66 things to eat and drink in Toronto before you die

Jun 1 2016, 3:52 am

Perhaps the single most compelling thing about Toronto’s food scene is its eclecticism. Thanks to a vibrant, long-standing immigrant culture, a lofty status as Canada’s chief urban centre, and a food-loving population, there is no shortage of stellar things to eat and drink here, from all corners of the world and at all price points.

From epic gut busting burgers to a simple cup of coffee (and a lot of exciting eats in between), here is your bucket list of everything you need to eat right now in Toronto.

1. Peameal Bacon on a Bun from Carousel Bakery

Does Toronto have a sole signature food item? Argue the subject over a Peameal Bacon sandwich from Carousel Bakery at the St. Lawrence Market.

2. The Vatican City at Burger’s Priest

Worship at the alter of burger greatness in Toronto. The Vatican City is a Double cheeseburger sandwiched between two grilled cheese buns that will have you praying for sweet, sweet mercy.

3. Bagels from St Urbain Bagel

Get ’em hot from the oven at St. Lawrence Market, and fall in love with the best Montreal-style bagels in Toronto.

4. Fresser sandwich at Caplansky’s Deli

Stack’em up! Thanks for the pic @assaf_f! #deli #toronto #caplanskys #food #love #smokedmeat

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You might not be Jewish, but you can be Chewish at Caplansky’s, especially if you order the Fresser Sandwich–double the meat of any of their Deli Classics.

5. Doughnuts from Glory Hole

Handmade doughnuts, yeast and cake varieties, in playful flavours and using seasonal ingredients, are what the modern doughnut in Toronto is all about. Look for tastes like Toast and Butter or Hibiscus Rose, and vegan options, too.

6. Veal Sandwich from California Sandwiches

Toronto could easily be a venue for the great Canadian Italian sandwich throwdown. A top contender: the Veal Sandwich from California Sandwiches.

7. Eggplant Parmigiana from Mustachio

See how it stacks up against the veal sandwich from Mustachio. Or go for their other killer sammy: The Egglplant Parmigiana.

8. All-day breakfast at Fran’s

Fran’s is an absolute legend in Toronto. This enduring diner still slings affordable, reliable, greasy spoon breakfasts all day, every day.

9. Mixed Vegetable Combo Sizzler from Lahore Tikka House

Embrace the chaos of Lahore Tikka House to try some of Toronto’s most-loved Pakistani fare. The Mixed Veggie Combo is a great staple, along with plenty of tandoor oven naan, though meat-eaters swear by their beef curry and their Hana biryani, too.

10. Heart Attack Poutine at  Poutineville

Do you need the biggest poutine in town? Like, as in 15 pounds of it? The Heart Attack Poutine at Poutineville is fresh crispy potatoes, loaded with: chicken, bacon, hot dogs, minced beef, ham, onions, green peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms, fresh curd cheese and mozzzarella with homemade poutine gravy. No big deal, right?

11. Big Mac Bao at Dailo

Head upstairs to the casual dim sum bar at Dailo for their play on a Big Mac meets bao bun.

12. Don Corrado Pizza at Terroni

Terroni has since exported itself and its Italian fare to Los Angeles, but at home in Toronto their pizza, antipasti, and wine game remains strong. The Don Corrado Pizza is a white pizza with mozzarella, gorgonzola, potatoes, homemade spicy sausage, and fresh rosemary.

13. Fish & Chips from Len Duckworth’s Fish & Chips

The classic fried seafood duo has been Duckworth’s thing since 1930.

14. Shrimp Dumpling Soup from Swatow

There’s much to love about the reliable affordable Chinese eats at Swatow, but folks swear by their Shrimp Dumpling Soup.

15. Custom burrito at Burrito Boyz

These guys know what’s up when it comes to burritos in Toronto. Build you own and get your fill.

16. Gnocco Fritto at Buca Yorkville

Gorgeous Italian fare with an oceanic bent is available in spades at the lovely Buca in Yorkville. Their Gnocco Fritto (a squid ink dumpling) is a craveworthy bite, and a good gateway to a great meal.

17. Drip coffee from Sam James

Pure and simple.

