If you land in Toronto and absolutely cannot wait to eat, get a hot dog. Carts are everywhere and the standard Toronto wiener is shockingly good, particularly compared to its anemic New York counterpart. After the dog, food lovers should start their eating itinerary with a stroll through Kensington Market, once a Jewish community dotted with pushcart merchants that 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 being very much a neighborhood with real people who live in it).
By day, tourists clog the sidewalks while locals flit between 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. Beyond retailers the city is home to a collection of cafes, bars, and restaurants of such variety they make it nearly impossible 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, brew pubs, kombucha cafes, every week another coffee shop, and all without a single corporate-owned store in sight.
One of North America’s largest cities, Toronto 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 emerge.
December 2021, Update:
Like countless other places in the world, the restaurant industry in Toronto has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. This past summer restaurant workers saw a glimmer of hope, as the city experienced a slight return to normalcy with more outdoor dining options and a proliferation of streetside patios. Now restaurants are looking ahead. By extending the CaféTO program, the city has acknowledged that outdoor dining will be a permanent part of the urban landscape, and indoor dining has returned as well, with capacity limits and mask requirements. Many restaurateurs survived the drought of in-person dining by pivoting to takeout experiences, or opening makeshift bodegas, butcher shops, bakeries, and bottle shops; while some have transitioned back to operating solely as restaurants, others are deciding to keep these elements. Overall, through sheer grit, determination, and unwavering appetite for mutual support, Toronto remains ravenous for good eats.
Prices per person, excluding alcohol:
$ = Less than 20 CAD (less than $15 USD)
$$ = 20 - 49 CAD ($15 - $37 USD)
$$$ = 50 - 100 CAD ($38 - $76 USD)
$$$$ = More than 100 CAD ($76 USD)
Tiffany Leigh is a freelance journalist who has written about food, drink, travel, luxury, fitness, health and wellness, design, sex, and culture in Vogue, Playboy, Forbes, Business Insider, Departures, Fashion Magazine, Travel + Leisure, Shape Magazine, Trip Savvy, Food & Wine Magazine, Bon Appetit, and Dwell. In addition to having a business and communications degree, she also has a culinary background and James Beard Foundation Scholarship. When traveling the world in search of her next story, she is frequently seen toting around her travel and emotional support plushie companion: Pinchie the Lobster.Read More