The top 10 wheelchair accessible restaurants in Toronto
Wheelchair accessible restaurants are not as common in Toronto as you'd think. When a fabulous new restaurant opens in Toronto, many of us take for granted the fact that the only thing keeping us from enjoying that braised pork belly is the work week. For those with a disability, the outdoor and indoor design of a restaurant can greatly influence their experience.
Here is a list of my favourite restaurants, in no particular order, that combine a great menu with a great space.
Both the main floor Noodle bar and third floor Daisho are fully accessible. Although they're on separate floors, the restaurants share the unique feature of large family style tables with lightweight removable chairs. Plenty of space on both floors allow for easy move-ability and access to the large elevator which takes you to the second floor washrooms. Everything is sleek and clean; no level changes, no ramps. If using public transit, the accessible Osgoode station is a block away.
Origin King East
The sidewalk level patio at Origin is spacious, private and worth the wait. From the patio you can enter the restaurant, but a heads up the single accessible washroom is located at the front of the restaurant. You would need to access this from the main entrance off of King St. to avoid a one step level change. Every table in the main area can accommodate a wheelchair user, including the bar-like tables in front of the open kitchen. Here you can watch as the chefs prepare your meal and maybe share some tricks of the trade.
El Catrin provides the city with one of the most vibrant spots to eat Mexican food. Bold, bright colours cover the walls in this huge Distillery District space where both indoor and outdoor dining is easily accessed. Overall, not a huge fan of the cobblestone district for wheelchair users but half of the distance to El Catrin is paved sidewalk. And there is a large parking lot at Parliament & Mill St. which helps avoid undependable street parking.
Mark McEwan's fourth restaurant in Toronto is designed to make anybody who walks in comfortable. The wide entrance to Fabbrica offers working automatic buttons while inside there is no level changes, no carpet, no textured flooring, and very wide walkways. There is a separate accessible/family style washroom that can be found beside the open kitchen down the bright hallway. Located within Shops at Don Mills, this outdoor mall offers free parking and reliable bus routes.
Against the Grain
This is the second opening of the popular lakeside Against the Grain on Dockside Dr., and it does not disappoint. Located on the corner of a large new development in Leaside, this gastropub offers free parking and an outdoor patio large enough for the whole family. The front entrance has double doors and can be opened by an automatic button. Once inside there are steps leading to an elevated seating area, but there are several tables on the main level to accommodate. Overall, both locations are designed with space in mind: unobstructed pathways, large washrooms, good times.
Mildred's Temple Kitchen
Donna Dooher's Mildred's Temple Kitchen is simply large. Granted it needs to be, to accommodate the vast number of us who obsess over Veda's Choice (I have no idea what else they offer at brunch). The indoor design is so vast that the space in-between tables meet every required measurement for mobility devices. Automatic door openers allow you to enter the restaurant from the main entrance and the patio. The co-ed washrooms are a tad suggestive, but once inside there is a separate accessible stall for use. Located in Liberty Village, so I would recommend driving to take advantage of some great parking options near the restaurant.
What is actually quite interesting about this French bistro is that its founding chef, Pascal Ribreau, made headlines when he was injured in a motor vehicle accident in 1999 and become a paraplegic. He went on to create an accessible space for himself and his guests at Celestin with unobstructed walkways, wide entrances and a large family-style washroom. Accessible parking is also available behind the restaurant if none is available along busy Manor Rd.
The Kennedy Public House
Love, love, love the design and feel of this Bloor West neighbourhood favourite. It's great to know that anyone could come and enjoy the food and live music, which is available most weekends for dinner and always for Sunday brunch. Leading up to the entrance of The Kennedy Public House is a small ramp and indoors there are a variety of table heights which assist in creating a spacious room. A clear walkway leads you to individual washrooms, one of which is a large private family style room. This place also offers outdoor seating at sidewalk level and parking across the street.
Maybe best known as Rob Rossi's new steakhouse but this meat-friendly restaurant should be commended for its accessible design. The variety of tables and large open spaces make this restaurant really stand out. The separate family style/wheelchair accessible bathroom stall is so large it has a lounge chair. To talk specifics, this room has a 34 inch door with a straight handle, grab bar, automatic dryer, and sink 29 inches from floor (in the construction world, they would consider this "to code"). Bestellen is also located in a not so busy neighbourhood where parking is still easy to find. This statement may need some revision, however, as the area continues to garner culinary interest.
I can't say that very many places in Chinatown are accessible, so I was shocked to find this little gem south of Dundas St. up to snuff. Huge double doors welcome you to this Italian eatery with an automatic button available. Once past the doors you are met with a flight of stairs and to the left a large lift to assist anyone who cannot negotiate those steps. The lift is a tad inconvenient as you need a staff member to power it, but the people at Strada 241 are just so darn nice. This 3,800 square foot restaurant is all one level past those initial steps with tons of room to accommodate the largest of mobility devices.
Written by Silvia Guido, a Toronto-based physiotherapist specializing in neurological rehabilitation. Comprehensive reviews can be found on Silvia's blog at accessto.ca. Photo of Momofuku by Jesse Milns.
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