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Mar 3, 2009 09:26 AM

Favorite Toronto Restaurants?

I'm planning a trip to Toronto in a couple of months, and I'd like to solicit recommendations for my 4-day trip.

I'm extremely open to any cuisine or area. Price range is open, too. I'd like to try one or two upscale restaurants (cap it at around $100 per person) and fill the rest of my time with more casual places (sit-down restaurants, stands, carts, dives, anything goes here). I just want recommendations for GREAT food. And if there's anything quintessentially Toronto, that would be great, too.

I am completely aware of how open my question is, and I welcome any suggestions! No boundaries or limits, just tell me some must-try places!


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    1. re: ChalkBoy

      I will have access to a car. If you think there's a restaurant worth a drive, let me know! Of course, I don't want to spend all 4 days driving all over the place, but I am willing to travel if it sounds good enough.

      1. re: angiebc290

        Where will you be based/spending time? The reason I ask is its a huge city with CH-worthy spots all over the place not just downtown near hotels.

        1. re: ChalkBoy

          Fair point. I'm actually not staying in a touristy area. I'm staying at a family member's house, though I'm not sure where it is. Definitely not downtown.

          I don't know the city at all, but I am completely willing to travel for a great meal. I'm just hoping to bring in any suggestions at all. If it sounds good, I'll do my best to get there.

    2. angiebc290:

      High end: Scaramouche (my personal favourite for a splurge -- delicious, well-executed food with a beautiful view of the city!)

      Lai Wah Heen ( or Grand Chinese Cuisine ( for high-end dim sum -- best outside of Hong Kong and BC!

      I love Nota Bene as well ( for a high-end experience at mid-range prices -- you'll see plentiful reviews of the restaurant on this board.

      Foodie must visits: St. Lawrence Market on a Saturday morning (try the Breakfast on a Bun at Carousel Bakery -- yum!) ; Kensington Market on a weekend afternoon.

      I'll post more if I think of anything... but in any event, enjoy your visit, and the food!

      15 Replies
      1. re: Yum2MyTum

        Great suggestions, thanks! Will definitely have to check out the St. Lawrence Market - I love that kind of thing.

        I really like the idea of Nota Bene, great looking menu and good prices!

        Am I right in thinking that Toronto has a really good Chinatown area? I seem to have that impression, but I may be wrong. I love dim sum!

        1. re: angiebc290

          Go to Spadina for chinatown. Depending on what suburb you are in, there may be other chinatowns closer to you. There are 5 chinatowns, but only one "real" chinatown which is Spadina and Dundas. Also Kensington Market is there, which was suggested above. If you like Dim Sum, you can't beat lai wah heen which was suggested above as well. It is high end. There are better value places on Spadina, but the best dim sum is actually in the chinese area suburbs, especially markham. Many other posts on that. Find out where you are staying.

          1. re: tribe

            Oh, foo. Spadina "Chinatown" is much more Vietnamese these days. Much better food, at much better prices available in Richmond Hill/Markham. Lai Wah Heen is significantly over-rated, IMHO; very expensive, and the food is no better than what you can get in Richmond Hill for 2/3 to 1/2 the price.

            Visit the Danforth for multiple Greek spots, at a variety of price and service levels.

            Second the recommendation for Scaramouche, as it won't be around much longer.

            1. re: KevinB

              Several issues:
              I've found the better Chinese places in Richmond Hill/Markham to be just as expensive as the top places downtown (read Lai Wah Heen). Certainly the 'average' quality in the 'burbs is better - but don't go there to save money..
              And I've yet to have better food there than the BEST at Lai Wah Heen - doesn't mean it doesn't exist - just that I haven't found it.

              You don't mention 'quality' at the Greek places. Because of the price competition I've found Danforth food to have 'dumbed down' - they seem to be competing on price and the food has suffered.

              And what don't I know about Scaramouche? They certainly are expected to be there for the next two years - the proposed refurbishing into condos fell through some time back - apparently there are some housing effects rippling through the economy.

              1. re: estufarian

                Hi estufarian,

                I guess when you write "Chinese" restaurant, you actually mean "Cantonese" ? If I want Szechuan food (which is also one kind of Chinese food), I won't go to Lai Wah Heen. It really depends on what you want to eat when it goes down to Chinese food.

                Also, just some other examples,
                - if one wants some shark fin or the double-boiled soup and do not want to pay the premium, you go to those good one in RH/Markham, it is significantly cheaper and they are also good.

