained, but there is not a single letdown in the mix. There are a few small tables in the shop, and they fill up fast. If the weather's cooperating, take a stroll across the street to the small park and enjoy lunch al fresco. Five-day roasted brisket, one of the city's best BLTs, signature house-made sauces and mayos, quality sourced bread – just about everything at Black Camel is simple but spot-on delicious.

Price: Bargain

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A tried-and-true Eastside favourite French restaurant in the middle of Toronto’s second Chinatown. For over a decade now, the friendly staff at Batifole has been serving on-point steak frites, perfect patés and other classic bistro fares in an intimate, cozy atmosphere. Why go? Three words: soufflé Grand Marnier. But you might also want to check out this “best-kept secret” for a relaxed dinner with friends, with your special someone or for a fabulous cocktail during their cinq-a-sept “happy hour.”

Price: Average

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“Middle Eastern bubby food” is how one former food critic describes the tasty fare served at Fat Pasha. We will not disagree, but we will add it has that signature, updated Anthony Rose twist. Lively, fun and a great place to gather with friends who want to share bigger plates or order their own, you cannot go wrong with the chicken shawarma or the whole roasted cauliflower with tahini, halloumi and pomegranate seeds. Go for comfort food with a Middle Eastern/Jewish twist for lunch/brunch or dinner in a setting that feels like a home away from home.

Price: Average

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A polished, elegant restaurant serving what owner and visionary Albino Silva calls “progressive Portuguese” cuisine. If you have an important meeting, a special occasion or simply long for beautifully prepared Portuguese food using top-notch ingredients, this is the place for you. Silva’s team flies in fresh fish from the Azores daily, presenting them to diners on a platter for selection. And, while seafood is the forte, there are land-based dishes that are just as meticulously prepared. Make sure not to skip dessert.

Price: Pricey

If deciding on lunch or dinner isn't your forte, head to Assembly Chef’s Hall, a beacon of edible choices. At this chef-driven community market, there are options galore. Some of the city’s most innovative chefs have outposts here, an ideal destination for those who want food in a convivial, funky hall-like setting. Not only will you be met with menus from a bundle of Toronto's finest chefs and best restaurants, but you'll be able to sample everything from slippery noodles and crispy-crusted pizzas and omakase Japanese dishes. You will be seriously spoilt for choice. 

Price: Average

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The Arepa Republic started as an award-winning food truck and eventually expanded into a brick-and-mortar location. Good news for all involved, that's for sure. The “couplepreneurs” behind the operation make Venezuelan-style street food, including the venerable arepa stuffed with shredded skirt steak, chicken salad and a vegetarian avocado and cheese version, to name just a few standout dishes. For a taste of Venezuela in the middle of Toronto, there is no better option. Pre or post-fiesta, this is the way to go. Don’t miss the molten cheese, deep-fried tequeños with a side of Cerveza.

Price: Bargain

A Spanish tapas bar serving a tantalizing array of conservasjamón and pintxos alongside craft-made cocktails and fine spirits in a beautifully designed space that transports you to Barcelona’s Raval neighbourhood. This is the perfect place to start or end a night of discovering the College Street strip. You come for snacks with good drinks and stand up at the bar or around beer barrels to sip and savour before moving the fiesta on. If you’re jonesing for a sit-down Spanish meal, try sister restaurant Bar Isabel down the road – just make sure to make a reservation.

Price: Average

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The couple at the helm of Fiorentina eschews the usual Greek fare popular on the Danforth strip (this is Greek town, after all). Instead, expect a locally-sourced, made-from-scratch, seasonal menu with a southern French accent. Expect lunch and dinner in a warm, casual setting perfect for unwinding. Even the humble egg dishes are made with the finest ingredients and get a gourmet elevation. You can taste impeccable technique in every dish at Fiorentina. Hot tip: Don't skip the pastry case because the treats are worth the caloric splurge.

Price: Average

Founded by three Israeli brothers, this Westside, family-friendly eatery gets packed on the weekends. Known for producing their own line of artisanal sesame butter in-house, diners can watch fresh batches of tahini being made (don’t miss the smoky or beet varieties) while wolfing down spicy shakshuka, beautifully composed chopped salads and killer coffees. Go for authentic cuisine with a modern twist in an updated industrial space. From homemade sesame butter to herbs grown in the private indoor garden, Parallel is focused on transparency and serving quality meals.

Price: Average

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This tiny taqueria in Kensington Market is renowned for its Mexican tacos, served with house-made salsas enveloped in double corn tortillas. You might also want to order a tostada with fresh ceviche, but be prepared to stand outside while scarfing down your order because there’s always a line here and, save for a table or two, nowhere to sit inside. Fresh bursts of flavour and original taco combos make this a market favourite for those looking for a quick, filling bite. Stroll the market while you snack.

Price: Bargain

A family-friendly Italian café, shop and market in Toronto's design district where you can enjoy a classic lunch or early dinner. Another upside: you can buy house-made ragus, grassy green Italian olive oils and house-cured meat while here. Award-winning chef Gabriele Paganelli's menu, featuring Italian classics such as hand-made pasta and sauces, grilled speducci and paninis, bring in families, business folk and couples on dates. Go on Sunday, and you'll swear you're at mamma's house for Sunday lunch.

Price: Average

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A white-washed Greek taverna leaning more towards cool and funky than mom-and-pop kitschy. Full-flavoured, fresh, contemporary takes on tavern classics make this a fun night out on the Ossington strip. Forget lacklustre souvlaki and dried-out lemon potatoes: the food, décor and music here reflect owner Thanos Tripi’s memories and family recipes – it’s the food he remembers eating as a kid and the fare he wants to share with guests. Lucky us.

Price: Average to pricey

With two La Cubana locations scattered around the city, it’s easy to get your pressed medianoche sandwich fix, no matter which neighbourhood you’re in. The diners’ inviting spaces offer a Cuban-inspired menu that nods to Havana’s pre-revolution years. Cap things off with a cortadito for a perfect way to end your Cuban Comida. La Cubana in Roncesvalles offers a family-friendly brunch and patio. The Ossington (hot tip: Bar Havana at the back of the eatery offers Cuban cocktails and a full menu) and Gerrard outposts have some slight menu differences but boast the same hospitality, retro aesthetic, and a refreshing cocktail to bookend a solid meal.

Price: Average

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Chef Nuit and Jeff Regular’s menu at Kiin focuses on dishes from across Thailand, including a few Royal Court treasures that feature ingredient-driven shareable plates packed with flavour, colour and texture. Head here when your standard pad Thai take-out isn’t cutting it. Kiin is a dining experience where you'll be served delicate, complex dishes inspired by the art of Royal Thai cuisine. 

Price: Pricey

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