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 fraîche 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 enRoute magazine. Stop by sister restaurant AloBar in Yorkville for a Pop Gun, a twist on the bourbon sour with toasted blue-corn syrup.
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.
Peruvian cuisine has long been shaped by Chinese, Japanese, Italian and Amazonian influences, and you can taste them all at Kay Pacha on St. Clair West. Standouts include tuna ceviche with passion fruit, and sea scallops with chili peppers and Parmesan. And, of course, the pisco.
With cocktails on tap, cornhole lanes (book ahead or make new friends on the walk-in court) and minimalist wooden decor, the team that created Track & Field Bar brings friendly competition to College Street.
At the newest venture from the folks behind pizza fave Superpoint, come for the cheese, charcuterie and smoked duck breast, but stay for the wine list as long as the Champs-Élysées (with a focus on natural and biodynamic wines). Don’t leave without snagging one of the freshly made sourdough loaves.
Aloette’s mid-century-modern vibe just got upped several notches (think curved leather banquettes, a wood-panelled bar and copper-coloured light fixtures) with Patrick Kriss’ third spot, hidden along the high-dollar edge of Yorkville. The food goes luxe, too, with creamy foie gras piped onto brioche toasts and splashed with a sweet-tart maple gastrique (a PB&J for adults reminiscent of Le Fantôme in Montreal, which made Canada’s Best New Restaurants list in 2016) and a Chantilly-cream mille feuille that hides an explosive, gooey raspberry centre. Alobar Yorkville was a contender for Canada’s Best New Restaurants in 2019.
Two former football players (and cousins!) from Louisiana’s Grambling State University are the masterminds behind the spice-rubbed and wood-smoked hunks of beef and pork at Toronto’s best new barbecue joint. The goal is to reclaim Southern barbecue’s African-American roots, and the aromatic beef makes for an open-and-shut case. The Angus brisket delivers sweet/salty blackened-skin meat that you don’t need teeth to enjoy. Pile your tray with poblano slaw, whole-kernel cornbread and iced tea for the win. Beach Hill Smokehouse was a contender for Canada’s Best New Restaurants in 2019.
Mismatched thrift-store china and shabby-chic vibes meet seriously cheffy chops at this laid-back neighbourhood fave, named #3 on Canada’s Best New Restaurants Top 10 list in 2019. Its trio of owners – a Brit, a Dane and a Toronto-raised Korean-Canadian (all Momofuku alumni) – explains the delicious combo of influences on the menu. But the showstopper is the whole, oven-baked sole bathed in a harissa- and chili-reddened butter sauce, dotted with toasted hazelnuts.
A Joe Beef expat has landed in Harbord Village–and successfully claimed the #6 spot on Canada’s Best New Restaurants Top 10 list in 2019. The name Dreyfus (of l’affaire fame) is a nod to the chef’s Jewish roots, which emerge in subtle touches, like the plate of Montreal-sourced karnatzel sausages to be eaten with yellow mustard and bread. Look for an ever-changing menu of gutsy yet refined Gallic small plates (the pommes dauphine are crispy, deep-fried pâte à choux and potato orbs filled with crème fraîche and trout caviar with a salty sprinkle of dehydrated caper powder), served in a handsomely outfitted space (sage-green millwork, bevelled mirrors and vintage china). Don’t miss the spongy morels, Manila clams and escargot oozing with garlic, white wine and clam liquor, just begging for more brodflour baguette to soak up their jus.
Duelling menus of French bistro (caviar-topped mound of smoked trout rillette) and lunch-counter classics (club sandwich) play out in this former diner turned art-deco dreamland. Jen Agg, one of the owners, could easily be a Hollywood production designer: Think buttery globe lighting, a fleet of arch-necked ceramic swan pitchers and vintage glass coupes set to a 1950s/’60s soundtrack of the Andy Williams and Bobby Vinton variety. And the drinks keep up: a chartreuse-coloured Provence cocktail (gin, dry vermouth, herbes de Provence, lime and absinth) tastes like a licorice stick crossed with a Mediterranean herb garden. Le Swan was a contender for Canada’s Best New Restaurants in 2019.
Suave and sake-mad sommelier and owner Stu Sakai is pouring glasses of lean, fruit-forward Okunomatsu junmai ginjo from a large-format issho-bin to the tunes of Hall & Oates and Earth, Wind & Fire. On order tonight at this Dundas West sake bar where gyoza skins are rolled daily in-house and shaped by hand? There are the “OG” fukujinzuke (soy-pickled mixed vegetable) and eggplant and plum pickle (shibazuke); the East-West hybrid vegetable plate of radishes lightly steamed in kombu dashi, served on a bed of umeboshi beurre blanc and showered with Japanese greens from the garden out back and the yaki udon (enriched with trout bones and a mackerel cream, studded with mushrooms and finished with sea parsley). Kanpai! Sakai was a contender for Canada’s Best New Restaurants in 2019
What happens when you mix a geeky wine bar, Euro-style deli and wine school? You will learn how to tell the difference between a Loire Valley chenin blanc (wet wool notes) and an Ontario riesling (the gasoline nose), surrounded by (very relaxed) sommeliers-in-training “studying” for their next blind tasting. Coral-painted walls and Madeleine Peyroux on the stereo will pleasantly distract as you decide between a build-your-own charcuterie plate or the muffuletta sandwich (pressed for an hour in the panini machine until the provolone and olive tapenade become one). Grand Cru Deli was a contender for Canada’s Best New Restaurants in 2019.
