Category Archives: Best restaurants in Toronto

best fried chicken and waffles toronto

Top 3 Restaurants with Live Music in Toronto

In Toronto, our tastes in music are just as diverse as our tastes in food.

So finding a restaurant that melds dinner and live music into one experience? Yes please!

Top 3 restaurants for live music with your dinner:

3. Alchemy: 890 College Street

Discover your new favourite cocktail and live music combo any night of the week at this College Street (West of Ossington) spot.

Staff (more like Artisans) at Alchemy put just as much effort into preparing their cocktails as their food

Start your night with the charcuterie board as you look over the cocktail list a second time

Just like the musicians, the selection on the charcuterie board changes, so each time you come, you can have a unique experience. Live music Tuesday-Sunday. 

2. Harlem Underground: 745 Queen Street West

Music and food for the soul! Harlem’s Caribbean menu pairs perfectly with the mix of soul and jazz musicians on the stage.

harlem underground queen street westYou may feel like you’re in a different country, but don’t go all adventurous with your food and drink at Harlem

Stick with Caribbean staples like menu standouts corn bread and fried chicken. Understand that Caribbean service is on the slow side, so double up your Dark ‘n Stormy or Red Stripe order and lose track of time with the band. Live music Fridays and Mondays only.

1. Copacabana: 150 Eglinton Ave East

Live Music, beautiful Brazilian dancers and a never ending variety of grilled prime meats? Yes?!

live music at copacabana toronto

The music is loud and lively. The food is medium-rare and lively. You will want to get up and dance to show yourself how alive you are!

copacabana brazilian steakhouse torontoA never ending stream of music and grilled meat selections will find their way to your table at Copacabana

Different styles of prime beef like standouts garlic sirloin and cheese filled prime rib are sliced right off the skewer directly to your plate. $50/person all you can eat. Live music Fridays and Saturdays at Eglinton location only.

Top 10 Restaurants in Toronto’s East End

After 25 million dollars and three years of renovations, Toronto’s East End has a bonafide food and drink destination.

Before hitting The Broadview Hotel, why not dine at an East End restaurant?

Top 10 East End Restaurants:

10. Goods and Provisions: 1124 Queen Street East, 647-340-1738

The steak frites at Goods and Provisions

Heavenly steak at Goods and Provisions. Instagram photo: @vobot_

Be transported back to the Prohibition era: Admire the vintage wooden cabinets, chandeliers, and photographs, sip on an Old Fascist (Bourbon, Amaro Nonino, Ginger Syrup and Cardamom bitters) and enjoy a plate of Steak Frites ($39) topped with bone marrow butter. Arrive between 5:30pm-7pm to enjoy their happy hour.

9. Eastside Social: 1008 Queen Street East, 416-461-5663

East Side Social Toronto

The naval themed dining space at East Side Social.

A contemporary restaurant space outfitted with naval decorations will immediately transport you to the Maritimes. As you relish the east coast vibes, enjoy one of their seafood entrees such as the Pan Seared Scallop and Tiger Shrimp ($18.50).

8. Allen’s: 143 Danforth Avenue, 416-463-3086

A hamburger at Allen’s on Danforth

Allen’s burgers are made with 100% grass fed beef. Instagram photo: @likepeasandcs

Stick to what Allen’s is known for: Their selection of incredible grass fed burgers. For a classic bar atmosphere sit inside, otherwise request a table on their gorgeous willow tree shaded back patio. Allen’s is not your typical pub.

7. Batifole: 744 Gerrard Street East, 416-462-9965

the dining room at Batifole in Toronto

French dining experience at Batifole. Instagram photo: @jetset737

Batifole is the quintessential French bistro: Inviting chandeliers, wall portraits, and wooden counter tops will remove any doubts of being a pretentious French restaurant. The food has an unmistakeable home cooked quality – their “Cassoulet Royal” ($26), a hearty stew of white beans, duck confit, sausage, and pork belly is a must try.

