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Best Toronto Restaurants

AOL PICK from our Editors
You can taste each wave of immigration that flavors Toronto’s menus. If you have a particular type of cuisine in mind, head to the appropriate neighborhood and feast on Portuguese, Indian, Greek, Tibetan, Italian, Chinese, Latin American, Filipino or Korean fare. The neighborhoods win our vote as the best places to eat in Toronto. Even in the most distinctly unassuming neighborhoods, you can sidle off the main streets and stumble upon a romantic Cuban patio, an unexpected pho den, or a quirky waffle house. Toronto’s constantly evolving restaurant scene is deliciously full of surprises. Downtown, King and Queen are crammed with enticing eateries. For tasty mixed clusters of top Toronto restaurants, try Baldwin Village, the Annex, and Harbord Street west of Spadina Avenue.
Nota Bene Ed Wong

Nota Bene

Neighborhood: Downtown Price: Expensive
An assured set sashays into the wide, gracious Nota Bene from offices and HQs in the area to savor their famed Nova Scotia lobster salad and Yucatán hot and sour soup—a popular spot that’s won a slew of awards for being one of the best Toronto restaurants. For those just starting out, Nota Bene’s punchy, jalapeño-infused take on Bloody Mary, the Caesar, kick-starts the day. By night, the 7,500-square foot space transforms. The suits have thinned out, the Brazilian cherrywood floors gleam and banks of chartreuse leather banquettes fill with a chic crowd, mingling at the 35-seater bar, dallying over Asian- and Latin-hued creations such as Mushroom Bolognese or Pink Rhubarb and Crème Fraiche, getting ready for an evening at the opera—that’s if they can bear to leave the delicious drama of Nota Bene behind.

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Nota Bene  
FRANK Ed Wong

FRANK

Neighborhood: Downtown Price: Expensive
An eatery as eye-catching as Frank Gehry’s soaring Baroque staircase in the gallery beyond, the Art Gallery of Ontario's striking dining destination—with its central Frank Stella steel sculpture and translucent multi-hued tables—rustles up an artful array of American classics. We’ve spent as long admiring how the grilled skirt steak from nearby Cumbrae Farms basks alongside sweet potatoes, baby spinach and fire roasted chilli chimichurri sauce, as we have admiring the artworks in the galleries above.

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FRANK  
Fuzion Ed Wong

Fuzion

Neighborhood: Downtown Price: Expensive
Housed in an elegant Victorian mansion, just a sliver of a block north of the rainbow-strewn heart of the gay village, Fuzion is one of the nicest venues in the city. With its charming garden dining extending around the corner onto Dundonald Street and a seductive dark inside dining room, the setting is ideal for a date or a romantic dinner. Staff is personable and on-the-ball, and dishes like lavender and honey-glazed Cornish game hen and flourless bitter sweet chocolate brownie with spiced blackberry mole are good enough to distract you from your date. There’s not a bad seat in the house, but the courtyard has the most atmosphere.

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Fuzion  
Foxley Ed Wong

Foxley

Neighborhood: West End Price: Moderate
Perfectly poised plates of shitake inari, Arctic char ceviche and other Latin-Asian fusion fare are trotted to the tables in this sleek, brick-walled room on the Ossington strip. 2010 saw a small, neat patio extend the venue and relieve some of the weekend line at this no-reservations hotspot. On a sunny evening, our favorite place to be is outside with a trim glass of Prosecco or two and an array of acclaimed Chef Tom Thai’s exquisite share plates spread before us.
Queen Mother Cafe Ed Wong

Queen Mother Cafe

Neighborhood: Downtown Price: Moderate
The venerable Queen Mother has been holding court in her 150-year-old quarters on Queen Street, just west of University Avenue, since 1978. Although the walls are decorated with royal paraphernalia, the menu looks firmly in the direction of Laos and Thailand, and it’s the Wasabi Guacamole and the lemongrass-drenched Ping Gai chicken that have us coming back over and over and not the British fare that the restaurant’s name might suggest. Locals know to ask for a table on the patio. What patio, you might ask, on looking round the room full of wooden booths and chattering diners. Make your way down a flight of stairs, along a long passageway, and up another flight and you’ll find yourself in a bright, sunny patio, crammed with tables and contented diners feasting on Nam Jeun Laotian spring rolls, Miso Soba salmon and quinoa salad.

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Boulevard Café Ed Wong

Boulevard Café

Neighborhood: West End Price: Moderate
It might not look anything like the Andes, but this two-story corner café rustles up the finest Peruvian food this side of Lima. Nestled among Harbord Street’s delicious cluster of dining addresses, the Boulevard is warm, inviting, and romantic—although tables are crushed a bit close for overly intimate conversations. Tangy salads precede garlic and chili-laced sea bass brochettes and parihuela spicy monkfish and mussel stew. Coconut alfajor shortbread and liquor-enhanced coffees complete the experience. If it’s open, book a table on the charming shaded patio. If it’s chilly, ask for a table near the fireplace upstairs. Legendarily slow and rather ditzy service doesn’t detract from the dining experience.

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Utopia Café and Grill Ed Wong

Utopia Café and Grill

Neighborhood: West End Price: Budget
In the hectic heart of Toronto’s ebullient Little Italy, Utopia deviates from the otherwise obligatory red, white and green rule. An easy menu of sandwiches and salads and a popular patio lures in a laid-back crowd of locals and suburbanites to soak up the neighborhood ambience. The best options are the burritos and quesadillas—both served with sesame slaw and Costa Rican rice and black beans. You’ll see tattooed local longboarders tuck into white bean and tofu quesadillas and nervous young first-daters wrestle with generous steak and cheddar burritos and chicken clubs. The food is filling and pleasantly flavorful, wines are appealingly priced and service is swift on its toes.

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Utopia Café and Grill »
Pho Hung Vietnamese Restaurant Ed Wong

Pho Hung Vietnamese Restaurant

Neighborhood: West End Price: Budget
Fast, cheap, and well, perhaps not cheerful, but inoffensive service reigns at this Chinatown outpost of the Toronto chain. Disinterested Vietnamese teens hustle about the two canteen-esque rooms, sullenly dolloping green tea on tables. Perplexingly detailed specials are scrawled on posters on the walls, and the menu is an epic. But with dishes such as the cauldrons of pho and pork and egg quiche-laden bun vermicelli bowls coming in under the $10 mark, we don’t care about the service. We just keep coming back.

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El Trompo Taco Bar and Cactus Grill Ed Wong

El Trompo Taco Bar and Cactus Grill

Neighborhood: West End Price: Budget
A wonderful, wee hole in the wall on the north end of Augusta Avenue, El Trompo is a Market institution. Their propaganda promises “friendly Mexicans, delicious taquitos and a great time…” and delivers on all three. Famed for its Mexico City-style Tacos Al Pastor, the plate comes with five tacos, crammed with marinated pork, pineapple and cilantro. The tangy tinga chicken tacos and hongo (mushroom) tacos are equally impressive. Don’t bother ordering the super sweet margaritas—save your money and hit one of the Market bars afterward.

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El Trompo Taco Bar and Cactus Grill  
Nataraj Indian Cuisine Ed Wong

Nataraj Indian Cuisine

Neighborhood: West End Price: Budget
A tumult of U of T students crowd into this dowdy Indian den west of Spadina. The décor is traditional Indian restaurant and nothing special, but the decadent creamy saag paneer, rich goat curry and tandoori chicken are menu standouts. If you want to stock up for the day, hit the $9.95 weekday lunch buffet between noon and 2:30PM. If you’re planning on dining, arrive early before the ravenous students pile in for pakoras and more.
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