The ABCs of the Toronto Food Scene

The ABCs of the Toronto Food Scene

Toronto’s food scene is booming.

To really know the T.O.’s scene, though, you have to look way beyond Tim Horton’s and poutine (Seriously, why do people think Canada’s only good food is poutine?).

Toronto is full of amazing food that’s not on everyone’s radar, which is where this list comes in. From A to Z, these are the restaurants and dishes you need to know about in Canada’s biggest city.

A: Alo

For fine dining fare that brings to mind Toronto’s French roots, look no further than Alo, a contemporary French restaurant and cocktail bar downtown, where some of the city’s most beautiful dishes are being served up. The barroom accept walk-ins, but for the dining room, you’ll need a reservation far in advance for this popular spot.

B: Baro

Toronto may be in the Great White North, but that doesn’t mean it can’t get some south-of-the-border flavor. Baro serves up Latin-inspired twists on contemporary and comfort foods, and everything from brunch to dinner is served here with a spicy kick that you’ll want to try over and over again.

C: ChefHero

The best Toronto restaurants use ChefHero, a Toronto-based startup that offers all their supply needs in one easy-to-use digital marketplace. Restaurants get fresh, local products and ingredients from co-ops of local suppliers, and they save money by doing it through ChefHero’s established vendor networks. It’s a win-win.

D: DaiLo

At DaiLo, Cantonese plates are cooked using modern French techniques, and the result is an international dining experience that is perfectly at home in Toronto. The restaurant’s signature dish, fried watermelon, has raised many an eyebrow, but once you get a taste, you’ll be a believer in the unconventional taste DaiLo is serving up.

E: Edulis

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Dinning at #edulistoronto tonight

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Edulis, which is Latin for edible, pretty much sums up what this Toronto hotspot offers: A revolving menu that changes extensively with each season, showcasing local ingredients that might not be familiar on your plate, but will be fresh and delicious because it’s the perfect time and place to cook them. Make sure to get a reservation during truffle season, when special menus make this rare ingredient the star.

F: Fresh Restaurants

For some of the freshest vegan fare in the city, look no further than Fresh Restaurants, with multiple locations throughout Toronto. Fresh has a mission to make plant-based living satisfying and cravable, and they’re doing it in Toronto. For the taste of Fresh at home, check out their line of cold-pressed juices, available in stores or via online order.

G: Gare de l’Est Brasserie

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Always save room for dessert. @gdlbrasserie

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With the city’s French roots, it should come as no surprise that there is delicious French fare to be found in Toronto. At this authentic East End brasserie, brunch, lunch and dinner are made up of classic a la carte dishes as well as prix fixe menus.

H: Hanmoto

This dive bar and izakaya spot doesn’t even have a website, and reviewers are no holds barred about its shortcomings. But the food — mouthwatering, slightly Americanized Japanese bar food that will sop up whatever cheap drinks you wash it down with — more than makes up for whatever Hanmoto lacks in fine dining finesse.

I: Itacate

Itacate, a Spanish word for provisions, is as simple as its moniker would suggest. An unassuming, family-owned taqueria, it serves up arguably the best tacos in Toronto. They’re fast, affordable and packed with chorizo, carnitas and other traditional offerings, bringing the best of Mexican street food to the streets of Toronto.

J: Jason Chow

When looking for the best place in toronto to grab a bite, you would be wise to heed the words of Jason Chow, The Globe and Mail’s restaurant critic. Chow has now been on staff for just over a year, and in that time, he’s discovered and shared some of the best hidden gems in the Toronto restaurant scene.

K: Kanga Meat Pies

Kanga serves up an Aussie specialty: savoury meat pies with meat-and-gravy fillings wrapped in flaky, buttery pastry. On a chilly Toronto winter day, there’s nothing that will hit the spot more. With multiple locations around the city, as well as takeaway, delivery and catering, there are plenty of ways to get your Kanga fix. The only question now is which flavour pie you choose.

L: La Banane by Brandon Olsen

French food is not hard to find in Toronto, which means a French restaurant that stands out in this crowded scene is one you must try. That includes La Banane, where the menu rotates seasonally with modernized takes on classic French fare. But the real star at La Banane is Chef Brandon Olsen, who is one of the city’s most creative chocolatiers, so whatever you do, don’t skip dessert.

M: Muncheez Creperie

With now two locations in Toronto, Muncheez serves up homemade crepes with both sweet and savoury fillings, allowing them to satisfy whatever craving you might be feeling. Their crepes can also be made vegan and gluten free, meaning those with certain dietary restrictions can also satisfy their “muncheez.”