Once you have made it past the graffiti-splashed entrance to this Bloordale speakeasy, you will find some of the most seductive Korean-inflected street food in the city. Leemo Han (Hanmoto, Pinky’s Ca Phe) and Jason Poon are masters of the genre, serving up tart and gooey roast kimchi chop cheese sandwiches in a mashup of grandpa’s old tavern and dive bar – with Madlib on the stereo. “I don’t even like eggplant and I love this,” our server says of the Eggplant Kanpungi, washed down with the house makgeolli: Korean rice wine, peach schnapps, tequila and lime, served in a silver teapot. Seoul Shakers was a contender for Canada’s Best New Restaurants in 2019.
The menu at this Little Portugal spot (“fiddleheads/seeds/ramps”) reads more like a feast for rabbits than humans. But don’t judge the 10 courses by their cover: Although there’s only a small piece of (supremely crispy-skinned and delicious) cod on offer, and a few crunchy bits of chicken skin, it’s the Ontario white beans, mushrooms and buckwheat, slow-cooked cassoulet-style, that will amaze. And there’s no rabbiting-on when it comes to the decor. A sleek, wraparound counter serves the tasting menu to only 10 guests at a time. Ten claimed the #10 spot on Canada’s Best New Restaurants list in 2019.
A former quarry and industrial site gets a second life as a dynamic, multi-use 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.
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 the likes of Neil Simon and Arthur Miller. Don’t miss standing-ovation-worthy hot chocolate at nearby Soma Chocolatemaker before or after the show.
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 Scarboro Crescent Park 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.
No, you’re not seeing things: The Ollie Quinn eyewear company, new to the Ossington strip, keeps costs down with locally cut lenses and frames designed in-house, so any pair will only set you back $155.
From the apartment-style decor to the Saturday morning cartoons, shopping at this meanswear spot is like pilfering from the condo – and closet – of an impeccably cool friend. Cover your ethically produced Egyptian-cotton bases with the Weekend Kit: sweats, briefs, tees and a knapsack.
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 hot spot 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.
For their first Toronto property, which straddles upscale Yorkville and the student-filled Annex, Kimpton brought on the firm Mason Studio to execute the design inspired by the area’s heritage houses – all warm wood arches and pottery by local artisans. Each of the 21 suites is equipped with a Teac turntable and collection of Canadian vinyl, including Feist and The Weeknd, curated in partnership with local institution Sonic Boom Records.
Velvet-adorned walls and a lobby that glitters with gold touches: Gianni Versace would have loved this hotel’s riffs on 1990s opulence. Book the seventh-floor suite, with leather accents and dark oak furniture, which were masterminded by Lenny Kravitz. Order a Ranchero bowl (eggs, kale, tomatoes and black beans) at Kōst, the Baja California restaurant on the 44th floor, and start your day with a view of Lake Ontario.
With a 24-hour snack bar, no fixed checkout time (upon request) and lounge areas featuring Gervasoni rocking chairs, this hotel has everything to welcome travellers in transit. The hotel has nine sunlight-filled meeting rooms, and a large wood table in the lobby where you can work on your laptop, making it ideal for business travellers. Bonus: The 153-room property is a five-minute walk to terminals 1 and 3 at Toronto Pearson International Airport.
The 125-year-old red-brick Victorian’s many lives – including bicycle club and flophouse – have made the Broadview an East End institution. Reborn as a 58-room boutique hotel, it boasts a seventh-floor bar whose massive skylight and all-glass walls offer some of the best new views of the city. Old-school details, like the turn-of-the-last-century steaks, chops and whole-bird menu at Civic and reproductions of the original wallpaper uncovered during construction, ensure the past stays present, too.
Info about getting from the airport, public transportation and more.
Getting from the Airport
Toronto Pearson Airport (YYZ) The UP Express rail links travelers from Toronto Pearson 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 zoned flat rate of around $60, and takes 30 to 45 minutes, depending on traffic.
Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport (YTZ) Located on Toronto Island, 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 15 minutes. There’s a taxi stand outside the mainland entrance and a free shuttle bus that goes between the airport and Union Station every 15 minutes. For a true Toronto experience, hop on the 511 Bathurst or 509 Harbourfront 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 $3.25. Uber and UberX are also available.
With more than 400 stations all over the city, Bike Share Toronto is a fun and environmen-tally 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.