21 Restaurants That Define Toronto Dining

Welcome to The Greats, a series on the restaurants around the country that define their cities. Here now, a guide to the Toronto Greats. Though they may be closed for dine-in at the moment, there’s never been a better time to support these restaurants we can’t imagine Toronto without through takeout.

Toronto’s distinctive neighbourhoods and multicultural history make the city one of the most exciting places to eat in the country. Many of the city’s greatest restaurants merge Canadian food traditions with those from other parts of the world, showcasing what happens when the country’s ingredients meet those from Korea, China, Pakistan, and beyond.

And when the past year pushed the city’s entire hospitality industry to the brink, restaurants in The 6 rose to the occasion, keeping Torontonians fed and their pantries full. There’s no better time to acknowledge and support those restaurants that have had an immeasurable influence on modern dining in Toronto: meet The Greats, the 21 restaurants that we can’t imagine the city without.

Steam Whistle Biergärten (Downtown)

Credit: Steam Whistle Biergärten

Toronto’s stalwart brewery has grown by leaps and bounds since its founding in 2000, evolving from the passion project of three laid-off brewery workers to a Downtown destination that now includes its own biergärten and restaurant along with a working brewery. Sitting in the shadow of the CN Tower, the biergärten patio has become a landmark in its own right: a place to try the brewery’s iconic pilsner alongside a menu of European- and Canadian-inspired drinking foods, such as soft pretzels with mustard made from the brewery’s beer, and, of course, poutine, topped with the requisite chicken gravy and cheese curds as well as double-smoked bacon and caramelized onion mayo.

Dining at the restaurant: While the biergärten is currently closed, Steam Whistle has announced plans to reopen patio seating when restrictions allow, as well as a fireside dining option where diners can book private dinners for up to six guests focused on a menu of items cooked over wood-fired grills.

Takeout: The restaurant is currently offering vacuum-sealed pretzels and sausages to-go, alongside the housemade mustard and seasoning salt. Locals can also opt for home beer delivery, including a “Craft Beer Crate” that delivers 28 unique craft beers from over 10 different Ontario breweries for CA$99.

Chiado (Dufferin Grove)

While some restaurants rely on high-wire techniques and trendy ingredients for their success, Albino Silva’s commitment to high-quality ingredients and consistently good cooking nabbed Chiado a spot on Toronto Life’s 100 best restaurants list. It’s also one of the city’s best spots for seafood, offering grilled tiger shrimp lathered in piri piri hot sauce, or grouper carpaccio studded with pine nuts, asparagus, and citrus preserves. Wash it all down with a bottle from the restaurant’s large collection or Portguese wines or sample from the massive selection of port.

Dining at the restaurant: The restaurant is not currently open for on-site dining.

Takeout: Chiado offers a full menu for pickup and delivery, available through the restaurant’s website. Aside from dinner items, diners can also order wine and specialty items such as Porguese olive oil and sea salt.

Giulietta (Dufferin Grove)

Though Giulietta’s menu is Italian, the restaurant is a far cry from a rustic trattoria, serving refined food in a chic setting: a combination that drove Canada’s 100 Best to anoint it the country’s best new restaurant in 2019. Top Chef Canada star chef Rob Rossi borrows ingredients and techniques from all over Italy, adding his own flair without sacrificing the tradition behind the dish. For instance, the restaurant’s beloved cacio e pepe is the sauce for housemade tonnarelli (a noodle akin to thick, square spaghetti) while pork braciola is spiked with chiles and orange marmalade.

Dining at the restaurant: The restaurant is currently not open for on-site dining.

Takeout: Giulietta offers takeout through the restaurant’s website, focusing the menu on pizza with a few pastas, salads, sides available as well as beer, wine, and cocktails.

Canoe (Downtown)

Credit: Canoe

Situated on the 54th floor of a downtown office building, a dinner at Canoe comes with a side of panoramic views — this is one of the most dramatic dining rooms in the entire city and a top special occasion destination. But it’s the restaurant’s inventive menu of contemporary Canadian cuisine that landed it the #27 spot on Canada’s Top 100 restaurant list. The menu sources the majority of its ingredients from Ontario and other parts of the country, using foie gras from Quebec, Ontario lamb saddle, local vegetables, and foraged goods as a way to capture a portrait of Canada’s bounty during any given season.

Dining at the restaurant: The restaurant is currently closed for dining.

Takeout: Canoe currently offers several packages for delivery on Fridays and Saturdays, including a four-course tasting menu for CA$110 per person, and meal kits that offer dishes such as aged, bacon-wrapped Albertan beef that diners can prepare at home.

