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Best restaurants in Toronto (NY quality) / Toronto dining guide

I want to go to Toronto for a few days with my GF, we're big foodies who dine out in Manhattan all the time and have often been disappointed by a few major cities that couldn't even come close to the same quality, especially given similar price points (Philly, Miami). I'm planning on doing research, before committing to the number of days. I know next to nothing about the dining scene there.

Any recommendations for places that are on par with NYC? I'd rather have mid level comfort food than be disappointed by top dollar places.

Is there a Toronto dining guide that would be helpful besides Zagat, something similar to NY mag or the NY Times dining section? I know there isn't a Michelin guide, so I was thinking open table or yelp would be options.

Any assistance would be much appreciated.

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  1. For western cuisine, a few 'might' touch NYC's standard. They are Splendido ( Continental/French ) Chiado ( Portuguese) and Scaramouche ( Continental/French ). Our famed Japanese eatery, Sushi Kaji, IMO, would garner a Michelin star if located in NYC.

    Frankly, only thing Toronto excels in is 'Cantonese Cuisine'. Together with Vancouver, best in North America. As such better than NYC, hands down!

    As for another source of reference, give Toronto Life a try.

    1. The shawarma at Al tanoor , Lawrence East, would be good in NYC; also Boulevard Cafe. That's it , in my experience, but I am allergic to MSG.
      I can't wait for your report!

      "Something helpful besides Zagat" contains an internal contradiction.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Vinnie Vidimangi

        I'm confused, what is the Boulevard Cafe good at other than having a patio?

        1. re: dubchild

          Interesting!! I was just about to make the same comment!!

      2. I am very much a foodie, and have also been classically (french) trained as a chef in Toronto, my recommendation for you and yours is "George" - the best restaurant in Toronto imo! Please let me know what you think if you dine there! Also, depending on what you are looking for, Colborne Lane, the Black Hoof, La Palette.......those are my top four!

        If you indulge at any of the above four restaurants, please let me know your thoughts! When i come to NYC I will expect you to guide me to the same indulgences!

        Enjoy! Bon appetit!

        1 Reply
        1. re: Insatiablegirl

          I will also say that i love meat so my suggestions are very meat heavy! Its an opinion, a good one, but an opinion at best!

        2. ny has so many styles of pizza that are done well there, but the one type that i think toronto has over ny is vpn. . .depending on who you ask, you should try pizza e pazzi, libretto, or queen margherita. imho. this is low-middle level food, not fine dining at all. . .

          i agree with others on the issue of cantonese chinese food. . .toronto is better than nyc.

          on most other things, "ny quality" (whatever that actually means, other than a good quality food/dining experience) is both harder to find here, and really subjective--and don't get me wrong, i love the food scene in nyc.

          also really contentious was the recent declaration that our st. lawrence market was the top open air market in the world. any foodie should make at least one trip there. think of chelsea market but with a lot less pretense.

          just some of my .02 cents

          1. You might want to take a gander at the "best of Toronto" thread from earlier this year:


            This was the voting thread:


            You'll find very few fine dining options there, so most of them will fit your "mid level comfort food" criteria. Just note that the chef at Marben has left, and there seems to be a degradation in the food since then.

            4 Replies
            1. re: TorontoJo

              As the inimitable Charles Yu has suggested above, your best bet for nosh in Toronto that you won't ordinarily find in New York is Cantonese food. Be aware, however, that the best ones are far, far northeast of downtown, in the heart of the uptown Chinese community. So you'd better have a car at your disposal. I'll leave it to Charles to offer his own specific favourites. My own mid-priced favourite is Maple Yip. More expensive - but good value nonetheless - is Yang's, on north Bayview Ave., especially good for dim sum at lunch. It helps to know what to order from the voluminous menus at these places, but it seems to me there are a few threads on this board that pinpoint specifics dishes.

              Closer to downtown is the already-mentioned Chiado, a first-rate Portuguese spot - I don't think you'll find much like it in New York. Bring money, though. I've never thought the Boulevard Cafe, on Harbord St., was up to much. But it has lasted a long, long time, so it must have something going for it. (Perhaps it's the patio.) Don't know most of the other spots mentioned, many of which are around downtown, and, therefore, easy to get to without a car.

