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The 38 Essential Toronto Restaurants

Where to find juicy kebabs, tinga-stuffed quesadillas, and double-dredged fried chicken sandwiches in Canada’s largest city

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If you land in Toronto and absolutely cannot wait to eat, get a hot dog. While Canada's largest city hasn't really adopted the global street-food trend, hot dog carts are everywhere and the standard Toronto wiener is shockingly good, particularly compared to its anemic New York counterpart.

Food lovers should start their eating itinerary with a stroll through Kensington Market, an anomalous area that can seem more like a museum exhibit than neighborhood, magically showcasing everything best about the city in a few blocks. What was once a Jewish community dotted with pushcart merchants has evolved throughout waves of immigration — Portuguese, Caribbean, Vietnamese — into an open-air mall and the heart of the city's food culture (while still very much a neighborhood with real people who live in it).

By day, tourists clog the sidewalks while locals flit from store to store, buying from separate specialty shops: bakeries, butcheries, fishmongers, dried-goods shops, grocers (Chinese, Portuguese, organic), fresh tortilla vendors selling by the kilo, and a store that only makes tofu. Between retailers are a collection of cafes, bars, and restaurants of such variety that they will frustrate a tourist's ability to choose lunch: There are jerk chicken, tacos, fried chicken and waffles, churros, Mexican sandwiches, Texas barbecue, Japanese crepes, German doner sandwiches, Greek frozen yogurt, a brew pub, a kombucha cafe, every week another coffee shop, and all without a single corporate-owned store in sight. During an afternoon in Kensington, you'll be immersed in Toronto's local food culture.

North America's fourth-largest city can be more of a trend-chaser than -setter, quick to fawn over the latest shiny thing. But the town has been digging away long enough for gems to have emerged. For the tried, true, and utterly essential dining experiences of Toronto, read on.

August 2018 Update

Toronto does not sit still. Restaurants close, fall off in quality, or are simply outshone by new competitors, their you-must-eat-here essentialness lost to the rising tide. For that reason, we say goodbye to a dozen onetime favorites, like Momofuku Daisho, Jacobs, and Anne’s Magic Kitchen. In their place are new entries (Pinky’s Ca Phe, White Lily Diner) plus some old standards that deserve recognition for maintaining quality over time (Lion City, Centre Street Deli).

Price key:
$ = Less than 20 CAD (15 USD)
$$ = 20 - 49 CAD (15 to 37 USD)
$$$ = 50 - 100 CAD (38 to 76 USD)
$$$$ = More than 100 CAD (over 76 USD)

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Yang's Fine Chinese Cuisine

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9665 Bayview Ave, Richmond Hill
ON L4C 9V4, Canada
(905) 884-3388
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From the late 19th century through to the 1980s, Toronto’s original Chinatown was a landing pad for working-class Chinese immigrants. In recent generations, immigrants from China have made a home north of the city, in Markham. Yang’s is more expensive than most dim sum establishments, and customers often have to elbow their way in through an aggressive swarm at the door, but the food is better (I live in the old Chinatown and I love being able to walk to a place with dim sum cart service, but the food cannot compare to Yang’s). All the usual dim sum staples — har gow, char siu bao, lo bak go — are prepared with finer craft and better ingredients. Just be prepared to fight for a table. [$$]

Dim sum at Yang’s Fine Chinese Cuisine
Photo: Yang’s Fine Chinese Cuisine official

2. Dayali Beijing Roast Duck 大鴨梨

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20 Gibson Dr., Markham
ON L3R 8B5, Canada
(905) 604-8680
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With all due respect to the elegant presentation of the titular duck, the stars of the menu here are bowls of spicy shrimp, crispy bullfrog legs on a stick, and fried chunks of leftover duck bones, crunchy as potato chips, with scraps of cumin-scented meat clinging to bits of neck. Reservations are accepted for large groups, but even so, expect a wait at the door, where it pays to be pushy. [$$]

3. Ho Ho BBQ

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3833 Midland Ave, Scarborough
ON M1V 5L6, Canada
(416) 321-9818

In Chinatown, every block has a few windows adorned with glistening pigs and ducks hanging from hooks. But nowhere is the cured and roasted pork better than in this strip mall in Scarborough. Nowhere else is the skin as crispy as a creme brulee top, the meat as soft as fresh doughnuts. The owner cleaves off chunks and hands them over in take-out containers without fanfare, as if perfection were a common commodity. [$]