6. The Wren: 1382 Danforth Avenue, 647-748-1382

A burger from the Wren Toronto

The Wren is known for their mouthgasmic burgers. Instagram photo: @menuegram

A go-to for locals craving the social atmosphere of a modern bar, with stellar Southwestern styled comfort food. Indulge in one of their Instagram famous burgers.

5. Carbon Bar: 99 Queen Street East, 416-947-7000

Pitmaster Platter at Carbon Bar which features barbecue ribs, sausage, turkey, and pulled pork

The Pit Master Platter at Carbon Bar is meant for sharing. Instagram photo: @tonkaaaap

Somewhere between casual and upscale with their modern artsy décor, impeccable service, and down-home comfort food make Carbon Bar an East End gem. Come in specifically for their Pit Master Platter ($32 per person): a smorgasbord of delicious southern inspired barbeque including ribs, sausage, turkey, and pulled pork.

4. Maple Leaf Tavern: 955 Gerrard Street East, 416-465-0955 

Maple Leaf Tavern Toronto

The dining room at Maple Leaf Tavern adds a modern spin on the long history of the building. Instagram photo: @mapleleaftavern

Located in a 100-year-old building, recent renovations create a vintage-modern feel with brick walls, hardwood floors, and wooden cabinets. The menu is highlighted by their selection of wood grilled dishes such as the Ribeye ($48) and Mutton Chops ($29).

3.  Pinkerton’s Snack Bar: 1026 Gerrard Street East, 416-855-1460

Pinkertons snack bar in Toronto

Vibe to the catchy soundtrack of alt-rock blasted over the speakers, grab a drink and revel in the chill atmosphere which features industrial décor and local art.

bulgogi steamed bao buns from Pinkerton’s Snack Bar

Bulgogi baos are ideal drink pairings at Pinkerton’s. Instagram photo: @lilynjen

Order a variety of Asian-inspired snacks such as their Bulgogi Steamed Bao Buns (2 for $12).

2. Ruby Watchco: 730 Queen Street East, 416-465-0100

Ruby Watchco Toronto

The modern dining experience at Ruby Watchco. Instagram photo: @sandraechow

The creation of celebrity chef Lynn Crawford, this Canadian restaurant operates a pre-set menu system ($54) for each day of the week (check the menu in advance before making a reservation). While expensive, you get a three course meal crafted by one of Canada’s top chefs.

three course meal at Ruby Watch Co

The three course menu at Ruby Watchco is seasonal driven and constantly changing. Instagram photo: @wherejessate

1. Gio Rana’s Really Really Nice Restaurant: 1220 Queen Street East, 416-469-5225

Dining at Gio Rana’s Really Really Nice Restaurant The Nose

The quirky atmosphere at “The Nose”. Instagram photo: @karloalas

Known as “The Nose” because of a giant nose sculpture that hangs at its entrance, this restaurant’s weirdness doesn’t stop at the front door: The interior is decked out with quirky mannequins and funky Italian art pieces. One thing that isn’t strange is their classic Italian comfort food.

House made gnocchi ($9) highlights the menu at “The Nose” Instagram photo: @6ixsenses

Which of these restaurants will start your next East End adventure?

Best Filipino in Toronto

Toronto’s Most Exciting Cuisine Right Now

The cuisine known for its sweet, salty, and sour flavour profile is getting its due.

Rising from hidden-off pioneering restaurants like CASA Manila, a new wave of Filipino restaurants are pushing culinary limits and Toronto foodies are seeking them out.

Filipino cuisine is on the rise.

4 best options for a Filipino foodie adventure:

4. Lamesa: 669 Queen Street West, 647-346-2377

Lamesa Restaurant Queen Street

Modern atmosphere at Lamesa makes it a foodie favourite. Instagram photo: @rebel_remixlife

Lamesa is your gateway option. Easily accessible on Queen Street West, its marble countertops, picturesque chandeliers, and contemporary art pieces create an attractive atmosphere.

