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By Tiffany Regaudie
Narrowing down the top restaurants in Toronto is no easy feat. On any given day, Toronto diners can choose from one of 12,000 restaurants within the city’s walls.
And with one of the most diverse restaurant scenes in the world, we’re sure we’re missing a ton of amazing options – so make sure to do your homework on your niche if you’re thinking about opening up a spot in Toronto.
For the budding restaurateur, Toronto is ripe for conceptual analysis: which concepts are working? which are not? To help you fine tune and differentiate your restaurant concept, we’ve created a list of 25 of the best restaurants in Toronto.
With these creative concepts in mind, we hope that you can refine your startup idea or fill out your current concept so that your offering stands out from the rest.
Byblos is a contemporary eastern Mediterranean restaurant whose philosophy is to use hand-made, homemade, in-house ingredients. But they also import the olives, oils, and spices they use from Israel, Morocco, and Turkey.
What sets it apart? A fusion of traditional and contemporary, Byblos uses time-honored cooking techniques along with modern methods to create an entirely novel taste experience.
Despite its city chic feel, Byblos keeps with middle eastern dining traditions: food is served family-style, and the ambiance is friendly and bustling.
In a city that hustles and bustles as much as Toronto, time stops at Richmond Station. The brainchild of Top Chef Canada winner Carl Heinrich, Richmond Station is a casual, trendy restaurant in the heart of Toronto’s financial district.
Despite its artfully crafted menu and reputation as one of downtown Toronto’s best restaurants, Richmond Station remains unpretentious. Before its grand opening, staff sat together for Thanksgiving dinner and enjoyed a meal together. Years later, the restaurant’s humble atmosphere remains.
Toronto diners who want to eat their way around the world don’t have to go far. Nōmads Restobar is a delicious, close-to-home alternative, where diners can visit a few countries by taste bud in a single sitting.
Diversity is exactly what sets Nōmads Restobar apart. While most restaurants stick to a single cuisine, Nōmads Restobar goes the extra air mile, incorporating dishes from around the world. In one sitting, diners could eat Chinese bao, Italian arancini, and Portuguese piri piri chicken.
And diners are loving it: so much so that Nōmads Restobar is opening a twin concept in Mississauga’s Port Credit.
Prepare for some yelling, all in great fun! Kinka Izakaya is Toronto’s take on a traditional Japanese pub, known in Japan as an “izakaya”. Diners eat at communal tables and food is served tapas style. With a robust sake and Japanese cocktail list, diners can expect a loud, boisterous, communal, and delicious experience.
How much do Torontonians love the cold? So much that they’ll drink in an ice bar, even in the depths of a sub-zero city winter.
Chill Ice House is a … very cool bar where everything is made of ice. Everything, you ask? Yup, everything. Well, everything except the floor. The walls, the bar, the seating, the sculptures, and even your drinking glass are made of ice. At minus five degrees Celcius, the bar provides guests with parka-like capes so they can comfortably enjoy the brisk environment.
On its face, O.NOIR offers guests a fine dining experience. The caveat? They can’t see a thing.
As the O.NOIR experience proves, seeing isn’t everything. The restaurant aims to provide an experience that actually amplifies diners’ ability to taste and smell. O.NOIR’s entire waitstaff are also visually impaired. The restaurant has aimed to replicate the socially conscious concept of Jorge Spielmann, a blind pastor in Zurich who blindfolded dinner guests so they knew what it felt like to taste while visually impaired.
Remember the feel of a glossy comic book page? The smell of the ink? Figures brings that nostalgia back with its restaurant concept. No wonder Forbes names Figures one of 2017’s best new restaurants in Toronto.
Figures is fully committed to the comic book theme. When diners walk into Figures, they pass through a comic book and collectibles shop, through the hidden door camouflaged by figurines, and into an eclectic dining room where comic book pages wallpaper the walls.
Once seated, diners will notice that there are no appetizers, mains, and desserts. Instead the menu categories are “exposition,” “climax,” and “resolution”. And they accept Bitcoin, too!
