Celebrate a Special Occasion, COVID-Style, With These Top Toronto Restaurants

Credit: Bymark

There’s nothing quite like celebrating a special moment, milestone, or event in your life than at a beloved restaurant surrounded by the ones you love (while exercising safe social distancing, of course). That’s not always possible right now, but eating restaurant food is still the optimal way to mark a special moment, whether that’s at the restaurant or in your living room.

While indoor dining remains closed in Toronto, outdoor dining and takeout are still ideal options for more low-key celebrations. Read on to book a reservation at some of Toronto’s top special occasion restaurants, with info on outdoor dining and takeout — and dine-in for when that returns.

For a French countryside escape: Auberge du Pommier

This lush and quaint haven was once a woodcutter’s cottage dating back to the 1860s. Today, the upscale French restaurant remains a hidden paradise tucked away in an otherwise nondescript corporate area in midtown Toronto.

Dine-in: The rustic and homey decor is bolstered by pristine French fare that can be enjoyed a la carte or via a tasting menu. Decadent creations include elegant foie gras parfait with blueberry gelee, vanilla-poached lobster bisque, caviar and truffle tastings, and innovative corn pavlova with burnt husk meringue for dessert.

Outdoor dining: Akin to eating al fresco in the French countryside, the outdoor and covered patio is surrounded by verdant topiaries that help buffer out the streetside noise.

Takeout: Weekly changing tasting menus can be ordered online, making dining at home feel extra special.

For a carnivore’s appetite: Bardi’s Steakhouse

Despite being situated steps away from the bustling Union Station and the famed Fairmont Royal York hotel, this steakhouse remains a special and secretive gem for those who are seeking more dining privacy.

Dine-in: Open since 1966, this steakhouse is a time capsule of Toronto in the best way possible with its moody and mahogany toned decor. Service is straightforward and old-school, yet gracious. Expect classic fare such as caesar salad, garlic and cheese toast, tender crab cakes, and specialty steaks such as top sirloin, bone-in rib steak.

Outdoor dining: Currently unavailable.

Takeout: Order from the regular menu, or try new menu items and wines at discounted prices to enjoy at home.

Order now.

For South American flair: Baro

The flavors of South America — everywhere from Colombia to Chile — are on display at this fiesta of a restaurant that spans four floors. 

Dine-in: The dining room sits on the ground level, where you can order a la carte or the chef’s recommended spread of his greatest hits that include his legendary “big ass steak,” chori papa, tiraditos, and more. Head upstairs after for some cocktails in the speakeasy tucked behind an unassuming walk-in “fridge.”

Outdoor dining: Located on the fourth floor, the rooftop heated and covered patio is injected with Latin liveliness, serving a more streamlined and shareable menu along with “fiesta hour” snacks.

Takeout: Baro Bodega is the restaurant’s at-home concept available on Uber Eats, with the options for party-sized snacks, desserts, and brunch fare.

Auberge du Pommier | Credit: Allison Woo

For global icons with a Canadian twist: Bymark

Bymark may have a “suit spot” reputation, and, yes, many corporate Bay Streeters have dined here — but don’t let its finance-world reputation deter you from booking a celebratory meal here.

Dine-in: Despite its locale within the atrium of the TD Towers, Bymark’s lofty interior design makes for an airy experience. Celebrity chef Mark McEwan conceived of many “firsts” at this legendary spot that’s been around since 2002, including his over-the-top, butter-braised lobster poutine and towering truffle-topped burger with brie de meaux. More tame and delicate fare such as ahi tuna and BC halibut nicoise make for equally enjoyable fare.

Outdoor dining: The spacious L-shaped heated patio is an ideal spot for happy hours, people watching, and grazing on bar or full menu creations.

Takeout: Take-out orders can be placed via the website, where you can offer food, wines, and beers to go — nothing spices up a celebration at home like lobster poutine or a truffle burger.

For sweeping cityscape views and Canadian bounty: Canoe

Be romanced by Toronto’s skyline as you dine at this fine outpost that’s situated on the 54th floor of the TD tower in the downtown core.

Dine-in: The nearly three decades-old restaurant recently underwent a $2 million dollar renovation, upgrading both the kitchen and dining room. Snag a seat by the window facing the CN Tower to watch the sunset while feasting on dishes that showcase Canadian-sourced ingredients. Top choices include birch-roasted bison tartare, tender Baffin Island turbot, and blueberry-rubbed elk loin. You can opt for dishes off the dinner menu or choose the seasonally rotating tasting menu with wine option pairing.

Outdoor dining: Currently unavailable.

Takeout: Weekly tasting menus can be pre-ordered online.

Order now.

For Michelin-starred Chinese-American cuisine: Dasha

Conceived by award-winning chef Akira Back, this sprawling space’s decor evokes the street chic vibes of a Chinatown speakeasy. 

Dine-in: Dasha’s lively atmosphere is cranked up to high thanks to karaoke rooms on the second floor that are especially well suited to celebrations. Dishes include juicy Peking duck with wafer-thin crispy skin, plump sweet and sour prawns, and feisty “angry chicken” tossed with Sichuan peppercorns and chiles. Also of note are the whimsical cocktails, as well as an extensive range of wines, Champagne, spirits, and beer to choose from. 

Outdoor dining: The heated and covered patio is situated in a quiet alleyway and flanked with bamboo for added privacy. The full menu is available for al fresco enjoyment.

Takeout: All options are available for takeout and delivery.

Order now.

For Hong Kong-inspired dining: Lai Wah Heen

Aptly translated to “luxurious meeting place,” Lai Wah Heen has been a stalwart in Toronto’s culinary scene since it first opened its doors in 1995. People still come here for the opulent dining experience — replete with lofty, 12-foot ceilings, calming ambiance, and Chinese calligraphy art that dot the walls.