18. Chicken & Waffles from Home of the Brave

Just what Toronto needed was an all-American diner. Eat up like our friends south of the border on their Chicken & Waffles, though major props for their signature burger and “Freedom Fries.” (Remember when that was a thing?)

19. Bagels from Gryfe’s

Fresh dozen poppyseed to start the week right

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This iconic Toronto bagelry has recently marked 100 years in the bagel biz, so clearly they are onto something here.

20. Bespoke cocktails at Bar Raval

This stunning bar has an equally stunning cocktail menu. Look for inventive twists on cocktail standards, or put the bartender to work by requesting a “Drink Me”–their bespoke cocktail offering means you can tell them what you like, and they’ll whip up something special just for you.

21. Soft serve cone from your local ice cream truck

Such a Toronto thing…listen for that telltale tinkling tune, and order a vanilla-chocolate twist cone. Lick, and enjoy.

22. Powerhouse Bowl at Fresh

Fresh made vegetarian fast food, juices, and smoothies insanely popular in Toronto. Power up with their Powerhouse Bowl, stuffed with chick peas, tofu, avocado, nuts, seeds, and more meat-free goodness.

23. Lobster Tail Caesar at Rock Lobster

Consistently named among the best and craziest Caesars in the city, the Lobster Tail Caesar at Rock Lobster is a spicy crowd-pleaser.

24. Steak at The Tulip

A Toronto original since 1929, head to the Beaches for a steak at The Tulip.

25. Kaiseki lunch or dinner at Kaiseki Yu-Zen Hashimoto 

There’s really no other dining experience like this big ticket meal, where Chef/Owner Masaki Hashimoto prepares a series of dishes for his guests daily. Truly an extraordinary experience for the senses.

26. The Ultimate Hot Dog at Uncle Betty’s Diner

Uncle Betty’s is known for their hot dogs. Go big with The Ultimate; it’s topped with their homemade mac n’ cheese with pulled pork or meatloaf, cheddar cheese, and  garlic aioli.

27. Khao Soi at Pai Northern Thai Kitchen

A stunning authentic northern Thai dish, the Khao Soi at Pai is made with egg noodles in a golden curry topped with crispy noodles, coriander, green onions and your choice of Braised Beef, Chicken Breast or Chicken Drumsticks. (Save room for Chef Nuit’s signature Pad Thai, too, if you can.)

28. Rocky Road Rage from Sweet Jesus

Praise the lord and pass the ice cream. Definitely irreverent, and decidedly delicious, indulge (and repent later) with devilishly good treats like Rocky Road Rage (made with chocolate soft serve, walnuts, marshmallows, chocolate sauce, and a cashew and Oreo crumble).

29. Five Spice Pork Belly Banh Mi from Banh Mi Boys

Blessed food adventures with squad today 👌👌👌 #bahnmiboys

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This ever-expanding local chain focused on Banh Mi sandwiches and playful pan-Asian fusion twists (Kimchi Fries, anyone?) is a great go-to for fast fare. Their Five Spice Pork Belly Bahn Mi really showcases what they’re all about.

30. Top Chef Green Curry Chicken from Lee by Susur Lee

Susur Lee is known world-wide for his modern Asian eats, and at his elegant Lee, you can order up dishes like his Top Chef Green Curry Chicken to see how he–and the food–lives up to its reputation.

31. Tacos at Grand Electric

$20!$20!$20! Monday to Friday, 12pm-4pm you can have a drink, 3 tacos and a dessert for 20 bucks. #tacos #special #lunchtime

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Grand Electric is a hyped-up hipster haven, but they also make great tacos. Pile onto the picnic benches and feast on tacos filled with anything from crispy cauliflower to beef cheek (and a few more in-between).

32. Charcuterie at The Black Hoof

The Black Hoof is a meat lovers paradise, and they have really been a part of changing the nose to tail movement in Toronto. Get the charcuterie to sample why they stand out, but if you’re sharing with friends, you may also want to try the bone marrow, foie gras, or horse tartare.

33. Sloppy Jose from Fidel Gastro’s Truck

This food truck (a mobile branch of Lisa Marie restaurant) serves up rebellious takes on Cuban foods, including the BBQ braised beef and beans melee that is their Sloppy Jose.

