clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Where To Eat At Toronto-Pearson International Airport (YYZ)

Pastries, sushi, and beer before — or after — your flight

Shutterstock

Toronto’s Pearson Airport is easily the less-convenient of the city’s two air travel hubs — but given that the other airport downtown is tucked on a rather small island, the vast majority of air travelers are forced to go through this large suburban facility.

In recent years, the three companies that run the airport’s eateries have gone ham partnering with prominent chefs like Toronto’s Susur Lee (Lee, Fring’s) and Zane Caplansky (Caplansky’s Deli). Such chefs’ involvement at these airport outlets can be hands-off: they may sign off on a menu, but aren’t really present in operations, although the branding means the food is typically put together with some degree of care. (Susur Lee, Lynn Crawford, and Roger Mooking are all reportedly fairly involved at their namesake operations.)

Adjacent to Pearson but not part of the terminals-proper are a more options: 24-hour diner Zet’s is best for those with a few extra minutes to spare; the hotels around have standard hotel restaurant fare, with Zazi’s Place and Pearson Pub (both at the Comfort Inn) being the best options.

At the end of the day, it’s still airport food, so anybody with a layover of six hours or more is probably better served by hopping the convenient train direct into the city (check out the Eater 38 for more on that). For everybody else, here are the best bets (a full list of options is included below).

Take note: passengers flying to the USA are restricted to a separate part of each terminal after passing through security, and cannot access restaurants located around the Canadian and international departure gates. Also, for reasons unknown, there is no “Terminal 2” at Toronto-Pearson.

YYZ’s Seven Standouts

Acer
Photo: Toronto Pearson International Airport / Facebook

1) Acer: This Japanese spot, associated with chef Guy Rubino, benefits from the presence of a “real kitchen” (structural reasons reportedly make it tough for these to be added to airport terminals). Getting on a plane with a stomach full of leaden burger is often not ideal, and Acer goes some way to remedying that. Trying to do a little of everything, the restaurant offers ramen, sushi, rice bowls, and plenty of small snacks at not hideously expensive prices. [Terminal 3, Gate C36]

Bar 120
Toronto Pearson International Airport

2) Bar 120: Molecular gastronomy in an airport setting sounds like a recipe for disaster, but this place pulls it off. It’s affiliated with established chef John Placko, and works because it doesn’t go full molecular, instead opting for more regular items like sandwiches, but topped with playful gels or items like whipped cheese. It may well be the only airport restaurant in existence where one can purchase an edible helium balloon. [Terminal 1, Gate D20]

The Beerhive
OTG

3) Beerhive: Likely Pearson’s best bar, Beerhive has a decent selection, iPads everywhere, and a semblance of a soul. The food offerings lean towards pub fare with burgers and pizza, but a notch above many other places serving similar. [Terminal 3, Gate B26-27)

Pastries at Boccone Trattoria Veloce
SSP America

4) Boccone Trattoria Veloce: Toronto chef Massimo Capra is known for his appearances on Chopped and Top Chef Canada, and he’s apparently a little more involved in this airport restaurant than some other “celebrity” chefs are at their Pearson brand expansions. The all-Italian menu covers a fairly thorough range of pizza and pasta, alongside a few mains and slightly-less-Italian breakfasts. [Terminal 1, Gate D41]

Latke
Caplansky’s Deli

5) Caplansky’s Deli: Duplicating chef and restaurateur Zane Caplansky’s diner on Toronto’s College Street, this deli has a fairly lengthy menu focused on self-described “Jewish soul food,” which in this case means matzo ball soup, latkes, and various smoked meats. [Terminal 3, Gate B39]

Turkey, peameal bacon, pineapple, provolone, banana pepper, and chipotle sandwich
OTG

6) Fetta: Mark McEwan (former head judge for Top Chef Canada) pinned his name to this panini bar that does some of the airport’s most interesting sandwiches, like aged white cheddar with fig marmalade. It’s expensive, though not surprisingly so for an airport. [Terminal 1, Gate E73]

The Hearth by Lynn Crawford
HMSHost

7) The Hearth by Lynn Crawford: Ruby Watchco owner and Chopped Canada judge Lynn Crawford is the name-brand chef here at the Hearth, which purports to focus on local and seasonal ingredients. Items like the farro salad, hearth-cooked flatbreads, and fish tacos are a welcome break from mundane airport cheeseburgers. [Terminal 1, Gate F60]

Bolding denotes the better eating options beyond the above highlights.

