best restaurants in toronto

The first timer's guide to eating in Toronto

The first timer's guide to eating in Toronto

It’s your first time in Toronto, and trying to navigate through the city’s food scene might seem a little intimidating. There’s tons to explore, but when you’ve got limited time, a more strategic approach might save you from relying on the food trucks outside of Nathan Phillips Square (delicious as they are) to fill you up. 

This is by no means a definitive list of Toronto’s best restaurants, but it might help you eat your way through the city—until the next time you visit, that is.            

Here’s a first timer’s guide to eating in Toronto. 

Breakfast and Brunch

Maha’s

You’ll probably have to wait eons to get a coveted seat at this ridiculously busy Egyptian brunch staple, but if you’re near Little India, you’d be totally remiss not to stick it out for their sunny side eggs with foole. 

Lady Marmalade

This brunch fixture has ditched its original digs in Leslieville for a new home in East Chinatown instead, but that hasn’t stopped loyal customers from flocking to its new home for eggs benedict.

Emma’s Country Kitchen

Housemade biscuits doused in sausage gravy and blueberry pancakes are well worth the wait—anywhere between 15 minutes to an hour, most days—at this favourite on St. Clair West. 

Saving Grace

Whether it’s for all-day breakfast or weekend brunch, the French toast really can't be beat at this Dundas West restaurant. It’s a bit of a tight squeeze, which is cool if cozy’s what you’re looking for. 

Aunties and Uncles

Heading here hungover for a giant Breakfast Pocket is basically a rite of passage in Toronto. Head to Little Italy for a quintessential meal the morning after. 

Sophie’s Kitchen

This sweet little spot by Bayview and Leaside serves up some killer lemon ricotta pancakes. Hit it up for charcoal lemonade and good vibes with citrusy decor. 

Le Petit Dejeuner

Belgian waffles are the forte of this antiques-filled King East brunch staple. Slide into one of their comfy green boths and gorge on their famous waffles. 

best restaurants in toronto

Juicy Dumplings in Chinatown has explosive dumplings for cheap. Photo by Hector Vasquez.

Lunch

Juicy Dumpling

Cheap, quick, and delicious: what else do you need from this takeout spot in Chinatown? Explosively-juicy dumplings for just $2.99 a box make this the perfect destination for travellers on a budget. 

Seven Lives

If you’re looking for tacos in Kensington, you have a few options, but this takeout counter is definitely a tourist favourite. It opens at 11:30 a.m., but you should maybe get there earlier if you want to beat weekend lineups for the Gobernador.

Allwyn’s Bakery

This used to solely be a Peanut Plaza affair (that’s North York), but these famous jerk chicken-stuffed patties have made their way to Queen West, which is way more convenient if you’re sightseeing downtown. 

Ramen Isshin

It’s considered one of the best ramen spots in the city, so head to Little Italy or Assembly Chef’s Hall for bowls of delicious black sesame tantan noodles and pork belly. 

Maker Pizza

We may not be New York, but Toronto has its share of delicious pie purveyors, including this pizzeria with a spot near Chinatown and on Avenue Road.

Torteria San Cosme

Another Kensington favourite, this colourful restaurant is guaranteed to get you full, and maybe a little bit sleepy, with their hulking Mexican-style sandwiches. 

Johnnys Hamburgers

This place is more than just a burger spot, it’s a decades-old Scarborough institution. Is it the best hamburger in the city? Maybe not, but does it really matter when it’s endorsed by your favourite Canadian, Mike Myers? 

Gandhi Roti

If there’s one thing you can’t leave Toronto without trying, it’s roti, and this longtime Queen West spot makes some of the best in the city. Consistency and curry-stuffed pockets, what’s not to love. 

best restaurants in toronto

La Palma is considered one of the best Italian restaurants in the city. Photo by Hector Vasquez.

Dinner

Pai

You may be visiting Toronto, but you’ll be transported to Thailand at this bustling eatery in the Entertainment District. Head downstairs for bowls of khao soi in a fun, party-like atmosphere. 

Parallel

If you happen to find yourself on one of Toronto’s coolest streets, it’s highly recommended you hit up this industrial yet sleek space for Israeli eats, including housemade hummus, herb falafel, and tahini smoothies. 

La Palma

Somehow manage to score yourself a reservation at this chic Dundas West restaurant and you’ll be treated to some of the best Italian food this city has to offer. 

Rol San

It’s one thing to have dim sum (basically Chinese brunch, for those who’ve never tried), but it’s another thing to eat it in the evening. You can order baskets of har gow and siu mai well into the wee hours of the morning at this Chinatown classic. You might even spot a Toronto Raptor there.

Terroni

There’s multiple locations of this Italian restaurant dispersed around the downtown core, which is handy if you’re exploring all over. The Terroni brand has long been synonymous with casual, yet tasty Italian eats.

Paris Paris

Wine lovers should head directly to this Dundas West restaurant, where a curated wine program works beautifully with the light snacks offered here. 

best restaurants in toronto

If you've never tried Filipino kamayan before, head to Tinuno. Photo by Hector Vasquez.

Sugo

Highly-satisfying red sauce Italian food is on the menu at this robust eatery in Bloordale Village. The line’s guaranteed to be full of cool kids, and don’t be surprised if you catch the owner stirring the proverbial pot, in some way or another. 

Fishman Lobster Clubhouse

Towering plates of lobster don’t get more epic than at this Scarborough restaurant, which has seen the likes of Eddie Huang walk through the doors. Make sure to come with your pockets full, though: you’ll have to shell out for this massive shellfish. 

Tinuno

Considered one of the best places in the city for kamayan—that’s Filipino feasts of garlic rice and BBQ’d seafood, all eaten by hand—this homey spot in St. James Town is a guaranteed bang for your buck. 

Patois

Toronto restaurants are great at mashing up cuisines. This Dundas West restaurant is the perfect example of that, bringing Caribbean and Asian food together in a fun atmosphere. 

Snacks, Cocktails and Drinks

Seoul Shakers

If you can find it (there’s no signage here), this hip hangout by Lansdowne station is the perfect go-to for moody lighting, bottles of soju, house-made makgeolli (Korean rice wine) and strong cocktails. 

416 Snack Bar

If you didn’t know, 416 is Toronto’s OG area code, so you can assume this Queen West spot has a special place in most Torontonians' hearts. Head to one of the city's first notable snack bars for good music, beer, and maybe a platter of oysters. 

Bar Raval

If not for the spanish tapas and eccentric cocktails, head to this Little Italy bar for its incredible interior design, which lands somewhere between a Gaudi building and a Dali painting. 

Bellwoods Brewery

There’s almost always a lineup for a coveted spot on this Ossington patio, but if it’s not evident by now, lineups are sort of part of the Toronto experience. Hit this brewery up after an obligatory tourist's trip to Trinity Bellwoods Park. 


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