19 iconic restaurants to try in Canada

Canada’s best restaurants are as diverse as the vast and rugged country itself. While exciting new spots are never in short supply, many of the country’s top kitchens continue to level up, even after decades in business. 

A long-running Japanese place in Vancouver has redefined the country’s notion of sushi. Hundreds of miles east, a molecular gastronomy-driven restaurant in Ottawa serves an eye-popping, 44-course tasting menu. Thanks to an onsite sesame press, an ultra-cool Middle Eastern spot in Toronto places housemade sesame butter at the heart of its inventive offerings.

New hits and old faithfuls define Canada’s thriving dining scene. Read on for a guide to the 19 essential spots shaping the country’s restaurant landscape. 


Atelier (Ottawa)

Atelier’s humble entrance—simple brick building, no entrance sign—belies the cutting-edge cuisine it serves. Chef-owner Marc Lepine is known for a whimsical molecular gastronomy-driven approach that rebuffs fleeting trends since opening Atelier in 2008. In 2022, Atelier was recognized with the prestigious CAA/AAA Four Diamond Award. Lepine’s latest innovation is a rotating 44-course tasting menu. Depending on the night, it might include multiple courses served simultaneously or dishes finished tableside by the diners themselves – such as adding their own flourish of liquid nitrogen to a plate of noodles. 

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Sukiyaki House (Calgary)

A delicious sushi platter served at Sukiyaki House in Calgary

A beautifully-plated sushi platter at Sukiyaki House. Credit: Sukiyaki House

Almost 50 years after opening, Sukiyaki House continues to be the next best option to a trip to Japan for Calgary diners. Chef Koji Kobayashi trained in kaiseki, Japan’s counterpart to Western haute cuisine. His expertise is evident in the restaurant’s meticulously plated dishes including grilled teriyaki chicken and miso sablefish, along with an impeccable sushi selection. The drinks list includes hot and cold sake plus cocktails made with Japanese-influenced ingredients such as ume and yuzu, providing the final element to an unforgettable meal.

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Damas (Montreal)

From its lavish decor featuring lanterns and deep red accents to its herbaceous dishes, Damas is all about vibrance. The restaurant’s dazzling Syrian spreads are designed for sharing. Start with bites from the hot and cold mezze menus, such as the warm cheese borek dumplings, before moving on to beautifully charred mains including the Quebec lamb kebab. Cocktails are flavoured with Syrian ingredients such as rose and saffron, while the wine list includes an impressive selection of bottles from the Mediterranean region. The pretty terrace is a sought-after perch on warmer days. 

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The Lunch Lady (Vancouver)

A steaming bowl of phở bò at the Lunch Lady in Vancouver

A warm bowl of phở bò at the Lunch Lady. Credit: Suelee Wright Photography, The Lunch Lady

The Lunch Lady has claimed local cred since it opened in 2020, and it was recently recognized by Vancouver’s first MICHELIN guide. Chef Nguyen Thi Thanh, who became known as “The Lunch Lady” after being featured on Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations, helped develop the restaurant’s menu, which is executed locally by chef Benedict Lim. Dishes such as pho bo (beef noodle soup) with AAA Canadian rare beef give diners a taste of Thanh’s now-iconic Ho Chi Minh City food stall while also weaving in ingredients from Canada’s west coast. Neutral tones complemented by bursts of green fuel a cheerful, welcoming feel. 

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Primal (Saskatoon)

The interior of Primal restaurant in Saskatoon, featuring a wine display shelf

Primal’s cozy interior sets an inviting tone for tucking into pasta. Credit: Primal

Chef Christie Peters and her partner chef Kyle Michael helped put Saskatoon on the map as a food destination through their passion for prairie ingredients. At Primal, the pair’s dedication to seasonal and sustainable local fare is channeled into an Italian menu centred on pasta made from Saskatchewan heritage grains. The restaurant minimizes waste through whole-animal butchery and many of the herbs and produce featured on the menu come from their own gardens. A drinks menu that emphasizes low-intervention wines rounds out a unique experience that’s equal parts progressive and familiar. 

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Bar Isabel (Toronto)

Grilled octopus at Bar Isabel in Toronto

Grilled octopus is one of Bar Isabel’s signature dishes. Credit: Rick O’Brien, Bar Isabel

A moody aesthetic and shareable plates lend Bar Isabel a timeless, cozy atmosphere that keeps diners coming back. The bar is helmed by notable restaurateur Grant van Gameren and is known for unfussy but well-executed plates that evoke Spanish tapas joints. At a time when many restaurant menus change frequently, Bar Isabel continues to serve standards such as pan con tomato and grilled octopus—and the dishes feel just as satisfying as they did when the restaurant opened in 2013. 

