Toronto for Foodies

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Toronto for Foodies
The culinary culture of Canada’s largest city cannot be reduced to jokes about poutine and maple syrup (though those two distinctive tastes are well represented here!). Toronto's restaurant scene is not to be taken lightly. Menus here are written in more than 100 languages and cover specialties from Cairo to Calgary, as well as dishes conceived in local kitchens.

With additional copy by Karolyne Ellacott.
By Flash Parker, AFAR Ambassador
Photo courtesy of CN Tower
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    Lofty Eats and Drinks
    Toronto's iconic skyline is best enjoyed over a fine meal or a refreshing drink in the company of good friends. The Sky Yard at the trendy Drake Hotel is one of the city's most popular watering holes for good reason: The views are sublime, and cocktails like the Paper Plane (bourbon, Aperol, amaro, and lemon) are exciting. Canoe Restaurant and Bar in the Financial District is posh and features stunning 54th-floor vistas of Lake Ontario and the city's streets. At 1,152 feet, the wine cellar at the CN Tower's 360 Restaurant is the world’s highest.
    Photo courtesy of CN Tower
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    Fine Dining in Toronto
    The high-end-dining scene here is one of North America’s liveliest. Locals love Alo, a modern French spot devoted to renowned chef Patrick Kriss's tasting menus, and Buca Osteria in Yorkville, which is Italian gone upscale. The omakase menu at Shoushin, enjoyed at the unvarnished and fragrant cypress sushi bar, is like a culinary trip to Tokyo. The adventurous flavors, linen tablecloths, and formal service at Scaramouche make it a destination for special occasions and celebrations. Joso's, a longtime Toronto favorite, dishes up a Mediterranean-influenced seafood menu in a warm, art-filled house in Yorkville.
    Photo by Rick O'Brien
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    Indulge Your Sweet Tooth
    Sweets are always in season in Toronto, and there's almost no limit to how far the city's pastry chefs will go to fulfill your dessert fantasies. Soma Chocolatemaker in the Distillery is an outpost for all things cocoa, and Delight in the Junction makes amazing seasonal ice cream. Sweet Jesus is popular for its outrageous, Instagram-worthy soft-serve creations—think ice cream with tufts of cotton candy sprouting from every direction. Anyone seeking out an unforgettable dessert needs to look no further than La Banane where the meal ends with a bit of sugary theater. Mornings are a perfect excuse to indulge your sweet tooth at Bar Raval: Pair your cup of bitter coffee with the doughnuts (varieties include one with pistachio and lemon glaze or with Marcona almond and honey).
    Photo Courtesy La Banane
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    Toronto’s Asian Staples
    Every city block features at least one authentic Asian dining experience here, while some neighborhoods like Kensington Market and Koreatown burst with choice. The perpetually busy PAI dishes up authentic khao soi, a curry noodle dish popular in parts of Laos, Thailand, and Myanmar. For a taste of Pakistan (and an entertaining evening), head to Little India's Lahore Tikka House—the menu includes appetizers influenced by traditional street snacks as well as kebabs, biryanis, and curries. In town on a Sunday night? Don't miss the Kamayan dinner at Lamesa Filipino Kitchen where the food is served directly on banana leaves.
    Photo by Flash Parker
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    The Quirkiest Beans in Town
    Canucks are big coffee drinkers, so it’s no surprise that Toronto is blessed with a number of unique brew shops managed by coffee-bean experts. Get on the waiting list for Pilot Coffee Roasters’ cold drip, a jolting beverage that takes more than six hours to prepare. Dineen Coffee Company on Yonge Street is bright, beautiful, and inviting, and offers great people-watching. Tango Palace Coffee Company in Leslieville opens at 7 a.m. and stays open late; the antique espresso machine is a steampunk gem. Merryberry Café and Bistro is a cozy neighborhood joint. Sam James is another famous name in coffee; the young entrepreneur first set up on Harbord Street and now boasts a clutch of eponymous coffee bars that turn out espresso worthy of a rhapsody.
    Photo courtesy of Canadian Tourism Commission
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    Quality Cheap Eats
    Toronto boasts lots of options for quality cheap eats, especially in the ethnic neighborhoods. Square-Boy Drive-In does great Greek souvlaki, and A3 Napoli serves fried pizza and arancini (fried rice balls). Kensington Market’s Seven Lives is a favorite cheerful spot for SoCal-style tacos; around the corner, Jackpot Chicken Rice is a Chinatown newbie that dishes out on-point flavors in a super-fun setting. The armada of food trucks stationed opposite City Hall offer edibles late into the evening; Kal & Mooy is known for Somali food, such as chicken or beef wraps made with sabaya (a type of flatbread).
    Photo by Barb Simkova
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    The Battle for Poutine Supremacy
    Quebec claims poutine as its own, though Toronto is no slouch in the preparation of this gut-busting delight. This Canadian dish, a heap of thick-cut French fries covered in hot gravy and savory cheese curds, can be thoroughly investigated at half a dozen dedicated poutineries throughout the city. Smoke’s Poutinerie and the Great Burger Kitchen offer variations on the traditional form—a Mexican version at Smoke's with tomato salsa, cheddar, avocado, and sour cream, and at Great Burger, the GBK Poutine with pulled pork and goat cheese.
    Photo by Flash Parker
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    Canada’s Original Energy Drink
    Ever popular in the Great White North, maple syrup is found on, and in, just about everything. At perpetual favorite Rose and Sons, brunch-menu items involving maple syrup include poached-pear yogurt, griddled-brie corn bread, and fried chicken and short stack. Caplansky’s Deli on College Street even adds syrup to its knish, while its food truck pumps out dozens of maple-bacon doughnuts every day. Nickel Brook Brewing infuses dark maple syrup into its maple porter (which you can also find at an liquor store). If you're planning to make a purchase, Noble Tonic 01 barrel-matured maple syrup is some of the finest you can get your hands on. Alternatively, smoked maple sugar, available at the city’s best markets, is a great complement to salmon. The shops and stalls at St. Lawrence Market, especially Aren't We Sweet, are ideal places to track down excellent maple-syrup souvenirs. If your visit coincides with the spring thaw, a trip to Black Creek Pioneer Village may encompass a taste of some just-sugared syrup.
    Photo by Flash Parker