4. Centre Street Deli

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1136 Centre St, Thornhill
ON L4J 3M8, Canada
(905) 731-8037
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In the 1970s, there was an exodus of Jews from Montreal to Toronto. By the 1980s, many had migrated north to Thornhill. This deli was built to cater to that population. And the interior looks like it did in 1988, with cutesy cartoons on the walls and fluorescent lights that do no favors for the food. The smoked meat, however, is still the best in Toronto, although the deli technically sits just outside the city limits. Beyond menu staples like sandwiches and french fries, recommended delicacies include kishke, a sausage of chicken fat and matzo meal, and chopped liver, which is pureed with loads of caramelized onions into a smooth spread. [$]

Pastrami at Centre Street Deli
Photo: Centre Street Deli Official

5. Hopper Hut

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880 Ellesmere Rd., Toronto
ON M1P 2W6, Canada
(416) 299-4311
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This kitchen does not mess around with spice. Balance the explosive heat of crab or mutton curries with platters of kothu roti (the flatbread chopped and fried with eggs, chiles, and your choice of meats) or lamprais (rice, beans, meats, pickled vegetables, and fried anchovies bundled in banana leaf) big enough to lay your head on at night. [$]

6. Crown Pastries

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2086 Lawrence Ave E, Scarborough
ON M1R 2Z4, Canada
(647) 351-2015
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With each mouthful of this bakery’s sublime sweets, the hand shoots to the face, expecting drips of honey or debris of pastry. But the tiny bundles — including basbousa (semolina and rosewater syrup), borma (crisp strands of dough around pistachios), and warbat (flaky dough around creamy hazelnut) — are too tightly packed, too expertly composed to allow for crumbs. Order everything. [$]

7. Mustafa Turkish Pizza

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866 Wilson Ave, North York
ON M3K 1E5, Canada
(416) 631-0300

Properly known as pide (or plural pideler on the menu), Turkish "pizza" is a thin, crispy flatbread layered with toppings like ground beef and tomatoes, feta and spinach, sausage and eggs, pastrami and mozzarella, and a dozen other salt-bomb combinations. Split one with an order of iskender, buttery lamb cooked on a rotisserie, served with thick yogurt. Oh, and the interior of this spot is decorated like a cave. [$]

8. Adamson Barbecue

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176 Wicksteed Ave, Toronto
ON M4G 2B6, Canada
(647) 559-2080
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Despite all the Degrassi and poutine we shipped to the States, they only recently starting sending back barbecue. Thanks to a new generation of pitmasters influenced by Central Texas barbecue, it’s catching on here. The tradition is best exemplified at Adamson, where if you don’t show up by 11 a.m., you might not get a taste of the remarkable wood-smoked brisket or ribs (though the juicy turkey breast holds its head high too). The location in a north Toronto industrial park keeps the place from being overrun by young urbanites. [$$]

9. The Stockyards

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699 St. Clair Ave. W, Toronto
ON M6C 1B2, Canada
(416) 658-9666
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Despite demand from customers, the owners of this little smokehouse/diner haven't enlarged the space, expanded the brand, or even gotten a liquor license. Instead, they’ve stayed the course, satisfying the neighborhood with juicy fried chicken, burgers, and, on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Sundays, smoked ribs. [$]

10. Scaramouche

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1 Benvenuto Pl., Toronto
ON M4V 1H3, Canada
(416) 961-8011
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People still need to go out for fancy meals sometimes. And you can’t do it better than at Scaramouche, where white tablecloths and classical European cooking, in which entrees are composed plates with starch and green components surrounding large portions of protein, have never gone out of style. From the crest of a hill, the restaurant looks down over a Toronto that twinkles at dusk. Everyone needs to dine here once, if only for the view and a slice of the iconic white chocolate and coconut cream pie. [$$$-$$$$]

11. Kay Pacha

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744 St Clair Ave W, Toronto
ON M6C 1B5, Canada
(416) 658-0568
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Diners do a double take when they see the bright yellows and purples of this Peruvian restaurant’s cuisine. And a triple take when they taste the food. At Kay Pacha, diners can expect ambitious dishes like the huancaina — a spicy, cheesy sauce made with aji amarillo peppers and evaporated milk — that’s mixed with yuzu mayonnaise and layered over crab, an emulsion of botija olives, and whipped potatoes. Peruvian- and Japanese-influenced raw fish concoctions like ceviche and tiradito pop with the crunch of chicharron or choclo, a meaty South American corn. [$$$]