Drake Hotel Restaurant (Queen Street West) 

Run by one of the city’s most prolific hotel groups, The Drake Hotel restaurant is one of the few hotel spots that boasts major culinary clout. Pre-pandemic, the property regularly hosted 86’ed Mondays, a monthly industry night founded by hospitality legend Ivy Knight that brought together local chefs for friendly, themed cooking competitions that the public could attend. While events are off the table for the moment, the hotel’s rooftop dining area (named one of the best in the world by Condé Nast Traveler) is still worth a visit to try one of the city’s top burgers and sip on a spritz while taking in the skyline views.

Dining at the restaurant: The Drake is currently closed for dining.

Takeout: The restaurant also offers the full menu for takeout and delivery, along with meal kits so that diners can make smoked brisket with potato and celeriac gratin at home, and pick up a few bottles of wine while they’re at it. All items are available to order online via the hotel’s website.

Farmhouse Tavern (Junction Triangle)

Few restaurants have a sense of place like Farmhouse Tavern, where everything from the eggs to the wine is sourced from the surrounding land. The restaurant lets these top-notch ingredients do the heavy lifting, serving simple preparations such as venison tartare or the restaurant’s indulgent barn burger, topped with bacon jam, blue cheese, and cider-braised onion. A Toronto mainstay for over 12 years, the restaurant nimbly pivoted to stay afloat over the past year and continue supporting local farmers, selling housemade ketchup, merch, and turning part of the restaurant into a bottle shop.

Dining at the restaurant: The restaurant is currently closed for onsite dining.

Takeout: Farmhouse Tavern is not doing takeout at this time.

Grey Gardens (Kensington Market)

Credit: Grey Gardens

Grey Gardens is an understated wine bar from one of Toronto’s most infamous restaurateurs, Jen Agg. However, it only takes a quick scan of the menu to see that unlike many wine bars, food isn’t an afterthought here — this is one of the city’s most ambitious operations. Chef Mitch Bates — who won rave reviews before this at Momofuku Shōtō — skips the typical meat and cheese boards, instead giving diners options such as smoked fish dip or hand-torn pasta with truffles, rapini, and chicken skin. The sprawling wine list offers a pairing for everything on the menu, covering both old world and emerging regions, such as the restaurant’s own orange wine that’s made in partnership with a producer in Niagara.

Dining at the restaurant: The restaurant is currently closed for on-site dining.

Takeout: Grey Gardens is offering a weekly, five-course meal that’s available for pick-up Thursday through Sunday. Order must be placed in advance through the restaurant’s website; recent dishes have included crudo with yuzu kosho and daikon. A la carte ordering is also available. 

Lai Wah Heen (Downtown) 

Head Downtown to Lai Wah Heen for what has long been considered the city’s best dim sum, served with old-school flourish by vest-clad servers in a room full of white table clothes. During normal times, the dining room is filled with groups sampling dishes such as garlicky steamed spare ribs, or wontons filled with crab claws, shrimp, and chives. But don’t stop at dim sum; the restaurant is also known for one of Toronto’s finest versions of Peking duck, which is now available for diners to bring home and try their hand at carving tableside, just like they do in the restaurant.

Dining at the restaurant: The restaurant is currently closed for on-site dining.

Takeout: Lai Wah Heen offers both meal kits and a la carte items for takeout and delivery. With the meal kits, diners can recreate dishes such as the Cantonese pork dish char-siu, while a la carte items range from dim sum classics to larger mains such as wok-baked lobster with ginger and scallions.

DaiLo (Little Italy)

Credit: DaiLo

When DaiLo opened in 2014, chef Nick Liu won over Toronto critics and residents alike with his one-of-a-kind French-inflected Chinese fare, landing the restaurant on “best of” lists both locally and nationally. While the menu is technically precise, Liu’s sense of humor also comes through with dishes such as the Big Mac bao, stuffed with beef, lettuce, potato frites, and, of course, a secret sauce. Wine has always played a key role in elevating the experience here, too, where a knowledgeable staff can help guide you to the perfect bottle to pair with smoked duck breast and chile onion jam.

Dining at the restaurant: DaiLo is currently closed for dine-in.

Takeout: The restaurant is offering a five-course tasting menu, a la carte dishes, and pantry items such as homemade sauces for takeout and delivery via third-party apps.