Modern adaptations of Filipino classics rule the menu. Come in for their chicken adobo- moist chicken thighs drenched in a rich garlic and soy sauce.

Lamesa's Adobo dish

The chicken adobo at Lamesa. Instagram photo: @suburbian_ghurl

Plan a Sunday adventure: Lamesa’s Kamayan “hand to mouth” feast of traditional meats (chicken, pork), seafood (clams, mussels, milk fish), and accompaniments (garlic rice, deviled eggs, grilled corn) are served over a plate of banana leaves- only available on Sundays from 5-9pm.

3. Platito: Pop-ups and events

Filipino food toronto

Chicken and ube waffles from Platito served with house maple butter and syrup. Instagram photo: @whatsinmybelley

Platito lives on despite a fire that destroyed their restaurant. Popping up at food festivals, they attract long lines for their trendy ube (a purple yam native to the Philippines with a subtle vanilla flavour) inspired dishes. While their Baldwin Street location is closed indefinitely, follow their Instagram and Facebook to find upcoming pop-ups.

2. Tinuno: 31 Howard Street, 647-343-9294

kamayan feast in Toronto

The Kamayan at Tinuno is a Filipino feast. Instagram photo: @danieitran

Tinuno roughly translates to “cooking over a fire” which perfectly encapsulates the food at this low key East end spot. While the basic space won’t excite you, the food will- they serve the best Kamayan in the city.

Looking for a quick snack? Their little BBQ out front serves street food skewers to go.

1. Dolly’s: 1285 Bloor Street, 416-551-0355

bar at Dolly’s Toronto

Dolly’s chill bar. Instagram photo: @dollysmojito

Dolly’s is the brainchild of Dave Sidhu, the man behind Toronto’s Playa Cabana restaurant chain. You will immediately feel his signature vibe: Dim lighting, neon signs, and graffiti walls. Perfect for sipping mojitos (their variation is sweetened with fresh pressed cane juice) and snacking on Filipino classics such as lumpia (deep fried spring rolls) or pancit bihon (stir fried noodles).

signature mojito at Dolly’s Bloor Street bar

A mug of Dolly’s mojito sweetened with real cane juice. Instagram photo: @dollysmojito

Craving more Filipino?

  1. Lola’s Kusina: Located in Etobicoke, this classic spot serves up traditional Filipino dishes and doubles as a bakery dishing out specialty cakes.
  2. Barrio Fiesta: Scarborough is home to many Filipino restaurants serving classic dishes.
  3. Lasa by Lamesa: This fast casual restaurant serves extra-crispy fried chicken seasoned with a tangy spice blend.
  4. Bistro Manila: In between sets of live music or singing karaoke, snack on tasty Filipino sides.
  5. Tocino Boys: Specializing in Filipino styled bacon, they pop-up at downtown bars and events.

Hidden Street Reveals New Mexican Flavours

In a city drowning in tacos and tequila, why open another Mexican restaurant?

Tim Rickard (born in Waterloo) and Cesar Ramirez (born in California) are combining their differing backgrounds to create new flavours at their well hidden Mexi-Cali-adian snack bar near Bathurst and Dupont.

tim cesarCesar and Tim of “El Pocho”

New recipes from a cultural mix 

Cesar uses his memories from living in Mexico and California as inspiration for creating a dish; Tim then adds his alterations.

The first bite of their Carne Asada Taco is an awakening of chile spiced tomatoes, citrusy coriander and garlic grilled steak. Your taste buds will stop dancing when the fresh and balancing avocado calms them down.

carneCarne asada tacos ($9)

Fascinated by the explosion of flavours you will want to try more of El Pocho’s menu: 

chilaquilesVegetarian Chilaquiles ($13): Crispy tortillas with Mexican cotija cheese, scrambled eggs, tomatillo salsa, beans

.

chorizoChorizo y Nopales ($11): Spicy chorizo sausage and pickled cactus

ElPo

Will you venture to Follis Ave to try new Mexican flavours?

su and bu toronto

Where to Find Award Winning Poke

Toronto’s first poke week sent foodies on a frenzied adventure discovering new downtown poke shops and sampling $5 bowls.