12. Itacate

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998 St Clair Ave W, Toronto
ON M6E 1A2, Canada
(647) 701-0420
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This is a butcher shop, which means that customers dine only a few feet away from a display case of kidneys and pig’s feet. But Itacate is also a restaurant, and it has some of the best Mexican street food in the city. Try a pambazo, a sandwich filled with chorizo, potato, lettuce, cheese, and crema, the bun dunked in a mild guajillo sauce and fried on the flat top. It’s easy to over order, as the tamales — filled with sweet dark mole or chicken in green sauce — most likely weigh about a pound each. But the quesadillas, fried until the crispy shells entomb the chicken tinga and cheese, are unmissable. [$]

Quesadillas at Itacate
Photo: Itacate/Facebook

13. Schmaltz Appetizing

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414 Dupont St, Toronto
ON M5R 1V9, Canada
(647) 350-4261
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Anthony Rose and Rob Wilder have remade a strip of Dupont Street that borders the Annex and Forest Hills neighborhoods with a collection of restaurants that blend seamlessly in with a nearby Jewish enclave: Rose and Sons (a diner that does a Chinese night), Big Crow (barbecue, but they serve grilled beef salami, like my zaida did), Fat Pasha (Middle Eastern), and Bar Begonia (a modern French bistro). But it’s Schmaltz that is calibrated to local history with the closest degree of perfection. During the week the delicatessen is sleepy. But on Sunday mornings, customers queue out the door to get their bagels (from Kiva’s) and cream cheese and choose from an ample selection of smoked and cured fish. It's the Russ and Daughters of Toronto. [$]

14. Udupi Palace

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1460 Gerrard St E, Toronto
ON M4L 2A3‎, Canada
(416) 405-8189
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Paperthin dosas, the size of Little League baseball bats, are the showstoppers at this vegetarian Indian restaurant. But don’t miss the menu of chaats, particularly the dahi poori, bite-sized spheres of crispy dough holding spiced potato and cooling yogurt, with mint and tamarind chutneys dueling for attention. [$]

15. Lake Inez

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1471 Gerrard St E, Toronto
ON M4L 2A1, Canada
(416) 792-1590
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When menus start this strong — cauliflower katsu, charred broccoli with anchovies — the big plates usually disappoint. But here the chef continues the trajectory with complex dishes, fusing an unusual variety of flavors and textures — BC salmon on an island of coconut milk polenta surrounded by a moat of sinigang (a Filipino tamarind and miso sauce), with summer corn and tomatoes — that build into a cohesive whole, rather than showboat for effect. [$$$ - $$$$]

16. Famiglia Baldassarre

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122 Geary Ave, Toronto
ON M6H 4H1, Canada
(647) 293-5395
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For half a year, this was Toronto’s worst-kept food secret. Leandro Baldassarre relocated his fresh-pasta wholesale business, scaling up the basement production facility to a much larger location, with the intention of serving lunch to a handful of tables. When the city rejected his license, he operated the lunch counter as a word-of-mouth speakeasy for six months. Now that he’s in the legal clear, expect to see lines of customers waiting expectantly for fresh pasta. Whether it’s stuffed with rabbit or lamb, tossed with peas or fava beans, or just served with minimal butter and cheese, Baldassarre’s pasta is a guaranteed crowd pleaser. [$]

Tagliolini with peas and porcini from Famiglia Baldassarre
Photo: Pasta Fresca Baldassarre/Facebook

17. Honest Weight

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2766 Dundas St. W, Toronto
ON, Canada
(416) 604-9992
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If you’re going to visit the Junction, that strange Toronto neighborhood where a prohibition on alcohol was only lifted in 1998, lunch at Honest Weight is a must. An unusual blend of retail fishmonger and restaurant, here you can eat a sandwich filled with Atlantic cod and dill mayonnaise while picking out Prince Edward Island littleneck clams for dinner. [$$]