              1. re: juno

                Maple Yip is still one of the better choices. But that place is packed, even on week days, so arrive very early or make reservation in advance. Yang is good for Dim Sum but for dinner, I prefer 'The Emperor'. Much more consistent and better value. If a 'splurge' is in OP's book, then go to O'Mei for their great tasting but over-priced Giant Lobster 4 ways!

                Just a minor feed back on the Guu Izakaya recommendation by akhorasanee. If atmosphere is what you are looking for, by all means give it a try. However, foodwise, its a notch or two below NYC's Yakitori Totto or Tori Shin's standard!!

                I just ate at Eleven Madison Park a couple of months ago. Colborne Lanes 'pseudo molecular fun food' is no where near EMP's standard or inventiveness. Furthermore, the $75 luncheon tasting menu of EMP is way better value than Colborne Lane's Chef's tasting menu!! I would suggest using the money, grab a taxi and head out to Sushi Kaji instead!!

                My 2 cents worth!

                1. re: Charles Yu

                  I completely agree re: Eleven Madison Park. That is one of the finest restaurants in North America, and nothing I've had in Toronto comes close. I've eaten at Colborne Lane, albeit during restaurant week, and while it was well done, it's not playing in the same league. And it's more expensive, to boot.

                  Frankly, this "I'm from the center of the universe, i.e., NYC, and am coming to your woeful province, can you please tell me where to eat" thread pops up so frequently, on so many chowhound boards, there should really be a separate board for it.

                  Anyway, I would second the recommendation to get a car and go to the burbs for Cantonese. I disagree with both the neapolitan pizza (must be dozens of places for this in NYC) and Khao San Road -- Zabb Elee in the east village is light years ahead. Dunno about Portugese in NYC, that might be worth checking out, and maybe some place like Keriwa (though I've never been)?

                  1. re: autopi

                    my post wasn't suggesting that nyc is devoid of vpn pizza--i have eaten quite a bit of what they have to offer in that regard--i'm suggesting that i find that vpn joints here do it better than what i have found in nyc.

                    i also agree that this type of post pops up (too) frequently, and maybe should have it's own category (i'm from place x and i'm visiting place y, but i really still want to eat like i was in place x).

            2. Lots of great recs so far. Many of us on this board are regular NY chow visitors. I agree that "on par with NYC" is vague - apart from the general sense that you want great food - if you give us an indication of places you like in Manhattan, it may help us better guide you.

              6 Replies
              1. re: peppermint pate

                Thanks everyone.
                In NY, I love Le Bernadin, Eleven Madison Park, Tertulia, Gotham Bar and Grill, Lupa. We try new places alleys time that are great, but with so much to choose from, mostly the ones above warrant repeat visits. I'm looking for places at all price points.

                To give you a comparison, if you combined Philly and NY restaurants, you would see only a handful of restaurants from Philly in the top 50. Again, NY has numerous entries in the San Pellegrino top 100 restaurants in the world, Canada has none, but at the same time I gt the feeling you have execellent food there, I just don't want to weed through the overhyped ones.

                1. re: ragingbull23

                  There`s a systematic bias built into the way that voting is structured that makes it extremely difficult for a Canadian restaurant to hit the top 50 list even if they would otherwise qualify on quality.

                  That said I`m not convinced at this point that there is anywhere in the city that would make the list except possibly Splendido

                  Although it tends to get run down here I think Canoe actually deserves to be considered

                  One suggestion you wont find on the usual suspects list

                  Edulis, which is a little hard to pin down, it`s mostly Spanish but not the Spanish stuff you`ll mostly find on the top 50 list, no tapas or high concept modern, this is more like a country asador, I think it`s got some things going that you wont usually find in a supposed Spanish restaurant on this side of the pond.

                  1. re: bytepusher

                    Went last night (2nd visit) and loved it as much as the first. Definitely worth a visit. Very low-key, but well-prepared dishes. Loved the pickled herring in oil and rabbit.

                    1. re: bytepusher

                      What is the 'systematic bias'?
                      Alinea (in the same region) makes the top 10.