Dine-in: For those seeking an intimate menu tasting, Lai Wah Heen’s chef’s table in the VIP room accommodates up to 20 people. This is where you can personalize your tasting journey with the restaurant and include famed creations such as braised abalone with maitake mushrooms, Swallow’s Nest bisque, crispy chicken in truffle sauce, and Peking duck wraps. Or if you prefer, the restaurant’s famous dim sum service can also be tailored to your celebratory needs. Standout dishes here include foie gras and pork fried pastries, crystal shrimp dumplings, wagyu beef dumplings in Sichuan sauce, and fluffy buns filled with lava custard.

Outdoor dining: Currently unavailable.

Takeout: Dim sum as breakfast in bed? Why not! Especially when you can opt to enjoy dishes within the confines of your home. Call to place your order, with a 10 percent discount for pick-ups.

Order now.

For avant garde Southeast Asian: Lee

Celebrity chef Susur Lee helms this restaurant that has called the King West area home for over a decade.

Dine-in: Here in the seductive and moody confines of the restaurant — which features exposed bricks, wood beams, teal seating, an island bar, and street art — you can opt to celebrate in style within the main dining room, or, should you wish to dine in privacy, the restaurant offers three event rooms that accommodate any occasion and party size. In any of these spaces, the move is to order the chef’s tasting menu, where Lee chooses the dishes and wines to pair. Otherwise, top choices include chef’s signature Singapore-style slaw (featuring over 20 ingredients and tossed tableside), cheeseburger spring rolls, curry roasted chicken (created on the fly for Food Network’s Top Chef), and slow-braised beef with potato leek puree.

Outdoor dining: Patio dining is available, hugged by wrought-iron fencing that offers bustling views over King Street. In the cooler months, heat lamps are provided.

Takeout: Enjoy avant garde Asian creations at home through Doordash.

For dining like a monarch: Louix Louis

This restaurant is unabashedly luxe with its gilded accents, 60-foot whisky-swirled ceiling mural, soaring cocktail wall, and pristine marble bar.

Dine-in: Situated on the 31st floor of The St. Regis hotel, this space exudes luxury and the cuisine echoes this sentiment in spades. The food is a modernist blend of new French and American cuisines, displayed in dishes such as sweet tuna tartare with soy caramel, wagyu steak bavette, or whole truffle chicken served two ways with wild garlic and truffle jus. Saving room for dessert is a requirement here; the 13-layer chocolate cake, gilded with edible gold, is a straight-up show stopper. 

Outdoor dining: Currently unavailable.

Takeout: Aptly called Louis To-Go, takeout is available online for at-home celebrations.

For artful Spanish tapas: Patria

This outpost dances with Spanish eclecticism, focused on food from the Iberian Peninsula.

Dine-in: Patria’s back wall of banquettes is decorated by a string of butcher knives that, along with a collection of antiques, handwoven tapestries, and old-world portraits. If coming here with a larger party, consider the three-coursed group brunch and dinner menus that easily feed eight or more. From the former, look out for the tocino con sirope de arce, which includes plancha-cooked bacon finished with sherry and maple syrup; and from the latter, the must-taste is the capon al ajillo, or woodfired corn hen topped with onion sherry sauce and finished with almonds.

Outdoor dining: The small yet mighty covered and heated patio is nestled in between the restaurant and a commercial building.

Takeout: Available through UberEats and Ritual.

For refined Italian fare: Sofia

If you’re the type who loves to dress to the nines as well as be seen and heard, this hot spot in Yorkville is the one for your milestone moments.

Dine-in: Creating a buzzing atmosphere are plush red velvet seating, chevron wood flooring, chandeliers overhead, contemporary art on the walls, and live music. Food includes silky kampachi crudo, grilled octopus with smoked tomato salsa, wild boar garganelli pasta, whole wood grilled fish finished with pepperoncini salsa verde, and rich Snake River flatiron wagyu. To complement the dishes, the restaurant also has an extensive array of wine, cocktail, whiskey, and other spirits.

Outdoor dining: Sofia offers spacious front and courtyard patio options with navy blue accents and heated lamps tucked just off the main stretch of Yorkville Avenue.

Takeout: Currently unavailable.

For a taste of the Caribbean tropics: SugarKane

Owned and operated by sister trio Nicole, Renee, and Donna Charles, SugarKane specializes in Caribbean and Cajun home cooking that the women grew up on.

Dine-in: The celebratory space centers around family, friends, and fun. The restaurant greets you with its amber-wood tones, collage mural, and local artwork, and the ambiance is particularly vivacious on weekends with “Friday Nights Live” DJ sets and “Saturday Nights Live” music that spotlights the Steel Pan. Along with entertainment, pair the evening’s festivities with delicacies such as saltfish cakes with scotch bonnet peppers and West Indian spices, refreshing mango salad, shark topped with pineapple chow and tamarind sauce, jerk chicken fettuccine alfredo, and spicy curry goat bowl. 

Outdoor dining: The streetside patio’s sunny yellow umbrellas add some brightness to colder months.

Takeout: Currently unavailable. However, the restaurant does offer catering services and party meal packages through their secondary business Spiked Punch, which is ideal for tailoring to your intimate home gathering needs.

Book or order now.

Tiffany Leigh is a freelance journalist whose bylines have included Vogue, Playboy, Departures, Fashion Magazine, Travel + Leisure, Food & Wine Magazine, Dwell, and more. In addition to having a business and communications degree, she also has a culinary background and is the recipient of a James Beard Foundation Scholarship award.