18. White Lily Diner

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678 Queen St E, Toronto
ON M4M 1G8, Canada
(416) 901-7800
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Residents of the Riverside community have gotten deservedly smug about this 30-seat restaurant that serves ideal versions of all-day diner food. Massive sandwiches and billowy pancakes are grub done not just right, but exquisitely. Bread, pickles, pastrami, and donuts are all made entirely in-house. Biscuits arrive warm and flaky and topped with a rich sausage gravy that’s deliciously gray. Because despite all of the restaurant’s attention to detail, there’s no gussying dishes up for Instagram — no pretense. Rather, White Lily’s classic Americana is designed to stand on its own merits. [$$]

Smoked pork belly at White Lily Diner
Photo White Lily Diner/Facebook

19. King Place

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236 Sherbourne St, Toronto
ON M5A 3X2, Canada
(647) 352-0786

The modest storefront at an unglamorous intersection belies a Pakistani restaurant where every dish is fantastic. Rather than drowning flavors under a blanket of butter, the friendly owner, who loves introducing himself as Mr. Butt, cooks with layers of spiced complexity, each menu item sparkling with its own base note of cumin or top note of fenugreek. This one is better for takeout than dining in. (To note: Not associated with King Palace.) [$-$$]

20. Hokkaido Ramen Santouka らーめん山頭火

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91 Dundas St E, Toronto
ON M5B 1E1, Canada
(647) 748-1717
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The ramen wars didn’t break out in Toronto until 2012, nearly a decade after New York. So people still haven’t had that much time to pick sides, to get hyper-regional, or to attempt anything truly revolutionary, like the Ichiran-style private booth experience. Of our many fine ramen shops, Santouka (a chain from Hokkaido) has the most consistently rich, fatty broth, springy noodles, and an option for pork cheek with just the right amount of funk. [$]

21. DaiLo

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503 College St., Toronto
ON, Canada
(647) 341-8882
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Skip the famous Big Mac Bao. Not because it’s bad, but because it’s a gimmick and you know how it’s going to taste. Save your appetite for the menu’s wealth of creative and intricate flavor combinations — like chunks of watermelon fried in a wafer-thin batter and topped with pork floss, or Hakka wontons in brown butter. If dining in a group, absolutely save room for a whole trout that’s been filleted, fried, and reassembled on a platter with sweet, salty, and spicy dipping sauces. [$$$]

22. Bar Raval

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505 College St, Toronto
ON M6J 2J3, Canada
(647) 344-8001
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The inside of this pintxos bar, with its ovoid floor-to-ceiling woodwork, a Steve Ditko abstract background carved out of mahogany, is mostly standing-room only. The good news is that it’s open from 8 a.m., giving the advantage to travelers who want to stop in during off hours to sample tiny plates of Cantabrian anchovies or sweetbreads. [$$]

Kayla Rocca. courtesy Bar Raval

23. Pinky's Ca Phe

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53 Clinton St, Toronto
ON M6G 2Y4, Canada

This popular restaurant has no phone number, website, or even sign. Pinky’s public presence rests entirely on a rarely updated Instagram account that lists the hours and address, and yet the place manages to stay packed night after night. The dimly lit interior is marginally illuminated by 100 light sources in a variety of colors, each refracted by mirrors, plants, and tinsel. Just like the carefully cultivated lack of street presence, the short menu of Vietnamese and Cambodian dishes embodies artfully created, intentional clutter. Fish sauce and lime pair beautifully with charcoal-grilled meats and crispy nubs of fried broccoli, while sweet soy sauce eggplant and creamy curry are also fan favorites. [$$]

Mango squid salad from Pinky’s Ca Phe
Photo: Yelp/Jenn W.

24. P.G Clucks

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610 College St, Toronto
ON M6G 1B4, Canada
(416) 539-8224
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Thanks in part to the rising cost of beef, fried chicken sandwiches have overtaken burgers as the ubiquitous meaty mainstay of any large city. Not only is P.G Cluck’s Toronto’s best, but it sits heads and shoulders above any second-place contenders. Each sandwich consists of an entire bone-free chicken leg that’s brined, buttermilked, floured, floured again, and fried. It’s then stacked on a barely large-enough potato bun with pickles, fermented chile sauce, and buttermilk sauce. Despite the demand, the tiny shop won’t pre-fry any chicken, so expect to wait patiently for exactly six and a half minutes while your sandwich is prepared. [$]

