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Best Toronto restaurants of 2014

By Dine.TO

Dine.TO users vote on who they thought was the best in Toronto across several popular categories. With an overwhelming response from our users it was a tight race this year. The results are in and Dine.TO would like to congratulate all of the winners for the 2014 Best Of Awards!

Best ambiance

  • Cibo Wine Bar
    This stylish and sprawling Italian eatery and wine bar spent its first year of life establishing itself as a must-visit destination on King West’s trendiest stretch. From its Crystal Head vodka bottle-lined entranceway to the preponderance of warm wood and comfy seating that mark its interior to its mood-inspiring lamp lighting (to say nothing of the endless parade of homespun Italian vittles to which a guest is treated), the Cibo experience is an exquisite one. Here is where you go if you like to dress up, drink wine — and be caught in the act.
  • Barsa Taberna
    This partly subterranean tapas bar in the St. Lawrence Market hood fancies itself a contemporary homage to old-world Spain, where elaborate mosaics and bottles-as-art set the scene in the grotto-style dining room. Under cover of heavy wooden beams and 170-year-old stonework, guests eat Serrano ham and sea bream ceviche, and imagine they’re chilling with Gaudi’s contemporaries.
  • The Sultan's Tent & Café Moroc
    From the moment you enter the rich draperied folds of this well-loved downtown restaurant, it feels like you’re visiting somewhere exotic. The Moroccan Moors come to colourful life courtesy of an all-senses-engaged interior that sets your dining experience off against thumping North African music, under cover of delicate chandeliers and in the splendid company of the gyrating hips of the belly dancing performers for which this resto is celebrated.

Best bar and pub

  • The Dog & Bear Pub
    The traditional English pub that is the transformed Social gets fresh love in the revisited form of a handsome Queen West watering hole. Sports fans gather here to take a pull of Brown Ale and watch footie on the telly (or, rather one of eight TVs and a 70” projector) from the cozy booths. They nosh on conventional pub fare like wings and nachos, which are served in the company of such Brit faves as bangers and mash, sticky toffee pudding and a full Sunday roast.
  • Stout Irish Pub
    Comfort's on tap at this Cabbagetown treat, along with a healthy selection of craft pints. The Stout's a kid-friendly joint, and so a great place to take the family if you can't shake them. A crackling fireplace, a whack of on-site board games, a fine selection of Scotches and an Ontario-focused menu board round out the deal. The sheltered back patio extends the magic during the warmer months.
  • Brazen Head Irish Pub
    This Liberty Village mainstay, where Ireland's reflected in every brass detail and every pint of Rolling Rock, saves on a flight to the counties. Traditional Irish pub grub rubs patched elbows with novelties like kale salad and Cajun chicken paninis. There's live music on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, along with Sunday morning. In the summer, three spacious patios sweeten the pot.

Best bistro

  • Le Select Bistro
    The self-declared "most authentic Parisian bistro on this side of the Atlantic," this gastronomic enchantment seals the deal with brasserie booths and vintage movie posters, to say nothing of the players on a menu dominated by organic selections and products from traditional farming. Think terrine de tête et queue and confit de canard. And then think of washing it all down with something from the subterranean wine cellar, where some 1,200 international wines and 95 international beers stand by to offer better than adequate libation.
  • Le Paradis Brasserie Bistro
    A cozy Annex indulgence that's attracted Toronto crowds with its neighbourhood charm, extensive wine list and traditional France-French fare for years, Le Paradis is nothing short of a nostalgic gem. Prices are reasonable for a smart menu that updates frequently, but always lingers on brasserie classics like steak frites and crème caramel. Front and back patios enhance the experience in the summer.
  • Jules Bistro Cafe
    The spoiled-for-options dwellers of the Entertainment District get one more with this charismatic French bistro, where regulars return for the lack of pretension on show. The wall-mounted menu boards sing with cheap and cheerful standards, including generous orders of steak frites, real-thing French onion soup and outstanding côte de boeuf. The interior is sparse, but buzzes with energy when it's occupied.

Best brunch

  • Victor Restaurant & Lounge
    This stylish fixture in the boutique Hotel Le Germain is celebrated for its relaxing atmosphere and splendid service. The weekend brunch menu hones in on a love of Toronto, with dishes celebrating neighbourhoods like Little Italy (with a seasonal vegetable and herb frittata verde with crispy prosciutto and shaved melon) and Leslieville (with blackened fish or chicken hash with poached eggs). A selection of delicately flavoured brunch cocktails washes down the end-of-week indulgence.
  • Insomnia Restaurant Bar Lounge
    This Annex darling digs deep into its weekly menu of comfort-oriented favourites with a brunch menu that spotlights creativity. Think pulled pork eggs benedict, bacon grilled cheese and to-die-for home fries served with the in-house-prepared "legendary" sauce. Fans swear by Insomnia's brunch-time sweet stuff like waffles and pancakes loaded up with such excess as chocolate chunks and cream cheese.
  • Eggspectation - Bell Trinity Square
    Food delivered with consistent quality is what launched this, the "original Montreal brunch restaurant" in Quebec more than 20 years ago, and the tradition continues in Toronto with an all-ecompassing all-day menu that hones in on egg-centred classics like omelettes and Eggs Benedict. Tucked between the Eaton Centre and City Hall, this modern resto sports spotless service and generous, pretty servings.

