Toronto, Ontario, Canada
- Local Time
Toronto the Good – the retro nickname a nod to Victorian–era primness – has a new–found swagger, with a little help from hype man Drake and the NBA champions Toronto Raptors. With rapidly sprouting skyscrapers transforming the downtown, an annual celeb–studded film fest and plenty of wait–list–worthy restaurants, the famously diverse city is ready for its close–up.
Where to stay
- The lobby of 1 Hotel Toronto1 Hotel TorontoFor a stay designed by, and in, nature
- The Kimpton Saint George Hotel's lobby is homey and offers books for visitorsKimpton Saint George HotelFor the in-room vinyl collection
- Toronto's Bisha Hotel has an upscale rooftop pool and loungeBisha HotelFor the upscale everything
- Charming decor and a sunlit suite at the Broadview Hotel in TorontoThe Broadview HotelFor the new-meets-old decor
- Modern decor and hanging chairs in the lounge of the Alt Hotel Toronto AirportAlt Hotel Toronto AirportFor the business amenities
- Interior of a room at The Drake Hotel in Toronto, Canada, featuring artwork a bed and funky details.The Drake HotelFor the cool factor
- Shangri-LaFor the soaker tubs
- An asian-inspired hallway at the Four Season Hotel in TorontoFour Seasons Hotel TorontoFor a luxe getaway
- A print of a forest lines the wall behind a suite at the Gladstone Hotel in TorontoGladstone HotelFor the eclectic design
Eat & Drink
Chefs Julio Guajardo and Kate Chomyshyn turbocharge tacos and their birria subset with their sublime quesabirria con consome, oozing corn tortillas filled with braised beef, mozzarella and aromatics that are folded and grilled until caramelized cheese–rimmed and crispy. Pair them with a spicy–sour Modelo michelada and take in the buzzed–on–salsa crowd, ranging from Trinity Bellwoods hipsters to thrill–seeking mom–and–daughter duos, seated along green diner–style counters. Longlisted as part of Canada’s Best New Restaurants 2022.
Predictions of post–lockdown, Roaring Twenties–style exuberance came true in the form of Mimi Chinese, the dine–in successor to takeout operation Sunny’s Chinese. Plastic containers have given way to black bow ties, red velvet banquettes, and a nightclub–leaning ambiance. But the main attractions are hyper–regional renditions of Chinese cuisine ranging from deep–fried, sesame–showered shrimp toasts from Guangdong to a four–foot–long, chili oil–slicked take on Shaanxi belt noodle, scissored tableside. Grab a Jungle Panda cocktail (baijiu–based, aromatic and boozy) with a bamboo leaf sprouting from its ceramic behind, and plunge into a tour of the provinces. Longlisted as part of Canada’s Best New Restaurants 2022.
Conceived of as the little sister to Giulietta on College Street, Yorkville’s Osteria Giulia may be young, but she has a precocious facility with the seafood fare of the Ligurian coast. The Lorighittas al Mare plate is an edible Where’s Waldo?, and the game is to tell the hand–braided pasta rings from the wild squid that swims amid bay scallops in a briny, pepperoncino–tinged white wine sauce with garlic and anchovy. Finish with an elegant strawberry and white chocolate millefoglie and a tumblerful of Quaglia camomile liqueur before bidding a tearful goodbye to the cliffs of Cinque Terre. Longlisted as part of Canada’s Best New Restaurants 2022.
Prime Seafood Palace
Time is forever frozen at sunset golden hour in this maple–wood clad dining room, where the gritty Queen West streetscape outside is screened from view so you can focus on the roll call of prime ingredients: caviar, sea urchin, filet mignon, prime rib and Wagyu beef. Or, start humbly with a loaf of warm and nutty molasses bread, plump kippered mussels and sweet pickled cauliflower, then move on to juicy seafood boudin. Don’t leave without visiting the main floor washroom, where the design suggests luxe Japanese bathhouse, but the sink is a tipoff to the restaurant’s down–to–earth roots: it’s a map of Lake Erie, owner Matty Matheson’s farm and home base. Longlisted as part of Canada’s Best New Restaurants 2022.
Restaurant 20 Victoria
Two years after the abrupt closure of Brothers Food & Wine, a reshuffled team shows us the way back from the pandemic–born land of the fast and casual. Framed in an elegant room outfitted in floor–to–ceiling drapery and snow–white tablecloths, the food, too, is restrained and pitch–perfect. Opt in and each turn of the six–course tasting menu introduces a finely calibrated wine pairing. A dish of acorn–fed ibérico pork, grilled greens and pickled florets of fioretto (a broccoli–cauliflower hybrid) harmonizes with an earthy California Lady of the Sunshine pinot noir. When a hankering for opulence without arrogance strikes, here’s where you should head. Longlisted as part of Canada’s Best New Restaurants 2022.
