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The Best of TO - IMHO...

Here's my list of the best food in and around Toronto... if something's not mentioned, (ie, best burger), it's because I haven't quite decided yet. Am I missing a really good spot somewhere? (probably), so please help me discover more good food in TO! And please don't get angry, these is just *my* opinion. :)

Best BBQ - Phil's BBQ http://www.philsoriginalbbq.com/
I usually get the combo (pulled pork, brisket and Ribs). Absolutely amazing 90% of the time
Best Burrito - Burrito Boys http://www.burritoboyz.ca/
Consistently awesome. Usually get chicken, with side of burrito sauce and a mango juice
Best Fish + Chips - http://www.chippys.ca/
Actually watched one time as they cut a filet off a huge halibut, battered it and then gave it to me a few minutes later. Chips are great too.
Best Roti - Kori's Roti stop (Oakville
)Well worth the drive. Best Roti, period. Usually get the chicken and shrimp.
Best Schwarma - Osmow's Grill (Streetsville)
Ditto. Best schwarma. Hummus is great too.
Best Peanut chicken - Spadina Gardens (on Dundas & Bay)
Go there about once a week with my co-workers. Caution - very addictive
Best Fine Dining - Splendido http://www.splendido.ca/
Simply the best food I've had in Toronto so far. You can get away with a $200 bill, but tasting menu is great for special occasions. $350 for two, $500+ w/ wine pairings
Best high-end lunch - Nota Bene http://notabenerestaurant.com/welcome/
Service is a little sketch, but can't think of better food during the day. reasonably priced.
Best Chicken on a Pita - Alexandro's (Queens Quay & Young
)Great snack, open most of the time.
Best Indian - Rice Factory - http://www.indianricefactory.com/ (honourable mention goes to Babur's on Queen) machi turri (roasted fresh black cod) is incredible. Food comes out rather slowly, so don't go there overly hungry.
Best Sandwich - Sandwich Box - http://www.sandwichbox.ca/
You pick your own sandwiches from 30-40 quality ingredients. Incredible salad bar too.
Best steak - Splendido - 18oz Ribeye http://www.splendido.ca/
Works cannot describe. Must be tasted. $65 is not bad for one of the best steaks you'll ever have in your life.
Best Tapas - Embrujo Flamenco - http://www.dine.to/embrujoflamenco
Delicious tapas! Slightly high end.
Best Fajitas - Lone Star - http://www.lonestartexasgrill.com/
Great fajitas, but mostly only during busy times.. go there when it's dead, and there's no guaranteeing what you'll get. Unfortunate.
Best Chocolatier - Soma's - http://www.somachocolate.com/
Having the salted chocolate caramel truffle is a must for everyone. In the distillery district.
Best Italian (reasonably priced) - http://www.terroni.ca/
Great Charcuterie boards (Mezzo e Mezzo), and fresh made and cooked pasta. Always busy, get there early.
Best Butcher - Cumbrae's http://www.cumbraes.com/
Where I buy all my steaks. They don't charge you extra for dry-aged steaks either. Healthy Butcher is also pretty awesome.
Best Signature Dish - Lobster Poutine at Bymark - have w/ wine pairing http://www.bymark.ca/
Actually the dish responsible for making me enjoy white wine for the first time... also a must-have... but take a pass on the steaks.. they taste of the gas grill consistently.
Best Chocolate Croissant - Pain Perdu http://www.painperdu.com/
Good Brunch - only "good" because I don't have a "best" yet, because there's so many.. but anyway.. The Drake, Bar One, Easy's on Queen, Brassai and Senses in Soho hotel all have great brunches.

Lastly, if you take me up on any of my suggestions, please let me know what you think!

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  1. justpete,

    List sounds great and must have taken a great deal of time. I haven't been to a bunch of places you've mentioned, but I would agree with the Cumbrae's statement. Awesomely marbled, well aged steaks.
    The Splendido steak sounds good. I might end up ordering that during my upcoming meal there. Still trying to decide on my menu.
    Burrito Boyz didn't do it for me on my last visit - but I think I ordered steak. I've heard the fish version is great.
    Bymark's poutine was too heavy on the mayo for my tastes on my last visit. Lobster chunks were sweet and fresh though.
    Everyone must know how I feel about Nota Bene by now, so I won't even add too much there (though I haven't been for lunch).

    Thanks for the list. Cheers!

