Where to eat and drink in Toronto's Koreatown North
Koreatown in Toronto likely means the stretch on Bloor between Markham and Christie to most downtown dwellers where it bustles with go-to spots for bibimbap like Tofu Village, Il Bun Ji and Korean Village Restaurant. But take a ride up Yonge Street to the blocks between Sheppard and Finch and an even larger Koreatown awaits, with some familiar names and a whole lot more. In fact, it's generally agreed that the more significant Korean community in Toronto resides uptown.
Often referred to as the Koreatown at Yonge and Finch, Koreatown North, is actually much larger, running from Sheppard to approximately McNicoll Avenue. For those who haven't had the pleasure, the area is inarguably a booming suburban strip chock full of delicious Korean restaurants, bakeries, cafes and bars where you can blurt out a karaoke song or two.
Like Bloor Street's Koreatown, the area boasts quite a few non-Korean gems as well. And just like its downtown counterpart, Koreatown North is quite easy to get to as it's serviced by three TTC subway stops (Sheppard, North York Centre, and Finch).
Feeling hungry? Here are some notable spots to eat and drink in Toronto's Koreatown North.
Twister Karaoke (5586 Yonge Street)
Arguably the most well-known karaoke bar in Koreatown North, Twister is the place to take those American (Korean?) Idol aspirations into overdrive. The song selection is up-to-date and international with Tagalog and Indonesian songs providing a glimpse into the diversity of their clientele. The private rooms here are clean and comfortable and intercoms that allow you to easily order drinks (yes, they're licensed). While a lack of happy-hour deals here make prices higher than some of the competition, the reliable service and wide song selection means you can't really go wrong.
Joons Restaurant (4852 Yonge Street)
Joons is a prime example of Korean fusion done right. Growing up, I always associated rice with Asian cuisine and cheese with Western dishes. Imagine how happily wrong I was when I discovered that this long-standing restaurant, which specializes in the Korean table-top cooking dish known as dakgalbi (stir-fried assorted vegetables and chicken with rice cake), offers mozzarella cheese as a topper. Some may suggest this reduces the authenticity but I personally feel it adds just the added zing required. Random fact: this restaurant is very popular among many of the Indonesian students who live in the area.
Canaan Cake Centre (11 Spring Garden Ave)
This rather biblical-sounding bakery on Spring Garden is where to go for Korean walnut cakes. Featuring creamy custard (or red bean, your choice) inside small, stereotypically Asian-style bite-sized soft egg pastries, these sweet delicacies have a lovely taste and smell. For $5 a bag (which contains 20 cakes), it's really hard not to anoint this store as the best Korean bakery in town, or certainly in the Yonge and Finch area. For those in the mood for something different, Canaan Cake Centre also sells sponge cakes and other Asian bakery staples.
Buk Chang Dong Soon Tofu (5445 Yonge Street)
Frequently cited as the best place in town to get soon tofu, this popular spot shares a similar menu to their Bloor and Christie location. Especially nourishing during those cold winter months, the spicy tofu soup/stew arrives bubbly hot and can be customized to suit one's spice tolerance. While the rest of the menu reads similar (if not less extensive) to other Korean restaurants in the area, the quality is what wins out here. Tofu not your thing? Meat eaters really can't go wrong with the excellent bibimbap or the the tender bulgogi.
The Owl of Minerva (5324 Yonge Street)
With locations throughout the GTA (including two downtown), The Owl of Minerva serves up one of the best Korean pork bone soups (gam ja tang) in town. A popular spot for students (or anyone on a budget), this 24 hour restaurant is the go-to place for a steaming bowl of chili-infused spicy pork bone broth for lunch, dinner, late-night or any hour of the day. The meat is so tender you'd think it was in love with you (random Elvis Presley reference alert). Other favourites here include the hearty kal bi (short rib) and oxtail soups. For those who prefer a drier meal, the bulgogi is always sizzlingly satisfying.
Sushi Moto (4901 Yonge Street)
Tucked in the heart of Koreatown North is Sushi Moto (hey you in the back, stop with the cellphone jokes), an aspiringly trendy sushi joint that I believe used to be an English pub. Designed to function somewhere on the spectrum between restaurant and lounge with an expansive bar area, modern dark finishes and servers dressed in sleek black attire, this is definitely not an uptown take on Sushi on Bloor. Luckily for them, the kitchen delivers. The Tataki Attack is a smorgasbord of seafood ingredients rolled into a heavenly delicacy; the Electric Banana is a concoction of banana tempura with eel that won't do any attempted description of it justice; and the Erotica Roll is better than a visit to Remingtons.
Earth Indian (5949 Yonge St)
Bet you didn't think there'd be an Indian restaurant on this list? One of the lesser-known Indian restaurants around town, Earth Indian has a few interesting twists. Firstly, it's located on the ground floor of a rather old-looking apartment building, practically guaranteeing its invisibility from the main road. Secondly, it was featured on Restaurant Makeover. Now, I'll leave you to decide whether the improvements from that show have made this place better (my verdict is no), but what I can tell you is that the butter chicken here is one of the better ones in Toronto. There's also a lunch buffet for under $11. While the ambiance at Earth Indian might be a bit on the quiet side, it's nevertheless worth a try if yet another meal of Japanese or Korean eats just won't do.