Mexican cuisine meets Mediterranean influence at this lively spot with a Tulum–like atmosphere helmed by Mexican–born Chef Olivier Le Calvez. The sustainably–focused menu includes a seasonal, rotating taco selection (find tiger shrimp, skirt steak or duck), and the lengthy cocktail and mocktail list is over–the–top in the best way, featuring one–of–a–kind concoctions with ingredients like watermelon–calamansi essence and mole bitters.
Mismatched thrift–store china and shabby–chic vibes meet seriously cheffy chops at this laid–back neighbourhood fave, named #3 on Canada’s Best New Restaurants Top 10 list in 2019. Its trio of owners – a Brit, a Dane and a Toronto–raised Korean–Canadian (all Momofuku alumni) – explains the delicious combo of influences on the menu. But the showstopper is the whole, oven–baked sole bathed in a harissa– and chili–reddened butter sauce, dotted with toasted hazelnuts.
Chef Patrick Kriss combines seasonal, Canadian ingredients with French technique to create his tasting menus. Book a seat in the dining room or at the chef’s table and try dishes like steelhead trout with crème fraiche or Quebec foie gras with sunchokes, hedgehog mushroom and chicken jus. Reservations can be hard to come by, so plan ahead. Stop by sister restaurant AloBar in Yorkville for a Pop Gun, a twist on the bourbon sour with toasted blue–corn syrup.
A Joe Beef expat has landed in Harbord Village–and successfully claimed the #6 spot on Canada’s Best New Restaurants Top 10 list in 2019. The name Dreyfus (of l’affaire fame) is a nod to the chef’s Jewish roots, which emerge in subtle touches, like the plate of Montreal–sourced karnatzel sausages to be eaten with yellow mustard and bread. Look for an ever–changing menu of gutsy yet refined Gallic small plates (the pommes dauphine are crispy, deep–fried pâte à choux and potato orbs filled with crème fraîche and trout caviar with a salty sprinkle of dehydrated caper powder), served in a handsomely outfitted space (sage–green millwork, bevelled mirrors and vintage china). Don’t miss the spongy morels, Manila clams and escargot oozing with garlic, white wine and clam liquor, just begging for more brodflour baguette to soak up their jus.
The menu at this Little Portugal spot (“fiddleheads/seeds/ramps”) reads more like a feast for rabbits than humans. But don’t judge the 10 courses by their cover: Although there’s only a small piece of (supremely crispy–skinned and delicious) cod on offer, and a few crunchy bits of chicken skin, it’s the Ontario white beans, mushrooms and buckwheat, slow–cooked cassoulet–style, that will amaze. And there’s no rabbiting–on when it comes to the decor. A sleek, wraparound counter serves the tasting menu to only 10 guests at a time. Ten claimed the #10 spot on Canada’s Best New Restaurants list in 2019.
At the newest venture from the folks behind pizza fave Superpoint, come for the cheese, charcuterie and smoked duck breast, but stay for the wine list as long as the Champs–Élysées (with a focus on natural and biodynamic wines). Don’t leave without snagging one of the freshly made sourdough loaves.
Aloette’s mid–century–modern vibe just got upped several notches (think curved leather banquettes, a wood–panelled bar and copper–coloured light fixtures) with Patrick Kriss’ third spot, hidden along the high–dollar edge of Yorkville. The food goes luxe, too, with creamy foie gras piped onto brioche toasts and splashed with a sweet–tart maple gastrique (a PB&J for adults reminiscent of Le Fantôme in Montreal, which made Canada’s Best New Restaurants list in 2016) and a Chantilly–cream mille feuille that hides an explosive, gooey raspberry centre. Alobar Yorkville was a contender for Canada’s Best New Restaurants in 2019.
Beach Hill Smokehouse
Two former football players (and cousins!) from Louisiana’s Grambling State University are the masterminds behind the spice–rubbed and wood–smoked hunks of beef and pork at Toronto’s best new barbecue joint. The goal is to reclaim Southern barbecue’s African–American roots, and the aromatic beef makes for an open–and–shut case. The Angus brisket delivers sweet/salty blackened–skin meat that you don’t need teeth to enjoy. Pile your tray with poblano slaw, whole–kernel cornbread and iced tea for the win. Beach Hill Smokehouse was a contender for Canada’s Best New Restaurants in 2019.
Have napkins at the ready as you bite into the Classic, a juicy mushroom patty packed with lentils, black beans and grated beet, at this boho burger hut in the Financial District.
Grand Cru Deli
What happens when you mix a geeky wine bar, Euro–style deli and wine school? You will learn how to tell the difference between a Loire Valley chenin blanc (wet wool notes) and an Ontario riesling (the gasoline nose), surrounded by (very relaxed) sommeliers–in–training “studying” for their next blind tasting. Coral–painted walls and Madeleine Peyroux on the stereo will pleasantly distract as you decide between a build–your–own charcuterie plate or the muffuletta sandwich (pressed for an hour in the panini machine until the provolone and olive tapenade become one). Grand Cru Deli was a contender for Canada’s Best New Restaurants in 2019.