                      1. re: estufarian

                        Europe has a disproportionate number of the regions and hence judges. To make the top of the list a restaurant needs to attract judges from other regions to travel there (because there is a completely reasonable rule that you can't vote for a place you haven't eaten in) so there's an inbuilt bias for places that are physically (and economically) closer to the majority of the judges, it's no secret why Eurpoean restaurants make up 60+% of the list.

                        They probably should redistribute some of the regions a little, it's ridiculous for example that China, Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan all together only have one restaurant that makes the list. Japan also probably deserves to have more than 2.

                        Alinea makes the cut because it has a deserved international reputation so the kinds of people who are in the "academy" (mostly restaurant critics, travel writers and chefs) are more likely to travel to Chicago to eat there than they are to go to Toronto or Vancouver. My prediction for next year? For various reasons I think there's a 50/50 chance that a restaurant in Montreal will make the list in 2013, probably Joe Beef.

                        1. re: bytepusher

                          I agree that there is a 'potential' European bias (vs every other place) because travel is easier there.

                          Where I differ is that Canada gets systematically beaten down - surely Australia (for instance) is at even more of a geographical disadvantage - yet they have placed several restaurants in the list. So has New York (although less geographically disadvantaged). And wasn't French Laundry #1 a few years back (2003)? That's inaccessible without a concerted effort!

                          I'm not trying to argue that the process is 'unflawed' - any poll will inevitably be imperfect (hey, my top restaurant worldwide has never made the top 50, although it did crack the top 100).
                          My call is that 'newer, buzzier' places will receive more visits from 'trendistes' eager to find the latest and greatest before most anyone else and accordingly some places will suddenly jump into the higher rankings, only to slip quickly as the wider public (and voters) try them out (BECAUSE of their vault).

                          And 7 (of the 29) regions are Asian - only 6 are American (including South & Central) - so where exactly are the Asian places penalized compared to the Americas?

                          What I won't argue against is that voters may be biased culturally towards more European 'tastes and training' - regardless of where they are located. 'French-style' food is widely held up as the de facto standard - at least for comparison purposes (although traditional 'French' restaurants don't typically make the very top - it seems that privilege requires more than a dash of innovation - see El Bulli, Noma, Can Roca and Mugaritz for example).

                          And apply your theory to D.O.M. - just how did that get in there?

                2. Hi,
                  For mid level dining, I would strongly suggest Guu most people that hae visited me from other countries, have absolutely loved it! Another spot for a great lunch is khao san road, you can not go wrong with this. For Toronto higher end food I think Splendido and Colborne are the best but neither of them are things you wont get in NYC. I would not reccomend going to Boulevard as I find it quite average

                  1. So our trip is next week, but work has been so busy I have haven't had a lot of time until today. So far I booked a "carte blanche" reservation at Yours Truly and one at Edulis. Sifting through all of the other choices for the final dinner. I plan on heading to the St Lawrence Market for one lunch and one of the Cantonese restaurants for another. Any thoughts on my initial choices? Any breakfast or bakery suggestions for a quick bite before a day of sight seeing? Thanks!

                    8 Replies
                    1. re: ragingbull23

                      I personally did not find yours truly to be inspiring. The food is just very hip. Like what's cool in the food world right now. And I feel that because they change the menu everyday, nothing is ever perfected. You're always being served an experiment. The cooking lacks soul.

                      1. re: brushfire

                        Thanks Brushfire, while researching YT I was a little concerned that it was more style than substance. I'll keep that in mind while I look for other options. Has anyone tried their Daily menu? Is it now 3 courses instead of 4?

                        1. re: brushfire

                          I second brushfire's sentiments. I've been to Yours Truly several times now and I don't see what the fuss is about, would not compare to any of my new york favorites. Plus I've had some atrocious service there.

                        2. re: ragingbull23

                          What area of the city are you staying in?

                          Keep in mind - SLM is closed Sundays & Mondays

                          1. re: midtowngirl

                            I'm staying in the Garden District.

                            So now I have Edulis and Splendido and trying to decide on my third restaurant from a list of (in somewhat preferred order):
                            Nota Bene
                            Enoteca Sociale
                            Chiado (which I could do for lunch).

