As someone that has worked in the restaurant industry in some capacity for almost fifteen years, my heart is heavy for the city of Toronto right now. I don’t want to focus too much on the challenges because that would detract from the message of this post – how we all can support local small businesses and restaurants throughout the last few weeks of 2020. So in an attempt to get you hungry and ordering curbside pickup or delivery, here is my list of (some) of the restaurants I love most.
This list is going to be driven by my love of food and one of a kind experiences. From each restaurant I will focus on one thing that makes me happy or a menu item I have enjoyed over the years in hopes that when you next get a craving you are inspired by this post.
Before I jump right in, allow me to clarify a few things for those of you who may not know the ins and outs of the industry.
- Ordering takeout / curbside is better than delivery. Unfortunately delivery partners charge a lot of money to small businesses for their services. While they serve a purpose, let’s try to keep as much money in the business and not multi-million dollar corporations. Order takeout or curbside pickup, get those steps in, and help keep as much support in the hands of the restaurants. Convenience isn’t everything anymore.
- Leave a positive review on Google. This makes a HUGE difference in the visibility a business has online and can help them be seen by more people. Plus if you had a good experience, why wouldn’t you want them to know about it? The world needs more kindness right now and this small effort can make a huge difference.
- Follow and engage with them on social media. Goes without saying for some, but some of you may need reminding. Even if you don’t follow, tag and show them off to your followers to help them have a chance to shine right now when they need it most.
- Order alcohol if and when you can. Restaurants are masters of food, but real profit (which help to keep businesses open) is made on the sale of alcohol. Try their cocktail kits or order a bottle of wine from them instead to make a perfect meal.
Now that we got that sorted, here’s (some of) my favourite restaurants in Toronto that I hope you help me support right now.
Located at the iconic Hazelton Hotel in Yorkville, I’ve had some of my best summer memories sipping cocktails on the patio. While the world hits pause on dinning experiences IRL, I always think of ONE Restaurant when I am craving Truffle Frites and a Lamb Chop. This is date night in a takeout bag and I highly recommend it to make a mundane weekday more deliciously glamourous.
I’m a sucker for good LatinX food and La Bella Managua always satisfies that craving. From savoury shrimp to queso fritto, trust me when I say that this Nicaraguan restaurant is one that won’t disappoint those of you looking for a meal full of authentic flavours and dishes.
One of my go-to BBQ spots in the city, I recently realized I’ve been going to The Carbon Bar since they first opened almost a decade ago. I highly encourage you to try the burger, order some extra sides, and don’t forget to order dessert. Great for family meals that will have you all licking your fingers, if you haven’t tried them yet, you must!
I love me a good chicken spot and instead of ordering from the chain down the street, I highly recommend you order from Uncle Ray’s instead. Southern flare and comfort food is the main style of menu, but if I had to pick one dish that wow’d me most, it would be the Lightning Chicken. I dare you to order it and not feel the same!
Maybe it’s because I was their first customer on opening day, maybe it’s because I’m a sucker for a good sandwich, but I am addicted to ordering from Lambo’s. This sandwich spot has quickly gained fame amongst food lovers in Toronto, and if you’re going to order a sandwich I suggest ordering from here. If you have yet to order, I suggest starting with the classic and then making your way through the menu – I’m almost done and I haven’t eaten one that I haven’t loved yet.
The latest sibling in the Aburi Family of restaurants in the city (click here to read about the best meal I ate in 2020 at Aburi Hana, and here to learn about date night boxed experiences from sister restaurant Miku) Opened in the past few weeks, I adore how Minami Toronto is making waves during a pandemic. It says a lot about a restaurant that can open its doors against all odds and already be on the up and up for those who are in the know – which you now are. Located in the heart of the city items that jump out to me from their menu include the Sashimi Bento, Charcoal Aburi Chicken and that FABOULOUS Kaisen Poke Bowl. With innovate land and sea options, this authentic Aburi experience is one not to miss. I promise that once you try their menu, they will quickly become your new favourite spot.
Tapas is something that many try, but few master quite as elegantly as Bar Raval has for a very long time. If you’re in the mood to have a lot of flavour and options for a special meal, this is the spot to turn to. From the Pintxos menu the Stracciatella and Boquerones is a must – and don’t forget to try the Patatas Bravas. A very authentic Spanish culinary experience that is perfect for those of you who like me enjoy sharing.