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Edna (Halifax)

Hip decor, a lively atmosphere, and a locavore menu have earned Edna a reputation as one of Halifax’s top restaurants. The menu is filled with fresh seafood—an extension of the restaurant’s coastal city setting. Though non-seafood dishes such as beef tartare made with P.E.I. Blue Dot beef and burrata served with roasted pepper romesco and sourdough from Halifax’s LF Bakery also emphasize regional bounty. The drinks list is just as locally rooted and heavy on notable Nova Scotia producers.

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L’Abattoir Restaurant (Vancouver)

The kitchen at L’Abattoir restaurant in Vancouver

Behind the scenes in the kitchen at L’Abattoir. Credit: Eric Milic Photography, L’Abattoir

L’Abattoir piques diners’ interest the moment they step through its door: The restaurant is set in a 19th-century building that once housed Vancouver’s first jail. Beyond its historic architecture, L’Abattoir wows with a menu that brings subtle French culinary influence to west coast ingredients. The multi-course chef’s menu featuring dishes such as duck foie gras and ling cod with Oscietra caviar is worth the splurge. 

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Ten Foot Henry (Calgary)

A colourful prawn dish at Ten Foot Henry in Calgary

The seafood is as tasty as the veggie mains at Ten Foot Henry. Credit: Deserae Evenson, Ten Foot Henry

A light and simple approach steers both the menu and the ambiance at Ten Foot Henry. The restaurant’s minimalist, plant-filled interior serves as the backdrop for an inimitable vegetable-forward dining experience. Ten Foot Henry is a mainstay for herbivores, but meat and fish options including spring salmon with glazed onions and beets are equally appealing. The menu mixes fan favourites with inspired new additions, making this restaurant feel as innovative as it did when it launched in 2016.

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Calabash Bistro (Vancouver)

Jerk chicken with rice and peas, ripe plantains and coleslaw at Calabash Bistro, a restaurant in Toronto

Jerk chicken with rice and peas, ripe plantains and coleslaw at Calabash Bistro. Credit: Calabash Bistro

Calabash Bistro was among Vancouver’s first Caribbean restaurants when it opened in 2010. The pioneering place still draws diners searching for flavourful fare that blends the best of the west coast and the West Indies. The poutine featuring jerk-seasoned fries brings a Caribbean spin to the classic Canadian dish, while entrees such as the slow-braised oxtail with rice ‘n’ peas stick to traditional versions of island cuisine. The music is almost as enticing as the food at Calabash with a lower-level venue showcasing live DJs and bands on Friday and Saturday nights. 

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Louise Taverne & Bar à Vin (Québec City)

This handsome restaurant in the Port-Royal Hotel brings together two dining experiences under one roof: a tavern and a wine bar. The tavern side of the restaurant emphasizes soul-warming pub classics including fish and chips and flat-iron beef steak, while the wine bar showcases shareables such as charcuterie boards. A commitment to simple cooking techniques and lots of local sourcing tie the two Louise menus together. The restaurant’s timeless interior, which features exposed brick and stone walls, lures diners seeking a cozy corner, while the 100-seat patio is a lovely place to soak up the sun. 

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Parallel (Toronto)

A white plate contains three brown falafels topped with herbs at Parallel, a restaurant in Toronto

Crunchy and soft falafels at Parallel. Credit: Ella Keren Sverdlov, Parallel

This ultra-cool Middle Eastern restaurant helped usher in the transformation of Geary Avenue from an industrial strip to a foodie haven. Tahini is at the heart of Parallel’s menu, adding new flavour dimensions to dishes such as savoury knafeh or sauteed mushrooms served on a crispy pita. The housemade tahini also makes for out-of-this-world hummus whether you opt for the classic version or variations topped with shawarma-spiced chicken or fried eggplant. The restaurant’s sesame press and large indoor herb garden are visible from its open dining room which retains its airy, former factory vibes. 

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Chefs Hall (Toronto)

Diners feast on an array of dishes around a restaurant table, featuring burgers, salads, fries, onion rings, bubble teas and cocktails, at Chefs Hall, a food market in Toronto

Feast on some of the city’s greatest culinary hits under one roof at Chefs Hall. Credit: Chefs Hall

One of Toronto’s first food halls remains the city’s best. The stylish 18,000-square-foot space features food stalls from about a dozen chefs, allowing you to sample some of the city’s greatest culinary hits under one roof. Diners can choose between legendary fried chicken at Grateful Chicken, a one-of-a-kind stand-up omakase sushi experience at Tachi, or Mexican fare from longtime vendor Colibri, among other tempting options. Chefs Hall is especially bustling during weekday lunch hour, while several full-service bars keep the party vibes strong for post-work drinks and festive dinners. 


