In a lot of ways, Toronto and Chicago feel like sister cities. Maybe that’s why I love Toronto so much! Both Chicago and Toronto are big Midwestern metropolises, both are on a Great Lake, both cities have friendly local citizens. But more than any of these similarities, both Toronto and Chicago have a bustling local food and restaurant scene, filled with talented young chefs pushing the culinary boundaries, which puts their cities on par with places like New York and Paris.
There was no shortage of restaurants I wanted to try while in Toronto, and I pinned over 50 spots on my custom Google map! There was only a shortage of time… I only visited Toronto for 48 hours per visit (#USworklife), so I had to make the most of my visits. As always, I researched local food bloggers and writers to see what some of their favorites were and Thrillist actually offered a good selection of choices. A few of my coworkers had recently visited so they had recommendations, and I connected with Lauren from Twirl the Globe to see what her favorites were.
If you only have a long weekend in Toronto, here are 12 best restaurants for foodies that you need to try!
Housed in THE most stunning space in downtown Toronto (pictured above), Oretta is a delightful place to stop for a happy hour drink or professional lunch. The breathtaking 1920s art deco decor is spot on, from the pale pink paneling to all the brass accented details, the designer who created this space truly made a masterpiece. And good food to boot? Focused on rustic northern Italian cuisine, their small-plate menu offers plenty of yummy dishes to enjoy. Their happy hour special includes food with suggested wine pairings for a great price.
One of the most prestigious restaurants in Toronto, DOMA is a French-inspired Korean restaurant in Toronto’s Little Italy neighborhood. This is exactly the kind of fusion restaurant that you would expect to find in a diverse city like Toronto where to coexistence of different cultures seems to happen seamlessly. The minimalist, light-filled interior serves as a perfect contrast to the vibrant plates of octopus, bibimbap, and grilled beef make their way out of the kitchen. The knowledgeable staff and allergy-friendly menu make the dining experience very enjoyable.
You can’t come to Canada and NOT have poutine. That feels like a crime to Canadians! Poutine is one of those foods where everyone has their favorite to recommend, so it can be hard to decide which spot to visit on a short trip. I opted for Poutini’s House of Poutine on Queen Street West and was not disappointed. They have a variety of poutine choices to select from including vegan/vegetarian options which is rare. Wanting to try multiple varieties, I shared a traditional poutine and a The Works poutine. The fries were a little soggy in my opinion, but the rich gravy and fresh cheese curds more than made up for the texture.
Housed in one of the Harbor Village neighborhood’s historic (and adorable!) Victorian-era homes, Cafe Cancan is a girly French bistro and cafe, perfect for a brunch with friends. The bright design and pink hues compliment the playful yet homey French-inspired menu. I recommend ordering one of the “set” menu options, which gives you a drink, baked good and entree, for a good value. Once the food arrives, it is anything but dainty. The healthy-sized portions will make sure that you leave full!
I got this recommendation from a Toronto native who said it was the best ramen in the city, so naturally I had to check it out. Kinton Ramen is interesting because you can build your own ramen, by choosing the type of broth, meat and flavoring. I went for a spicy garlic flavoring in a pork broth with pork shoulder with an egg added in. This ramen was awesome, because the noodles were clearly housemade and super fresh. The garlic flavor was spicy and strong, but built well on the pork flavored broth. The best part though, was the pork. It was incredibly tender and flavorful!
This tiny shop does two things and two things only—ice cream and cookies—and when they combine the two into handmade ice cream sandwiches, it is perfection. There is typically a line at this Little Portugal neighborhood spot, so you can expect to wait but it is well worth it. Their diverse selection of atypical flavors includes things like London Fog or Totaro or Miso-Roasted Cherry which you can then put inside perfectly baked gooey cookies like Ginger Snap, RoCocoa or the Everything. There is nowhere to sit inside the bakery, so plan to sit on the street stoop while you enjoy your delicious sugary treat.
Authentic Neapolitan pizza is what this Kensington Market pizzeria specializes in, and your nose would lead you there even if this food guide didn’t. You will see the wood-fired brick oven right when you walk in, but what really draws you in is the smell of bubbling dough and browning cheese. The menu is no frills, traditional Italian pizza with one size, no substitutions and with red sauce or olive oil. Opting for the Diavolo pizza, with bell peppers, spicy Italian sausage, banana peppers and buffalo mozzarella, it came out in 5 minutes flat, and the cheese was still bubbling! The crust was definitely the best part, perfectly soft and thinly rolled.
This cozy Vietnamese speakeasy was recommended to me by my server at DOMA (mentioned below) as their favorite spot to grab late night food, which is a recommendation that I will take every day of the week. Service people know all the best spots! Pinky’s is a tiki feeling joint, decked out in kitschy Vietnamese lanterns, tinsel and vintage photographs in a way that feels SO damn authentic. The food is incredibly inventive, mixing ingredients together in a creative way that I’ve never tasted before. I loved my roasted bone marrow with pickled chilis and fish sauce, along with excellent cocktails like my hot pink gin and lychee froth.
An adorable handmade sweets and candy shop, Sweet Olenka is a great pit stop on a walking tour of Queen St West. It’s a small little place that looks like its been in business for about 50 years. Their house made chocolates and ice cream is what keeps people coming in, and I loved the granny smith apple and fennel ice cream I ordered. It was quite a unique flavor but refreshing flavor, especially with the chunks of both fruit and vegetable.
There is something to be said for unpretentious, delicious food that is cooked just the way you remember from childhood. Sugo is one of those places. It is clear that the folks in the kitchen at Sugo take pride in two things: Italian food and an undying love for red sauce. The tiny restaurant has the red checkered tablecloths you expect a traditional Italian spot, and the walls are decorated with signs from the ingredients used in the cooking like tomatoes or Campari. The service is incredibly fast, and the food is straight up, simple Italian.
A swanky two story interior houses this modern Italian eatery, complete with leather chairs and modern decor. Don’t be put off by the upscale style because the food is homey Italian done right. The menu is small plate style so get ready to try a bunch of different things. I tried a tasty bruschetta, with fresh summer cherry tomatoes and a slightly spicy balsamic as well as the gnocchi which were fresh, buttery soft and perfectly light. They were served with wild mushrooms, fresh oregano and a browned butter sauce.
Located on a quiet street in the Liberty Village neighborhood of western Toronto, School Restaurant really leans into their namesake with a fully decked out school-themed restaurant complete with an apple at the table when you arrive! The chic, industrial space is airy and plays the 1980s classic TV show “Saved by the Bell” on a loop while you eat. The drinks are even served in beakers! The menu is full of brunch classics done with a playful twist, like the sweet french toast rolled in Snap, Crackle, Pop cereal or breakfast burger with roasted kale and Sriracha.
Did I miss any of your favorite Toronto restaurants? Comment below so I can visit them the next time I’m in Toronto!