N: Nadege Patisserie

For anything from a special occasion to a run-of-the-mill sweet tooth, Nadege Patisserie has what you need. Towering, custom cakes, homemade macarons, chocolate-dipped bonbons — if you love sweets, you will love Nadege. Check out its gift boxes and variety packs to try a little taste of all its sweets.

O: Okonomi House

You won’t find Okonomi House online, but that hasn’t stopped this tiny, traditional Japanese shop from having a cult following in Toronto. It serves up Okonomiyaki, a type of Japanese savoury pancakes with a wide variety of available toppings. Outside of Tokyo, this might be the most authentic Japanese you can find.

P: Parallel

At Parallel, everything is inspired by the rich, nutty taste of sesame butter, which is made and bottled in-house. It forms the base for multiple flavors of house-made hummus, as well a sweet-and-salty sesame beet salad dressing. Meals here are fresh and local, made with produce and herbs grown on site, and when you’re finished, you can snag a bottle of that sesame butter and try to recreate your favorite dishes at home.

Q: Quetzal

When you hear “Mexico,” you probably think tacos, burritos, tortas. At Quetzal, meals are inspired by all the diversity of Mexico’s culinary history, from the Atlantic to the Pacific and back again. You won’t find tacos on the menu, but you will find ceviche, grilled skirt steaks and seabream, all prepared in traditional Mexican ways.

R: Rose and Sons Deli

Rose and Sons brings truly classic deli fare to Toronto, with all the pastrami, matzoh ball soup and house made pickles you can eat. Everything here is no-frills — just good meat, fresh baked bread and some of the best service the city has to offer.

S: Sam James Coffee Bar

T.O. coffee lovers know the place to go for a quality cup is Sam James, where a mission to offer the best coffee in the city at an affordable price has been realized. Offerings at Sam James are simple — this is coffee for people who love the drink, and Sam James’ house-roasted blends are sure to satisfy.

T: Tennessee Tavern

Dive bar on the outside, delicious home for Eastern European delicacies on the inside. Tennessee Tavern serves up Georgian standards (try the cevapi!), as well as a delicious Sunday dinner filled with Eastern European staples. There’s also live music and a full bar, so you can fill your belly and then belly up to the bar to close out the night.

U: United Bakers Dairy Restaurant

Comfort food doesn’t get much more comforting than this. At United Bakers Dairy Restaurant, get everything from breakfast to pasta to potato latkes. But the real star of the menu is the extensive list of sandwiches, all served up on fresh, house-made bread from the onsite bakery.

V: Vegetarian Haven

Vegetarian and vegan fare are a trend that seems to show no signs of slowing down, as health- and Earth-conscious eaters seek new options. Vegetarian Haven’s Asian-inspired vegan offerings should please any plant-powered foodie.

W: White Brick Kitchen

Fried chicken, waffles and homemade donuts. Has a Sunday morning ever asked for more? White Brick Kitchen, with its extensive menu of fried-chicken-inspired breakfast offerings, is a brunch-lover’s heaven. But anyone with a taste for Southern comfort food will find something to love here.

X: XOLA Mexican Restaurant

Xola, with its airy, bright dining room, feels like you’ve been transported from Toronto to a beachside cafe in the Yucatan. And then there’s the food. Fresh, homemade, classic Mexican dishes paired with creative, tequila infused cocktails do nothing to dispel the feeling that you’re suddenly south of the border.

Y: Yamchops

To an avid carnivore, the concept of Yamchops may seem immediately suspect: A plant-based butcher, serving up completely meat-free meat alternatives. But once you get a taste of its Beyond meat products and other specialties, you might just be a convert to the plant-powered lifestyle.

Z: Zaza Espresso Bar

After eating through the entire alphabet,, you’re going to wantan espresso to ward off your food coma. Head to Zaza Espresso Bar, an authentic Italian coffee bar and cafe, where a delicious cup and a light dessert awaits. Zaza uses fresh, traditional Italian ingredients to bring their flavors to Toronto, and the result is a cup you won’t be able to put down.

Whether you choose to follow the ABCs in order, or pick and choose from our list, by the time you finish the alphabet, you’ll be a Toronto food expert (and probably very full and if not, you should get checked out because that is very concerning). Bon appetit!

Hiba Amin
Hiba Amin
Marketing Specialist
ChefHero