A Multi-Cultural Culinary Cornucopia
From Little Italy to bustling Chinatown, the Annex to Yonge Street
and Eglinton, the Danforth to the Beaches
, Torontonians rejoice in the multi-cultural mosaic they call home. And nowhere is this more evident than in the vast smorgasbord of culinary delights offered by the Greater Toronto area's more than 7,000 restaurants, cafés, bistros, diners, pubs, resto-bars and other assorted eateries.
Toronto has everything from the Kama Classical Indian Cuisine
's fiery hot vindaloo and mouth-watering sawara butteryaki at the Rikishi Japanese Restaurant to the upscale French of Arlequin
with its duck confit, the power lunches at Acqua
, a current hot spot for the downtown business and professional crowd.
Cannoli In The Fudge
Lying west of Yonge, between College Street and Dundas, Little Italy is a natural place to start the gastronomic search. Host to countless classic Italian ristorantes
like Giovanna Trattoria
, and Trattoria Giancarlo
, this section of real estate is the piece of cannoli in a box of fudge. Although the days of the checkered tablecloth and candle in a chianti bottle may be gone, the mouth-watering food and click-heel service remains. Ironically though, the best pizza does not reside here. We find it a couple of blocks east on Elm, where inside an old Victorian house sizzles Il Fornello
East of Spadina, from King up to College, sprawls one of Toronto's Chinatowns—the original. It is here among the proliferation of shops, jewellery stores and banks that we'll find some of the best Asian-influenced cuisine on the continent: the emperor's feast at the Bright Pearl Seafood
, with imperial lions guarding the entrance; the Thai Princess
, with its eager-to-explain uniformed waiters; and the Pho Hung
, a Vietnamese hot spot where people actually line up to get in—just like a night club!
Framed by Front to the South and Bloor to the North, Toronto's downtown core is at its busiest and most expressive during the lunch hour. Sandwiched between Bay and Jarvis, this area encompasses the business and entertainment district of the city. The Shopsy's Deli
location at Front and Yonge is the place if you're looking to ease your hunger pangs without too much of a pain in your wallet. There's pastrami on rye, corned beef on a kaiser, roast beef on an onion roll or almost any other deli meat combination you can think of—all topped off with a kosher pickle.
Those looking for upscale cuisine and a night cap or two outside the downtown core have only to keep on heading up Yonge towards Eglinton. Clustred around this uptown intersection are some of the city's very best wining and dining establishments—with a little star-gazing thrown in as icing on the cake. Among the group, North 44
, Centro Grill & Wine Bar
stand out: North 44 for the inventive cookery of five-star chef Mark McEwan; Centro for its parade of celebrities and unusual combo of sushi bar and Italian cuisine; and Grano for the fresh bread, pick-your-own display-case antipasti and its feeling of old-style warmth and friendliness.
Sports fans have little to complain about when searching for their favourite foods and ambiance. There are plenty of places where you can put your foot on the rail, sip a cool lager and watch your team on a big-screen TV. A good starting point is the Hard Rock Café
at the Rogers Centre
where you can chew on a burger and take part in the seventh inning stretch at the same time. For a more laid-back scene, you can try Hoops Sports Bar & Grill
. Located near the Maple Leaf Gardens, this bar went from frenzied to comfortable once the hockey team moved to the Air Canada Centre. And, of course, there's Wayne Gretzky's
itself at 99 Blue Jays Way. The Great One, who many argue is the best hockey player of all time, occasionally drops in to autograph a few sticks and napkins.
Still can't decide? Maybe a short list is in order: for the view, 360 Degrees
, the Restaurant at the CN Tower
; for the sights, Crocodile Rock
on Thursday; for the 5:01 blues, Joe Rockhead's Rock Bottom Club or the Jump Café
; for that romantic tête-à-tête, the Corner House
or La Maquette
; for a wee pint of Guinness or a stout ale, McVeigh's New Windsor Tavern
and Scotland Yard
respectively; for a ball-busting-up game of pool, Milwaukee's Good Bites Beerateria; for a thick, juicy piece of meat done just so, Carman's Dining Club
Lest we forget that most important meal of the day, the breakfast-brunch, Toronto offers a variety ranging from the simply solid, void-filling and all-day version at Mars Restaurant
to sophisticated entrees, bubbly and jazz accompaniment at Sassafraz.
And we haven't mentioned Turkish (A La Turka), Russian (Samovar Barmalay), Serbian (Skadarlija
), Middle Eastern (<Free Times Cafe
), Spanish (Casa Barcelona
)—the list goes on and on.
Yes, Toronto has come a long way from its reputation as a steak and kidney pie kind of town. In fact, the culinary school at George Brown College is producing five-star chefs for the rest of the continent, and a person could probably spend decades testing every restaurant in town. But, hey, if you're really desperate to dig into that "eye," try the Elephant and Castle
, Foster's On Elm, or Duke of Gloucester
. The steak and kidney pie is still there. Only now it has a lot of culinary company.