Chef Patrick Kriss combines seasonal, Canadian ingredients with French technique to create his tasting menus. Book a seat in the dining room or at the chef’s table and try dishes like steelhead trout with crème fraiche or Quebec foie gras with sunchokes, hedgehog mushroom and chicken jus. Reservations can be hard to come by, so plan ahead. Named one of Canada’s Best New Restaurants in 2016 by Air Canada.
On summer days, the lineup at this Trinity-Bellwoods ice cream shop snakes out the door and up the block. Build your ice cream sandwich with a seemingly endless amount of ice-cream-and-cookie combinations, including gluten-free and vegan options.
Authenticity is key at chef Grant Van Gameren’s Spanish tapas bar, named one of Canada’s Best New Restaurants in 2015, where a mostly-standing-room set-up means rubbing elbows (and maybe sharing a round of spicy shishito peppers) with fellow diners. The menu is a mix of deceptively simple snacks and seafood offerings. Who knew jamón and bread could be so exceptional?
Cinnamon buns are Toronto’s reigning desserts, thanks in large part to food writer-turned-bun baroness Amy Rosen. The buns, made with all natural ingredients including an organic cream glaze, result in a sublime cinnamon roll.
Since upping the city’s coffee game in 2009, SJCB now has five locations, including one in the financial district and another across from Trinity-Bellwoods Park. Each location serves coffee and espresso made with beans from Sam James’ roasting company, Cut Coffee. You’ll regret it later if you leave without a bag of beans to bring home.
297 Harbord St.; 150 King St. W.; 917 Queen St. W.; 15 Toronto St; 157 Bloor St. W. (seasonal), Torontosamjamescoffeebar.com
For the two-tier misto platter
The drinks card takes up twice the acreage of the food menu at this all-day Italian café-bar, but make no mistake: This is a place to come and eat well. You can drop in for espresso with dulce de leche from 7 a.m., but by night the room fills with diners reaching to pluck small fried goodies from the two-tier gran fritto misto platter. If you’re dining solo, grab a seat at the bar.
Chef Craig Harding is part of a wave of young chefs paying tribute to their grandmothers’ old-world cooking, but with all due respect to Harding’s grandma, this isn’t cucina della nonna. It’s youthful, sophisticated and at its best when relaxed – more like an Italian on vacation. The frequently changing menu features a few constants; the housemade spaghetti all’amatriciana is simple perfection.
There’s a longstanding rivalry between this neighbourhood institution and nearby Ali’s Roti West Indian. Both are great, but a wider-than-typical range of roti options – from Guyanese style chicken curry in turmeric sauce to shrimp, squash and cheese – and a liquor license give Bacchus the edge. Snack on a double and a pint of local draft beer while you wait for your takeout.
A former quarry and industrial site gets a second life as a dynamic, multiuse public space showcasing first-rate green design and technology. Lace up your sneakers and walk or run the surrounding trails for one of the best views of the Toronto skyline; then pop into the seasonal weekly farmers’ market for fresh produce and baked goods. In the colder months, an old factory building is transformed into an open air skating rink.
Spend a few hours with the 16,000 sea and fresh water specimens at Canada’s largest indoor aquarium located next door to the CN Tower. There’s plenty of interactive, kid-friendly programming, including the chance to touch a shark or swim with stingrays. Don’t leave without snapping the requisite silhouette-against-neon-seascape pic.
Some of Canada’s most talented actors take the stage at Soulpepper’s flagship theatre in Toronto’s historic Distillery District. The theatre champions challenging contemporary works, along with classics by Neil Simon and Arthur Miller. Don’t miss standing-ovation-worthy hot chocolate at nearby Soma Chocolatemaker before or after the show.
Most nights feature a special DJ or musical act and dance parties are the norm on weekends. Choose from artist-specific theme nights (think David Bowie tribute), genre nights (Motown, Brit pop, reggae, 1990s jams) and performances by buzzy bands with cool credentials. Stay all night and dance among the crowd of twentysomethings or make it one of many stops: Dundas West is chockablock with watering holes, from sawdust pubs to chic cocktail lounges.
Among Canada’s most outstanding museums, the ROM is home to more than six million objects. The impressive collection of dinosaur bones housed in the crystal addition is a family favourite, as is the spooky (but educational) Bat Cave. Check the website for info on Friday Night Live parties.