Chicken sandwich at P.G. Clucks
Jalapeno and honey fried chicken sandwich from P.G. Clucks
Photo: PG Clucks/Facebook

25. Grey Gardens

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199 Augusta Ave, Toronto
ON M5T 2L4, Canada
(647) 351-1552
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Restaurateur Jen Agg never does the same thing twice. After conquering the city with charcuterie (the Black Hoof), brunch (the now-shuttered Hoof Café), and Haitian (Rhum Corner) restaurants, Agg has turned her attention to redefining the space between elegance and comfort. Nestled among the bohemian streets of Kensington Market, the soft green and white room serves as the stage where vegetables frequently demand the spotlight, including dishes like grilled broccoli with smoked tuna and spring onion salad with bone marrow. A basement wine cellar and private dining room make the restaurant ideal for special-occasion dining. [$$$$]

Grey Gardens restaurant
Grey Gardens wine bar
Jenna Marie Wakani/Grey Gardens

26. California Sandwiches

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244 Claremont St., Toronto
ON M6J 2N2, Canada
(416) 603-3317
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Now there are locations of this old-school sandwich shop all over the city, all family owned. But go to the original one — which opened on a residential side street in Little Italy in 1967 — for breaded and fried strips of veal, chicken, or eggplant, slapped with cheese, peppers, and tomato sauce onto buns the size of a baby’s head. The queue of cops, tow truck drivers, and paramedics can be long at lunch and dinner. Calling in your order helps. [$]

27. Richmond Station

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1 Richmond Street West, Toronto
ON, Canada
(647) 748-1444
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This financial district restaurant only buys whole animals, which, since there are only so many steaks on a cow, challenges the kitchen to find creative uses for the variety of off-cuts in daily specials. Because they don’t make a big fuss about their commitment to local ingredients or to making every conceivable thing by hand (butchery, aging, curing, fermenting, and baking are done in house), Richmond Station consistently surprises diners with unexpected delights on every plate. And their prix-fixe lunch is a bargain at $21. [$-$$$]

28. Rhum Corner

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926 Dundas Street West, Toronto
ON, Canada
(647) 346-9356
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The lights of the slushie machine near the entrance, hypnotizing with slowly churning frozen piña colada and negroni, can distract from an extensive rum selection. A young crowd and loud music maintain a party vibe. But plates of Haitian rice and beans, oxtail, fried plantains, and malanga fritters, topped off from the jars of piklese (spicy pickled coleslaw) sitting on the tables, make it a dining destination. [$$]
[Disclosure: Rhum Corner owner Jen Agg has contributed to Eater.com]

Dave Gillespie, courtesy Rhum Corner

29. Awai

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2277 Bloor St W, Toronto
ON M6S 1P1, Canada
(647) 643-3132
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The restaurant is quiet about it, but the food here is entirely vegan. Rather than trumpet the politics of its choice, the kitchen modestly prepares food without animal products, surprising the palate with foraged moss, obscure grains, seaweed-extracted umami, and fermented vegetables. The menu also boasts wood-fired flatbreads, fancy mushrooms, and soup so creamy that it’s hard to believe it’s not made with butter. The owners have dropped their former “pay what you want” model, as most customers found it too confusing. But the set price of $55 for four stellar courses is still a deal. [$$]

30. Imanishi Japanese Kitchen

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1330 Dundas St W, Toronto
ON M6J 1Y1, Canada
(416) 706-4225
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Despite of the bustle of a packed, walk-in-only room, this brick-and-wood space calms you with the warm embrace of autumn colors and soft music choices. Billed as “Tokyo homestyle cooking,” this place offers teishoku (meal sets) of heavy, rustic plates (tonkotsu curry rice or miso pork belly and boiled egg) offset by offset by lighter options (soft tofu with bright mizuna or slices of red snapper with yuzu dressing) that focus more on acidity than fat. [$$]

31. Foxley

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207 Ossington Ave, Toronto
ON M6J 2Z8, Canada
(416) 534-8520

A decade after pioneering Ossington Street, which has grown from a quiet row of Vietnamese karaoke bars and Portuguese bakeries to a bustling, blinking nightlife strip, Foxley still has no digital footprint, not even a basic website or Instagram account. An internet presence is not necessary for packing the restaurant with diners hungry for the Southeast Asian-influenced small plates of sea bream ceviche with yuzu and shiso, steamed mussels in green curry, or venison wrapped in la lot leaf. [$$]