Best burgers

  • The Harbord Room
    Who knew the humble hamburger could find such a stellar and appreciative launch pad as this cozy exposed-brick Annex venue. Served in a pillowy egg bun embrace on a wooden plank, the thick and juicy naturally raised beef patty is bathed in cheese, smothered in caramelized onions and aioli, and completed with a side of crispy fries and tangy slaw. Get a chilled tomato soup starter and wash the whole tasty affair down with a blueberry gin cocktail and call it a success.
  • Richmond Station Restaurant
    This bustling financial district resto plays happy host to one of the city's most illustrious burgers. The Station Burger, grandly served on a charcuterie board with tangy fixings like house mayo and ketchup, is made more special still with a rosemary fries side and fluffy milk bun bookends. This pretension-free place is a popular one, so heed the advice to make reservations seriously.
  • Holy Chuck Burgers
    "Our business is burgers," this midtown specialist proclaims. Presumably, business is going swimmingly given the popularity of the freshly ground superstars that give it its name. The Holy Chuck is the place's signature sandwich, a double-patty marvel with cheese, caramelized onions and bacon, but there's innovation here, too, including a warm Nutella burger and another served on a croissant with a fried egg. The milkshakes, including the Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Bean and Foie Gras and Truffle Oil flavours, attract almost the same level of fan love as the burgers.

Best late night eats

  • Ossington Stop
    This late-night Little Portugal newcomer — open Thursday to Saturday until 4 am — has hosted its share of overdone revellers who stumble in for everything from soft tacos and dumplings to kale salad and side ribs. And there's no shortage of the hair of the dog here, courtesy of a bare-bones but serviceable beer, wine and shots list. The humble joint's motto, "we serve the masses," fits like a glove.
  • 416 Snack Bar
    Alexandra Park residents returning home from a night on the town are roundly delighted to come upon this popular and ever-hip offering (open seven days till 2 am), where creative vittles like fritto mist (mixed fried seafood bits), vegan canneloni and sushi pizza offer welcome snacky alternatives to the usual contenders for satisfying late-night cravings. The versatile menu changes often though, so count on nothing but an extensive offering of creative, culture-traversing and cutlery-free yummies, along with equally interesting libations with which to lubricate their journey.
  • Oddseoul
    The Ossington strip hasn't been the same since this loud and lively neighbour, whose name alone conjurs up some seriously spirited juju, moved in. Regulars delight out-of-town guests with the in-the-know cred that unmasks this tucked-away Korean-American gangsta fusion joint, where all the rules about late-night eats are rewritten with submissions such as smoked pork belly mandoo and tempura chicken with devilled eggs.

Best live entertainment

  • Joe Mamas Restaurant
    This Entertainment District beaut offers up the classic sounds of Motown, jazz, funk, and rhythm and blues as a soundtrack to its acclaimed southern-style dishes. The vibe is casual here, the bar is humming, the drinks are affordable and the walls are lined with photographic tributes to musicians, past and present. In a tourist-oriented stretch crowded with choices, Joe Mamas is a consistent fave thanks to the live music that shudders so enticingly from its stage.
  • Rodeo Brazilian Steakhouse Rodizio
    As much as this Riverdale people pleaser is celebrated for its all-you-can-eat skewers of juicy meats, attentive chefs and mammoth salad bar, the Rodeo Brazilian Steakhouse Rodizio is every bit as worthy of the praise heaped on it for its live music. An authentic South American three-piece band offers a lively score to the headdress-embellished Brazilian dancers who entertain while you dine. Together, food and music provide as unique a dining experience as can be uncovered in Toronto.
  • Harlem Restaurant
    Inspired by the Harlem renaissance of the 1920s, this unique culinary tribute to to Afro-American/Afro-Caribbean culture does double duty — food and music — and more, with regular live tunes, art exhibitions, film- and media-event hosting. In a contemporary ballroom-styled space that's reminiscent of another era, Harlem fairly jumps with soul, jazz, Motown, pop, blues, R&B and funk performances.

Best mediterranean

  • Pan on the Danforth
    With no shortage of options for Mediterranean-style nosh on this stretch, Pan stands out for its emphasis on freshness, generous portions and masses of flavourful appetizers. A romantic interior and tradition of attentive service makes the Pan a sweet spot to bring a date. A Greek belly-dancing accompaniment to the meal makes the experience more special still.
  • Me Va Me Kitchen Express
    A wide-ranging menu with options suited to every taste and mood make this Thornhill family restaurant a consistent pick for lovers of Mediterranean nosh. Portions are generous here, so sharing is recommended. Fans single out the mint-infused lemonade, silky housemade hummous and shawarma particularly. Me Va Me's express takeout counter is one of the few places in the city where you can get your chicken shawarma on a baguette.
  • Politica Resto Bar
    Politica showcases its special talent for turning traditional Mediterranean dishes into high art in a tasty sweep of offerings, including the much-celebrated spiced mussels, Nutella pizza and quarter rack Frenched lamb. Side players like martinis and crème brulée are enthusiastically consumed inside the warm atmosphere of this enchanting resto-bar that rises out of the leafy, low-rise King West district like a dream.

Best middle eastern

  • Tabülè Middle Eastern on Queen
    This pretty Leslieville/Riverdale newcomer takes the same care with transforming fresh ingredients into sense-exploding treats by exploiting traditional Middle Eastern flavours as its midtown originator. Falafels are savoury and crisp. Dips are tasty and original. Main courses are plentiful and fantastic value. The pretty décor offers a sweet backdrop to a yummy meal.
  • Byblos Restaurant
    A welcoming, airy interior and professional service are perfect complements to the dishes of Byblos, served family-style and created with care to expertly showcase the regionally specific spices of the Eastern Mediterranean seaboard. Much of the menu at this Entertainment District fave hones in on flavourful handmade dishes constructed from ingredients sourced from Morocco, Turkey and Israel.
  • Fat Pasha
    This thrumming restaurant - Anthony Rose's latest venture - offers a welcome alternative to the regular suspects on the Dupont strip. The vibe here is hip, and a quirky menu spills over with tasty, fragrant big-portion choices that are designed to share. Fans recommend making the trip to try the roasted cauliflower alone.

