Toronto restaurants have always produced great chefs. Traditionally, they’ve learned their trade at the city’s top kitchens—places like Scaramouche, Splendido and Canoe—and then left the city to work in Europe or the U.S. Over the past five years, though, something incredible has happened: they have stayed or come back, opening casual-chic restaurants in their own backyards. This past year has continued the tred, making our round-up the best Toronto restaurants to open in the past 12 months all the better.
Best Toronto restaurant for families: Hopgood’s Foodliner
This Canadian cuisine hot spot is not unlike Roncesvalles, the charming west-end strip that hosts it: friendly, family-oriented and fun. The specialty is seafood, though there are dishes for all tastes and all ages, such as albacore crudo and lamb tartar for adults, and for kids, palm-sized donair sandwiches and house-made chocolate bars.
Hopgood’s Foodliner, 325 Roncesvalles Ave., 416-533-2723
Best Toronto restaurant for pleasant surprises: The Grove
Britain has long been mocked for its cuisine, but you won’t find Spam or fish ‘n’ chips at this Dundas West restaurant. Instead, expect subtle and refined flavours in everything from the celery root-snail soup to the steak served with deep-fried oysters.
The Grove, 1214 Dundas St. W., 416-588-2999
Best Toronto restaurant for seafood: Hoof Raw Bar
The ramshackle decor here is all part of the show. The shells and nets make diners feel like they’re eating on the shore in the Maritimes, as do the fresh and simple seafood dishes. The menu changes regularly, but no matter what’s on it, fans of scallops, shrimp, oysters and fish will not be disappointed.
Hoof Raw Bar, 926 Dundas St. W., 647-346-9356
Best Toronto restaurant for set menus: Yours Truly
The concept is simple: pick either the meat or vegetarian table d’hôte, and let the chef guide you through dish after refined dish of mouth-watering delights. And don’t worry about trusting the chef—it’s Jeff Claudio, who has worked at some of the world’s best restaurants (Per Se, Noma, Blackbird and Alinea).
Yours Truly, 229 Ossington Ave., 416-533-2243
Best Toronto restaurant for Italian food: F’Amelia
Italian food is back in vogue in Toronto, and this cozy joint is the best of the new trattoria crop. That’s probably because the chefs keep it simple (no dish has more than five ingredients) and authentic, from the charcuterie plate to the pastas to the pizzas.
F’Amelia, 12 Amelia St., 416-323-0666.
Best Toronto restaurant for business meals: Modus Ristorante
The Financial District is the heart of Canada’s banking sector, and its newest power restaurant lives up to the ambitions of its clientele. The food—house-made pasta, plump scallops, and some amazing desserts—may be pricy, but it’s been a hit since it opened in late 2011.
Modus Ristorante, 145 King St. W., 416-861-9977
Best Toronto restaurant for innovation: Origin Liberty
Chef Claudio Aprile is famous in Toronto for being exacting and innovative, and both qualities are in ample supply at his Liberty Village restaurant. His famous burger (declared one of the best in town by Toronto Life magazine) is available, as are wildly inventive dishes like truffled popcorn, chorizo fries and beef-peanut salad. Almost all the dishes are designed for sharing.
Origin, 171 East Liberty St., 416-649-4567
Best Toronto restaurant casual dining: Actinolite
In a quiet, out-of-the-way part of town, this contemporary bistro is packed with charming antiques and intoxicating smells. The menu is all comfort food with a twist, like deconstructed fish stew and pots of chocolate cream served with prunes. It’s perfect for a relaxing meal after a long day of travel or sightseeing.
Actinolite, 971 Ossington Ave., 416-962-8943
Best Toronto restaurant for pizza: Pizzeria Libretto Danforth
For years, it’s been almost impossible to get a table at legendary west-end pizza joint Pizzeria Libretto. With this new east-end location, however, more people than ever can find their way to the delicious thin-crust pizza, cooked in the authentic Neapolitan style (that is, in a huge wood-burning oven). We recommend the duck and pear version, or the one with huge chunks of Nduja sausage.
Pizzeria Libretto Danforth, 550 Danforth Ave., 416-466-0400
Best Toronto restaurant outdoor dining: Edulis
The top-notch bistro cooking here is all fresh, and all locally sourced—a fact underlined by a patio awash in greenery. Dishes are refined, with mains like veal belly and smoked albacore set off by crunchy Ontario produce (white asparagus, fiddleheads). Don’t miss the non-alcoholic house-made sodas or the outstanding crusty bread.
Edulis, 169 Niagara St., 416-703-4222
Best Toronto restaurant for lunch (and bragging rights): Momofuku Noodle Bar
Toronto got its outpost of chef David Chang’s legendary New York institution in September 2012, and it immediately climbed to the top of every local foodie’s must-try list. The cold noodles and pork buns are the best in town, but good luck getting them: the line-ups here have been massive since the day the doors opened.
Momofuku Noodle Bar, 190 University Ave.