Trying to write about the restaurants in Toronto is akin to writing about all the restaurants in Mumbai – virtually impossible, even in a lifetime. So I’ll leave that to the restaurant-curation folks at Blog TO and tell you about the places I personally visited, during my second trip to Toronto. There’s something for budget travellers and the occasional splurge. Read on!
THE BURGER’S PRIEST (Multiple Locations) – I’ve had my fair share of burgers and I’ll go so far as to say that the Burger’s Priest served the best I’ve ever tasted! The quality of beef is apparent from the first buttery soft bite, and they do maintain that “you won’t find yesterday’s beef in today’s burgers.” From there on, every aspect of the mouth-watering burger is divine – onions caramelized to perfection, pillowy buns, gooey cheese, crispy fries on the side… Perfect! Definitely an upgrade from the striped-down burgers in many other fast food joints. I was amused to see the burgers sport biblical-sounding names like The Vatican, The High Priest and The Red Sea.
Cost – CAD 5.99 – CAD 14 for one
BOODLE FIGHT (Pape) – Boodle Fight in downtown Toronto served the 5 of us in the traditional style practiced in the Filipino army – on banana leaves, to be eaten by hand. We picked two boodle fight meals which served four, and came with a pile of rice spanning the length of the table. The owner-server then arranged a variety of seafood that almost covered up the rice. Squids, huge prawns, 2 types of fried fish, clams, octopus and more – all plainly seasoned with salt. Some raw carrots, grilled eggplant, a slice of grapefruit and pork belly skewers, the only item that had sticky-sweet sauce brushed on, also featured on the banana leaf. Go if you like trying out new things.
Cost – CAD 10 – CAD 15 for one
EL LOCAL LOCO (Church Street) – It’s hard to not love this place! Energetic and trendy with colour-splashed murals on the wall, a variety of seating options, friendly staff and a short, sweet menu! We ordered nachos with guacamole (delicious!!) and the nacho bowl was refilled when we were done. For mains, we went with the fried fish tacos with avocado, coleslaw, cream and lime – which was lip-smacking! Carnitas – Pork shoulder with salsa verde, fried beans and pickled carrots, was great too, but not as amazing as the fish tacos.
Cost – CAD 20-25 without alcohol for one
CANYON CREEK CHOPHOUSE (Multiple Locations) – A great blend of casual dining meets elegance. This is one of those restaurants that lists only 8-10 items under every section but focuses on flawless execution with subtle twists. Being a ‘chophouse,’ you should try their top grade meaty items – prime rib, lamb rack, pork loin, steak, and fresh seafood. They’re also known for their selection of wine by the glass as well as cocktails. I opted for the ‘meal’ menu where one can choose a soup/salad, one of three mains and one of two desserts which, cost-wise, is equal to one main dish on the regular menu.
Cost – CAD 30-50 without alcohol for one
CHEF’S ASSEMBLY (Richmond Street)– I visited Chef’s Assembly before it fully launched, so I didn’t get the whole experience, but that glimpse was enough to make me want to return. It’s a chance to sample global cuisine from 17 of Toronto’s top chefs under one roof, without having to go to high-end restaurants. Walk around browsing through the menus at different stalls and take your food over to the trendy, spacious seating area where you can maybe get yourself a glass of wine, too! This makes a great space for entrepreneurs to work and have meetings, especially since they have free wi-fi.
P.S. I tried the Love Chix counter – their burger was super crispy and the brussel sprouts was cheesy, salty and fried (deliciously unhealthy!)
Cost – Varied, but only card payments allowed.
OSMOW’S (Multiple Locations)– Osmow’s serves delicious middle eastern and Mediterranean food that’s popular among the young folks. Funky names like chicken on the rocks, chicken on the sticks (de-constructed shawarma), fatoush, tabouleh, souvlaki plates and more feature on the menu. Generous portions and quite tasty when you dine in as opposed to take-out.
Cost – Approx CAD 15 per person for one
PANDA EXPRESS (Multiple Locations)– I’ve got to admit, I loved Panda Express probably more than I should have, given that I’m not really a fast-food junkie. It’s probably not the healthiest, but oh man, it’s sooo goood! Take your pick of two-three items from the display. Mandarin beef, panko fried shrimp, sweet and sour pork, kung pao chicken, dumplings, rice and noodles and so much more that you’re spoiled for choice.