32. Byblos

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11 Duncan St, Toronto
ON M5V 3M2, Canada
(647) 660-0909
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Chef Stuart Cameron oversees a trio of restaurants — Patria (Spanish), Mira (Peruvian), and Byblos (Mediterranean) — that prioritize luxury from design to plate. Byblos, while no less glitzy than the others, is slightly more intimate. There’s plenty of richness from olives, lamb, and octopus, but it’s the menu’s soft notes of honey and molasses that leave a lasting impression. Even if customers don’t want to spring for an indulgent meal here, it’s worth a visit just to sit at the bar for a serving of silky house-made labneh with barbari flatbread. [$$$$]

Mezze at Byblos
Photo: Byblos official

33. Bang Bang Ice Cream & Bakery

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93a Ossington Ave, Toronto
ON M6J 2Z4, Canada
(647) 348-1900
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Bang Bang — and nearby Bakerbots, where most of the same menu is available — has challenged the city's established ice cream hierarchy with a selection of flavors bordering on the atypical — miso-roasted cherry, Bellwoods stout beer and brown bread, black tea banana pudding — packed between gooey, house-baked cookies. The key is an ideal contrast of textures between ice cream just firm enough to exist as a solid and cookies soft enough that they don’t crumble or snap when bitten. [$]

34. SOMA chocolatemaker

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443 King St. W, Toronto
ON M5V 1K4, Canada
(416) 599-7662
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Whether you bring home a gift of the award-winning Porcelana bar, toss back a salted caramel truffle, or sip a spicy hot chocolate, Soma’s retail shop on King Street (their goods are available around town, but this location has the widest selection, plus stools to sit and savor your treats) is a necessary stop for grown-up chocolate enthusiasts. Everything is made from scratch, starting by roasting raw beans right here in Toronto. [$-$$]

35. Buca

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604 King St. W, Toronto
ON M5V 1M6, Canada
(416) 865-1600
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Part of Buca’s success is in chef Rob Gentile's obsession with quality ingredients — he knows when to gild the lily with truffles and melted burrata and when to let lampredotto just be a crusty bun filled with tripe and spicy tomato sauce. The beautifully designed space and subtle lighting doesn’t hurt either. Between Bar Buca (a cafe with snacks), Buca Yorkville (leans toward pricey seafood, but offers a more affordable brunch of crespelle, stacked with sweet cream, pistachios and grappa-laced maple syrup that will change your life), and the original location, this restaurant group owns high-end Italian in Toronto. [$$-$$$$]

36. Edulis

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169 Niagara St, Toronto
ON M5V 1C9, Canada
(416) 703-4222
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Just as every new restaurant was trying to be as punk as possible, Edulis reminded Toronto of what dining once meant. An ever-changing tasting menu focused on seafood and vegetables always delights, with concentrated flavors and cameos by seasonal luxuries like spot prawns and truffles. The tiny, candlelit room is the textbook definition of a romantic restaurant. [$$$]

37. Reyan

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75 Dundas St W, Mississauga
ON, Canada

If you order in advance for aqiqa, the Islamic tradition of sacrificing and serving an animal for the birth of a child, the owner will simmer a whole lamb in a pot with cinnamon and nutmeg. But if you’re just stopping by this Syrian restaurant, get the fattet hummus bez-zeit; hummus is thinned almost to a soup and frothed, served in a big bowl teeming with chickpeas, fried bits of pita, pomegranate seeds, and hot ghee that crackles as it's poured over top of the dish. [$]

38. Lion City Restaurant

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1177 Central Pkwy W, Mississauga
ON L5C 4P3, Canada
(905) 281-0860
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After a recent renovation, this Mississauga legend is nearly unrecognizable. But new owner Eleanor Sim has kept all the same cooks in the kitchen, preparing a mix of Malaysian, Singaporean, Thai, and Indonesian dishes. The menu boasts complex dishes with flavors that leap off the plate, from an explosive mango salad to chewy rendang, meat that’s simmered in coconut milk then pounded and fried. Nasi lemak is a standout: a dome of coconut rice is surrounded by a rogues’ gallery of fried egg, grilled fish, dried anchovies, and otak, a tartly seasoned patty of fish paste, chile, turmeric, lemongrass, lime leaf, and tapioca starch. Call ahead to order the Singapore chile crab. [$]