                - if one wants to eat Lobster, go to Omei or Ngau Kee,etc, it is significantly cheaper than Lai Wah Heen, and quality probably even better or at par.

                - if one wants to eat BBQ, go to John's BBQ, it beats LWH hands down.

                But I agree if you want to just order 4 ordinary dishes (either meat, seafood, veggie) to be share among 4 people and order plain rice to go with it, it may end up around the same price as LWH or even less. Really depends on what you order, but the chance is it will be more expensive.

                The menu selection of a chinese restaurant (either it is cantonese, Shanghai, Sichuan...) are usually hugh with a big price range. Anyway, Lai Wah Heen is the most expensive chinese restaurant in GTA area and I think it is one of the best.

                1. re: skylineR33

                  Yeah, for me, at least when it comes to foie, the end justifies the means. Shark fin soup, not so much. It's such an accepted delicacy in chinese cuisine, though, that nobody questions whether it's actually any good or not.

                  Speaking of shark fin soup, what would your number one pick in RH/Markham for northern chinese food be? I'll be going next weekend and I'm on a real northern chinese kick.

                  1. re: redearth

                    For northern chinese food, I suppose you are looking for food from north of Canton (Cantonese cuisine), the most popular in Toronto are Szechuan, Shanghai. Many restaurants provide a combination of these kinds of chinese cuisine in Toronto. In Richmond Hill, I like going to Chili Secret (North of Hwy 7 on Leslie), Good Taste (自家人) in Commerce Gate and Chung King (outside Market Village).

                  2. re: skylineR33

                    Fair enough - I was a bit sloppy - essentially I was referring to the places/cuisines already mentioned in this specific sub-thread (which are mostly Cantonese - with some outlying dishes). I pretty much agree with your examples (although haven't eaten at all the places you mention). And my palate leans more towards spicy cuisines anyway - but I didn't want to stray too far from other items in the thread.
                    The best 'ever' dim sum I've had in Toronto was actually at the Metropolitan Soho - but it was a 'guest appearance' by the chefs from Lai Wah Heen. And the finest meal I had at Lai Wah Heen was prepared by Patrick Lin - who is the chef at Senses!
                    But, for a visitor to Toronto, who doesn't have unlimited time - I don't think you can go 'wrong' with Lai Wah Heen, especially for dim sum.. I've taken several 'Americans' there and all have been impressed. There may indeed be better (there always is) but it's a safe choice for most things (except the wine list!).

                    1. re: estufarian

                      For your best 'ever' dim sum in Toronto, when was that ? Was it sometime late last year ?

                      1. re: skylineR33

                        It was when Metropolitan hosted the James Beard Dinner a few years back. It was held at Soho, but on the Sunday the chefs from City Hall came over and did a demonstration and served 'brunch'.

            2. re: angiebc290

              I would personally recommend Hua Sang Seafood restaurant on Baldwin of my favourites and I travel an hour from Toronto suburb to go there to me it is just that good.

            3. re: Yum2MyTum

              some of my favorites that can be done under $100pp:
              nota bene- queen & university
              starfish -the best oysters/seafood on adelaide east
              george (if you order carefully)-queen east
              colbourne lane

              1. re: Yum2MyTum

                yum2mytum or anyone else, how does pearl (harbourfront) compare to lai wah heen? because of time, i sadly was not able to make it to lai wah heen, as intended, but i did do a quick dim sum meal at pearl, which was very close to where i stayed.

                we had a few unusual (to me) dim sum items like a taro pastry with curried meat on the inside, topped with a slice of scallop (a little greasy, but the flavor was great). we also had: daikon radish cake speckled with those tiny dried shrimps and chinese sausage, sweet "pumpkin cake" (pumpkin flavored glutinous rice cake with sweet red bean paste on the inside), roast pork bun (filling made with good quality meat, bun part not too thick), pork and shrimp crystal dumplings, shrimp cheung fun, green beans with black bean sauce, deep fried tofu, probably some other dishes i'm forgetting.

                most dishes were good. i thought the wrappers for the crystal dumplings and the cheung fun could've been thinner and more delicate, but all the food was enjoyable. flavors were clear and fresh for the most part. the shrimp in cheung fun had been previously frozen, but that is probably the case at almost every dim sum place i've eaten at in n. america.

