The Best Diners in Toronto
The best diners in Toronto ooze sock-hop soda-shoppe nostalgia as gooey as the cheeseburgers they serve (even if your only 1950's experience is care of one Marty McFly). We love our cures-what-ails-you diner fare, but the definition of "comfort food" is as contested as the cure for hiccups.
My poached eggs and fresh-pressed beet juice may be your white bread and peameal lumberjack. Whatever works. We can all agree, however, that nothing beats a favourite diner for soothing bellies and souls post-overindulgence. Hangovers and Johnny-Angel-heartbreaks are no match for all-day breakfast.
Whether you're a diner purist (Chubby Checker and checkered floors a must), or a nu-diner foodie (gourmet poutine, please), Toronto has its share of good eatin'.
Here are the 12 best diners in Toronto according to readers of this site.
See also: The best greasy spoons in Toronto
The decor may be diner-authentic - complete with an open kitchen, vinyl booths and kitsch - though the food is anything but. Sadie’s veg-friendly menu skips oily pork sides in favour of fresh juices, espresso and health-centric dishes. Excellent meat-free breakfasts are convincingly disguised as greasy-spoon favourites. Try the breakfast burrito, but bring a friend – this baby can easily feed two. All dietary restrictions are considered here. Menu items are vegan-optional and my usual request for soy milk is not met with flinching or confusion. More »
Dinner mains start at 17 bucks, making The Rosedale the most high-end on our list. But, unexpected dishes as regal as their names (King Cole Duck Confit) are worth the extra dough. While typical diner staples are up for offer, they’re almost unrecognizable. Poutine au Canard is the Extreme Makeover version of the chip-truck mainstay, lunches have an Israeli influence, and burgers get gourmet with toppings like mint-cumin yoghurt. More »
The George Street Diner serves up affordable lunch in a ‘hood otherwise full of pricey restaurants. Good vegetarian options and fair-trade organic coffee are an unusual treat for health-conscious patrons. The George doesn’t skimp on authenticity, though. A charming bar complete with 60s-era vinyl stools runs the length of the skinny space and the service is appropriately laid-back. Best bet is grilled cheese on plump egg bread (add avocado – trust me) with Soup du Jour. More »
Don’t let Bloor Street Diner’s swank more-wine-bar-than-diner ambiance fool you; it can run with the big boys when it comes to good homestyle cookin’. Diner staples like apple grilled cheese with the perfect melty/crunchy balance, and delicate Benedicts are juxtaposed against lobster ravioli and gourmet wraps. Even if you’re not a ketchup fan, you might indulge a little. The grilled cheese comes with a personal mini bottle.
Cheap eats in Yorkville? Yes, it’s possible. Flo’s is the real deal, boasting flashback details like a jukebox and 50s wrap-around bar. The patio provides prime people-watching (and celeb-spotting) opportunities from a second floor vantage point. Dominating the menu are diner classics like classic egg-bread grilled cheese (5 different varieties) and too many brunch-y items to count. Crunchy, tangy coleslaw is a perfect match for stick-to-your-ribs fish and chips. More »
BQM’s third location adds more competition to the downtown gourmet burger market. Did we really need it? Yes, yes we did. Classic burgers grow up with contemporary toppings like pineapple and Portobello. The beef is local and naturally-raised, too. This is greasy spoon goodness without the grease. Amp up the retro-factor. Order a glass-bottle pop and share a tandem sip (two straws, please!) in one of BQM’s cute mini booths. Dreamy! More »
The original 40s signage still boasts 40-cent milkshakes. Those were the days (or so I hear). A milkshake will actually cost you more in 2010, but not a lot. Perfect over-easy eggs accompany a ridiculously cheap diner breakfast (and the fruit isn’t just a garnish here). My server has a certain Edith Bunker quality. She loudly calls me “hun” while refilling my complimentary coffee (and I like it). Lunch and dinner offerings are typical, with occasional nods to the owner's Indian roots. More »
At first glance, the staff at Avenue Diner may appear gruff. In reality, they are marshmallow-y and attentive, smiling often at our toddler companion. The Avenue feels like the real thing, right down to the cash-only policy. Collectibles and soda-pop paraphernalia serve as decor along the narrow space (far out!). Basic breakfasts include more-than-generous peameal servings and frequent coffee refills. More »
As Leslieville continues to undergo an extensive makeover, it’s comforting to know that good-value no-frills home-cookin’ can be had in the ‘hood. Don’t expect fancy extras. However, delightful hot turkey sandwiches (a la post-Thanksgiving midnight snacking) may induce homesickness – this could very well be soul food. Greek influences make an appearance on the menu, thanks to the owner's family heritage. More »
My brunch date fancies herself a Western Omelette expert and is impressed by the fluffiness and generous helpings of ham and veggies. The requisite side potatoes that arrive with my two-egg breakfast are delicately spiced and not too greasy. Our fruit is served in a parfait glass (it’s all in the details). Chew Chew’s Diner is built around an open kitchen that encourages chatting with the gregarious and humble cook staff. I am impressed by service that strikes the perfect balance. Attentive without being intrusive. More »
Your eccentric grandmother’s living room was refurbished as a family restaurant. I’m not kidding. The mismatched pottery and potpourri-style decor is right up Nan’s alley. It manages to be quite charming, though. Upper Beach locals flock to King’s (filling it to capacity on a weekday morning) to score a breakfast for two including coffee and tip for less than twenty bucks. Overstuffed omelettes are incredibly cheap, and daily specials are abundant. More »