The city of Toronto is Canada’s biggest. With over 3 million people living in the city area and another 3 million living just outside the city center, Toronto is home to 6 million people many of which are even second or third-generation Canadians. Huron and Iroquois tribes first inhabited the city, and the first European settlement here was a sparsely populated fort established by the French in the mid-1700s. After the English conquest of Canada, they built a backwoods trading post here on the shores of Lake Ontario and called it York. The city was later named Toronto in 1834 and by the latter half of the 19th century, it became an important center for Canadian economic trade.
In the 1950s and 1960s, the country experienced a boom of immigration owing mostly to liberal immigration policies and a strong economy and so the city experienced a boom in numbers, mostly from recent immigrants. Since then, Toronto has transformed into one of the world’s most multicultural cities on the planet with over 80 ethnic communities represented and half of the city’s residents being born outside of Canada.
Toronto is a top food city and its multicultural background is really what makes Toronto one of those cities where you can find just about any type of cuisine. From traditional dishes to modern fusion, no matter what you’re craving, it is here. So check out some of these best restaurants around the city of Toronto.
Named after Jamaica’s national language, Patois is probably one of those places that best symbolizes what living in Toronto is like. A weird mix of something amazing that you didn’t expect to even see in the first place. Chef and owner Craig Wong describes it as “Caribbean meets Asian soul food”. It’s not quite Asian and it’s not quite Caribbean but it is somewhere in the middle.
Try out dishes like jerk chicken chow mein, and oxtail stew with a Chinese pineapple bun on the side. The party here is always going with music, drinks, and a lively atmosphere at all times of the day.
Yang’s Fine Chinese Cuisine
Chinese-Canadians have been in the country for generations making it one of the largest diasporas in Canada. Toronto’s Chinatown area has been the unofficial landing area for working-class Chinese immigrants in the city since the 19th century up until the 1980s. So if you’re looking for some of the best Chinese food around, head to Chinatown. While you’re there trying to decide where to eat, why not stop by Yang’s Fine Chinese Cuisine.
More than just your average Chinese food, Yang’s Fine Chinese Cuisine specializes in dim sum and they are also one of the most popular places in the city to get it. Everything is handcrafted with fresh and local ingredients and all the dim sum staples are there to pick from. Be prepared to fight your way through the door to get in line for a spot because Yang’s Fine Chinese Cuisine is always busy.
Toronto is a very diverse city with a ton of cultures all calling it home. But for an iconic bit of Canadiana head to Carousel Bakery. Located in the Edwardian St Lawrence Market Carousel Bakery has been around for 30 years delivering delicious and fresh bakery-style goodies and bread. But what makes Carousel Bakery more than your average place and why you should visit it, is the famous peameal bacon sandwich.
English pork baron William Davies came to Canada in 1854 and invented the roll. What he did was roll a trimmed and cured boneless pork loin in dried and ground yellow pea to extend its shelf life. Since then peameal bacon has been an iconic part of Canadiana ever since but it’s at Carousel Bakery where you’ll get the famous sandwich.
The sandwich is so very deceptively simple that it is almost a mystery how it is so good. The sandwich is a piece of griddled peameal bacon on a mustard roll. That’s it. No more no less. The smoky-salty goodness of this simple sandwich has been featured on television from Israel to Japan and has celebrities like Anthony Bourdain, Emeril Lagasse, and Bobby Flay lineup to get one. Often imitated but never replicated, the peameal bacon sandwich from Carousel Bakery is a must-try and an endeavor in simplicity.
Centre Street Deli
While technically outside of the city limits Centre Street Deli is worth the trip to Thornhill because this deli might be home to some of the city’s best sandwiches. The story of Centre Street Deli begins in Montreal in the 1970s. With many Jewish families being Anglophone, the 1970s in Quebec saw the rising of the French-Quebec separatist movement and so, many Jewish families left Montreal to settle in Toronto. By the 1980s many of those families opened businesses in Toronto and Centre Street Deli is one of those places.
Stepping inside the deli, you might not even feel like the place is as popular as it is. It largely looks like the way it did when it opened in 1988. Cutesy-cartoony drawings on the walls and the hum of fluorescent lights don’t do the place any favors but you’re not here for the atmosphere, you’re here for the food. Centre Street Deli brings its Montreal roots to their amazing smoked meat sandwiches. They also have a wide variety of sandwiches and salads as well as Jewish comfort food like kreplach soup, latkes, bagels and lox, and much more.