Poke fans voted

With just one vote to cast for their favourite bowl of the week, poke fans determined the Peoples Champion.

img_20161114_1444261This award winning salmon poke features avocado, mango, dragonfruit, cucumber, sesame seeds, fried rice balls and taro chips on rice

Secret ingredient

“Each bite was a reason for the next. The flavours and textures were a dance party in your mouth,” commented one Poke Week participant. The winning bowl had an ingredient not seen before at Toronto poke shops: Fried rice balls.
plate

The champ

SU&BU on John Street now has the “Golden Fin” designed by Toronto’s Crazy Plate Lady in their possession.

img_20161116_092038Sam Serruya owner of SU&BU with his award winning bowl of poke and the Golden Fin

Want to stay updated on everything Toronto Poke? Get a free Toronto Poke email subscription here.

su and bu

Poke Shops of Toronto

Poke is having its moment, and for good reason.

Immensely tasty, superbly healthy and beautifully presented, numerous poke-exclusive shops have opened downtown over the past five months.

Traditionally poke (pronounced po-kay) is made with raw fish, onions, sesame oil, and soy sauce over rice. Building on this basic recipe, Toronto shops add their own ingredient combinations to create remarkable presentations.

Poke shops downtown Toronto:

Big Tuna, 599 Bloor Street.

Big Tuna opened June 17, 2016 as Toronto’s first poke-exclusive shop, and is the only shop where you can enjoy a beer with your bowl.

anh tran big tunaBig Tuna owner Anh Tran offers up a poke bowl complete with taro chips at his 10 seat shop

 

Pokito, 420 Queen Street W.

Pokito benefits from having the expertise of owners from successful businesses of Chatime, Bake Code, and Me.n.u food truck.

pokitoThe “420” complete with tuna, salmon, ponzu lime sauce, sweet onion, cucumber, sesame seeds and guacamole is Pokito’s signature bowl

 

The Poke Box36 Toronto Street.

The Poke Box is square with plain white walls, no seating and lightning fast service.

poke in torontoHow fresh the fish is, makes or breaks poke. The Poke Box flew this tuna straight from Hawaii. 

 

Poke Guys, 112 Elizabeth Street.

Poke Guys is a hidden gem just off Dundas Street West. Not as busy and bigger than other shops, you can poke and chill.

poke guys
Hoki Poke, 946 Yonge Street.

Hoki Poke owners reinvented their sushi shop (The Signature Sushi) to become Toronto’s second poke shop.

hoki pokeThe potential colour and texture combinations of raw seafood, vegetables, fruits and sauces are endless- salmon bowl from Hoki Poke

 

Calii Love, 367 King Street W.

“Positive vibes” radiate throughout the space: Staff eagerly help you make the perfect menu selection while fun tunes blast in the background.

calii loveCalii Love has something the other shops don’t- it is spacious.

 

SU&BU, 106 John Street.

SU&BU launched as a stall in the Food Building at this year’s CNE to huge fan fare leading to their permanent location, with a second one in the works.

su and buToronto’s latest opening SU&BU also offers sushi burritos

Can you catch’em all?

Ever more poke-exclusive shops:

Rolltation, 207 Dundas Street West and 2291 Yonge Street

North Poke, 179 Baldwin Street

Lawai’a, 700 King Street West

Poke Wrap, 354 Yonge Street

Ono, 100 Western Battery Road

Best Toronto Poke

Where to Find Poke in Toronto

After taking the US by storm last year, we suspected the immensely tasty, superbly healthy, and undeniably trendy Hawaiian staple would make its way to Toronto in a big way.