Terminal 1

Before security

  • Booster Juice: Canadian juice and smoothie chain serving drinks that can take the place of a whole meal. [Level 2, parking/inter-terminal train]
  • Escape to the Caribbean: Jamaican patties, roti wraps, and jerk chicken. [Level G, ground transportation]
  • Maple Leaf Diner: Greasy spoon breakfast food that isn’t as Canadian as the name would imply — case in point: breakfast burritos. [Level G, ground transportation]
  • Paramount Fine Foods: Shawarma, pita, manakeesh, and other Middle Eastern eats from a chain founded in nearby Mississauga. [Level 3, check-in]
  • Starbucks: Coffee and sugary, coffee-adjacent drinks from a multinational. [Levels 1 and 3]
  • Subway: Fast-food sandwiches by the inch. [Level 3, check-in]
  • Swiss Chalet: Canadian casual-dining chain specializing in roast chicken. [Level 3, check-in]
  • Tim Hortons: Very cheap, oh-so-Canadian coffee chain that isn’t even the most popular coffee in Canada. [Levels G, 1, and 2; the Level 2 location is inexplicably named “TO’s Featuring Tim Hortons”]

After security (USA flights)

  • Apropos: Lounge-y bar with light meals (sandwiches, salads, tacos) that adhere to no cuisine in particular. [Gates F62-63]
  • Boccone Pronto: Grab-and-go Italian food (pizza, panini, etc.) and coffee with Toronto celebrity chef Massimo Capra’s name attached. [Gate F57]
  • Booster Juice: Juices and smoothies big enough to substitute for a full meal. [Gate F57]
  • Cibo Express Gourmet Market: A pret-à-manger airport-only chain with a fairly wide selection of sandwiches, sushi, and such, at standard airport prices. [Gate F62]
  • Red Rocket: Upscale diner fare from burgers to a fried chicken salad to French toast in a setting inspired by Toronto’s streetcars. [Gate D51/F51]
  • Starbucks: The ubiquitous Seattle-based coffee slinger. [Gate F62]
  • The Great Canadian Bagel: As the named implies, bagel sandwiches, filled with ample processed meat. [Gate F88]
  • Tim Hortons: Dirt cheap coffee that tastes like burnt hair. [Gate F66]
  • Upper Crust: Pre-prepared baguette sandwiches, pastry, and pizza. [Gate F61]
  • Wahlburgers: One of the only Canadian locations for the Wahlburg brothers’ bizarre, so-so burger chain. [Gate F67]

After security (non-USA flights)

  • A&W: A popular, middling burger chain; the Canadian A&W no longer has any affiliation with the American version. [Gate D37]
  • Banh Shop: Banh mi sandwiches but also a selection of ostensibly “Vietnamese” soup and noodle dishes; hated by Yelpers. [Gates E74-75]
  • Bento Sushi: Food court sushi, but at the airport. [Gate D22]
  • Built Custom Burgers: A “build-your-own-burger” place; but at airport prices those burger add-ons will add up, fast. [Gates E74-75]
  • Caffe di Calabria: Italian-leaning coffee and sandwiches. [Gate E70]
  • Camden Food Co: An airport chain with sandwiches and such; it aspires to be very organic, health-conscious, and so forth, but is still just okay. [Gate D31]
  • David’s Tea: This Montreal-based tea shop has a great tea selection and makes for nice gifts too, but a few small snacks aside, really only sells tea. [Gate D37]
  • Extreme Pita: Extreme in name only, it’s the airport location of a Canadian chain selling vaguely-healthy (surprise) pita wraps. [Gate D42]
  • Farmers Market: While it’s far from what its name would suggest, it does at least sell fresh fruit, which is hard to screw up; also sandwiches and salads. [Gate D4]
  • Heirloom Bakery Café: Established Toronto baker Devin Connell has her name tied to this place, otherwise it’s just another sandwich and salad spot. [Gate E75]
  • La Place: An imported Netherlands chain doing standard sandwich, salad, juice-type offerings. [Gates E74-75]
  • Lee Kitchen by Susur Lee: With famed Singapore-via-Toronto chef Susur Lee affiliated, you’d think Lee Kitchen could do better than General Tso’s Chicken — a faster food place like Shanghai 360 is cheaper and similar enough. [Gate E73]
  • Marathi: Hemant Bhagwani (creator of the now-sold Amaya Indian food chain) consulted on the menu here, and it’s replete with Indian standards such as vindaloos and chana masala. [Gate E78]
  • Mill Street Brewery: An airport location for the fairly large and reliable Toronto brewery — a pub menu includes some interesting options beyond the regular burgers and nachos, and reasonable prices for an airport. [Gate D20]
  • Purblendz: The smoothie accompaniment to Extreme Pita, complete with a youthful letter “Z” in its name. [Gate D42]
  • Rock Squeeze: A bar with a bunch of whiskeys available, and a few snacky options. [Gates E74-75]
  • Starbucks: Passable coffee milkshakes, atrocious food. [Gate D42]
  • Thai Express: Canadian chain focused mostly on greasy pad thai and curry options in paper take-out containers. [Gates D43-44]
  • Tim Hortons: The cheapest food thing in the airport — coffee, doughnuts, and pastries in every iteration of “maple.” [Gate D26, D51, E80]
  • Twist by Roger Mooking: With the prominent Trinidadian-Canadian chef on board at this restaurant, the options lean towards airport standards (burgers, salads) but at least have interesting ingredients. [Gate D32]
  • Vinifera: Wine bar with a reasonably diverse food selection. [Gate E75-76]