    6 Replies
    1. re: BokChoi

      Cumbrae's: In definite agreement!
      Splendido: The 180z ribeye actually comes from Cumbrae's.. but they do amazing things to it that I have not managed to replicate as of yet. it just has that special touch. It's dry aged 60 days, and amazingly well marbled. Bring your appetite, or share. The scallops on the tasting menu are also available a la carte, (as is all of the tasting menu), and definately worth having.
      Burrito Boyz: I avoid the steak. Extra burrito sauce is a must for that extra 'umph'.
      Bymark: did you have it with the wine pairing? It makes a world of difference. I believe it's a pinot grigio, but I may be wrong.

      1. re: justpete

        It's not mayonnaise, BokChoi, it's a béarnaise sauce. Maybe it's not for everyone, but I could eat Bymark's lobster poutine until my stomach explodes.

        1. re: tjr

          Ahh, tjr, you are probably correct. I had it about a year ago, or so, so the memory of that meal is pretty hazy right now. Either way, one sight of that type of egg-based sauce and I just scrape it off my food anyway. I barely tasted it before realizing that it just wasn't my cup of tea. I think my SO really enjoyed it though...

        2. re: justpete

          That ribeye sounds massive. I'll keep an eye out for the scallops - I am usually not a fan of scallops or steak, unless they're practically raw to be honest. I'm just strange that way I guess.
          I didn't do the wine tasting at Bymark unfortunately. I liked some other dishes, but I don't remember them right now. I am usually quite impressed with Bymark overall, and am satisfied after each meal.

          1. re: justpete

            Burrito Boyz is fine.. but I still say make your way over to Kensington Market and hit up Big Fat Burrito's ... so much better.. Go for the Steak and Yam ..so many different flavours all in one bite. addictive for sure.

            1. re: andrea0guernz

              I didn't see this response.. I was told this from someone else, (that big fat burritos) was better than Burrito Boys... so I went, in no short order. However, the sweet salsa threw me for a loop, and I didn't like it. I do think that the chicken was seasoned better, and I'm not a huge fan of whatever makes the chicken at Burrito boys have a steamy texture. But over-all, I still prefer Burrito boys. I have also heard 2 other places have great burritos, and plan to visit soon!

        3. What a thorough post!
          These are my opinions:

          Best Burrito - Burrito Boys http://www.burritoboyz.ca/ - agreed, and I love the fish burrito.

          Best Fine Dining - Splendido http://www.splendido.ca/ - the chef has a vision, and executes it brilliantly. Is it where I would go with a blank cheque? Probably not - I have a soft spot for Scaramouche, and I mourn the loss of Susur. It's a matter of personal preference I suppose.

          Best high-end lunch - Nota Bene http://notabenerestaurant.com/welcome/
          Was very impressed! Only complaint - too darned efficient. They got us out of there in 45 minutes flat!

          Best Indian - I would say my favourite so far is Bread Bar but I've never tried Rice Factory and am eager to be corrected!

          Best Sandwich - My favourite: breakfast on a bun, Carousel bakery in the St. Lawrence Market. Either that or the Fish Shoppe on College...

          Best Tapas - Embrujo Flamenco - I liked the experience but wasn't wowed by the food. I haven't found a better place though (wasn't impressed by Torito) so I guess it's my 'favourite' by default.

          Best Italian (reasonably priced) - http://www.terroni.ca/
          While I understand the phenomenon, I don't agree with it. I vote Zucca!

          Best Butcher - Cumbrae's http://www.cumbraes.com/
          Yum. Agreed.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Yum2MyTum

            Second the vote for Zucca...Terroni, imho, v. average and v. fifteen years ago...

            1. re: Yum2MyTum

              I've never been to Bread Bar or Zucca... I only go to Terroni's for the food. It's always fresh and tasty. I'll definitely have to give them a shot! Let me know what you make of Rice Factory!

              1. re: justpete

                I would third the suggestion of zucca. Great pasta dishes prepared just the way I like it - beautiful textures and aromas.

            2. How can a 'Best of TO' not include any Chinese restaurants?!
              Fellow Chowhounders, lets get to work!
              I'll go first - Best Signature Dish: Giant lobster 4 ways at O'Mei!

              8 Replies
              1. re: Charles Yu

                You're right...
                Best Chicken Balls and Sweet & Sour Sauce: Manchu Wok

                Just kidding. Best Dim Sum: Lai Wah Heen

                1. re: Charles Yu

                  Well, I only mentioned one chinese dish... the peanut chicken at Spadina gardens...

                  However, I have heard many a great thing about Lai wah heen and am looking forward to going... other than that, can you suggest any other Chinese restaurants that are worth a visit?