Scaramouche (South Hill)

Scaramouche opened its doors in 1980, making the restaurant older than many of the people that flock to the dining room to this day to celebrate special occasions at one of Toronto’s most storied fine dining destinations. The restaurant’s timeless menu and commitment to excellent service have kept Torontonians coming back for decades, and its continued appearances on best-of lists have introduced new generations of fans. Though the dining room is closed, in normal times, diners are treated to European dishes with creative flourishes, such as steak tartare served with a soft boiled quail egg, spicy caper dijon dressing, and paprika sourdough toasts.

Dining at the restaurant: The restaurant is currently closed for on-site dining.

Takeout: Scaramouche is offering both an a la carte menu and in-house prepared grocery items for takeout Tuesday through Saturday, including the restaurant’s legendary coconut cream pies. Meals can be ordered via third party apps.

George Restaurant (Downtown)

When Toronto residents really want to go all out, they head downtown to George for one of chef Lorenzo Loseto’s five-, seven-, or ten-course tasting menus. The menus feature ingredients from around the globe — on the same night, diners could find a dish of scallops set in dashi gel co-existing on the menu with a plate of halibut, grilled rapini, and perogies — both packing depth of flavor that belies the short ingredients list. The restaurant’s industrial-chic decor also makes it a popular spot for local weddings.

Dining at the restaurant: George is currently closed for dine-in.

Takeout: Four- and five-course tasting menus are available for pickup via third-party apps. Pro tip: order on a Wednesday and the restaurant will throw a complimentary housemade pint of gelato into the five course option.

Terroni (Queen West)

When the Terroni team opened their flagship Queen West market back in 1992, the neighborhood wasn’t a food destination. Fast-forward to the present day and that specialty Italian market has grown into a full-service restaurant that launched a Toronto empire for all things Italian, including several locations around the city, a bakery on Queen West, a wine importing business, and even a magazine. But the original location is still one of the city’s best places for a classic Italian meal, such as a rigatoni all’amatriciana and a glass of Montepulciano.

Dining at the restaurant: All locations (Queen West, Adelaide, and Summerhill) are currently closed for dine-in, and Queen West is taking advantage of this time for renovations.

Takeout: Takeout is currently available to order via the restaurant’s website, offering pizzas, pastas, wine, beer, and pantry items.

Yasu (Harbord Village)

Credit: Yasu

Toronto’s first omakase sushi restaurant is also one of its finest Japanese spots and at one point, the 35th best restaurant in Canada. Trained in Osaka, chef and owner Yasuhisa Ouchi wanted to introduce Canadians to the simple joys of well-crafted pieces of sushi. During normal times, there is one menu, available at two seatings: a CA$135, 20-piece procession of pristine cuts of fish. The restaurant has pivoted slightly during the pandemic, offering a takeout version of the omakase that is quite easily the best to-go sushi in town.

Dining at the restaurant: The restaurant is currently closed for on-site dining.

Takeout: Several takeout packages are available to order via third-party apps, including a pared-down, CA$86 omakase box containing 13 pieces of chef-selected sushi.

(Beaconsfield Village)

At Té, Korean cooking meets Canadian food traditions, creating a destination for modern Asian cooking that represents the city’s culinary crossroads through dishes such as poutine topped with Korean brisket, cheese curds, sriracha mayo, and a sunny side-up egg. As the name suggests, tea also plays a large role here, making it into dishes such as the egg crate-shaped green tea egg waffle with bacon and eggs at the popular brunch, or the jasmine tea-infused gin that creates a base for the “Mar•té•ni.”

Dining at the restaurant: The restaurant is currently closed for dine-in.

Takeout: Té is not doing takeout at this time.

El Catrin (Distillery District)

Credit: El Catrin

Boasting a sprawling, year-round patio, a custom mural that took three Mexican artists nearly 100 days to complete, and the city’s best margaritas, El Catrin is one of the city’s most impressive Mexican restaurants. The menu is a mix of crowd pleasers such as baja fish tacos and more original creations, such as braised short ribs with mole negro, corn puree, and wild mushrooms. Give yourself extra time to browse the restaurant’s menu of agave spirits — topping out at more than 120 different producers, it’s one of Toronto’s most diverse collections of mezcal and tequila. 

Dining at the restaurant: El Catrin is currently closed for dine-in.

Takeout: El Catrin’s full menu is available for takeout through the restaurant’s website, and for delivery via third-party apps. Bottles of mezcal and tequila as well as cocktail kits are also available for pickup via the restaurant’s bottle shop.