This Mediterranean inspired menu is one of my absolute favourites in the city. An experience meant to be like no other, I’ve had some spectacular meals on the patio at Bar Reyna. Until I am able to do so again, items that I have ordered for takeout include Cauliflower Bravas, Lebanese Tacos and Falafel Burger. I’m making myself hungry just thinking about it!
For Julio, comfort food usually involves some sort of noodle. I’d not ever been drawn to Ramen before we met, but now we eat it at least a few times a month and most of those are when we order from Tondou Ramen. Some of the most authentic preparations and flavours you can find in Toronto, I highly recommend the Spicy Miso Ramen with extra Pork Chashu and Naruto Fish Cake. This is not only a beautiful dish to look at, but it is incredible satisfying on a cold day.
2019 was the year everyone in Toronto wanted Nikkei – the marriage of Japanese and Peruvian cuisines and flavours. My former employer has some of the best in the city and I would be remiss to not talk about their takeout options which feature favourites like the Nikkei Gyoza, Pollo den Miso and the tantalizing Lomo a la Parilla. While we all wait to enjoy the immersive experience in person, I highly recommend you try their takeout options for a delightfully surprising twist on what you think Japanese cuisine is.
Mexican street food has been the way to my heart since my first trip to Mexico City where I fell in love with the food and culture by immersing myself in in. La Carnita is a Toronto icon and is my go-to for tacos and to satisfy the carnal cravings I get for Mexican food. I have literally eaten the entire menu. Twice. Yes, it’s that good and comes this highly recommended from me to you.
One of the most luxurious restaurant experiences I’ve had in Toronto, located in Toronto’s most luxurious address – click here to see how much I’ve loved my staycations over the years and why I support them – LOUIX LOUIS has made their incredible menu available to us all just in time for the holidays. Dishes I have loved and can’t wait to order again include the Scallops a la Plancha, the Wagyu Burger (which will blow your mind), and of course the most famous dessert in Toronto – the 13-layer King’s Cake. Trust me when I say spoiling yourself with this experience is the perfect way to kick back with that special someone during lockdown.
I was recently introduced to Soco Kitchen + Bar’s new menu during our staycation at Delta Hotel Toronto (the one with that bath photo) and have something to say. I’m pretty sure they make my favourite pizza in Toronto. Yes, I’m making that big of a statement because I still dream of the Pepperoni pizza which has fennel seeds, spicy honey & ezzo pepperoni. It’s heaven. Other favourites include the Tuna Poke and the scrumptious House Pastrami Sandwich. That’s also saying a lot considering I’m from Montreal!
Peruvian food is some of my favourite that I’ve started to explore over the years with Julio and that has been largely in part to the menu at Mira. From the Tuna Tostade to the savoury Anticucho, every bite is full of passion and flavour. Don’t ever skip the chance to order the Wagyu Tataki which is one of my favourite dishes ever!
Toronto’s most festive experience may not be happening IRL this year, but that doesn’t mean that we won’t be able to celebrate the season. The Thirsty Elf put on by Fairmont Royal York Toronto is helping us stay festive by creating options to take home and spread the holiday cheer with for you and your loved ones. I can’t wait to get my hands on their food and immaculately created cocktails to get into the holiday spirit with Julio. This is a perfect way to cheers to the holidays with your friends via zoom when you all order to enjoy together while staying safely apart. Details coming very soon so stay tuned!
Quetzal stole my heart the minute they opened in Toronto. Showing the Mexican food isn’t just street food, this elevated dinning experience is one of the best meals I’ve ever had in Toronto. From the fire that made the restaurant buzz, the latest had a fun pop-up with Don Pollo Chicken which is making me drool to think about. Experience what the team has been up to lately and get a taste of slow woodfire chicken + sides seven days a week.
For those Torontonians and tourists that have experienced the Shangri-La Hotel Toronto High Tea, you’ll know that it is one of the best experiences you can have while sitting in the Lobby of the hotel. In lieu of the world we live in, the hotel has made the incredible experience available to enjoy at home. From the most immaculate pastries to teas you’ll only be able to find here, the experience is relaxation and decadence embodied. Absolutely a must for the holidays in my books.
And there it is my friends. While there are countless other restaurants in the city, this is my list of some of the best I truly love and want to support. Remember those four points above, to do your best to support local as much as possible, and to try and be a little more kind to one another. Yes, this isn’t the holidays we thought we would have, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make the best of it together supporting an industry that fuels our memories and hearts.
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Photos: Daniel Reyes & All Social Media accounts listed above
Don’t forget to be kind & laugh a little more this year
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