I am excited to bring you this post by my close friend Noelle about her top 5 favorite restaurants in Toronto. Noelle is a talented writer and a food industry insider, the Operations Manager for the Ontario Culinary Tourism Alliance. So far I've tried out Gilead Café & Bistro and Mildred’s Temple Kitchen. Can't wait to try out the other three! Without further ado...
My Fave 5 Restos
Anyone who knows me knows I love all things food. After all, a girl’s gotta eat, right? As the Operations Manager for the Ontario Culinary Tourism Alliance, I’m all about supporting local and sustainable food and wine whenever I dine out in the city. By choosing to spend your food dollars on restos that showcase this province’s amazing culinary bounty, you are in turn helping the local economy and Ontario agriculture/viticulture industries. Aside from being locally-inspired, these five places have top-notch cuisine by top-notch chefs.
Executive Chef Jamie Kennedy is known across Canada for his undeniable commitment to the local food movement. Tucked off an alley in Toronto’s east end, Gilead Café is the perfect spot to grab takeout
or lunch with your girlfriends. The space is bright and airy – with a dessert and cheese case that boasts some of the most scrumptious offerings around. Everything is local – from the tea suppliers, to the bread, to the preserves and pickles. Be sure to try Kennedy’s ever-rotating poutine creation. After all, his local frites are of legendary status in this city. Gilead’s Bistro is also open in the evenings for equally impressive field-to-fork dinners.
♥ Enoteca SocialeEnoteca Sociale 1288 Dundas Street West Toronto, ON M6J 1X7 (416) 534-1200
The reason why this Dundas & Dovercourt spot makes my list is their uncanny ability to harmonize brilliantly executed Italian food with unique Ontario ingredients. It’s also the reason why this friendly and unpretentious neighborhood spot is packed night after night. One of my favorite menu staples is the grilled Octopus appetizer with seasonal veg and potatoes. If you’ve never had octopus before, it’s here that you’ll easily get over your squid fears. Enoteca primi, secondi and contorni rotate seasonally, but chef Rocco Agostino (of Pizza Libretto fame) ensures that meats and fishes are sourced locally, in additional to only using vegetables and flavours that reflect the time of year. One of the best parts of the Enoteca menu is their expansive cheese cave list, which features just as many Canadian selections (think Niagara Gold and Grey Owl) as Italian classics.
♥ CowbellCowbell 1564 Queen Street West Toronto, ON M6R 1A6 (416) 849-1095
I am a self-professed meat fan (only local, free-range and GMO-free though). If you are as well, Cowbell should be the next spot on your restaurant hit list. Executive Chef Mark Cutrara is one of the few in the city who has been supporting the nose-to-tail cuisine mantra from the beginning. Cowbell Charcuterie is the real deal. Everything on the plate, with the exception of a few items, are painstakingly made in-house. Cutrara and his team purchase whole animals and butcher them down to ensure nothing goes to waste. That means Cowbell’s seasonal and local menu is constantly shifting to reflect the latest cuts and types of meats available. But what’s even more brilliant about this Roncy spot is how stellar their vegetarian dishes are. That’s right, you heard me. Vegetarian. Even through Cutrara primarily works with meat, he’s also a master at well-balanced and tasty all-vegetarian dishes. He’s such a fanatic to fresh veggies and herbs that he has his own rooftop garden for the restaurant in the spring and summer. That means even if someone is your dining party goes veggie-only, there will always be a dish or two for him or her to nosh on. And yes, in case you were wondering, the restaurant is named after the infamous Christopher Walken SNL Skit.
So of course we all go to the Art Gallery of Ontario to enjoy some of the fabulous works on display. But have you ever wandered over to FRANK Restaurant after an afternoon of gallery gallivanting? If the answer to that question is NO, then next time you visit this Frank Gehry building be sure to work in a dinner, lunch or brunch at Executive Chef Anne Yarymowich’s restaurant FRANK. The dining room is warm yet clean-lined, with a beautifully lit bar and sumptuous food. Yarymowich continually pays homage to Ontario-based ingredients in her cooking, and the menu is composed of dishes that often showcase the names or regions of the producers. Her Ontario-apple-spiked pouding chomeur, modelled after the traditional Quebecois poor-man’s dessert, is to die for.
Back when Chef Donna Dooher ran Mildred Pierce Restaurant in an Etobicoke enclave, my parents often made it their official date night spot. Today I carry on the family tradition at Dooher’s new King West restaurant, Mildred’s Temple Kitchen, since it’s become my go-to joint for brunch. In fact, I consider it personally to be the city’s best brunch. The reasons are numerous. First, because the soaring floor to ceiling windows flood the dining room with natural morning light. Second, because the brunch cocktails, especially Ontario sparkling wines, are always a great way to kick off the day. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, everything that comes out of the kitchen is a total win. The light and fluffy blueberry pancakes, the Huevos Monty, I could go on and on. Reservations aren’t allowed so waiting for a table can be a bit of a pain. Trust me though - it’s well worth it. So the next time one of your friends calls or emails you for a brunch suggestion, look no further than Mildred’s.
The post was written for With Love... by Noelle Munaretto.
Image Sources: Sarah Klassen; google images; fashion spot