                1. re: cimui

                  Hi cimui. I'm no expert, by any means, but I'd describe Pearl as a solid bistro and Lai Wah Heen as a fine dining experience. Pearl does what it does well, and has a few innovative dishes to complement the classics; Lai Wah Heen is a top end restaurant: better ingredients, better execution and better presentation. More attention to detail overall, and more expensive. LWH would not use frozen shrimp in their cheung fun, I would think.

                  Next time you make it to Toronto, do try out LWH, or Grand Chinese Cuisine on the west border of Toronto if you have time.

                  I'm glad you at least seemed to enjoy Pearl!

              2. Globe Bistro. Not Greek but it's at the edge of our Greektown. Right at the Broadview subway station. They've got a fabulous lunch deal going on right now, about $20 for cassoulet or moules frites, including a wine pairing! Haven't tried yet but planning to go.

                Map at the link below

                124 Danforth Avenue, Toronto, ON M4K1N1, CA

                1 Reply
                1. re: JamieK

                  The Globe special is also evenings, in the front wine lounge only. Sweet deal.

                2. What region are you coming FROM? I ask because Toronto has many kinds of ethnic cuisine that are well represented, and if you cannot get one of these on your home turf then it's worth checking out while you're here. People on this board can recommend really good examples of places to try food representative of Chinese (especially Hong Kong), Ethiopian, Portuguese, and Polish to give some examples. In fact, if I were to say anything were 'quintessentially Toronto' about the food, it woudl be the tremendous diversity.

                  11 Replies
                  1. re: thought_for_food

                    Looking at the OP's profile, looks like NYC - Manhattan.

                    1. re: JamieK

             that case, I'm not sure Toronto has much unusual to offer. Except perhaps the price?

                      1. re: thought_for_food

                        Wasn't suggesting Globe Bistro just because of the well-priced lunch special. The food/service there always good, so a special lunch is a bonus. The OP asked for favourite restaurants, with no limit to cuisine or price range, didn't see anything about "unusual". Depending on the weather, also a way to see another part of the city if they choose to wander around the neighbourhood.

                        1. re: JamieK

                          I live in New York, so in terms of variety, I've got access to just about anything. I am really just looking for any suggestions from fancy to dirt cheap. Just want good food! So far, I've seen some great recs and really look forward to reading more.

                          Another question, though: would the Toronto Star be a good place to do some research? I don't know what locals would rely for restaurant/food searches.

                          1. re: angiebc290

                            For researching the Toronto food scene -

                            - Corey Mintz is the food critic at the Toronto Star and I really like his writing.
                            - James Chatto of Toronto Life is also a great Toronto food writer. You can find extensive restaurant reviews at
                            - Now Toronto is a weekly entertainment rag that does a pretty good job at restaurant reviewing -
                            And two more local sites:

                            1. re: Rabbit

                              Add to that Gina Mallet who writes for the National Post:

                              And Joanne Kates, arguably Toronto's best food critic, writes for the Globe and Mail:

                              1. re: Rabbit

                                I had thought that Mr. Chatto had moved on from TL. I agree he is a good writer.

                                1. re: Snarf

                                  I heard that too , Snarf... but his writing keeps popping up in TL, so I dunno.

                                  1. re: Rabbit

                                    Thanks for this - I'll have plenty to read up on before my trip!

                              2. re: angiebc290

                                Don't try Toronto pizza; it's a far cry from what you get in NYC. But our Chinese food is waaaay better, as my Chinese brother-in-law from Long Island would attest.

                                Avoid Toronto outposts of US chains, especially Morton's/Ruth's Chris. Very overpriced, and native Toronto institutions like Barberians and Carmen's offer a better value.

                                And one other street people haven't mentioned is Baldwin Street - lots of different options on one little street, which is easy walking distance from the Royal Ontario Museum or the Art Gallery of Ontario, if you want to imbibe a little culture with your meal.

                                1. re: KevinB

                                  Careful with Baldwin Street, though... there are some fantastic restaurants, and some definite misses, and it can be easy to pick erroneously. I'd highly recommend Matahari Grill, although it's not really upscale (just midscale but excellent Malaysian food). Apart from that, I find there's fairly good Indian and Japanese, but not much else.

                      2. The Prague ( I highly recommend the Svickova or Beef in Sauerbraten sauce (roast beef slices, covered with vegetable cream sauce and cranberry compote with a side of bread dumplings) all for around $15 incl. tax and tip.