Best newly-opened

  • Nodo
    This elegant Italian sweetheart, buzzing with its French country décor and attentive wait staff, is the newest hot spot in the Junction hood. Launched by a trio of high school buds in a former antique shop, Nodo serves Italian food at its simplest. From the start, it's attracted lots of kudos for its sweet pizza and pasta options (including gluten-free versions), along with salads and terrif desserts. A pretty lower-floor room is available for private parties.
  • Patois Toronto
    Asian-Caribbean street/soul food takes centre stage at this quirky Trinity Bellwoods joint, but there's also roasted Portuguese chicken and completely restaged Waldorf salad. Special mention to the dirty fried rice and the Jamaican shandy closer. The 65-seat restaurant, decorated eclectically (including blow-up beach toys dangling from the ceiling) spent its former life as a flower store.
  • Rasa by the Food Dudes
    Food trucks go all brick and mortar with this, the latest earthbound brainchild of Food Dudes. The concrete, wood-beamed and metallic-detailed interior, which draws from industrialized garage chic, offers the perfect setting in which to enjoy a procession of internationally inspired snacks and mains, served tapas style. Fans let their effusive praise linger on the fish board and chopped veggie salad. They take their libations seriously here, so don't leave the place without sampling a chartreuse swizzler or a Jamaican observer.

Best patio

  • Proof The Vodka Bar & SkyLounge Patio
    The elegant oasis of outdoor calm that flanks Bloor St. introduces new appreciation for patio dining here. This pretty Yorkville bistro at the Intercontinental Toronto attracts elegant after-workers looking for seasonal bites on the edge of the toniest stretch of Bloor St., and the rambling, couch-populated patio for which it's much admired offers stylish seclusion. The patio's elements-avoiding umbrellas and heaters prolong the enchantment beyond the narrow summer corridor.
  • Carens Wine and Cheese Bar
    This quaint, French-rustic resto boasts a truly spectacular backyard patio that fills up rapidly with Yorkville trawlers who want to enjoy their red wine and grilled cheese sandwiches al fresco, under the glow of hanging Moroccan-style lanterns and the shelter of natural tree canopies. Bright pillows on wooden benches make the scene restful and inviting. A second patio, this in the front, elevates people- and car-watching to an art.
  • Against The Grain Urban Tavern - Harbourfront
    Happy customers enjoy stone-baked pizza and pulled pork braised in dark beer and molasses within glorious sight of the Toronto skyline and its pretty islands. That's thanks to this urban tavern's pair of beautiful summertime patios. Both patio levels are heated, to extend the season. Comfy seating, excellent piped-out tunes and an outdoor bar sweeten the pot at this unique resto in the lakefront Corus building.

Best pizza

  • North of Brooklyn Pizzeria - Queen St.
    This engaging establishment's residency in Trinity Bellwoods gives the neighbourhood fresh street cred as a TO pizza destination of choice. The cool and cozy digs, with hip hop pounding in its background, makes pie (with special mention to the white version) simply and with care. There aren't a lot of seats for hanging about, but the take-out option - offering both slices and full pies - is always in full flight. It's licensed, for those who do choose to linger and want a brew as a pizza chaser.
  • Via Mercanti
    This quaint pizzeria in the heart of Kensington channels old-world Italy like a superstar. There's lots here besides pizza, including lip-smacking calamari and lasagna, but it's the featured player that draws the crowds. Try the house-special Via Mercanti, a unique pie stuffed with prosciutto, ricotta and mushrooms, and then draped in tomato sauce and mozzarella. The atmosphere in this large, brightly lit space is super casual, and the staff is cheerfully flexible.
  • Bar Mercurio
    The imported-from-Italy pizza oven that is the centerpiece of this trendy Annex trattoria serves up a wide range of special pies, each tastier than the last. The pizza that emerges from the kiln is noteworthy for lots of reasons, not the least of which is its crispy-thin crust and bubbling toppings. Service is smart, and the range of other Italian dishes live commendably up to their pizza frontrunners.

Best cocktail

  • Linwood Essentials
    This moody West Queen West speakeasy is the perfect host for your launch-the-night or seal-the-deal drink-taking. The bar staff takes care with each creation, sparing no detail in the inventive preparation of such tantalizingly named cocktails as The Troublemaker and The Last Goodbye. The Linwood's ambiance and décor smartly marries modern with bucolic.
  • Rush Lane & Co.
    Mixology meets art form at this Alexandra Park cocktail bar-cum-booze lab, where the level of craftsmanship the bartenders visit upon each drink is a sincere treat. The cocktails that emerge from the long, busy bar are matched by atmosphere (garage-door front and in-house aquarium) and snack-style food (chicken fried turkey and candied mustard seed pretzels).
  • The Yukon
    Locals congregate at this cozy west-Parkdale coquette to drink Orange Fizz and Old Fashioneds with neighbours who've mutually declared it their "local." Cool cocktails, thanks to oversized shot glasses and a genuinely enthusiastic bar staff, are as boozy as they are novel. Happy imbibers soak up the liquids with comfort-encouraging staples like burgers, chili and deviled eggs.

Best ramen

  • Sansotei Ramen
    From perfectly cooked velvet noodles to a rich-as-Croesus broth to the tender surprise of egg, not a detail of a textbook ramen dish is overlooked at this Chinatown eatery. Half a dozen authentic ramens tempt from a bare-bones but perfectly selective menu. There's limited seating in this small shop, but the fact that aficionados are willing to suffer a lineup to get in is reason enough to join one.
  • Santouka Ramen
    This Japanese export still draws in crowds anxious for a taste of the velvety namesake upon which its original established its name. The Chinatown restaurant's design is a sleek tribute to its staple dish, a near-perfect ramen that attracts students and businessfolk alike. The Santouka's signature topper - a taste bud-tickling pickled plum - serves as crunchy-sour icing on the fragrant ramen cake.
  • Kinton Ramen
    This Japanese noodle soup house on the edge of Chinatown stands out among a sea of competitors for its authentic embrace of the ramen tradition. Silky noodles swim in a rich soup base that's been simmered for more than 20 hours here. The combination of thoughtfully concocted tastes is slurped up gratefully by the pack of sincere enthusiasts for this cuisine who so regularly pack this, the lively original of the Kinton Ramen dynasty.