You could simply describe Mysteriously Yours as “dinner and a show.” But the experience goes far beyond that: there’s fake-blood shed, lies, deceit. Chicken marsala. We digress…
Mysteriously Yours is also a theatre company that has been performing murder mysteries for over 30 years. Diners don’t just watch: they’re brought into the show and get to mingle with the characters, murderer included.
As diners try to solve the case, they feast on a three-course meal while trying to identify the killer. Once they’ve fine-tuned their sleuthing skills, they even have the chance to win prizes based on their guesses.
At The Addisons, guests are invited to make themselves at home – literally. The bar itself is modeled as an expertly decorated family house.
What makes The Addisons stand out from the crowd? A night at the Addisons allows bar-goers to relive their teenage house party days as an adult. Guests can order bottle service, play Jenga, marvel at the fine art on the walls, or nab a slice of pizza from a box. With a frequently packed house, nostalgia is the winning ingredient for this Entertainment District bar.
Board games and booze, anyone? Snakes and Lattes promotes dining room table favorites. Now with three locations across downtown Toronto, guests can choose from games that range from trivia to strategy to dexterity.
For those who are easily intimidated by games — or just can’t quite figure them out — Snakes and Lattes employs “game gurus” to help everyone get the most out of their experience. The cafe also regularly has games nights to engage hardcore gamers. For those diners who can’t get enough, they can buy games from their retail shop.
With over 40,000 square feet of event space, Rec Room is kind of like Playdium for grown-ups. It’s a restaurant, bar, arcade, pool hall, meeting space, concert venue, and patio lounge. Games include the typical shuffleboard, ping pong, and pool. But they also offer video games, a car simulator, and a real-life 3D video game experience called The Void.
Besides the entertainment options, the Rec Room offers two dining experiences. The first, Three10, is an ode to Canada’s three territories and ten provinces, with province- and territory-specific cuisine. The second eating option is called the Shed, whose menu consists of poutine and pizza share plates.
Yasu isn’t your average California roll, in-and-out sushi hole in the wall. The restaurant serves twelve people at one table and one price per person. With only two nightly sittings, 6:00 pm and 8:30 pm, diners must make a reservation and arrive on time. Since the entire restaurant is a chef’s table, diners get a first-hand look at the meticulous curation of each roll.
You’re probably thinking, “What? The Keg isn’t unique. It’s a franchise.” But hang tight.
The Keg Mansion is haunted.
The tales of toilets flushing and washroom stalls opening on their own are just the beginning.
As history would have it, a young boy once fell to his death after popping a spindle out from the staircase. A spindle, we should mention, that continues to fall out on the same day every year.
There’s no better way to see Toronto than from 350 meters above the city. 360 is the CN Tower’s restaurant, and in the … sigh… second highest building in the world.
A spot often frequented by tourists and for special occasions, 360 revolves slowly so guests get a complete view of the city from the sky. Like most fine dining restaurants, 360 has an extensive wine list. But unlike most fine dining restaurants who keep their wine buried in cellars underground, 360’s 9,000 bottles are suspended in the sky.
Some like forks, knives, and theatres. Others want to sink their teeth into a pound of meat and bare witness to an “an epic battle of steed and steel.” For the latter, Medieval Times offers dinner and a show like no other.
In the course of an evening, men on horseback joust to the death (ok, not really, it is a family show). For birthday parties or pure entertainment, the appeal behind Medieval Times is legendary for a reason.
When diners walk into the Sultan’s Tent, they leave Toronto and enter Morocco. Guests sit on plush cushions against a backdrop of jewel-toned silk curtains. Under a golden tented tapestry, diners enjoy a Moroccan-French inspired menu. As if the decor wasn’t inspiring enough, belly dancers complete the Moroccan experience, weaving between tables in all their glitter and gold. Some diners are lucky enough to leave with a new move or two.
