If it's people-watching you crave, check out the Drake on West Queen West: It's great for relaxing at the sidewalk bars and roof lounges, and savoring the famous BBQs. If you're looking for fine dining in a leafy locale, try Trattoria Giancarlo in Little Italy for its pretty patio, good Italian fare, and excellent wine cellar.
Neapolitan pizza -- paper-thin crust, light on toppings, and big on flavors -- is all the rage in Toronto. Arguably the yummiest is to be found at the bustling Pizzeria Libretto, where an imported oven from Naples cooks the tasty pies in less than 2 minutes. On the other side of town, Queen Margherita is Libretto's equal, some say rival.
Toronto has taken its sweet time to fully embrace this trend, but at last, the top spots offer good and sometimes excellent charcuterie made in-house. With more than 40 kinds of cured, dried, and otherwise prepared meat, bone, and organ dishes, the Black Hoof reigns supreme.
Best for a Romantic Rendezvous
When the sun sets, Gilead Café turns into Gilead Bistro, a perfect spot for an evening with someone special. The intimate room is alight with candles, the service is thoughtful, and the menus sublime. Most evenings, star chef Jamie Kennedy is behind the stove.
Partners Chris McDonald and Doug Penfold at Cava do tapas best with inventive dishes and more than 20 wines offered by the glass for pairing. Torito is a low-key, laid-back alternative.
Best Museum Restaurant
The renovation at the Royal Ontario Museum brought with it the inspired C5, which some say is the best thing about the Museum's new look. Frank, at the AGO, is also a fine choice for locally-seasoned menus and a suitably, but not too arch, arty atmosphere.
Best Bakery Lunch
Toronto loves its tarts, croissants, and dainty desserts: The number of fine bakery-cafes is proof. A favorite is the pioneering Patachou, which brought true French pastries to the city back in the day and arguably still makes the best croissant in town. Woodlot also serves (daytime only) fine coffee and excellent pastries; there's a daily selection of savory and sweet croissants and exquisite individual quiches.
Best Hotel Restaurant
Dining at TOCA by Tom Brodi at the new Ritz Carlton is a treat. The Canadian-themed dishes are crafted with care, and the service is refreshingly un-institutional. Lai Wah Heen, in the Metropolitan Hotel, is a longstanding favorite for Peking duck, great dim sum, and an impressive menu of mostly Cantonese specialties.
Best for Families
Grano is an Italian restaurant that knows how to treat the ragazzini. Simple pastas, delicious breads and sweets, good salads, and the lively, warm atmosphere combine to make it feel like you're visiting family. Mangia e Bevi, in the Distillery District, is equally welcoming, with good pastas, pizzas, and salads -- and a tolerant approach to little ones and their restless ways.
There are plenty of good sushi spots and Japanese restaurants to choose from, but there's little doubt of the fun and fine food to be had at the chaotic Guu Izakaya, with its great selection of small-plate dishes served in a pub-like atmosphere. A second location on Bloor Street West, which opened in spring 2011 under the name Guu Sakabar, is helping to lessen the notoriously long lines for the many Guu fans.
The Most Memorable Dining Experiences
The Black Hoof
Nose-to-tail eating is taken to extremes -- and to truly tasty heights -- at this brilliant restaurant-bar. Co-owner/chef Grant van Gameren's hand-crafted charcuterie is the main draw (the tongue sandwich receives raves), but the pastas and entrees are equally inspired, as are the cocktails created by co-owner Jen Agg.
The panorama from the 54th floor of this iconic bank tower in the heart of the Financial District is stunning, but as the many regulars can attest, the food is so good you might forget all about the view. It's Canadian cuisine, such as Nunavut caribou and Québec foie gras, handled with delicacy and expert technique. The daytime vibe is corporate; evening is more romantic.
Local top chef Jamie Kennedy is behind the stove at this small, beautiful boîte. In other words, the food is sublime. Come for a light breakfast, a simple yet lovely lunch, or a real treat: a memorable dinner. Whatever time of day or evening, local seasonal ingredients are the stars. Great value, too. Finding your way can be tricky: It's situated in a tiny alley in Corktown.
There are plenty of good sushi spots and Japanese restaurants to choose from in town, but there's little doubt of the fun and fine food to be had at this chaotic pub/restaurant with a great selection of small-plate dishes. A second location on Bloor Street West, Guu Sakabar, opened in spring 2011 and has helped to lessen the notoriously long lines.
The Local Kitchen
Parkdale's favorite spot is part authentic Italian trattoria, part contemporary Toronto. The crowded, convivial room is idiosyncratic, the service pro yet friendly, and the food delicious. Chef Fabio Bondi arrives pre-dawn each morning to make stunning fresh pastas such as smoked gnocchi with creamy taleggio.
Chef Keith Froggett and maitre d' Carl Corte have been quietly perfecting one of the city's finest restaurants for over 25 years. The formal dining room, which is best for special occasions, is complemented by the adjoining casual pasta bar and grill. Located in a tony apartment building in midtown, there are beautiful views over the city.
Woodlot Restaurant and Bakery
It's a bit of the farm in the city, a coy conceit that works to great effect. There's a wood-burning oven where breads, pies, and even meats and fish are cooked by chef/co-owner David Haman and his team. Menus (one meat, one vegetarian) feature savory pies, excellent soups, fresh pasta -- all prepared with heart. Desserts and breads are not to be missed.
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