Mustafa Turkish Pizza
Located in the North York area, Mustafa Turkish Pizza is the place to go when you want something a little different with your pizza. Though it is not technically “pizza”, it is the closest comparison. Serving what’s known as “pide” (or pideler for plural), the dish is a thin and crispy flatbread layered with toppings like feta cheese, tomatoes, ground beef, onions, eggplant, sausage, and tons of their delicious and salty options. Grab a couple of friends, order a side of iskander (lamb kabob with yogurt), and split a pide. Tasty food aside, the interior of the restaurant is also decorated like a cave which is pretty cool and the food here is pretty affordable and won’t break the bank.
Located in a small nook in the Kensington Market, Seven Lives offers up some of the best tacos in the city. Indulge in some amazingly delicious and homemade tacos with fresh salsa and handmade corn tortillas. The Seven Lives taqueria brings in people from all over the city and operates on simplicity. The dishes here are bursting in flavor but plates and orders are simple. Tacos, tostadas, ceviche, and other mostly handheld options are what’s available here with minimal fussiness. Be prepared to stand or take it out to go because there is nowhere to sit inside and there’s always a line. Take a couple of tacos to go and browse the rest of the market while you snack.
Nom Nom Nom
This tiny little shack restaurant on Dundas has made a big name for itself in the world of late-night snacking and card eating. As is a late-night tradition in Quebec when you’ve had too much to drink, grabbing poutine is the cure for whatever ails you. In recent years poutine has made its way to Ontario (as well as the United States) and Nom Nom Nom is where you can get a budget-friendly bite of Canada’s famous dish.
Opened by Montreal native Marc Perraut, Nom Nom Nom offers Quebecois and French street food goodness in the heart of Toronto. The fries are crispy, the cheese curds are squeaky, and even the gravy is imported from Quebec. They have tons of choices for toppings like pulled pork, jerk chicken, or bacon. But if you’re looking for a real taste of Montreal while you’re in Toronto, try the smoked meat poutine.
Despite the Degrassi, poutine, and Justin Beiber that Canadians have shipped over to the U.S it is only recently that in return Canadians started getting sent back southern-style barbecue. Bringing the pit-roasted and smoky flavors to Toronto is Adamson Barbecue. Modeled on the central Texas-style of barbecue, Adamson Barbecue is located in a north Toronto industrial park. Although the location might seem a bit odd it does keep the rent down and which helps it from being overrun by young urbanites. This also means you’re coming here for the food, not the vibes or the decor or the music, but you’re here for the meat and that is something they have plenty of. Big into a wood-smoked brisket or fall off the bone ribs covered in sauce. Make sure to stop by early because people from all over the city drive by to get their hands on some of their amazing dishes.
Every once in a while people want to go out for something fancy. If you’re in the mood for some indulgence then Scaramouche is the spot for you. Located in a very posh condo complex, the restaurant has received a number of “best-of” awards and has been one of Toronto’s must-eat locations for over 35 years. Scaramouche leans on high-end European-style dining with dishes that are still accessible yet sophisticated. Scaramouche offers complimentary valet service and one of the best things about it is the gorgeous views. Look upon downtown Toronto as you indulge in some amazing food. The location is on a hill overlooking the city so if it’s not the amazing plates that will keep you coming back, it’s the five-star views.
Junked Food Co.
If Scaramouche is one of the high-end and fancy dining experiences in Toronto then, Junked Food Co. is the antithesis to that. Located on Dundas West the restaurant specializes in, you guessed it, junk food. This is the place to indulge in your cheat day. Don’t bother counting calories here because trust us, you don’t want to know. Indulge in some sugary desserts like a “s’moreo” which is a waffle topped with Oreos topped with melted chocolate and marshmallows. Or one of their varieties of ice cream jammed with cookie dough. If you’re not into satisfying your sweet tooth they have a variety of topped mac and cheese options, as well as chicken and waffles or if you’re feeling adventurous try a “smash bag”. A smash bag is a bag of chips and topped with nacho toppings. Enjoy a bag of Doritos stuffed with jalapenos, cheese, sour cream, guacamole, lettuce, tomato, and black olives.
Our Final Word
Toronto is home to millions of people from diverse backgrounds. Often mixing and mingling to give the cultural fabric of the city a special diverse feel that is not always replicated elsewhere. The mix of cultures and people means that the food landscape of the city is just as diverse as the people themselves and that’s why Toronto is a foodie paradise. From the authentic to the fusion, no matter what craving you have there is something to surely satisfy.
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