Track & Field is a restaurant and bar that has all the games most retirees enjoy. Funny, because on most nights, the bocce ball, shuffleboard, and crokinole areas are usually occupied by young professionals.
Beyond the games, Track & Field is known for cocktails on tap and a vast selection of craft beers. Track & Field is often the venue of choice for special events like birthdays, corporate gatherings and group socials. One of Toronto’s trendiest restaurants, Track & Field keeps their concept and cuisine fresh, but the fun is old school.
It’s not all you can eat at Rodeo Brazilian Steakhouse Rodizio: it’s “all you can meat.”
Servers walk table-to-table carving sizzling meats off skewers and directly onto diners’ plates. While this is business-as-usual in Brazil, for many Torontonians, the experience is entirely new. As if the endless meat carving wasn’t entertainment enough, Samba dancers and Brazilian music complete the dining experience.
Located in a grungy warehouse in the Junction, 3030 Dundas West is a throwback to the 1990s.
In a space characterized by exposed brick and excellent acoustics, diners can play board games, pinball machines, or sit back with a couple of share plates and watch VHS tapes on old school TV sets. Known for having one of the best trivia nights in Toronto, the restaurant regularly hosts special events, movie nights, live music, and is frequently rented out as an event space.
Toronto can get cold. Really cold. This could be why The Shameful Tiki Room works so well. The Shameful Tiki Room is a restaurant and bar that successfully brings warmth to the Great North through Polynesian rum-based cocktails and home cooking.
The restaurant has an extensive “grog” (or drink) menu that is comprised of various rum rhapsodies. With drink recipes as complex as they are colorful, diners should note: the drinks may take longer than the food. Each cocktail follows the original decades-old recipe down to the letter – and that’s what diners come for.
When many diners hear “Japanese cuisine”, their brain likely goes straight to sushi. But there’s none found on Kaiseki Yu Zen Hashimoto’s menu.
Kaiseki is the golden standard of gourmet cooking in Japan. As a culinary art, Japanese chefs have long preserved the Kaiseki tradition. True to its name, Kaiseki means “a very long history” and has been around for five centuries. During this time, generations of chefs have upheld its culinary secrets.
For diners, a kaiseki meal begins with a tea ceremony before a choreographed nine-course meal. Kaiseki Yu Zen Hashimoto is most well-known because it is one of the most expensive fine dining experiences in Toronto.
Forget dinner and a show. Diners come to Arriba for dinner and the big game.
Located past second base and beyond the outfield, Arriba looks into the Rogers Centre, Toronto’s premiere sports arena. With floor-to-ceiling windows and real-time audio, Arriba makes diners feel like they’re apart of the action … without the chaos of the stands.
What makes The Black Hoof unique? Well, it’s definitely not for everyone, namely vegetarians. Part controversy, part oddity, part delicious, the menu features bone marrow, horse tartar, and beef tongue.
For carnivores and the curious, The Black Hoof offers a completely unique taste experience. One thing is certain: diners won’t find these dishes on any other menu.
What better way for the average diner to feel like royalty than to have dinner in a castle? Casa Loma is one of the largest castles in North America, and Blueblood Steakhouse calls it home.
And what a home it is. The venue is decorated with antiques that preserve the castle’s early 20th century feel. The menu is a smorgasbord of fine and expensive meats from around the world.
Dinner, cocktails, lunch, or brunch, Mariposa Cruise diners enjoy a buffet-style meal while touring the city on Lake Ontario. Since the cruise is arguably one of the best places to see Toronto at sunset, guests on the Mariposa Cruise are often looking for something different to commemorate a milestone, celebrate a holiday, or simply have a romantic evening.
Toronto’s ever-shifting culinary landscape favors diversity and creativity. Strange? Good. Outlandish? Even better. To survive in a city where restaurants don every corner, finding your differentiator is as important as your stove.
Tiffany was the Content Marketing Manager at TouchBistro, where she shared knowledge with restaurateurs on how to run their business. She’s passionate about traveling the world and getting to know communities through great food.
By Katie McCann
By Jackie Prange
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