34. Unchicken Burger from Hogtown Vegan

Brunch with the birthday boy @cunnanechris – Happy Birthday!🎈🎉 #toronto #veganfood #unchickenburger

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A vegan restaurant with a pig mascot? Yep. Hogtown is quirky, and cheeky, and a veteran in the local vegan eats biz. Their Unchicken Burger is a great intro to their meat-free food. Get a side of (vegan) mac and cheese!

35. Lamb Ribs at Byblos

This high-end Middle Eastern restaurant is ideal for celebrating special occasions, and really letting yourself go on the taste journey their menu promises. A signature dish is the lamb ribs, which are made with dukkah, buttermilk sauce, carob molasses, and red chili schug.

36. Deluxe Sundaes at Dairy Cream

Missisauga’s seasonal sweet favourite makes epic sundaes they caution you will need to share. Check out their menu of over 25 selections, and mix and match to your heart’s content.

37. Softshell Crab Sandwich from Fresh Off the Boat

Toronto’s self-proclaimed seafood joint is the place to go for whopping seafood creations, including their signature Softshell Crab Sandwich. This behemoth comes with fries and broccoli slaw.

38. Fire-Grilled Chicken at Churrasco Villa

Churrasco Villa is a go-to for Portuguese “natural wood charcoal” grilled chicken. Get a half, quarter, drumette, or boneless dinner and enjoy this Toronto classic dish.

39. Tasting menu at Canoe

There is no better way to get acquainted with the contemporary Canadian cuisine at Canoe, a landmark for fine dining in Toronto. Splurge for a special occasion and see why Canoe has stood the test of time.

40. Drake + Bake at The Drake Hotel

Be introduced to the casually hip food at The Drake Hotel with their menu opener: The Drake + Bake is an appy assortment that gets things going.

41. Dreadlock Pasta at Rasta Pasta

Jamaican and Italian food intersect on your plate at Rasta Pasta at Kensington Market. Go for the Dreadlock Pasta to see how their housemade pasta pairs with spicy sauce and jerk meatballs for a real flavour mash-up to remember.

42. Dinner at Ruby Watchco 

Ruby Watchco is where you’ll find celebrated chef (and personality) Lynn Crawford. Head in for dinner and experience an ever-changing daily menu of four-courses of playful modern fare.

43. Go Chuck Yourself at Holy Chuck

The Go Chuck Yourself at Holy Chuck in itself is a feat: It’s six patties, six cheese slices, triple bacon, and caramelized onions stacked between three grilled cheese sandwiches. If you’re up for the task, you can take their challenge to get this down with a milkshake, and the meal is on them, and your mug is on their wall of fame.

44. Craft beers at The Craft Brasserie

With an astonishing 120 taps (of which 80 are pouring Ontario brews) the best selection of craft beers in town are found at Craft Brasserie. Pick a few pints of your poison and drink up!

45. Beef patties at Golden Patty

Hit up Golden Patty at Kensington Market for their delicious Jamaican patties. Their beef is always tops, but their goat is a great runner-up. Save room for ginger cake.

46. Brunch at Emma’s Country Kitchen

You can absolve a lot of weekend sins with a big brunch at Emma’s Country Kitchen. Load up with dishes like their “The i know what you did last night burger ( AKA the hangover helper)” or their house Benny, or keep things crazy with their Elvis pancakes (bacon and chocolate chips, of course!).

47. Dumpling combo at Dumpling House

Freshly made on site (while you watch), the dumplings at Dumpling House are a must-try. Get a combo so you can sample three different kinds of dumplings.

48. Tiny Tom Donuts

You’ll have to head to Markham to visit the permanent outpost of Tiny Tom Donuts and their famous mini donuts, or wait for the annual CNE to get them in the city then.

49. Pineapple Fried Rice at Miss Thing’s

📷 @metrodetroitfoodie

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For those who prefer their fried rice served in a pineapple boat.