Best Greek

  • Santorini Grill
    This 20-year-old Thornhill bar and grill offers an enthusiastic tribute to the best of Greek cuisine inside an elegant dining room. An abundance of meat, fish, chicken and pasta dishes crowd a menu that is uniformly excellent. Portions are hearty, service is assiduous and the atmosphere is real-deal Greek.
  • Colossus Greek Taverna (Oakville)
    Colossus Greek Taverna offers an authentic Greek dining experience featuring a vast array of decadent choices. To compliment your dining experience, choose an aperitif of their variety of ouzos, or imported beer. Treat your palate to a glass of wine from a selective award winning Greek wine list. Private events are available for luncheons, dinner or receptions. Visit Colossus for an outstanding culinary experience, enhanced by their attentive staff and the sounds of Bouzouki in the background. The executive chef and his professional team have masterfully prepared a menu featuring a wide variety of traditional Greek appetizers, pastas, fresh Fish, and speciality Lamb dishes, along with daily featured entrées and home-made sinful desserts.
  • Colossus Greek Taverna (Port Credit)
    This cozy Greek beauty serves up a taste of the old world at both of its west-of-Toronto locations (Oakville and Port Credit). One of those exceptional places that stalwarts feel tempted to keep to themselves lest the secret get out, Colossus is among the very best of its kind. Guests rave about much on the menu, with singled-out citations for the done-to-perfection Mousaka and the spicy grilled sausage with giant butter beans miracle that is Colossus's spetsofai. The restaurant does a stellar job with take-out, as well, and treats its more juvenile guests with special care.
  • Mezes Restaurant
    This lively Greektown treasure, unique for its two-level dining room and heated patio, is a bustling tribute to the best of the Greek. With an interior ambiance as warm and welcoming as a whitewashed cottage on the edge of the Aegean, Mezes is about more than just the yummy pageant of authentic vittles that marches above the hungry gaze of those seated in its midst. Service is top-notch and portions are big enough for sharing.

Best group functions

  • Sopra Upper Lounge
    This pretty midtown venue, where happy guests come to eat upmarket Italian fare and rave over the elegance of the space, features a private dining room that can accommodate up to 30 people for a seated dinner at a boardroom-style table. For standing cocktails, the number bumps to 50. In either case, diners can choose from a range of set menu options, or the creative chefs will happily customize a menu for their event.
  • Paralia
    With a contemporary interior that sweetly summons up the Hellenic seaside, this Beaches resto saves its guests overseas airfare. Large parties gather in the whitewashed embrace of the Cove, a high-ceilinged, open-concept room dedicated to private events of up to 150, to eat fish and seafood flown in from the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas and drink heartily from a well-stocked cellar of Greek wines. The Lounge, meanwhile, is an exclusive area on the restaurant's second floor with seating for up to 80, a dedicated bar and a pleasant private rooftop patio.
  • Brassaii
    Hosts on a mission to impress could do worse than the newly renovated space of this always-elegant Entertainment District standard. Large enough to host multiple events simultaneously, Brassaii has five distinct spaces for group functions - the Rack, Dining Room, Bar and Lounge, Study and Library - each with its own personality and specifications. The experience and food are consistently excellent wherever they unfold here.

Best Indian

  • Babur Restaurant
    Fragrant North Indian delicacies are the order of the day at this special spot, including standouts calamari, tandoori prawns, butter chicken and garlic naan. A cozy spot with exposed brick walls and chalkboard specials, Babur attracts hipsters and traditionalists alike, the lot appreciative of the surprising and subtle flavours that explode from the kitchen. Service shines here.
  • Banjara Indian Cuisine - Bloor St.
    Nearly 70 options crowd the menu of this Christie Pits fan favourite, including tandoori sizzles and a sweep of fragrant chicken and veggie curries. An all-you-can-eat lunch option relieves diners of the tyranny of choice. Efficiently managed takeout and delivery availability expand Banjara's horizons meaningfully.
  • Lahore Tikka House Restaurant
    This Leslieville original ranks among the city's finest Pakistani cuisine offerings. The atmosphere is extremely casual, complete with Styrofoam dinnerware, plastic cutlery and picnic table setting. But the rich flavours that bust out of the cuisine are as rich and elegant as you can get. Online reviewers can't find enough effusive language to describe the experience that greets them at this welcoming place.

Best Japanese

  • JaBistro
    The best of this cuisine's artful presentation is on rich display at this handsome downtown restaurant, where diners are elevated thanks to the elegant lighting, leather tables and exposed-brick loveliness of their meal's interior backdrop. The menu sings with stunning options, as tasty to consume as they are dainty to look at. The blowtorched sushi is a particular attraction.
  • Yunaghi
    This Little Italy newcomer invited attention from the moment it threw open its corner glass door in the summer. Art gallery-like in its presentation, the food here marries French techniques with modern Japanese ingredients to produce truly stunning creations, almost too lovely to eat. But it would be a sincere shame not to, given the delicate sushi wonders that spill forth from the elevated kitchen space where chefs double as artists.
  • NAMI Japanese Restaurant
    This longstanding Japanese resto, where servers wear kimonos and some dedicated customers have been visiting for all of three decades, is a marvel of consistency and tradition. Everything here is authentic and fresh, with special mention for the sushi spring roll and sushi pizza. As for the clientele NAMI attracts, suit-jacketed businessfolk come in from the Financial District environs to break bread with hopeful young couples. NAMI enthralls them all.