That’s why on the first day of summer we proclaimed “poke” to be the #1 must-try taste of summer.

Since then, poke-exclusive shops have opened and it has been added to menus across the city.

Big Tuna Bloor Streetan outbreak of poke bars is set to happen in Toronto

Traditionally poke (pronounced po-kay) is made with raw tuna or salmon, onions, sesame oil, and soy sauce over rice. Using this basic recipe, Toronto chefs have been creating the most remarkable dishes of summer by adding their own unique ingredient touches.

Top 5 spots for poke in Toronto

  1. Big Tuna Poke Bar, 599 Bloor Street.

Poke

This new Annex spot offers signature poke bowls with Asian inspired flavours or the option to customize your dream bowl. The light and crunchy taro chips are a highlight. Portions are small for $13.

  1. Big Crow, 176 Dupont Street.

BigCrow Dupont

The outdoor Dupont BBQ spot makes salmon poke with chili, ginger, soy sauce, and peanuts they serve it with chips. The peanuts add a unique crunch and flavour but don’t justify the $16 price.

  1. Shameful Tiki Room, 1378 Queen Street W.

Shameful Tiki Bar PokePhoto by @feedmyphone

Tiki bars and poke go hand in hand given their Hawaiian backgrounds. This one combines ahi tuna, honeydew melon, chilies, almonds, mint, cilantro and hibiscus sesame oil. The melon adds a sweet and refreshing twist ($16).

  1. Seven Lives, 69 Kensington Ave.

Seven Live Toronto PokePhoto by @joannecola

 A generous portion of salmon sashimi is served with hot fresh tortilla chips instead of rice and a big scoop of creamy guacamole to make this one of Toronto’s best at only $10.

  1. Miss Thing’s, 1279 Queen Street W.

Miss Things Poke

This trendy tiki bar in Parkdale makes their poke with rainbow trout, salmon eggs, radish, mushrooms and ginger over coconut rice. The sweet rainbow trout and fragrant coconut rice make it our favourite poke in the city ($12).

Why Kensington Market is Toronto’s Top Foodie Destination

With its laidback vibe, diversity of cultures, one-of-a-kind and low priced shops, Kensington Market has been a destination for decades.

Diversity is what “The Market” is known for, of course. But lately something special is happening that goes beyond diversity and cheap eats.

An evolution of places to eat in Kensington Market

A culinary evolution that values quality authentic food without the fussiness of high-end restaurants is making Kensington Market Toronto’s #1 foodie destination.

RastaPRasta Pasta quickly became a foodie destination for its cheap and delicious $6 Jerk Chicken meal after opening in 2013

With an influx of new places to eat added to the already vast amount of options, picking just one place and leaving without FOMO is a challenge.

To help you sift through the wealth of options to find your favourite spot, we talked to Kensington owners to get you the inside scoop.

SanCosSan Cosme’s massive Mexican Tortas have quickly become a market favourite  

Grant van Gameren (owner of Bar Raval and Bar Isabel) recently opened El Rey in Kensington because of its unique non-chain gentrification characteristics.

One-of-a-kind bars and eateries

Well equipped to be Toronto’s top cocktail bar this summer, El Rey specializes in mezcal (tequila is a type of mezcal). Whether in a cocktail or a tasting flight, El Rey has an incredibly large collection of mezcals along with a small and refined menu of Mexican inspired dishes. The restaurant itself is small, but its patio doubles the capacity.

ElReyPatiEl Rey’s patio right on Kensington Ave

If there’s one shop that defines Kensington’s foodie scene, it’s the infamous Seven Lives. The taqueria almost always has a line and I’ve met few who have scored one of the 4 inside seats. One bite into a seafood taco, and the inconvenience all makes sense.