                  1. re: justpete

                    How about Grand? Their dim sum is very good and excellent value. It's in the West-end.

                  2. re: Charles Yu

                    Justpete: wonderful original post! Thanks for taking the time to compile such a list.

                    1. re: Charles Yu

                      Not everyone loves Chinese food. Not everyone seeks out the "best of" Chinese food. If you don't have the experience, you can't exactly crown a "best of" anything -- which I'm assuming is exactly why justpete didn't include many Chinese options. If I were to write a "best of" list, it wouldn't include any Chinese. Not because I don't think it's valid, but simply because it isn't in my tastes.

                      1. re: BodyByCheese

                        Exactly me sentiments.. I'm hardly qualified to crown a "best chinese restaurant" as I haven't been to enough Chinese restaurants in Toronto.. so there are some omissions where I'm not qualified to have an opinion. :) But that doesn't mean other's can't contribute. Looking forward to the aformentioned Lai Wah Heen and "Grand". Thanks BokChoi!

                        1. re: BodyByCheese

                          I don't think it is simply personal tastes, it can also be people do not have enough experience or lack of knowledge in certain cuisine such as Chinese.

                          BTW, my "personal" best for lunch spot in Toronto is Lai Wah Heen for a dim sum lunch. And I also agree that Chinese cuisine is a strong one in Toronto in low-end and mid-range, however it is lacking top end chinese food in Toronto.

                          1. re: BodyByCheese

                            Man! you guys are 'sensitive'! I'm just trying to help, contribute and expand on the list! Paraphrasing you, 'not every one loves Mexican food' but Burritos and Fajitas were on the list!!

                        2. Burrito Boyz? I was unimpressed when I went there. I did have the steak burrito, though--we've got a friend who swears by the chicken burrito. I like both Johny Banana on Bathhurst just north of Queen and the place with NY in the name not too far away on Queen. I haven't been able to talk my wife into either one for a while, though.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: befuggled

                            Is it New York Subway that you're thinking about?

                            1. re: pinkprimp

                              I think that's it.

                              I was actually going to stop in to the Burrito Boyz on Peter today for a chicken burrito for lunch (give it another try). I decided against it because of the line, but I noticed that the Boyz has apparently been removed from the sign.

                              According to their web site they've "gone through a restructure" and "Burrito Boyz is no longer affiliated with" the Peter Street location.

                              1. re: befuggled

                                That's ok with me, I always found the Peter street location to be superior in quality. I avoid Adelaide whenever possible.

                          2. I am always on a shawarma quest, and I know Osmow's very well

                            I used to think it was the best but lately I'm not so crazy about it....Maybe I just got sick of it... also they use no gloves and kill everything with sauce, like overloaded, and the last time i was there, the guy making the wraps was picking up the scraps of chicken and shoveling it into his mouth then went back to making sandwiches.... and lets not forget the 30 minute wait times!

                            Anyways, I got a place that is definitely better IMO... Agabi's in Oakville .. It is unique because the chef who owns it is a classically trained French chef, spent lots of years in France, but cooks with his Egyptian recipies. Their salad is increidble too, best homemade dressing I've ever had

                            http://agabi.ca/reviews.html

                            Everything is actually literally cooked to order -- every single order of chicken shawarma is shaved from the spit in front of you, then sauteed in a pan with seasonings, while the pita gets its final bake in the oven

                            The place looks really upscale at first, like a French restuarant (and attracts alot of upscale Oakville yuppies) but the food is top notch and they are good about take-out

                            His niece also has a spot in Oakville called Adonis, but I find it overpriced and crappy portions

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: duckdown

                              That's awesome DuckDown.. definitely looking forward to my first visit! Sam (the owner) opened a new location in Brampton, so I think perhaps the quality may have wained in the streetsville location.. I agree, it's highly addictive and you may have gotten a little sick of it if enjoyed just a bit too much. :)

                            2. Can someone PLEASE recommend a best korean restaurant in the city? I'm Korean and anytime I go out i'm always comparing it to mom's version and have come away dissapointed. I give props to Ka-Chi (kensington location) for having a pepper garden out front in the summer! And also for having a decent soon-tofu.

                              I haven't been to the Bloor strip in a long long while. Have any champions of soon-tofu, kal-gook-soo or ja-jiang-myun arrived? Or any fine dining options?

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: CoffeeAddict416

                                I have a Korean friend, and her mom makes the best Korean food I've ever had (restaurant, or even restaurants in Korea). I wish you good luck, but I don't know if you'll find anything, unfortunately.