Best vegetarian

  • Grasslands Tapas Bar & Restaurant
    It's all vegan all the time at this stylish Queen West tapas and small-plate restaurant. The dishes are creatively constructed, with as much thought going into their textures as their flavours. Think "monster burger" made of beefy black bean patty and guacamole grilled "cheese." The warmly lit wooden furniture and taupe, burnt orange and red interior lend the place a welcoming feel. But it's the mouth-watering dishes, all of them animal byproduct-free, that are the real draw.
  • The Hogtown Vegan
    Southern-style vegan comfort food is served up in welcome abundance at this kitschy Dovercourt diner, where herbivores teach carnivores to look beyond the flesh. The "unchicken" seitan and BBQ pulled "pork" sandwich stick to your ribs like the real stuff. Staff is friendly, service is prompt and quirky drinks like Spirit Tree Cider and Flying Monkey lagers wash it all down with style.
  • Urban Herbivore
    This popular vegan whole foods restaurant in Kensington Market has a zingy, good-for-you vibe to it that makes the prepared-on-the-spot delights taste that much better. Guests knock back freshly pressed fruit and veggie drinks with their custom-made greens and garden bowls, teriyaki tempehs and coconut curries. Everybody leaves the experience feeling a bit better about the world.

Best Italian

  • Capocaccia Trattoria
    Traditional Italian eats - like creamy mushroom ravioli and tangy yellowfin carpaccio - are gratefully consumed at the high communal table under the towering ceilings of this handsome midtown trattoria, which regulars have long claimed serves the finest Italian fare in the city. Unusual mains include a sweet potato gnocchi and a brown butter sage agnolotti. Lots of wines by the glass, including rosé and prosecco, flow freely.
  • Sfizio Pizzeria & Wine Bar
    Old-style Italian fare rules at this cute Cabbagetown resto. There's no shortage of authentic antipastis, pastas and other Italian tastes on offer, but it's the Neapolitan pie, steaming in its fragrant exodus from the imported-from-Naples wood-fired stone oven, that is Sfizio's crowning glory. There's a decent wine selection and the light-as-air tiramasu endpoint is as sweet a closer as you could dream up.
  • La Vecchia Ristorante
    A trio of Italian brothers operate this midtown delight, so sweet and romantic you'd almost expect to see Lady and the Tramp kanoodling over a meatball. An old-world menu hones in on fresh, quality ingredients. Regular specials keep diners guessing. The candle-flickered interior is set off pleasingly by stylish black-and-white photos lining the walls.

Best wings

  • AllStar Wings & Ribs - Kitchener
  • AllStar Wings & Ribs - Markham
  • AllStar Wings & Ribs - Mississauga
  • AllStar Wings & Ribs - Newmarket
  • AllStar Wings & Ribs - Richmond Hill
  • AllStar Wings & Ribs - Scarborough
  • AllStar Wings & Ribs - Vaughan
    The sports bar staple that is a towering heap of sticky wings is transported to art-form heights at the seven outlets of this GTA mainstay, long included on Toronto's best-wings lists. More than 200 flavours - including colourfully handled options like Hot Senorita and Caesar Does Jamaica - threaten to overload the decision-making faculties, but no choice disappoints. A profusion of televisions in these sports-minded meeting places keeps customers' eyes on the ball.
  • Real Sports Bar & Grill
    It's a numbers game at this massive, downtown packed-with-sports-fans restaurant - almost an arena unto itself - that counts 199 HD TVs in its midst, with an amazing 39-foot showpiece as the capper. All told, the chefs here have concocted 14 flavour profiles for their headlining wings, including Real Sports' signature thai sweet chili award winner. For members of your party who aren't so fly with the wings, there's a whack of other choices on the menu, including 11 gourmet burgers, and 40 beers flowing from 126 draft taps.
  • Bistro On Avenue
    This laid-back North York watering hole is the kind of never-disappoints place folks keep on their stand-by lists. Much celebrated for comfort food like burgers and ribs, the Bistro's wings are the real draw, with one scanning glance of the sauce-smeared cheeks of its patrons putting any doubt to rest. Dressed up like a mini hockey hall of fame, this cozy neighbourhood bistro holds tight to its original charm.

Best Mexican

  • El Rincon Mexicano Restaurant
    It's all about the Mexican in Toronto these days, and the closer to authentic you can lay your claim, the better. From its terracotta-tiled floors to its sun-splashed walls to its sizzling chorizo fajita hot pan, El Rincon nails it. The physical space of this Wychwood charmer is tiny, but that's more than made up for in explosive tastes. The patio out back is a big draw in the summer, as is the live Latin jazz on Thursday nights.
  • El Catrin Destileria
    This Distillery District one-off keeps one of Mexico City's top chefs in its kitchen, the secret ingredient behind the traditional tapas-style dishes that burst from it with such tasty reliability. A massive Mexican mural that took its artists 100 days to complete is the fiery focal point for swooning diners. That the place plays host to Canada's largest mescal and tequila bar - over 120 labels strong - only adds to El Catrin's appeal.
  • Playa Cabana Cantina
    The long and narrow format of this colourful Junction restaurant, resplendent in vintage neon signs and reclaimed wood, set the unique scene for margaritas that kick you in the seat and authentic Mexican eats that are as fresh as they are zingy. Special mentions flow for the guac, ceviche and tangy fish tacos.

