I really want to start this post off by saying thank you for all your suggestions on what I should blog about in 2016. One of the reoccurring requests has been for more posts about Toronto local spots – from where I like to shop to where I go to drown my buyers regret in food afterwards. Obviously, there are so many hotspots in #the6ix (it seems as though a new restaurant is opening/rebranding every night of the week) and if you know me, personally, you’ll know that when it comes to food I’m a creature of habit. I will try new things – gladly – but on a Friday night at 6pm when I’m way too exhausted to even bust out a microwavable Uncle Ben’s rice pack, you can find me at the same Italian restaurant I’ve been going to since I was 16 years old.
This isn’t a list of the best restaurants in Toronto by BlogTo nor is it a review of all the places who invited me for a free meal in hopes of getting some promo on my blog (NB: Terroni has never given me anything for free) – this is a list of places that I actually go to eat at, with no makeup on and no picture of my meal before plunging in… I even had to scour my phone and Alex’s phone for any pics we might have taken along the way.
You know, I’m not going to sit here and argue whose mozzarella has the best pH balance and all that “special flour, secret sauce, state of the art oven” baloney – I’m not a food blogger. I’m a home cook and I love consistency. I also love memories, traditions and simple pleasures. Sure, Terroni may not be the “best” Italian restaurant in Toronto if you’re judging it for Michelin stars – but it has been there for me through thick and thin. I know exactly what to expect when I go: a decent (and often times mind-blowingly delicious) Southern Italian meal. I know which pizza to order, I know what wine to drink, I even know which locations serve the holy cornetto with ice cream (Price Street – but it often appears as a special at Queen West).
I’ve been going to Terroni since my 16th birthday. I’ve seen them expand all over the city and open Sud Forno (thank the fucking Lord), now there’s a place that has the best pizza al taglio in the city, amazing croissants, bread, salads, bomboloni (fried doughnut with nutella stuffed inside). You can even buy hot peppers in jars, pasta, sauce, olives, Italian flour and other specialities. So yes, if you want to know where I go to eat at least a few times a month, it’s Terroni.
There’s a few other places I frequent when I’m not cooking at home, eating at Terroni or shamelessly reheating my nonna’s leftovers. I’m going to list them here in no particular order, with a small blurb as to why I love them and what to order when you go. I realize this post will also open me to a serial killer tracing my every step, one fettuccine at a time, but it must be done. I’ve risked my life giving this list to all of you – I hope you’re happy/hungry.
Also follow along our new food account: @bloggerstable for pics like these from, well, our bloggers’ table.
Terroni funghi assoluti is one of the first dishes I’ve ever tried. It’s baked oyster mushrooms on top of a bed of arugula with shaved parmiggiano reggiano, evoo and balsamic. So so good!
Our favourite pizzas at Terroni? Capricciosa and San Nicola di Bari!
A sweet ending under the stars at Terroni Rosedale. This is un caffè macchiato: espresso with a dollop of steamed milk on top.
Recently discovered Schmaltz Appetizing – another one of Anthony Rose’s creations. It’s basically a Jewish-style deli off the side of the road on Dupont with in-house smoked salmon, lox and gravlax, in six or seven different flavours including beet, pastrami and lemon. They’ll make the sandwich right then and there for you, piled a mile high with fixings you can choose from. They even have vacuum packed quantities ready to go if you wanna pick up some extras for tomorrow. (And there’s street parking right in front – bonus!) Love a New York style bagel done right? First, follow them on Instagram; then try it. AND AND AND… they do catering!
I like Portland Variety more for the memories than for the food (and especially not for the service – there is this one waiter who I always seem to get, it’s like he’s on another planet). But mostly for this special in-house mixed tequila-flavoured-coffee that comes in this elegant little pousse-café glass – it’s such a treat! I go once a month on Thursdays for drinks with a close girlfriend; we’ve come to know their cocktail menu inside out. If you’re ordering off the dinner menu I like the cassava fries and warm olives. They also have Jambon Iberico, but unless they givin out free samples, ain’t no way I’m gonna pay twenty-five dollars for 30 grams of cured meat. That’s like two slices. I also hear the brunch is amazing, but I have yet to go there when the sun’s out.
