Expert recommendations for the best places to eat in four price ranges: budget ($), moderate ($$), expensive ($$$), and luxury ($$$$)
Ba Shu Ren Jia
“It’s for adventuresome eaters: authentic Szechuan food is ferociously tasty and aggressively spiced.”—Chris Nuttall-Smith, former food editor, Toronto Life magazine. Casual eatery in the city’s northernmost reaches; clientele often hail from mainland China here for a taste of home. 4771 Steeles Avenue E; tel. +1 416 335 0788.
The Cheese Boutique
“Put together a lunch of local bakery Celestin’s fig bread and a triple cream Riopelle from Quebec. Co-owner Agim Pristine makes a mean espresso, too.”—Sasha Chapman, food columnist, Globe & Mail. Pungently perfumed paradise for the literati; infinite assortment of exotic artisanal wedges, olives, and fresh-baked loaves for take-out. 45 Ripley Avenue; tel. +1 416 762 6292. www.cheeseboutique.com
“I can almost believe I’m in Naples when I’m sitting on the patio with a tumbler of red wine and a margherita pizza.”—Sasha Chapman. Laid-back and festive ambience attracts lineups at almost any hour; robust and frank Italian fare; leafy backyard patio invites languid limoncello-sipping. 720 Queen Street W; tel. +1 416 504 0320. www.terroni.ca
“If I’m with friends, I’ll go to Torito to share some tapas (Serrano ham, Chilean tripe stew, white-bass ceviche).”—Sasha Chapman. A jubilant, stylish, and petite tapas bar in Kensington Market, outfitted with wooden tables and festooned with signs of Spain (bottles of Spanish riojas and sherries line exposed brick walls); warm, charming service. 276 Augusta Street; tel. +1 647 436 5874.
“Chef Nathan Isberg is self-taught and prepares authentic, tasty Spanish tapas, using fresh local Ontario produce.”—Chris Nuttall-Smith. Long candlelit bar and tryst-inviting wooden booths; hand-cut Serrano ham, Catalonian flatbread, and an impressive selection of Spanish wines and sherries. 783 Queen Street W; tel. +1 416 703 0783.
“Colborne Lane is a winner. The food is very innovative without being over-the-top, the setting is dramatic, and it’s cool and casual.”—Alan Davis, executive editor, Night Day city guides. Memorably imaginative molecular-gastro restaurant (chef pours flavored cream into liquid nitrogen to make ice cream). 45 Colborne Street; tel. +1 416 368 9009. www.colbornelane.com
Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar
Populist, dressed-up comfort food; try the Québécois poutine made with Yukon gold potatoes, artisanal cheese, and pulled pork. “The best way to eat French fries.”—Chris Nuttall-Smith. A vibrant, ever-bustling, and intimate room; esoteric wine list. Nine Church Street, tel. +1 416 362 1957.
Starfish Oyster Bed & Grill
“Sit at the bar so you can watch proprietor Patrick McMurray shuck.”—Sasha Chapman. McMurray won the world oyster-shucking championship in 2002; homey, lively, pretense-free room welcomes with varnished plywood tabletops and lots of organic fare including Royal Malpeque oysters and fresh scallops. 100 Adelaide Street E; tel. +1 416 366 7827. www.starfishoysterbed.com
“For an intimate dinner, it has to be the steak frites at La Palette.”—Sasha Chapman. Toasty French bistro in Kensington Market; swathed in Provençal fabrics and swelling with Edith Piaf chansons; engaging, attentive service; petite, but long on charm; perfect for candlelight trysts. 256 Augusta Avenue; tel. +1 416 929 4900.
Splendido Bar and Grill
“Life will never be the same after his [Chef David Lee] white truffle polenta.”— Sasha Chapman. Located in Toronto’s Annex; sweeping high-ceilinged, white-linen dining room sandwiched amid Laundromats and used bookshops; polished black-tie service. 88 Harbord Street; tel. +1 416 929 7788. www.splendido.ca
“His [Chef Susur Lee] flavor combinations are inventive and novel; an evening here is an event.”—Chris Nuttall-Smith. Glamorous gastronomica in a pared-down room: food (not decor) wins the spotlight; seven-course tasting menu remains the choice feast for visiting foodies. 601 King Street W; tel. +1 416 603 2205. www.susur.com
“The wild-hunted caribou, served in a puff-pastry tourtiére and sided with Jerusalem artichoke puree is incredible.”—Chris Nuttall-Smith. Perched on the 54th floor of The Toronto Dominion Bank Tower and offering striking views of Lake Ontario and the Toronto Island. Toronto Dominion Tower, 66 Wellington Street W; tel. +1 416 364 0054. http://www.oliverbonacini.com/Canoe.aspx/
Eminently civilized, old-world Portuguese dining room serves city’s finest fish and seafood; meals come with memorable prologues (Portuguese corn breads, olives, cheese, honey, and balsamic); winsome, mains (black espada; improbably gigantic shrimp; salt cod); infallible, polished service. 864 College Street W; tel. +1 416 538 1910. http://www.chiadorestaurant.com/
Travel Photos From Your Shot
Browse Stunning Images of These Natural Marvels
Shop National Geographic
Special Ad Section
Watch as Nat Geo photographers reveal what drives them to create iconic images.