Gibbys – Old Montreal (Montreal)

With its stone walls, warm fireplaces, and vaulted ceilings, Gibbys historic location in a 200-year-old building sets the tone for a cozy but classic steakhouse experience. The restaurant embodies a traditional steakhouse in both service and style: diners are greeted with a mini-spread of bread, dill pickles, bacon crumbles, and croutons to graze on while browsing the menu. You can’t go wrong with one of the restaurant’s juicy aged steaks or Nova Scotia lobster tails served grilled or boiled. Pair it all with a drink from the extensive by-the-glass wine selection.

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Planta (Toronto)

The interior of Planta restaurant in Toronto

Planta’s interior design dazzles as much as its dishes. Credit: Planta

Planta set the standard for vegan and vegetarian food in Toronto when it opened in 2016. The striking Yorkville dining room is a go-to for those craving elegant dishes such as sushi rolls made with eggplant and miso truffle and spaghettini carbonara tossed with mushroom bacon, smoked tempeh, and almond Parmesan. Keep an eye out for daily special deals such as half-priced bottles of wine on Wednesdays and maki roll deals on Mondays. Note: the restaurant has a second location in the Entertainment District.

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Boulevard Kitchen & Oyster Bar (Vancouver)

A dish served at Boulevard Kitchen & Oyster Bar in Vancouver

Boulevard Kitchen & Oyster Bar is known for its refined, west coast dishes. Credit: Leila Kwok, Boulevard Kitchen & Oyster Bar

Boulevard Kitchen & Oyster Bar is adored for its west coast cuisine with a seafood-focused menu created by chefs Alex Chen and Roger Ma. Dishes such as charcoal-grilled sablefish with soy-sake glaze and seared Hokkaido scallops with red curry sauce marry classic techniques with global culinary influences. Diners can choose between seats in the polished dining room or outside on the wrap-around patio in the warmer months, making Boulevard an all-weather Vancouver favourite. 

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Île Flottante (Montreal)

Owners Sean Murray Smith and Nada Abou Younes’s previous restaurant, Les Deux Singes de Montarvie, was known for being one of Montreal’s hottest spots. That restaurant’s newer iteration, Île Flottante, has received equal acclaim from the city’s diners since opening in 2018. The seasonal tasting menu is the only option here, featuring a rotating array of dishes that stand out for their exquisite plating and focus on vegetables. Expect photogenic dishes such as eggplant caponata with roasted tomato and bell pepper emulsion, though the kitchen works equal magic with meatier offerings such as beef tenderloin with pickled carrots and parsley root.

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Tojo’s Restaurant (Vancouver)

An array of colourful Japanese dishes featuring sushi, sashimi, colourful salads and seafood platters, at Tojo's, a restaurant in Toronto

Chef Tojo’s omakase tasting menu is as boundary-pushing as ever. Credit: Leila Kwok, Tojo’s restaurant

Whether or not you’ve eaten at chef-owner Hidekazu Tojo’s restaurant, it’s likely you know his culinary creations. The renowned chef is credited with developing numerous sushi rolls that are now ubiquitous at Japanese restaurants across Canada, including the B.C. roll. Chef Tojo was recognized as a Goodwill Ambassador for Japanese Cuisine by the Japanese government in 2016, making him one of only a handful of chefs in the world to receive that honour. After more than 30 years in business, chef Tojo’s cooking is still as boundary-pushing as ever, and the best way to experience it is by going for the omakase tasting menu. 

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Restaurant Toque! (Montreal)

A dessert served at Restaurant Toqué! in Montreal

One of Toqué!’s beautifully-plated desserts Credit: Restaurant Toqué!

Crowds flock to this exceptional restaurant, which has collected countless awards and accolades over its nearly 30 years in business. Toqué! is local fine dining at its best. Chef and co-owner Normand Laprise meticulously selects high-quality seasonal ingredients and presents them in exquisite forms such as foie gras terrine with blueberry, celery root, freeze-dried blue honeysuckle berry, and toasted bread. Stunning desserts such as maple sponge cake with roasted white chocolate and purple sweet potato ice cream are worth saving room for. The restaurant’s market-fresh ethos carries through to the drinks menu, with cocktails that incorporate Quebecois ingredients such as sour balsam fir juice. 

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Jessica Huras is a Toronto-based food and drink writer. Eat your way across the city (and beyond) with her on Instagram @waysofwanderers