Both a geological wonder and a great way to pass an afternoon, the Bluffs are a natural paradise minutes from the city. Start at the top to take in no-filter-required views of the shoreline; then make your way down to bike trails and parks. Bluffer’s Park offers beach access, so bring a swimsuit – and sturdy shoes for the trek back up.
Housed in a grand brick hall on bustling Front Street, this award-winning market offers superlative local and international fare. Try the Carousel Bakery’s famous peameal bacon sandwich – an experience in itself – then browse stalls devoted to cheese, coffee, even mustard. Closed Sundays and Mondays.
The downstairs nightclub Wildflower spins house and dance music, a 24-hour diner serves mac and cheese at all hours and the rooftop patio has a forty-foot infinity pool and 360-views of the skyline. No wonder it’s the go-to spot for visiting hip-hop and hoop stars.
You could walk right by this sleek boutique hotel – a well-kept secret among in-the-know business travellers, who love its location on the border of Toronto’s central financial district, with shopping and nightlife to the west. Rooms run simple and chic and are pleasantly affordable. They’re not huge, but no matter; grab a drink on the rooftop patio for a change of scenery.
Housed in a restored Victorian hotel, the Gladstone is a hotspot for creative types. No two of the hotel’s 37 rooms are alike – each one is designed by local artists and architects, resulting in a mosaic of styles and tastes. We recommend the Stargazer room, which highlights a sprawling wall treatment of hundreds of white plastered household items: light bulbs, toothbrushes and headphones.
From the skylit swimming pool to the supremely comfortable rooms, this hotel lives up to its name as an Eden in the heart of downtown Toronto. Book a suite, and gaze out at the skyline from a soaker enclosed in tub-to-ceiling glass. Chef David Chang’s three-storey Momofuku empire is right next door; the helpful concierge can alert you when your table at the noodle bar is ready.
The Four Seasons brand began in Toronto in 1961, and in 2012 the city got a new hotel worthy of jet setters, foodies and film fest attendees. Swim laps to an underwater soundtrack at the spa, and once you’ve worked up an appetite, dine from a choice of four themed menus at Café Boulud, featuring the most extravagant rotisserie in the city.
Located on Queen Street West, the Drake is Toronto’s hipster hotel, complete with a sushi and raw bar, café, lounge, private dining room and underground club. One of the city’s best patios, the rooftop is open year-round and serves up creative cocktails such as the Reykjavik Shake, which includes vodka, coffee, ancho chili and almond.
Located in the Financial District, the Cosmopolitan offers premium suites with stunning views of the city, courtesy of floor-to-ceiling windows and wraparound balconies. SpaZen features treatments for the body and mind; create a custom experience with add-ons, like a hot stone ritual or energizing scalp massage.
Info about getting from the airport, public transportation and more.
Getting from the Airport
Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ) The UP Express rail links travellers from Toronto Pearson International Airport to the heart of the city at Union Station in just 25 minutes. (Trains leave four times an hour and cost $12, one way.) A taxi will get you downtown for a flat rate of around $60, and takes about 45 minutes, depending on traffic.
Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport (YTZ) Located on Toronto Islands, this airport is minutes from downtown. Take the six-minute walk through the pedestrian tunnel that connects the airport with the mainland or enjoy city views from the ferry, which departs every fifteen minutes. There’s a taxi stand outside the mainland entrance and a free a shuttle bus that goes between the airport and Union Station every fifteen minutes. For a true Toronto experience, hop on the 511 Bathurst or 509 Lakeshore streetcar.
Regular fare is $3.25 and the subway system will generally get you within walking distance of anywhere centrally located. Maps and schedules are available online.
Taxis are easily hailed anywhere in the city and abound in the downtown core. If you’re on a strict timeline, though, be sure to call in advance. Base rate is $4. Uber and UberX are also available.
416 Taxicab: 416-829-4222 Beck Taxi: 416-751-5555 City Taxi: 416-740-2222
With 200 stations all over the city, Toronto Bike Share is a fun and environmentally friendly way to get from point A to point B. Rentals are $7 a day (or $15 for 3 days), which covers rides of 30 minutes or less.
Nosh your way through the city, from pintxos at Bar Raval to Filipino-inspired creations at Lake Inez.
For the creative prix fixe
There are no wrong choices on the prix-fixe menu showcasing creative, colourful cooking driven by ingredients that reflect a truly cosmopolitan Toronto. The Queen West room’s minimalist wood-and-concrete decor keeps you focused on a parade of new flavours. A mesmerizing first course sees sweet raw scallop in fermented green tomato broth with herbal notes of lemon basil and flowering coriander. And a brilliant dessert puts Campari-soaked cherries on koji-infused barley ice cream.