Terminal 3

Before security

  • Eurobar: European in name but not in image, it’s another nondescript airport bar with snacks. [Departures level]
  • Freshii: Health-conscious fare, much of which is served in bowl form. [Departures level]
  • Smoke’s Poutinerie: Fries topped with cheese curds, gravy, and myriad other toppings. [Arrivals level]
  • Starbucks: The best of the coffee options this side of security. [Departures level]
  • Subway: The ubiquitous sandwich chain. [Arrivals level]
  • Tim Hortons: Beyond its sheer cheapness, it’s a mystery as to why Canadians obsess over this coffee, bagel, and doughnut joint. [Arrivals level]
  • Wendy’s: Burgers, chili, and such, from one of the better chains to set up shop in Pearson. [Departures level]

After security (USA flights)

  • Cork and Well: Another airport bar apparently existing primarily to serve pricy booze to nervous flyers. [Gate B19]
  • Freshii: Rice bowls, oatmeal, soups, salads, and fro-yo are the main options at this chain. [Gates A19/B19]
  • Nobel Burger: Top Chef Canada’s former head judge Mark McEwan is affiliated with this somewhat interesting burger spot that leans towards comfort food. [Gate A13]
  • Starbucks: From regular filter brew to obscenely large cups of syrup, Starbucks has it. [Gate A14]
  • Urban Crave: It’s billed as “street food,” even though breakfast poutine and banana pancakes hardly fit that description. [Gate A12]
  • Urban Market: It’s mostly takeout-friendly salads, sandwiches, and other ready-to-eat bites, but it also has a bar. [Gate A9]

After security (Non-USA flights)

  • Booster Juice: Juices that incorporate lots of food trends into one cup; also, wraps. [Gates B3, B41]
  • Corso: From the people behind Toronto pizza mini-chain Libretto comes this Italian all-rounder with pizza, pasta, panini, and antipasti. [Gate B29]
  • David’s Tea: This small Montreal chain does excellent tea, but has little else. [Gate B27]
  • Fionn MacCool’s: Pearson’s requisite Irish pub does pub food (surprise!) such as shepherd’s pie, burgers, and Irish breakfasts. [Gate B24]
  • Heirloom Bakery Café: An airport outlet for Toronto baker Devin Connell with bready fare. [Gate C30]
  • Ice Bar: Beer and Middle Eastern food from another soulless airport bar. [Gate C30]
  • Paramount Fine Foods: A kebab shop that inexplicably also does omelets and burgers. [Gate C30]
  • Shanghai 360: “Chinese” food from a small Ontario chain mostly located in food courts; expect wonton soup and kung pao chicken. [Gate B26-27]
  • Smashburger: A fast-casual burger chain that’s a notch above McDonald’s by virtue of having sweet potato fries and burger toppings like mushrooms. [Gate B26-27]
  • Smoke’s Burritorie: Canada isn’t known for burritos, and this offshoot of local poutine chain Smoke’s keeps things that way, although it’s cheap-ish. [Gate B26-27]
  • Starbucks: Probably the most passable coffee in the airport. [Gate B40]
  • Subway: Former spokesperson Jared Fogle may be in prison, but this sandwich chain is still something that exists. [Gate B22]
  • Tap & Pour: A brewpub focusing on biggish Toronto brewer Mill Street, plus a large burger selection amidst a few other pub-leaning dishes. [Gate B3]
  • Tim Hortons: Canada’s ubiquitous sub-par coffee chain is well-represented with four locations in this part of the terminal alone. [Gates B1, B3, B22, B26-27]
  • Vinifera: Just a regular airport wine bar with light bites from sandwiches to cheese and charcuterie plates. [Gate C32]

Sign up for the Sign up for the Eater newsletter

The freshest news from the food world every day