50. Daily Specials at Richmond Station

Richmond Station is headed up by Chef Carl Heinrich, who was the winner of Top Chef Canada, Season 2. They run a chalkboard menu with daily dishes, but look for contemporary fare focused on fresh, seasonal ingredients, with a pinch of whimsy–like rabbit two ways, or duck confit hushpuppies. In a pinch, their burger is a calling card for sure.

51. Souvlaki Dinner at Pantheon

The Danforth is the ultimate destination in Toronto for Greek fare, and if you head to Pantheon, you’ll do well getting a classic platter, like the Souvlaki dinner, with your choice of chicken, lamb, pork, or vegetarian.

52. Samosas from Embassy Restaurant

Samosas are king here.

53. Maha’s Mind-Blowing Chicken from Maha’s

If you aren’t familiar with Egyptian food, be ready to have your mind blown by Maha’s, where a chicken dish promises to do just that.

54. Sailor’s Mojito at BarChef

Drinks go to the next level at BarChef. From the “modernist” section of their cocktail menu, their Sailor’s Mojito really shows off what they can do; its ingredients include beach essence, Sailor Jerry Rum, mint, fresh lime, vanilla syrup, spherified mojito, fresh lime and vanilla air. Yeah, vanilla air.

55. Paella at Carmen

Fewer dishes typify Spanish cuisine than paella, and the rendition at Carmen is stellar.

56. Portuguese Tarts at Nova Era Bakery

Using traditional recipes, this Little Portugal bakery makes their Portuguese Tarts from scratch (along with all their other goodies).

57. Hot Dog from a street vendor

This is classic Toronto. Pile on the relish, mustard, and ketchup and bite into a city custom.

58. Brunch at Aunties & Uncles

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This kitschy cash-only modern diner is a beacon for trendy folks (so expect a line). Still, a morning meal here is a rite of passage, and dishes include things like Banana Oatmeal Pancakes and Breakfast “Pocket” sandwiches.

59. Tapas at Bar Isabel

Be prepared to share these tapas plates for a true contemporary Toronto dining experience. Best sellers include their bread and olives, Scallops & Mojo verde, Patatas Bravas & Boquerones, or half octopus. Save room for dessert and get the Basque Cake & Sherry Cream (add foie gras if you need a bit more indulgence).

60. Duck Confit Pizza at Pizzeria Libretto

Duck on pizza? Why not?! Pizzeria Libretto is a favourite in the city, and their Duck Confit pizza a signature delight. It’s made with mozzarella and bosc pear, for a bit of salty-sweetness.

61. Coconut Cream Pie at Scaramouche

Sure, you could go all out and indulge in the fine dining fare at Scaramouche. But one bite of their well-loved Coconut Cream Pie will let you know why people flock there for dessert, too.

62. Mutton, Squash, and Spinach Roti from Bacchus Roti Shop

Hailed as one of the best downtown–if not in all of Toronto–Bacchus Roti Shop is known for their bold flavour combos. The Mutton, squash, and spinach roti is a killer example of what they do so well.

63. Chinese food feast at Lee Garden

Open since 1978, Lee Garden on Spadina is a great spot for delicious Chinese food. Feast on their family-style dishes like Sautéed Fresh Pickerel w/ Chinese Broccoli, Beef Tenderloin Chinese Steak Sauce Hot Plate, or more familiar eats like Cashew Chicken, roast duck, spareribs, or fried shrimp.

64. Ramen at Kinton Ramen

With five Toronto locations, and a menu that you can customize to suit your taste, Kinton is a great spot for slurping up noodles and soup. Select pork or chicken, thick or thin noodles, and the soup you like (shoyu, miso, spicy, etc).

65. Big Bad Wolf at Cut the Cheese

Next level grilled cheese sandwiches (and mac and cheese) make cheesy dreams come true at Cut the Cheese (pun definitely intended by them). The Big Bad Wolf boasts Deep Fried Pork Belly, Coleslaw, Southwest Chipotle Aioli, Hickory Sticks, and Asiago Cheese. Whoa!

66. Sausages at WVRST

Expect a full-on sausage fest at this German-inspired beer and sausage hall. Pick your meat, your style of sausage, and your dipping sauce, then add on their signature duck fat fries (and save room for beer and ice cream).

Lindsay William-RossLindsay William-Ross

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