Best chef's table

  • TOCA
    The Ritz-Carlton extends its elegance seamlessly to this Entertainment District beauty, whose most shimmering masterpiece is a massive chef’s table in one of the busy kitchen’s well-lit nooks. Almost 1,400 pounds of black granite, the table plays handsome host to four-to-six-course tasting menus for up to eight people (with a minimum of $1,800 food-and-drink bill). With a frontline view of the kitchen’s bustle, this select audience dines on Mediterranean and Canadian small plates of such delicacies as braised beef cheek and roasted Cornish hens.
  • Momofuku Shōtō
    A chef’s-table sitting at this jewel in the Momofuku crown is a truly exceptional experience. Up to 22 lucky guests gather around a bar banquette in the downtown restaurant’s kitchen to witness culinary miracles taking shape. When the chefs serve up a dish, it’s done in the company of an explanation of its ingredients and the elaborate considerations that went into their combination. The intimate exposure to such behind-the-scenes magic is truly special.
  • Harbour Sixty Steakhouse
    This stylish steakhouse in the historic Harbour Commission Building at the bottom of the city, just this side of a parking lot crowded with Jags and Escalades, offers guests a sweep of memorable experiences. Prominent among them is the inner-enclave opportunity to sit at the chef's table. There, diners get to watch world-class steaks and seafood cooked to request and meticulously plated.

Best Chinese

  • P.F. Chang's
    This American family-friendly chain has hit the Great White North and brought its reputation for consistently high-quality food with it (which explains its prominence on so many folks' best-Chinese lists). P.F. Chang's North York iteration is equal parts dramatic and warm, with cheerful seating, dangling lanterns and a modern loungey feel. On-line reviewers enthusiastically single out the pan-fried pork dumpling and the Great Wall of Chocolate cake dessert.
  • Lai Wah Heen
    This upscale downtown treat on the second floor of the downtown Metropolitan Hotel is best known for its dim sum - innovatively conceived, and artfully presented - but its Cantonese fare is every bit as praiseworthy. The roast duck, presented authentically with the filets cut table-side after the roasting, is crispy, rich and piquant. The restaurant's atmosphere is quiet and elegant, and the service is personal and attentive.
  • Pearl King
    This Entertainment District resto is, indeed, a pearl of a discovery for Toronto's legion of Chinese food lovers. An impressive selection of dim sum and tapas-style dishes, along with tasty sauces for dipping, keeps diners happily engaged. Highlights of the select menu include the shrimp-stuffed mushroom, fried chicken balls and sticky rice.

Best family

  • McSorley's Wonderful Saloon and Grill
    As much as this Leaside haunt - part sports bar, part neighbourhood pub - is a fantastic site for your Leafs and wings nights out, it's every bit the same gracious host for your family outings with ankle biters in tow. The chicken fingers and burgers are easy, appetizing bets. And the barrel of free peanuts at the front with self-serve plastic bowls will keep your junior mealmates blissfully occupied while you await the food's delivery.
  • Lil' Baci - Yonge St
    This bustling Leslieville eatery is the bomb for families with a taste for homestyle cooking. Its informal atmosphere is welcoming of all patrons, and the kitchen fills their bellies with tasty Italian essentials like spaghetti and pizza. Kids get cool Italian fizzy drinks, like Brio and Orangina, while a decent selection of wines and on-tap Ontario microbreweries keep mom and dad equally spirited.
  • The Hot House Restaurant & Bar - Est. 1994
    A massive venue in the St. Lawrence hood, the Hot House has long been a favourite for families hungry for value and reliable comfort staples. Portions are big and hearty, prices are reasonable and the setting's indestructible enough to let young diners loose in it. The Sunday brunch buffet's particularly good fun for pint-sized plate fillers.

Best fine dining

  • Scaramouche Restaurant
    This much-loved midtown fine-dining destination is an enduring Toronto institution, and for good reason. An enthusiastic fan base returns often to celebrate their special occasions against a spectacular sea-level city view and in glorious witness to the kitchen's unwavering attention to detail. The duck, foie gras, lamb and coconut cream pie are standouts on a menu that suffers precious few weaknesses.
  • Mistura Restaurant
    A truly excellent restaurant in midtown Toronto, Mistura attracts for its name association, thanks to chef Massimo Capra's TV exposure, but sustains for its uniformly stratospheric food quality. Online reviewers gush over the beef carpaccio with truffle lemon dressing and slow-roasted Ontario leg of lamb, but singling out a highlight is a challenge in such a profusion of winners. The atmosphere is white-linen elegance incarnate.
  • Splendido Restaurant
    This modern European marvel is the kind of place you go to truly savour the pleasure of a top-notch dining experience. Reviewers recommend the multicourse tasting menus, to ensure the best exposure to Splendido's multiple culinary gifts. From amuse bouches to a selection of breads through foie gras and truffle dishes designed to make contact with the most delicate parts of your taste buds to a lemon meringue finisher, nothing about Splendido isn't splendid.

Best first date

  • Mata Petisco Bar
    All manner of new partnerships get launched at this Brazilian-flavoured boutique restaurant in Parkdale over kiwi and mango caipirinhas (Brazil's national cocktail) and tuna and watermelon tartar. At the end of the candlelit meal, guests get their wrists wrapped in Brazilian wish bracelets, which promise their granting when the ribbons fall off. Ideally, the googly eyed dinner partners will have made their wishes for each other.
  • Gusto 101 Restaurant
    First dates are the stock in trade at this casual upscale King West resto, a former automotive shop where rustic Italian yummies have fortified the launch of many sweet couplings. A wine list crowded with Italian choice, along with a house pick sold at $1 an ounce, lubricate the affair. A rooftop patio in the summer makes the date more memorable still.
  • Insomnia Restaurant Bar Lounge
    This neighbourhood Annex haunt is so cozy and familiar to the folks who patronize it, that a first date in its midst is a cinch. Tentative tablemates unload their baggage over pulled pork tacos and curried crab cakes. A drinks list spilling over with martinis and cocktails adds to the fun. Weekend brunch is a standout, so if the new coupling pans out you can make it a standing weekly date.

