12 locavore restaurants in Toronto
Locavore restaurants in Toronto aren't just places where the phrase "locally sourced" is tossed around with the same callousness as "organic" and "naturally made." It seems every restaurant touts the nature of its "local" ingredients, when, in truth, it might have a few Ontario Yukon Golds on its shelves and a whole lot of other imports. Not these restaurants. These spots were created for passionate locavores with menus based heavily on what's in season and what can be derived with proximity in mind. And while these restaurants might not stick strictly or completely to a 100 mile radius, they have managed to find a balance between great food and local ingredients. Here are some of Toronto's top spots for local eating.
While this restaurant may be humbly housed in the 519 community centre in the Church and Wellesley Village, it is perhaps one of Toronto's leaders when it comes to locally sourced ingredients. Fabarnak proudly boasts a menu where at least 60% of the items listed come from local farms or producers; a percentage that rises even higher during the spring and summer seasons. Not bad for a community centre "cafeteria," especially where chili-glazed smoked pork and lamb ribs are on regular offering.
"Think global. Eat local." That's the mantra touted by Ed Ho and team, the men and women behind Globe Bistro and Earth (Rosedale and Bloor West). The restaurants craft their hearty soups using fresh Ontario produce, plate their seared steaks from Wellington County beef, and offer mouthwatering Ontario cheese boards to satiate Toronto's dairy lovers. Plenty of Ontario wines at Globe as well.
Cowbell's menu changes daily depending on what's fresh and in season at Ontario's local farms. Chef and owner Mark Cutrara takes his passion for local and organic beyond just the plate, organizing regular "Farmers' Nights" wherein he creates five-course meals using ingredients from his favourite farms and invites the farmers themselves to come to Parkdale to dine. Open for dinners and weekend brunch.
Most of us see Fanny's as a superb brunch option when pining for some coffee and eggs benny, but as the hangover generally eases you might come to realize that much of the menu is actually locally sourced. The plates of (naturally raised) meat and produce, by and large, come from nearby Ontario farms, and the beers on tap are local craft brews.
Sometimes buzz words like "naturally made" and "locally sourced" evoke mental images of cold root vegetable puree and beet-carrot smoothies. Consider Beast the ultimate antithesis. The Tecumseth Street restaurant uses local suppliers whenever possible, including Monforte Dairy, 100km Foods, and Perth Pork Products, while managing to pull off rave-worthy plates of striploin beef, sheep's milk fritters, and its famous beastwich sandwich.
That should really say, "Whatever restaurant Jamie Kennedy touches," but let's just go with Gilead, for now. The Corktown restaurant touts Kennedy's philosophy of locally sourced ingredients for seasonal menus, with a roster that includes fresh soups, sandwiches, snacks, and sides. To drink, there's locally bottled spring water (actually), bottled tap water (even more local!), juices, and Ontario wines.
Chef Brad Long is known for his commitment to local and sustainable eating, so it's no surprise that his Brick Works restaurant is devoted to just that. Cafe Belong uses local, sustainable, and organic ingredients as much as possible, with staff who can tell you pretty much everything about the origin of your milk braised lamb or grilled vinegar chicken. The menu changes regularly based on what's in season.
With another locally minded, local celebrity chef at the helm, Ruby Watchco offers Riverside a high-end taste of seasonal prix fixe. Lynn Crawford had been in the biz for close to 30 years, cultivating relationships with local growers and farmers and working their products into masterpieces from her kitchen. Ruby Watchco, at its best, is a reflection of that.
Marben is a good option for the carnivorous as well as locally minded, with plenty of meats sourced directly from the farm. The menus include plates of duck breast, roasted beef, and trout nicoise.
Chef Teo may be well travelled, but he doesn't look too far when it comes to ingredients for his Ossington restaurant. Inspired by Paris, the actual fruits, veggies, and meats come from Ontario farms, with oysters from a few provinces over (B.C.), and a changing menu based on what's in season and in stock.
Yes, the Bloor West restaurant of the famed broken bread sandwiches also should appeal to the locavore crowd. Chef Joel MacMillan looks to what's local and in season to create his honed menu, which also offers homemade sausages, coffee roasted right in the neighbourhood (Balluchon), and a vodka from Oakville.
Local Kitchen & Wine Bar
True to its name, Local sources fresh dairy, wines, produce, and meats from Ontario farms, looking also to Canada's west and eastern provinces to round out its menu. The Italian-inspired menu includes dishes made of ingredients such as Ontario Berkshire pork, Ontario sheep's milk cheese, and plenty of fresh fruits and veggies.
Photo by Rebecca Flemming