Owner Sean Riehl had a plan in 2014 to move Seven Lives to a larger location on Ossington Ave, but he didn’t feel right leaving Kensington, despite the potential for more business. He especially loves the community of businesses; he buys most his fish within Kensington and applauds how shops help each other out. In fact, he has recently opened a Paleteria right across the street from Seven Lives, which means he’ll be staying in Kensington for the long run, so yes, you’ll have to brave the taco line for the foreseeable future.

SevenOutsideThe new Paleteria across the street from Seven Lives Tacos

One of the most striking characteristics of Kensington is the overall quirkiness and novelty of the establishments. That’s what Konrad Droeske co-owner of Otto’s Berlin Doner loves about the market.

Konrad observes that business owners are more adventurous and risk taking in Kensington because of the alternative appeal. He notes that this is what leads to the creative and one-of-a-kind establishments.

OttoOtto’s German street food: Currywurst, halloumi salad, doner, fries with feta

Interesting and novel ideas like Otto’s take on German street food and San Cosme’s Mexican sandwiches is what makes Kensington a destination for foodies.

How to navigate all the choice

Don’t get overwhelmed by the vast amount of options; get lost in them, explore, and find a spot that is unique as Kensington Market itself. Let us know your favourite Kensginton destination by using #CraveKensington

New Downtown Restaurant to feature Fresh Beer and Tapas

So you want to meet friends downtown where fresh beer, inventive cocktails, tasteful food and fun music all combine for a classy house party type of vibe?

Mascot Brewery has opened its restaurant after months of complete renovation.

Mascot

Located in the heart of downtown on Mercer Street, Mascot Brewery is a convenient location with plenty of options for you and all your friends. The restaurant will be part of a three storey structure, giving you access to its street level restaurant, second floor bar and rooftop beergarden.

So what can you expect from the restaurant at Mascot Brewery?

According to owner, Aaron Prothro, “We are working with a great chef, Rory McGouran, who is classically trained and has worked in corporate kitchens. We decided to offer a snack-sized, tapa style dining experience to give people true value. So, if you come in and try a piece of meat, you don’t have to break the bank on it, you can try sample sized options. One thing we are proud of and makes us unique is that we never freeze our food products, they’re always fresh.”

MascotLamb

  Snack sized tapas rule the menu like this “Roasted Lamb Salsa Verde Gremolata”

What to pair with your tapas selection?

Mascot Brewery boasts a high quality and well thought-out drinks menu of fresh beer and gourmet cocktails. “We keep our beer menu lean because we prefer to emphasize quality over quantity. We’d rather be consistent in having a small list of very good tasting beer, as opposed to say, having a list of 20 mediocre tasting beer,” Aaron tells us.

MascotPint

Mascot Brewery’s “Hefeweizen” is a summer sipper, with a hint of banana and clove amping up the
soft, almost bready flavour

mascotCocktail

The ‘Guac in Rari’: Tequila, chartreuse, lime, strawberry mango agua fresca, avocado cucumber lime foam, Mascot coffee porter chocolate reduction

Why this Oyster Bar is Toronto’s Best

At this oyster bar on Queen Street West, owner Adam Colquhoun leads a team of shuckers with over 100 years of combined experience.

OysterCreweOysters make you smile- Oyster Boy staff

Opened in April of 2000, Oyster Boy features a selection of oysters curated from the East and West Coast (East is saltier and brinier) starting at $16/ half dozen. Have them baked with Gruyere cheese, breadcrumbs and Tabasco for an extra $2.

oyster1Fresh oysters from New Brunswick (front) and British Columbia (back)

Spring is prime time for oysters from Nova Scotia, when oysters first open up after coming out of hibernation, we serve them fresh, tasty and firm,” says Adam who suggests pairing oysters with white wine, champagne, crisp lagers or vodka martinis.

OysterIns

Craving oysters yet? Oyster Boy offers a casual fun night of world class oysters and drinks for about $60/person.

OysterFront

Keep Reading: Top 10 East End Restaurants.