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Your morning-to-midnight-snack guide to the best eats (and sips!) in T.O.
Forno Cultura 609 King St. W
Walking down the stairs into this Italian bakery, youʼll find chefs busily making bread, imported olive oils on the shelves, high-top seating and front-of-house cases packed with fresh authentic treats. Brave the queue for Forno’s sugar-dusted goat milk ricotta cannoli (our vote for best in the city).
WVRST 609 King St. W
This bold red German-style beer hall is aptly named a “hall of sausage and other wonders.” Great sausage, yes, but the duck fat fries are the stuff of legend. A side of these locally famous frites (with 10-plus homemade dips, like maple rosemary or buttermilk ranch) pairs perfectly with your Tamworth heritage pork sausage on a buttery white roll—top the latter with sweet peppers and sautéed onions.
The Dirty Bird 79 Kensington Ave.
This Brooklyn-chic chicken and waffles joint in the heart of hippie Kensington Market serves up stellar food for a decent price. Get the classic ODB ($15)—the chicken is hand-breaded and cleanly crunchy, and the waffles are light and fluffy—and make sure you double dip in both the syrup and spicy “dirty sauce” for the perfect zippy bite.
Cosmic Treats 207 Augusta Ave.
This vegan restaurant and dessert bar makes killer, decadent cashew-based vegan ice cream (think chocolate fudge, berry cheesecake) in a retro orange diner-style room with geek-chic cosmic art.
La Banane 227 Ossington Ave.
In a cheeky room kitted out with Warhol-esque banana prints and rich emerald walls, chef Brandon Olsen (of Bar Isabel, the Black Hoof) serves up contemporary French, like buttery, melt-in-your-mouth European bass en croûte ($34) and a massive, perfectly cooked skillet of rib-eye steak with sauce bordelaise ($80). The giant graffiti-decorated chocolate egg is the Instagram darling; have those phones ready.
(Photo: Steven Lee.)
Planta 1221 Bay St.Plant-based goes upscale at the luxe, ultra-mod Planta. In a triple-height room, plants burst out of white shelves overlaid on alabaster brick walls (gorgeous palm-leaf wallpaper and geo tiles dress up the hallways, too). Cold-pressed juice cocktails, rosé and bubbles complement a fat menu of creative vegan pleasures. Pay particular attention to the pizzas—“made with love, 00 flour and gluten-free dough”—and make room for warm-up snacks like the truffle parmesan cauliflower tots.
The Drake Hotel 1150 Queen St. W
Even West Coasters will fall for the sushi: order the masterfully sauced coconut panko shrimp maki with dynamite sauce ($15) or the rich marinated butterfish ($14) to go with whatever carefully crafted tipple the bartender recommends. Sidle up to the bar if you’re solo or head up to the bumpin’ rooftop patio (Vancouver needs more of these) with friends.
Grey Gardens 199 Augusta Ave.
On the surface, it’s the kind of austere wine bar where a modern-day Marie Antoinette would get her happy hour on, but it’s also the new buzzworthy spot from Jen Agg (the Black Hoof), who, to let you in on a little T.O. gossip, can be a divisive restaurateur. (Her latest book is I Hear She’s a Real Bitch, and she’s been known to call customers douches on Twitter—power to her.) Go for the drama! The intrigue! But also the beauty, the robust wine list, cider list and semi-secret sake list.
While West Queen West (which is, yes, the west end of Queen St. West) was a lightning rod for the creative crowd, Ossington Avenue, a perpendicular offshoot that bisects WQW and spikes north, is the relatively new hot spot. And on one street you can find two great beer bars. The second-floor mezzanine of Bellwoods Brewery (124 Ossington Ave.) shows off views of the brewhouse below, while its big and popular patio offers the perfect spot to people-watch the young crowds scrambling for parking in the hot ’hood. For something a bit more “endearing dive bar,” head down the street to Sweaty Betty’s (13 Ossington Ave.), essentially a long and narrow version of Vancouver’s Brickhouse, complete with vintage furniture and dim lighting. It’s peak hipster, but without the pretentious attitude. Bonus: there’s a cozy outdoor patio that you’ll want to visit come spring.
The Best of Toronto Food Tour is your Toronto Hike—we hope you’ve packed your sneaks. Foodies on Foot takes your small group across the city to show you some of city’s the best bites, from bean-to-bar Douglas fir truffles at Soma Chocolatemaker to Toronto’s best Neapolitan pizza at G for Gelato (what a misdirect!). Go on your own or bring your friends; it’s a great way to meet other food-loving tourists, too. And forget what we said about footwear: pack your stretchiest pants.