Cost – CAD 6 – 12 for one
DENNY’S (Multiple Locations)– Another chain restaurant worth mentioning because who doesn’t love all-day breakfasts! Pancakes, eggs your way, bacon, sausages, hash browns, milkshakes! Sadly, no pictures here because the food wasn’t photograph material.
Cost – CAD 6 – 12 for one
PAI (Duncan Street) – If you’re heading here for dinner, make reservations. When I went, there was a waiting list for the waiting list! We came back a few days later for lunch and had the most amazing Thai food in a setting that had a dope hipster vibe. Loved the earthy wooden accents and twinkling lights, and while my Pad Thai was delicious, I wouldn’t call it authentic as it lacked the citrusy, savoury, nutty flavour. A good rendition, nonetheless!
Cost – Approx CAD 20 for one
LANGDON HALL COUNTRY HOUSE HOTEL (Cambridge)– This isn’t the kind of restaurant one goes to every weekend. The high-end, fine dining restaurant in Cambridge, has been awarded the prestigious five diamond award, making it one of the Top 50 in Ontario. Expert chefs create the most beautiful dishes using fresh, seasonal ingredients, skill and molecular gastronomy to wow the palate. More on my experience here.
Cost – CAD – 150 +
CAPTAIN’S BOIL (Multiple Locations) – Order seafood by the half-kilo, in one of the four sauce options which comes boiled and served in giant plastic bags. You empty the contents straight on the table (no plates!) and dig in with your bare (actually, plastic gloved) hands. Sounds gross? It is! It’s one of those places you could love or hate, but the food, no doubt, is delicious – especially the crab! I like my seafood hot and it was sort of lukewarm when it arrived. Service could be improved.
Cost – CAD 50-60 for two
CHAKO (Multiple Locations) – One of the best restaurants I visited on my trip to Canada was Chako, a large Asian eatery that allows diners to grill ALL the meat and veggies they can eat. The beef and pork marinade was divine and the experience of grilling on your table-top burner over drinks and conversations make for a fun evening. Since everything is so finely sliced, you only have to watch them brown and char for a minute before devouring the smoky meat. They also serve sushi which was nothing to write home about.
Cost – CAD 20-30 for one
HEART SUSHI (Heartland) – This modern-looking, all-you-can-eat sushi restaurant has a smart iPad system of ordering so you can order throughout the evening without having to flag down a server. Go here for the sushi and sashimi, however, try as much as possible because everything is pretty darn good. The soup, dimsum, teppenyaki, tempura, fried rice, stir-frys, spring rolls and omg! – The fried banana with ice cream is dope!
Cost –CAD 20-30 for one
SWEET JESUS (Multiple Locations) – I was pretty excited on seeing the Sweet Jesus Instagram page, but on visiting, felt it was a tad overrated. I have to wonder if perhaps that’s where the appeal lies – in Instagram-worthy toppings on a traditional soft serve. Red velvet crumbs, toffee bits, crumbled cookies, cotton candy, custard and dozens more, slathered over ice cream in cups or cones feature alongside churros and coffees on the menu.
Cost – CAD 4 – 10 for one
PARAMOUNT FINE FOODS (Multiple Locations) – Healthy, fresh, halal Middle Eastern Food in Toronto. I first had their freakin’- huge shawarma in 2015 and still craved the taste 2.5 years later. The shawarma is wrapped in fresh, airy wood-fired pita which makes all the difference. The pita paired with hummus and tabbouleh, it is a match made in heaven! I’ve never had space for dessert after a meal here.
Cost – CAD 6-20 for one
ARKADY BISTRO CAFE (Mississauga) – From the food, to the people and music to the news playing on TV, it’s all Polish! There’s a wide choice of healthy, wholesome food to choose from and the portions are huge enough to share. Lamb shanks, ribs, Polish schnitzel, fish, salads, buckwheat and simple veggies make up the most part of the menu. The dessert selection as well as desserts themselves are large but you won’t feel guilty for over-eating here, that’s for sure!
Cost – CAD 30 for two
That’s a wrap! Have you visited any great restaurants in Toronto? Comment below, and I’ll add them to the bucket list for my next trip.