Best French

  • Le Papillon on Front
    That many of this popular restaurant's most ardent fans weren't alive when it first opened its doors is immaterial. Its latest iteration on Front Street, all high-ceilinged, candle-flickered and exposed-bricked, is pretty as a picture. As for the food, French standards like crêpes, duck confit and onion soup are consistently handled with finesse. Service is equally exceptional.
  • Cluny Bistro and Boulangerie
    This massive French bistro in the Distillery District presents its patrons with the serious challenge of having to pick from a menu teeming with mouthwatering choice, though much consideration should certainly be given to the ginger-chili fried frogs' legs. Pastries, courtesy of the on-site boulangerie and hard to resist in their prominent display case, are also worth a look. Inside, Renaissance-style details brush up against modern touches. The result is a rich, happy atmosphere that encourages lingering.
  • La Palette - Queen West
    A small intimate atmosphere that eschews pretension and serves up Parisian-style bistro favourites recommends this Alexandra Park boutique beauty. A prix fixe menu dishes up tastes of the best at a reasonable rate. Reliable standbys like foie gras, steak frites and escargots are done great justice here. La Palette's wait staff tend to their customers with warmth.

Best private dining

  • Enoteca Sociale
    Happy guests peruse a breathless wine list and marvel at ES's fresh approach to traditional pasta in the charming private dining room-cum-wine cellar in this Little Italy wine bar. Ideal for groups of between eight and 14, the private space is the ideal setting for an Italian family-style dinner of menu items that include such popular specialties as salumi, formaggi and antipasti.
  • Terra Restaurant & Catering
    The singular experience that awaits at this Thornhill gem more than warrants the trip north. From six to 200 guests are comfortably accommodated in one of the vast space's handsome private dining rooms, where they can feast on grilled-to-perfection gnocchi and bison tenderloin in luxurious seclusion. Delicate lighting, white linen and spot-on service complete the picture for your special event.
  • The David Duncan House
    An historic North York edifice restored to art-deco standards, the David Duncan House extends its guests a high-end dining experience unlike any other. Special occasions unfold inside the four private rooms that comfortably billet up to 100 people under canopy of twinkling crystal chandeliers and alongside art nouveau sconces and found objets that enrich the dining experience unaccountably. Tuxedo-clad wait staff ferry veal chops and Alaskan king crab legs like elegant shadows.

Best Bar-B-Que

  • Rose and Sons Restaurant
    A secret behind big sister Rose and Sons no longer, this Annex-based backyard campout revel has more than earned its own charcoal stripes with flavour-packed, creatively prepared barbecue mains like flank steak smothered in mushrooms and rabbit with an inspired honey butter hot sauce. The ostentation-free ambiance and picnic-table setting creates a convivial scene, made more so with a pitcher of Purple Jesus or Algonquin iced tea.
  • The Cure
    Locally sourced ingredients provide the tasty building blocks for this Brockton Village market restaurant's meat-centric menu. Delighted devotees enthuse about the smoked pulled pork sandwich, a cider-braised tumble of the stuff packed into a foccacio bun along with slaw and garlic mayo. The Cure's specialty is a whole hog charcuterie of cured and smoked meats. Other treats, for the less overtly carnivorous in your group, include a cheddar and ale fondue and a grilled cheese spiked with bacon jam.

Best seafood

  • Joso's Restaurant
    Seafood lovers, including Drake in a famously name-dropping song, repeatedly rejoice over this sensual midtown tribute to the cuisine. A special occasion destination to be sure, Joso's is a Toronto landmark that delights with its high-end attention to fresh-from-the-nets quality. Wait staff elaborately explain the taste and provenance of each fish set down at your table.
  • Pure Spirits Oyster House & Grill
    This casual seafood house in the heart of the Distillery District, offers an ocean of unique features, including a raw bar and the service of fresh fish and oysters flown in daily from around the continent and globe. Well-informed servers recommend wine to accompany the fish. In the warmer months, an outdoor patio adds fresh-air ambiance to the experience.
  • Rodney's Oyster House
    Torontonians have long loved Rodney's, an Entertainment District signpost where the quality of the main player is matched only by the on-the-ball staffers' ability to wax intelligently about it. Along with the oysters, which are available in between nine and 26 varieties daily, Rodney's does a great job with other edibles from the sea, including king crab, mussels, scallops and sizzling garlic shrimp.

Best Spanish

  • Cava Restaurant
    The Iberian peninsula makes the trip to midtown Toronto at Cava, where small dishes of big flavours are trotted out from the kitchen in welcome bursts of flavour. Sharing plates are encouraged here, and guests huddle over eggplant with queso fresco and gamay-poached foie gras over which online reviewers gush in exuberant measure. Cava's wine list is long, with the wines of the old country well represented.
  • LaVinia Restaurant
    A tapas-heavy dinner menu of upscale Spanish cuisine with an emphasis on fresh and savoury serves up tasty authentica - patatas à la brava and jamón Ibérico are standouts - designed to make a Spaniard yearn for home. The paella is regularly vaulted into the best-in-the-city echelons. The cozy, homespun ambiance and heap of personal attention from the chef and his servers quickly transform newcomers into regulars.
  • Patria Restaurant
    This stylish hideaway of a Spanish eatery on King West's restaurant row is a loving tribute to old-world Spain, with an emphasis on premium ingredients imported directly therefrom. Guests sing loud praises of the salty elegance of pimientos de Padrón and the spot-on bacon and date marriage achieved in dátiles con tocino Ibérico. Patria's candlelit interior, set off with vintage artwork and dark wood, is stylish and airy.