746 Queen St. W., 416-203-3317, canisrestaurant.com
For the small plates
A boisterous romanticism pervades the Kensington Market satellite of the Black Hoof empire. Cava-spritz sippers gather around the bars while candles flicker on intimate tables laden with small plates. Watch chefs in the open kitchen compose a fun dish of tender-crisp snow peas with shaved squid, hollandaise, soy and mustard oil. A lively Czech pinot-zweigelt from the globe-hopping wine list has just enough tannins to stand up to the sweet and fatty sugar-encrusted slow-cooked brisket.
199 Augusta Ave., 647-351-1552, greygardens.ca
For the all-day eats
The drinks card takes up twice the acreage of the food menu at Rob Gentile’s all-day Italian café-bar, but make no mistake: This is a place to come and eat well. You can drop in for espresso with dulce de leche from 7 a.m., but by night the room fills with diners reaching to pluck small fried goodies from the two-tier gran fritto misto platter. Negronis flow like water but are far more potent.
75 Portland St., 416-599-2822, barbuca.com
For the pintxos
Grant van Gameren’s follow-up to Bar Isabel (named Canada’s Best New Restaurant in 2013) takes the chef’s love of relaxed Spanish-style eating and drinking and installs it in a stunner of a carved-wood room where patrons stand around flat-topped wine barrels topped with Old World wine, cocktails, sherry, cider and short pours of cold beer. The menu offers such small but powerful bites as chorizo con queso, house-cured seafood and Basque pintxos – little toothpick-speared stacks of tasty morsels stacked atop a slice of baguette.
505 College St., thisisbarraval.com
For a special occasion
On the third floor of a Victorian building at Queen and Spadina, chef Patrick Kriss fashions precise French-inspired tasting menus in a dark, dramatic room. The skilled service troupe, choreographed by GM Amanda Bradley, delivers pain au lait bursting at its golden seams and morels with crunchy fried shallots over crème fraîche from Normandy. The adjoining bar shakes up a frothy Ramos Gin Fizz, while dessert’s rhubarb and black pepper notes pair with late-harvest Ontario riesling.
163 Spadina Ave., Third Floor, 416-260-2222, alorestaurant.com
For an intimate dining experience
In a marbled and chandeliered Yorkville boîte that holds 19 diners and a few induction burners, chef Doug Penfold channels the relaxed luxury of southern France. Cured trout is stacked atop squares of sourdough Pullman and topped with aromatic chervil. A white-wine-brined galantine of chicken comes chilled and sliced with zucchini over sauce suédoise. Wines lean white with a few lighter reds; split the difference with a rosé of grenache from Provence.
The subway rumbling beneath your feet every few minutes is just one of many little thrills at this tiny restaurant located directly above Bay station. A glass of Jura vin jaune brings aromas of nuts and curry spice to the bitter endive and walnuts atop a beef tenderloin carpaccio. An old Erykah Badu album electrifies the hi-fi, while a glass of pinotage makes a soul connection with escabeche-marinated Cornish hen.
1240 Bay St., 416-804-6066
For playful takes on Jewish fare
Chef Anthony Rose completes his Holy Trinity of restaurants on Dupont (Rose and Sons, Big Crow) with a subtly sacrilegious take on Mediterranean Jewish cuisine. Swipe up hummus – chickpeas, both pulverized and whole – with perfectly grilled pitas; confound your Jewish grandmother with a deconstructed chopped liver dotted with gribenes (fried chicken skin) and slivered radish, topped by your tattooed waitress with a generous pour of schmaltz (chicken fat) from a diner-style syrup jug. The housemade vermouth, from a base of sweet Manischewitz, highlights a playful drinks list.
414 Dupont St., 647-340-6142, fatpasha.com
For the Filipino influences
After crushing some panko-crusted katsu cauliflower and tapping the Burdock passion-fruit sour ale, the eclecticism of this candlelit craft-beer pub makes sense. A Gothic mosaic of Kate Bush and Virginia Woolf stands guard over the 18 tap lines of Ontario brews that complement pan-Asian sharing dishes. Many skew Filipino: try the kinilaw, a flavour-packed ceviche of B.C. snapper in a creamy coconut-vinegar marinade that you scoop up with fried cassava chips.