                                1. re: CoffeeAddict416

                                  I used to go to a place in Mississauga, across the street from sussex center on the south side.. very good, very fresh, and the staff are uber friendly. I Haven't been there for a year or so, and I don't remember what it's called.. but might be worth a look..?

                                  1. re: justpete

                                    Thanks for your List! Good work!

                                2. Awesome, Pete. Thanks a bunch!

                                  9 Replies
                                  1. re: Papaya9

                                    I have a bunch more homework to do, based on the others' recommendations!

                                    I need to visit:

                                    fish store
                                    bread bar
                                    Zucca
                                    Lai Wah Heen
                                    Grand
                                    Agabi

                                    I also wish I could go back and edit my post to make small changes. I might concede that perhaps Sandwich box is not the best sandwich in the city, but definitely the best "make your own sandwich" in the city! (I think I"m going to go on a mission to find the best sandwich!)

                                    1. re: justpete

                                      Hi -- I noticed you mentioned The Fish Store

                                      I have only been there once, and did not know what to order as their specialy item (I just settled for a grilled shrimp sandwich -- it was great)

                                      Just curious what you had been reccomended to order there so I can know for next time

                                      Good call on Agabi's too , they've got great food and a really large variety of fresh seafood as well.. With their shawarma though just remember it only comes with Lettuce & garlic sauce unless you specifically ask for additional toppings (this is the way i like it though , nice and basic)

                                      Cheers!

                                      1. re: duckdown

                                        Although I haven't had it, I hear the wild salmon is a good choice. I've had the grouper and the halibut and been pleased both times.

                                        1. re: duckdown

                                          I'm a little dissapointed with your news about Agabi. I Like authentic Schawarma as opposed to the Westernized variety. I'll still give it a shot, though!

                                          I'm not sure as of yet what to order at the fish store, but a number of people have said that they make great sandwiches.

                                          1. re: justpete

                                            About the Agabi comment -- just curious what makes a shawarma filled with things like raw onions and other pungent vegetables like pickles or pickled beets more 'authentic' or 'better'

                                            I think those drastically mask the flavor of the meat, and frankly, it could be the worst chicken in the world but if you fill the pita with that all other stuff you'd never know the difference...

                                            Just my 2 cents of course :)

                                            Thanks for the Fish Store reccomendations -- I also seem to recall someone saying they had a great scallop sandwich , and if youve got money to blow, even a lobster sandwich

                                            I think I'll stop by tomorrow :)

                                            Cheers

                                            1. re: duckdown

                                              I'm not sure what makes it better, it just does for me! That's a bit like suggesting a burger is better without any toppings, maybe?

                                              If you like "regular" Schawarma, have you tried the Pita Nutsi? It's right down from Osmow's, and I think their is one in Oakville as well. There's something to be said for regular shawarma when the chicken is delicious, and Pita Nutsi definitely has some delicious chicken. It's where I would always go before I discovered Osmow's. But now thinking about it, I think I might need have some again!

                                              1. re: justpete

                                                Ahaha yeah, Pita Nutsy

                                                I go to the original location in streetsville, right beside osmow's... I've tried the Oakville location and it wasn't nearly as good.. then again the streetsville location isn't as good anymore either since theres only teenagers working there now.. It was great when the original owner was there every day

                                                Now I just gotta figure out what I want for dinner tonight :)

                                                Cheers

                                          2. re: duckdown

                                            I always have the grilled black cod when I'm in the neighbourhood. It's my favourite!

                                          3. re: justpete

                                            If you are going to the neighbourhood of the Fish Store, do stop by at Caplansky's for a smoked meat sandwich. The best I have had in the city by far (but I guess that really doesn't say much). I tried to stop by for the Fish Store sandwich last time I was at Caplansky's, but I ran out of stomach room.... next time. That one is still on my list to try.

                                            Caplansky's: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/555111
                                            Cheers!

                                        2. justpete,
                                          If you are heading to Oakville to check out Agabi for a schwarma, you have to also stop into Stoneys Bread Company up the street for a contender for best sandwich!
                                          I've never had a sandwich come close to this place!
                                          you can access the menu here:
                                          http://www.goldbook.ca/goldbook/oakvi...

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: burlgurl

                                            I totally forgot about Stoney's, and know it well!!! They do have amazing sandwiches, and great brunch on Sundays too. I think I normally have the Florence street sandwich? Some people like the Nove, but I'm not a big fan.

                                            Have you tried their pizza yet?

                                            1. re: justpete

                                              I love their pizza!!
                                              My favorite is the mushroom..and the price for the amount of toppings is amazing!