Best tapas

  • Torito Restaurant
    This snug Kensington Market tapas house pulls off the small-plate trick like a champ, serving up a whack of modest, well-priced, creatively prepared dishes that fairly sing with flavour. Unique offerings like Andalusian chick pea and spinach stew and avocado fries with roasted tomato salsa add a tasty dimension to the experience. Sparkling Spanish wine and pitchers of sangria cap the meal off with style.
  • Tapas at Embrujo
    This clean, well-lit spot captures the romance of a tapas restaurant with excellent food to boot. Solid bets include black Angus sirloin strips served with a trio of in-house-prepared sauces, bacon-wrapped dates and lamb chops with figs. Flamenco dancers on the weekend and a super-cute front patio enhance the takeaway of the place. Viva España.
  • Barsa Taberna
    Barcelona comes to vibrant life in this trendy St. Lawrence tapas bar, where the sangria is infused with mangoes and berries and the floors are a mosaic wonder. The rooms inside the restored heritage building, part of which is underground, are full of character. But it's the food that's the crowd puller here. Traditional Spanish tapas plates like pan con tomate share the menu with such multicultural influenced dishes as grilled octopus with channa masala and pok pok prawns dressed in a tangy pineapple glaze.

Best steak

  • Barberian's Steak House
    A classic steakhouse paneled with memories of yesteryear, Barberian's is an old-world treat for carnivores with a taste for nostalgia. The traditional interior is decked out in historical Canadiana, and the steak melts on the tongue like cotton candy. There's no cocktail menu at this downtown haunt; one need only pull a Sinatra and order his heart's desire to have it land in front of him.
  • Jacobs & Co. Steakhouse
    Guests at this truly fantastic steakhouse devour done-to-order in-house dry-aged steaks and tableside-prepared Caesar salads like they were to the manor born. Jacob's ambiance is modern and professional, its sides generous - duck fat fries are a standout - and its service impeccable. A piano bar fills in the romantic gaps.
  • Harbour Sixty Steakhouse
    On-line reviewers gush about utter perfection that marks the meals consumed at this handsome old steakhouse at the bottom of the city, where classic charm meets modern sophistication with the poise of an old hand. From valet-parked, wine-uncorked start through to crème brulée close, Harbour Sixty's guests are extremely well looked after. In between, meat eaters are invited to lovingly pick their poison like it's a puppy from a litter. The wine and Scotch lists, along with their guided tour from an attendant pro, are peerless.

Best sushi

  • Asuka Japanese Restaurant
    Sushi lovers, including the crowds of execs who bustle in during lunch hour, find happy communion in their enthusiastic regard for this Yorkville-area sub-sidewalk Japanese-style ornament thanks to its authentic approach to its headlining cuisine. Sushi is fresh and decently portioned. The interior, complete with paper walls and baseball memorabilia, is well overseen by attentive and kimono-clad waitstaff.
  • Yasu
    This stark, handsome house of sushi fandom returns to the roots of the passion for the stuff from which so many Torontonians suffer. That means simple, fresh takes on the cuisine, with seasonal ingredients that make their swift way from the shores of Japan. The menu is an Omakase - 18 pieces of edomae sushi plus dessert - which relieves overwhelmed guests from the Sophie's Choice of ordering dinner here.
  • Aji Sai Japanese Restaurant
    A casual Greektown tribute to this much-adored cuisine, Aji Sai is known for offering excellent value on the freshest versions of the most popular sushi options. Other Asian dishes, including teriyaki, tempura and Japanese noodles, are also available. Service is friendly and the atmosphere is unintimidatingly pleasing.

Best Thai

  • Pai Northern Thai Kitchen
    This North Thai kitchen, which fans caution "fills up fast and early," is a welcome revelation for Toronto's Thai food fans, of which there are a multitude. Small tables, cozy seating, a hipster vibe and a passel of interesting and exceedingly tasty Thai fare recommend this Entertainment District favourite. Special mention is regularly extended to the green curry and the variety of dishes served with eggs, along with the Thai iced tea. A takeout counter at the restaurant's rear offers quick and tasty provision for folks who can't linger.
  • Sukho Thai Restaurant
    The husband-and-wife team of Nuit and Jeff Regular strike again with this, the Financial District version of their many successful Thai restaurant ventures in the city, and the third Sukho Thai location. Shrimp chips with tangy tamarind dip, veggie spring rolls with flawless glass noodles and garlic chicken nuggets served up alongside homemade sweet and sour sauce get singled out for particular yumminess.
  • Mengrai Gourmet Thai Restaurant
    Northern Thailand descends radiantly in Corktown by way of this cute Thai resto where the red chicken curry with lychee stands by to unleash unexpected sensorial delights. Top it off with a lychee martini and pineapple cheesecake and call it a success. Wait staff hover in close proximity without being cloying.

Best all-you-can-eat

  • Mandarin Restaurant
    The granddaddy of all-you-can-eat powerhouses holds onto its title grandly with this Brampton outpost, where Chinese food enthusiasts congregate in avid communion. The atmosphere at this location is particularly lovely, set off with a giant aquarium, bird cage and towering waterfalls. Servers are plentiful and never in a hurry. The hard ice cream and soft-serve yogurt stations are nice finishing touches.
  • Korean Grill House
    Lots of energy accompanies the diners at this Queen West resto who introduce their raw meat (choices include pork, beef, chicken, pork ribs, ox tongue, ox liver, salmon, squid and fish filets) to fire and then gobble up the results. Kudos to the short beef ribs and on-tap Saporro. The prices are right here, which explains the preponderance of students crowded around the grill-equipped tables.
  • Tandoori Flame The Grand Indian Buffet
    This massive Brampton space (it encompasses more than 14,000 square feet and can accommodate 500) is home to more than 150 buffet goodies with which to load your never-big-enough plate, a tandoori kebab station and an Indian-inspired cocktail bar. The combination is approaches spirituality. Lots of veggie options and a salad bar stand by for the vegetarians in your crowd.
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