                            1. re: ragingbull23

                              go for dim sum at lai wah heen, but if you really insist on continental

                              give black hoof's raw bar a shot, very interesting take on seafood.

                              1. re: aser

                                I'm going to go to lai wah heen for one lunch, forgot to mention it.

                              2. re: ragingbull23

                                Nota Bene is a big room with impeccable service but uninspired food.
                                Enoteca Sociale is a really cute space, good service, and really exciting, local inspired approach to Italian rustic cuisine.
                                Cava is out of downtown but again some really exciting (if pricey food). Chiado I hear is exciting as well but have never been.
                                Hoof Raw Bar is cute and the food is interesting, but you've got to like hispters and seafood...
                                Chantecler was an amazing meal, a small, tucked away sort of place, that you might not find in NY with bigger rooms?

                                The Grove I would recommend above any of the above (except perhaps Enoteca) - just really warm, wonderful food.

                          2. Dinners are settled, thanks for the great advice: Edulis, Enoteca Sociale, Splendido.
                            Lunch: lai wah heen, not sure about the rest based on schedule, but I want to fit in Chiado.
                            Breakfast: I'm going to look for bakeries or other places to get a high quality, but quick bite, no long brunches/ breakfasts (Is St. Lawrence good for breakfast?)

                            Is the Soma chocolate maker worth visiting?

                            6 Replies
                            1. re: ragingbull23

                              A thousand times YES on Soma. I've had chocolate from all over the world and Soma is still one of my favourites. Their gelato is pretty fantastic as well.

                              1. re: ragingbull23

                                Soma, definite yes. Don't miss the salted caramel truffle. Two locations, the one in the distillery district being a more worthwhile visit for the location and scenery. Queen location is bigger, and offers some additional lunch menu items, but that's about it. You'd be remiss not to go to the DD location.

                                Bakery (French): Nadege on Queen. Excellent pastries, great macaron. Getting better all the time. Find it much better than Dominique Ansel's NYC offering, for comparison's sake. Nadege Nourian is a 4th gen pastry Chef from France.

                                Edulis and Splendido are great pics. Enoteca is good, but not great. At Edulis - either get the tasting menu or order some dishes ahead of time (ie chicken in hay or ribeye, among others - selections available on their website). Stay away from the a la carte menu, as the experience won't do the restaurant justice. I think they ask for 48 hours notice for their "special" menu items.

                                ...which reminds me - the best experience at Splendido is also the tasting menu (arguably so is anywhere that has one, really), but ask the server to tell the Chef that you want him to "cook for you", and then brace yourself. If you give them notice ahead of time and have any special requests (ie, ingredients) for inclusion, ask to speak to either Carlo, Mic, or Victor and they will do their best to accommodate you. You can also request additional courses (the standard is nine, currently).


                                1. re: justxpete

                                  Overall, I find dining a la carte to be much better than tasting menus, with a few exceptions (the NY themed 15+/- meal at Torrissi Italian Specialties), but I'll keep that in mind for both places. The phrase "good, not great" is a common assessment of mine so you had me concerned about Enoteca, but the menu looks like a sure thing, a feeling I just didn't get from 10-12 other places.

                                2. re: ragingbull23

                                  St Lawrence is a great option for breakfast. The classic SLM breakfast is the peameal bacon sandwich, but lots of other options too.

                                  1. re: midtowngirl

                                    paddingtons has one of my favourite regular old greasy spoon breakfasts in the city, at least it did the last time i ate it like 4 years ago

                                  2. re: ragingbull23

                                    If you're staying at Richmond bet. Yonge & Victoria, there's two good places for coffee a few minutes walk east. Fahrenheit on the corner of Lombard & Jarvis has good coffee and some baked goods available. The other is B Espresso on Queen between Church & Jarvis, which is bigger, more seating, some pastries, etc. IMO, the coffee's better at Fahrenheit, but the seating's better at B.

                                    There's a bakery in the basement of St. Lawrence Market if you want pastries, or hit up Paddington Pump for diner style breakfast (Canadianbaconeggncheezonnaroll).

                                    As for Soma, there's one on King St. west of Spadina and the original in the Distillery. Soma at the Distillery gets the nod for comfortable seating, but both are good for chocolatey treats.