A spread from Lion City
Photo: Lion City/Facebook

1. Yang's Fine Chinese Cuisine

9665 Bayview Ave, Richmond Hill, ON L4C 9V4, Canada
Dim sum at Yang’s Fine Chinese Cuisine
Photo: Yang’s Fine Chinese Cuisine official

From the late 19th century through to the 1980s, Toronto’s original Chinatown was a landing pad for working-class Chinese immigrants. In recent generations, immigrants from China have made a home north of the city, in Markham. Yang’s is more expensive than most dim sum establishments, and customers often have to elbow their way in through an aggressive swarm at the door, but the food is better (I live in the old Chinatown and I love being able to walk to a place with dim sum cart service, but the food cannot compare to Yang’s). All the usual dim sum staples — har gow, char siu bao, lo bak go — are prepared with finer craft and better ingredients. Just be prepared to fight for a table. [$$]

9665 Bayview Ave, Richmond Hill
ON L4C 9V4, Canada

2. Dayali Beijing Roast Duck 大鴨梨

20 Gibson Dr., Markham, ON L3R 8B5, Canada

With all due respect to the elegant presentation of the titular duck, the stars of the menu here are bowls of spicy shrimp, crispy bullfrog legs on a stick, and fried chunks of leftover duck bones, crunchy as potato chips, with scraps of cumin-scented meat clinging to bits of neck. Reservations are accepted for large groups, but even so, expect a wait at the door, where it pays to be pushy. [$$]

20 Gibson Dr., Markham
ON L3R 8B5, Canada

3. Ho Ho BBQ

3833 Midland Ave, Scarborough, ON M1V 5L6, Canada

In Chinatown, every block has a few windows adorned with glistening pigs and ducks hanging from hooks. But nowhere is the cured and roasted pork better than in this strip mall in Scarborough. Nowhere else is the skin as crispy as a creme brulee top, the meat as soft as fresh doughnuts. The owner cleaves off chunks and hands them over in take-out containers without fanfare, as if perfection were a common commodity. [$]

3833 Midland Ave, Scarborough
ON M1V 5L6, Canada

4. Centre Street Deli

1136 Centre St, Thornhill, ON L4J 3M8, Canada
Pastrami at Centre Street Deli
Photo: Centre Street Deli Official

In the 1970s, there was an exodus of Jews from Montreal to Toronto. By the 1980s, many had migrated north to Thornhill. This deli was built to cater to that population. And the interior looks like it did in 1988, with cutesy cartoons on the walls and fluorescent lights that do no favors for the food. The smoked meat, however, is still the best in Toronto, although the deli technically sits just outside the city limits. Beyond menu staples like sandwiches and french fries, recommended delicacies include kishke, a sausage of chicken fat and matzo meal, and chopped liver, which is pureed with loads of caramelized onions into a smooth spread. [$]

1136 Centre St, Thornhill
ON L4J 3M8, Canada

5. Hopper Hut

880 Ellesmere Rd., Toronto, ON M1P 2W6, Canada

This kitchen does not mess around with spice. Balance the explosive heat of crab or mutton curries with platters of kothu roti (the flatbread chopped and fried with eggs, chiles, and your choice of meats) or lamprais (rice, beans, meats, pickled vegetables, and fried anchovies bundled in banana leaf) big enough to lay your head on at night. [$]

880 Ellesmere Rd., Toronto
ON M1P 2W6, Canada

6. Crown Pastries

2086 Lawrence Ave E, Scarborough, ON M1R 2Z4, Canada

With each mouthful of this bakery’s sublime sweets, the hand shoots to the face, expecting drips of honey or debris of pastry. But the tiny bundles — including basbousa (semolina and rosewater syrup), borma (crisp strands of dough around pistachios), and warbat (flaky dough around creamy hazelnut) — are too tightly packed, too expertly composed to allow for crumbs. Order everything. [$]

2086 Lawrence Ave E, Scarborough
ON M1R 2Z4, Canada

7. Mustafa Turkish Pizza

866 Wilson Ave, North York, ON M3K 1E5, Canada