With cocktails on tap, cornhole lanes (book ahead or make new friends on the walk–in court) and minimalist wooden decor, the team that created Track & Field Bar brings friendly competition to College Street.
Duelling menus of French bistro (caviar–topped mound of smoked trout rillette) and lunch–counter classics (club sandwich) play out in this former diner turned art–deco dreamland. Jen Agg, one of the owners, could easily be a Hollywood production designer: Think buttery globe lighting, a fleet of arch–necked ceramic swan pitchers and vintage glass coupes set to a 1950s/’60s soundtrack of the Andy Williams and Bobby Vinton variety. And the drinks keep up: a chartreuse–coloured Provence cocktail (gin, dry vermouth, herbes de Provence, lime and absinth) tastes like a licorice stick crossed with a Mediterranean herb garden. Le Swan was a contender for Canada’s Best New Restaurants in 2019.
Sam James Coffee Bar
Since upping the city’s coffee game in 2009, SJCB now has five locations, including one in the financial district and another across from Trinity–Bellwoods Park. Each location serves coffee and espresso made with beans from Sam James’ roasting company, Cut Coffee. You’ll regret it later if you leave without a bag of beans to bring home.
Suave and sake–mad sommelier and owner Stu Sakai is pouring glasses of lean, fruit–forward Okunomatsu junmai ginjo from a large–format issho–bin to the tunes of Hall & Oates and Earth, Wind & Fire. On order tonight at this Dundas West sake bar where gyoza skins are rolled daily in–house and shaped by hand? There are the “OG” fukujinzuke (soy–pickled mixed vegetable) and eggplant and plum pickle (shibazuke); the East–West hybrid vegetable plate of radishes lightly steamed in kombu dashi, served on a bed of umeboshi beurre blanc and showered with Japanese greens from the garden out back and the yaki udon (enriched with trout bones and a mackerel cream, studded with mushrooms and finished with sea parsley). Kanpai! Sakai was a contender for Canada’s Best New Restaurants in 2019.
Once you have made it past the graffiti–splashed entrance to this Bloordale speakeasy, you will find some of the most seductive Korean–inflected street food in the city. Leemo Han (Hanmoto, Pinky’s Ca Phe) and Jason Poon are masters of the genre, serving up tart and gooey roast kimchi chop cheese sandwiches in a mashup of grandpa’s old tavern and dive bar – with Madlib on the stereo. “I don’t even like eggplant and I love this,” our server says of the Eggplant Kanpungi, washed down with the house makgeolli: Korean rice wine, peach schnapps, tequila and lime, served in a silver teapot. Seoul Shakers was a contender for Canada’s Best New Restaurants in 2019.
What to do
Dino bones at the Royal Ontario Museum Among Canada’s most outstanding museums, the ROM is home to more than 6 million objects. The impressive collection of dinosaur bones housed in the crystal addition is a family favourite, as is the spooky (but educational) Bat Cave. Check the website for info on Friday Night Live parties.
Ethically–made basics at Kotn From the apartment–style decor to the Saturday morning cartoons, shopping at this meanswear spot is like pilfering from the condo – and closet – of an impeccably cool friend. Cover your ethically produced Egyptian–cotton bases with the Weekend Kit: sweats, briefs, tees and a knapsack.
Fresh air at Evergreen Brick Works A former quarry and industrial site gets a second life as a dynamic, multiuse public space showcasing first–rate green design and technology. Lace up your sneakers and walk or run the surrounding trails for one of the best views of the Toronto skyline; then pop into the seasonal weekly farmers’ market for fresh produce and baked goods. In the colder months, an old factory building is transformed into an open air skating rink.
Canadian talent at Soulpepper Theatre Some of Canada’s most talented actors take the stage at Soulpepper’s flagship theatre in Toronto’s historic Distillery District. The theatre champions challenging contemporary works, along with classics by Neil Simon and Arthur Miller. Don’t miss standing–ovation–worthy hot chocolate at nearby Soma Chocolatemaker before or after the show.
A fresh perspective at Ollie Quinn No, you’re not seeing things: The Ollie Quinn eyewear company, new to the Ossington strip, keeps costs down with locally cut lenses and frames designed in–house, so any pair will only set you back $155.
Waterfront views at Scarborough Bluffs Both a geological wonder and a great way to pass an afternoon, the Bluffs are a natural paradise minutes from the city. Start at Scarboro Crescent Park to take in no–filter–required views of the shoreline; then make your way down to bike trails and parks. Bluffer’s Park offers beach access, so bring a swimsuit – and sturdy shoes for the trek back up.
Leather goods at Varsity Brown Find leather bags, colour–blocked backpacks and sporty hats by Varsity Brown – all made for modern function with heritage handiwork – here at its Junction Triangle production stu–dio/storefront.