Ok I lied. I am going to put a Michelin star restaurant on this list. But it is well-deserved and I happen to eat their food a lot. I don’t necessarily go there a lot – even though it’s across the street from me – I just get anyone who is walking by to pick me up croissants and coffee on their way to my place. Know those pretty white cups with blue chinz print that Toronto bloggers post on IG all the time? Those are Maman‘s signature cups. PS. They do a small sit down brunch on the weekends if you live in the downtown core.
This place isn’t in Toronto but it’s worth the drive to Prince Edward County. We love Norman Hardie Winery and visit at least twice a year. In the warmer months, the wood burning pizza oven is lit (both figuratively and literally). Get the sausage pizza. Promise. And sometimes they’re shucking oysters from Rodney’s right there in the vineyard. I like to have them with a nice Calcaire (followed by a glass of County Pinot Noir – the best). Also, the fresh garden salad is the best salad you will eat in your entire life I swear to god. Some lady makes it down the road from her garden or whatever. It tastes like steak.
We adore Patois – the coolest spot on Dundas for brunch and dinner. A mix of Chinese and Jamaican cuisine, Chef Craig Wong comes up with the most delicious and peculiar little dishes like his OG Fried Cauliflower & Watermelon Pickle. Pictured here is the Hong “King” Kong Waffle. If you go, get the coconut and rum. It’s served in a whole coconut like you’re on the beach in Negril.
The newly re-opened Peter Pan Bistro on Queen West is actually worth revisiting. The decor is really friggen cute. It’s like Downton Abbey for Hipsters. And the drip coffee is the best I’ve ever had. (I asked the waiter and yes, they put a sprinkle of cinnamon in it). Also, there’s this one guy who works there who has the most amazing voice. Honestly, I kept asking him so many questions about the menu just to hear him talk. He should be on audiobooks.
Best pho in the city? I used to be a GT die-hard but now I’ve become one of those people that says, “You should try the place a few doors down, it’s even better.” Yes, Pho Tien Thanh lives up to the hype. I usually order a rare beef pho with spring rolls on the side. Fuck, now I’m craving pho.
If you don’t wanna drive to Chinese Dumpling House in Markham and don’t mind paying $9 for 4 pieces of Har Gow, then Susur Lee’s Luckee is the best Dim Sum in the city. We go there whenever we can stomach paying real people prices for Chinese food – when you date an Asian you realize that Asian food should never cost a lot of money in order to be delicious. But if you do go, please get the sticky rice and Cheung Fun. It’s the best Cheung Fun I’ve ever tasted in my entire life.
Our favourite place for rock-god breakfast. lunch and dinner? Lisa Marie! We are obsessed with this place. If you’ve ever come to stay with us from out of town, we have probably taken you here at least once. I’m obsessed with Chef Matt Basile’s Pad Thai Fries (pictured here). They are what dreams are made of. Mercy! Ok, just follow him or the restaurant, or both, on Instagram and you’ll know why Lisa Marie is the only place I throw all my “healthy diet” rules out the window for, happily. If you go on a Saturday night, get the smoked meat board and order it as soon as you sit down because it sells out faster than a basic bitch blogger. ZING! Also, we love the following: Pad Thai Fries (they aren’t on the menu, but they are on the menu if you get my drift); Pork Dumplings, Maple Hot Cauliflower, Deep Fried Panna Cotta; and all the burgers and sandwiches, always.
Oh, the Drake. I go here way more than I want to. But it’s become a second home for us whenever we go play tennis at Bellwoods or are in the west end in general. They have an amazing brunch, though. More on that below.
Us at Lisa Marie – try to get a window seat if you can. It’s the best spot in the joint!
Every once in a while we like to do high tea at the Lobby Lounge in the Shangri-La Hotel. It’s $40/person – which may sound steep at first coming from someone who thinks dumplings should be 50 cents a piece – but it’s totally fucking worth it. I usually have to be rolled out in a wheelbarrow afterwards because those damn little tea sandwiches are deviously filling. The service, the atmosphere, the food, the tea, the relaxing live music, it’s definitely a sweet treat in the heart of the city.