Lahore Tikka House (Little India)

This family-run spot in Little India is one of the neighborhood’s liveliest kebab houses, serving up family style dishes from a tandoori oven that the New York Times called the best they’d had outside of Northern India. During normal times, diners would find the brightly painted dining room filled with groups of local families and in-the-know foodies enjoying halal dishes such as hara chicken, which is rubbed with a mint and cilantro paste, and the restaurant’s large selection vegetarian daals and biryanis.

Dining at the restaurant: The restaurant is currently closed for onsite dining.

Takeout: Lahore offers the restaurant’s full menu for takeout via the restaurant’s website.

Parallel (The Junction)

The Ozery brothers set a new standard for Middle Eastern food in Toronto with Parallel, their modern Israeli restaurant in The Junction. The three grew up eating tahini on almost everything and decided to translate their love of sesame butter into both a packaged product and the basis for a menu of cheffed-up classics. While many dishes on the restaurant’s menu seem familiar in name, almost all of them contain an unexpected twist, like the gluten-free riff on tabbouleh that swaps cauliflower rice for the traditional bulgur wheat, or the addition of truffle oil to the fluffy homemade hummus. Given that two of the brothers also run the nationally distributed Ozery Bakery, it’s never a bad idea to order a few extra pitas with your meal.

Dining at the restaurant: The restaurant is currently closed for onsite dining.

Takeout: The full menu of dishes such as hummus with various toppings and herby falafel is available to order by calling the restaurant or via third-party apps. The brothers also sell their tahini, halva, crackers, and other pantry items through their online store.

Pai (King West)

Credit: Pai

When you’re looking for Thai food in T.O., follow the lead of legions of chefs and food writers who swear by chef Nuit Regular’s Northern Thai-focused restaurant, Pai. Regular imports many of her spices and curry pastes directly from Thailand, which might be the secret behind the extra depth and spice found in her green, red, and massaman curries, or the tom yum soup — dubbed an essential dish in the city by Toronto Life.

Dining at the restaurant: Pai is currently closed for on-site dining.

Takeout: Takeout is available to order via the restaurant’s website, offering the full menu plus beer, wine, and Thai pantry ingredients.

Fresh on Crawford (Queen West)

Way before plant-based dining was the rage, there was Fresh on Crawford. Since 1999, the original Queen West location of what is now a mini chain has been a Toronto destination for vegetarian and vegan dishes, along with cold-pressed juices. The restaurant’s cult-following is based on its ability to make plant-based food fun, a mentality on full display through dishes such as the crispy buffalo cauliflower with ranch, or the nine-layer burrito, packed with mushroom and artichoke “chorizo,” marinated black beans, cashew queso, avocado, brown rice, pickled jalapeños, and more.

Dining at the restaurant: The restaurant is closed for onsite dining.

Takeout: Fresh offers takeout and delivery, available to order directly from the restaurant or via third-party apps.

Bar Isabel (Little Italy) 

Credit: Bar Isabel

During normal times, Bar Isabel is one of the city’s most romantic corners — a cozy room with plastered, curving walls, richly colored tiles, and warm lighting that encourages diners to linger for hours — and it also happens to serve some of the best Spanish food in town. Run by well-known Toronto chef and restaurateur Grant van Gameren, the menu sticks to tapas bar classics and executes them perfectly. Think crispy patatas bravas, tender grilled octopus, and olive oil-drenched pan con tomate that complement the extensive list of Spanish wines and vermouths.

Dining at the restaurant: The restaurant is currently closed for on-site dining.

Takeout: Bar Isabel’s menu is available for takeout and delivery via the restaurant’s website, either offering a la carte ordering options or meals for two that include a lighter tapas option and a heartier prix fixe package. The restaurant is also selling wine, beer, cider, and items from the in-house bakery such as sourdough baguettes.

Blueblood Steakhouse (Midtown)

When you want to dine like royalty, head to Blueblood Steakhouse — one of Toronto’s most luxurious steakhouses, located in the city’s historic castle, Casa Loma. The interior is part modern hunting lodge, with leather banquettes and antler chandeliers, and part art museum, with works by Dali, Warhol, and street artist Mr. Brainwash lining the walls. Against this backdrop, dishes such as a dry-aged, 40-ounce porterhouse or a rare bottle from the restaurant’s wine cellar (built by the original owner of the castle to house 1,500 bottles) don’t feel extravagant — instead they’re right in line with the surroundings.

Dining at the restaurant: The restaurant is currently closed for dine-in.

Takeout: Blueblood is offering a limited menu of appetizers, seafood, steaks, and more for pickup via third-party apps.

Tried them all? Check out other options here.