The top 10 local restaurant chains in Toronto
Toronto restaurant chains come in handy despite all the support we want to give to our local, indie restaurants. Sometimes the chain experience is a good one, particularly when it lacks the smothering corporate vibe some restaurants give off. It's hard to grow without losing focus or letting quality slip, so let's big it up for the mini chains who start a good thing, perfect the concept and then dot the GTA with locations for us to enjoy. Especially comforting (besides the food) are the stories of success and hard work paying off for Toronto's diverse cultural milieu.
Here are the top local restaurant chains in Toronto.
Afghani Halal restaurant Bamiyan Kabob is a gem of the GTA, with locations in East and North York, Mississauga, and Markham. Wonderfully spiced meat, naan and salad are the basis of the various traditional dishes, made fresh daily. Now if only they'd bring their famous kabob dinners to the downtown core of the city we'd all be happy.
Fresh has been the healthful vegetarian cure-all for Torontonians since 1999, with its roots in Juice for Life even before that. With four locations and over twenty years in service, I can only imagine how many immune boost juices, rice bowls and sweet potato fries have been consumed by city folk, but I can tell you that my friends and me have jammed in our fair share.
Torontonians have been celebrating over Chinese food at Asian Legend since they first opened their Dundas Street Chinatown location in 1988. With six spots in the GTA, Asian Legend keeps plenty of diners happy with their particularly addictive dumpling and noodle dishes.
Starting as a small grocery in Toronto's Little Italy, to a veritable empire with 11 locations (all still family run!), California Sandwiches has been at killing our hunger with their famous veal sandwiches since 1967. It's notorious for generating late-night cravings, line-ups and a slew of men stuffing their faces in SUVs in adjacent parking lots.
Even McDonald's is on the poutine train these days but nobody has been serving Toronto the Quebecois classic as energetically as Smoke's Poutinerie. Unlike the competition, they don't just dabble in the famous fries, cheese curds and gravy dish. Instead, they specialize, and offer a long list of other toppings to jazz it up should you care to bastardize the original.
Big Smoke Burger
You got to have big kahunas to start a burger chain in this day and age, with all the history and competition, unless that is if you're Big Smoke Burger. As the original Craft Burger, the joint had diners pilgrimaging to try the famous cheeseburgers and onion rings, so when they amped up and began franchising as Big Smoke Burger, well, I don't know about balls, but it was certainly a no-brainer.
Ladies love pasta, but then so do, squirmy kids, businessmen, bored teens, and old folks. Same goes for pizza. Toronto chain Mercatto knows what the people want, and delivers- fresh, simple and Italian - with two locations in the Financial District, one on College and Trattoria Mercatto in the Eaton Centre.
The flagship Congee Queen is in Thornhill but now has locations in North York, Markham and Scarborough too. Congee is an obvious favourite, as well as the various noodle and chow mien dishes, but the real doozy is fried chilli turnip patties, holy heck are they good.
Burrito Boyz started as a remedy for the hunger of drunken youth in the Club District has turned into the all-round answer for grumbling stomachs across the city and Southern Ontario. Each burrito is jammed full of your selection of meat, veg and sauces made to order.
Began in the back of a small West Indian grocery in 1979, Mr. Jerk went rogue in 1986 when it opened its first full-fledged restaurant. Offering a variety of Caribbean delights and jerk specialties in the six GTA locations to itch your noise and tickle your taste buds.
We couldn't resist adding two more restaurants to the list, even if the various names and menus don't qualify these as your typical chain.
Now expanded to include the Cantina, Hacienda and Barrio Coreano too, Playa Cabana serves up a wide range of Mexican, and Korean-Mexican food. Each spot is slightly different, with differing menus, cocktails and drinks.
Terroni / Osteria / Bettola di Terroni / Sud Forno
Once just a humble import and pizza counter on Queen, the Mammoliti family has created a celeb-sighting behemoth of Italian restaurants in Toronto and now LA. With their passion for food, good-looking wait staff, beautiful cozy designed spaces, and expert branding they practically have a license to print money. They even have their own magazine!
Note: To qualify for the list, a restaurant chain needed to have at least 4 locations.