Ok, but the best pasta in the city? Enoteca Sociale. I need to go here way more but I always get sucked back into goddamn Terroni. #pastaforbloggers (I also go to Cibo a lot both here and in Florida, it’s a family thing).
For Neapolitan style pizza, Pizzeria Libretto is my go-to. It’s downstairs from my apartment and fucking delicious. We love their lunch special: salad, pizza and a scoop of gelato for $15. I also like QMP (I mean, really, I love pizza in general so I can’t discriminate). Sometimes Libretto is a bit too oily for me. I guess it depends which bearded hipster is employed to do the final evoo drizzle, some of them have a heavy hand, resulting in a soggy ‘za. I know, I said I wasn’t going to get all technical. But we’re only human. People make mistakes. I’ll just keep having to go back for more pizza until they get it right.
Ah, the blessed Drake Brunch. I love me their classic Drake Breakfast: 2 eggs, sausage, potato hash, toast, fried beans and some other garnishes I never eat. But it’s all so delicious and it’s consistent, which you already know I love the most about any restaurant on this list. Consistency is the way to my heart. They also have the best apple juice. Cold-pressed. Random but worth noting.
One of my favourite Japanese restaurants is Kasa Moto. I don’t get to go often (again, heavy price tag) but it’s certainly a special occasion place for us. I adore anything off their robata grill and they make the best tempura in the city, hands down.
Sure, I haven’t ever been to School or Mildred’s Kitchen. I’m sorry, I don’t wait 2 hours for brunch. I mean, I don’t even like Eggs Benedict, so whatever. You know what? Do yourself a favour and next time you’re in Liberty Village for brunch and there’s a three-century-long wait at the aforementioned places, go to LOCAL. Order yourself a steak and eggs. Thank me later. (Depicted is Alex’s fish and chips instead, but you know, hindsight is 20/20).
I don’t have a picture for my favourite Thai restaurant in the city. But if you’re looking for a the best, it’s Pai. Formerly the estranged owners of Khao San Road. Pai is my fave. We order takeout from them at least once a week. I love their pad thai, green curry, and masaman beef. I get everything Farang spicy aka foreigner spicy.
I also eat at Soho House every other night. They don’t allow us to take pictures of the food and it is a private club so if you’re not a member, I suggest you befriend someone who is and then coerce them to taking you to brunch there. You’ll find me there a couple times a week….. slash… I’m probably there as you’re reading this…
And once again, thanks to Alex for being more patient and graceful than me, always taking a picture before plunging face first into his meal.
Great list! Thanks for your well-researched and honest opinions. Can’t wait to dig in!
Thanks, Elyse! I thought, oh no! Maybe someone didn’t like my list and is commenting furiously on what bad taste I have in food. PHEW!
Thank you for that “candid” snap of us HAHAHAHA
try a new place called Mattachioni, I’m a huge fan of pizza Libretto,QMP, Terroni, SUD, Descendant Pizza. But Mattachioni is special. Nothing fancy but the best napolitana pizza in the city hands down.
Well, I love the name, for starters. I will definitely have to try it! Thanks for the suggestion :) xoxo J
Love this, Justine. I am also a Terroni/Sud addict. You really give a great, comprehensive guide of the best spots in Toronto! I can tell you really love and appreciate food.
Thanks, Olivia! There are soooo many amazing restaurants in Toronto but these are my go-to places when I just don’t know what to eat and am too weary to try a new place. I love to eat! You’re right lol. Thanks for stopping by and reading! xoxoxo J
Ooo this all looks so yummy. Can’t wait to check out some of your recommendations
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Aw, thanks babe! Lemme know which ones you try!!!! xoxo J
Great list – I agree with pretty much most of it (of the places I’ve visited)! I need to know what you like at CIBO because I am always incredibly underwhelmed, no judgements just genuinely curious :)
Thanks babe! Ah, there isn’t anything incredible about CIBO’s food offerings – it’s standard whatever, you’re right. My family is friend’s with the owners so we go often. Just fun memories :)