Toronto’s 14 local favourite restaurants

Gia's burrata of the day. Credit: Gia

Toronto’s boundary-pushing dining scene ensures there’s never a shortage of new hotspots to discover; but while we all want to be dazzled at the city’s most highly coveted tables from time to time, it’s the neighborhood standbys that win our hearts and keep us coming back.

These are the restaurants that make you feel like a real Torontonian—where the distinctive vibes capture the diversity of the city’s neighborhoods, and where the food may not always be snagging headlines but can be counted on to be consistently satisfying any day of the week. 

This guide to the city’s top neighborhood gem restaurants offers plenty of options to revisit or explore for the first time. Read on to book a reservation.


Alma (Bloordale Village)

Chef-owner Anna Chen’s Bloordale Village restaurant translates to “soul” in English, which accurately describes the effort she puts into her Asian flavors. The modern, clean lines and blonde and white tones of this welcoming restaurant serve as the ideal backdrop to showcase Chen’s flavorful fare. Favorites include fried chicken wings tossed in a soy and molasses glaze with a kick of black pepper and lime or charcoal-grilled char siu pork steak with steamed Tokyo turnips.

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Avling (Leslieville)

This upscale brewpub offers inventive microbrews to Leslieville locals. Inside, the space is a blend of industrial meets indie; it’s replete with mural art, beam pillars, and blonde wood seating. Expect to find (and taste) an extensive list of artisan beers, cocktails, and wines; additionally, the team has also created a concise menu to complement the drinks, including smörgåsbord platters featuring an assortment of nibbles sourced from local producers and the restaurant’s own rooftop garden or wild BC sidestripe shrimp toast with sweet and sour plum sauce.

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Chula Taberna Mexicana (Leslieville)

This cantina in Leslieville serves up recognizable Mexican staples with tons of tequila. Chula Taberna Mexicana greets you with sprawling graffiti art painted in homage to Mexico’s grande dame of death: La Catrina. It’s juxtaposed with urban elements such as hardwood flooring and exposed brick. In addition to soaking up the space, tuck into hand-held delights that include burritos stuffed with beef brisket and cinnamon-laced churros for dessert. Also noteworthy is Chula’s talk-of-the-town 70-plus tequilas options and spicy margaritas. Bonus: Chula has two graffiti-lined heated patios on the rooftop of the restaurant complete with thatched palapas (similar to a tiki hut) where you can order your drinks. With views of the starry night, it’s an ideal spot to enjoy tacos and tequilas.

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Grey Gardens (Kensington Market)

This ultra-cool wine bar exemplifies the funky, eclectic vibes that define the Kensington Market neighborhood. Featuring clean lines and cool tones with some punches of color, Grey Gardens serves up creative cocktails, an extensive wine list, seafood, and small shareable snacks. The self-described “new North American” fare includes venison carpaccio with stracciatella and green tomato, furikake-seasoned spaghetti with mussels, smoked fish chips and dip, and sweet potato cake for desserts.  

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Hemingway’s (Yorkville)

Toronto's street

Hemingway’s, a buzzing local spot established in Yorkville since 1980. Credit: Hemingway’s

This buzzing Kiwi-owned spot has called Yorkville home since 1980. Along with an electric yet homey pub vibe, Hemingway’s is known as a late-night spot. At any time of the day, it’s the preferred choice for tucking into pub grub and more than two dozen draft beers. Best food bets include the New Zealand lamb shank, tried-and-true fish and chips, decadent signature poutine, and the legendary homemade pavlova for dessert. Hemingway’s iconic rooftop patio, with its citrus-hued tent, is heated on colder nights and situated on the second floor with views that overlook the posh neighborhood of Yorkville.

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Herby (Danforth)

Herby, a family-owned Iranian restaurant loved by locals. Credit: Herby

The Danforth welcomes this newer restaurant that celebrates northwestern Iranian fare to its neighborhood. Helmed by owner Javad Zehdifar, Herby’s dishes evoke the memories and tastes of Zehdifar’s childhood growing up in Tabriz. Inside, this vibrant space is lined with citrine banquettes, tapestries, photos of Iran, pottery, and trinkets. While soaking up the worldly ambiance, diners enjoy Zehdifar’s flavors of home through dishes such as kashk e bademjan (a creamy eggplant dip), tava kebabs (made with beef, lamb, and spices), and interactive Piti (chickpea stew served in a clay pot that requires you to mash it with a mallet before extracting both the broth and tender lamb).

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KOKO! Share Bar (Yorkville)

In a neighborhood known for its posh restaurants, entertainment, and shopping, KOKO! Share Bar has earned a reputation as an affordable local dining option for those seeking a delicious meal that won’t break the bank. KOKO!’s basement dwellings means that it’s oftentimes a “blink-and-you’ll-miss-it” scenario. Once inside the snug space, you’re greeted by plenty of warm wood tones and Korean artwork. Signature shareables include kimchi pancakes, torched salmon rolls, lobster bibimbap, sizzling galbi short ribs, and bossam (Korean barbecue bulgogi wraps).

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Marben (King West)

Outdoor dining patio

Marben’s patio. Credit: Marben

Hidden just off the busy King St. West stretch is this farm-to-table venue on Wellington Street. Chef Chris Locke prides himself on using seasonal and sustainable fare while paying homage to the restaurant’s British heritage and showcasing it through a modern Canadian culinary philosophy. Exuding the ambiance of an upscale gastropub that’s lined with Victorian-era artifacts and trinkets, the neighborhood marvel further elevates the mood with its thoughtful fare such as Fogo Island squid tacos, whole chicken fried in a spiced chickpea batter, and an umami-packed strawberry ice cream sandwich with a marmalade miso sugar cookie. Don’t forget to head downstairs to Marben’s basement and visit The Cloak Bar, a chic speakeasy for snacks and innovative sips.

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Mira (King West)

Venture down an unassuming alleyway in the King West neighborhood and discover this hidden Peruvian paradise. Mira transports locals to Peru with an artful blend of floor-to-ceiling murals, neon signage, and chevron wood paneling in both the main and private dining rooms. Inspiring Peruvian fare includes fresh salmon ceviches, octopus with picante aji amarillo, juicy rib eye, and sweet picarones donuts tossed in cinnamon orange sugar for dessert. In the warmer months, fairy lights dance over their wood patio, complete with cushy banquettes and pillars draped with lush plants and flowers, offering seclusion and shade.


Smoque N Bones (West Queen West)

Barbecue dish

Southern-style barbecue dishes at Smoque N Bones. Credit: Smoque N Bones

On Queen West, this moody outpost is strongly perfumed by sweet barbecue smoke. The restaurant is an eclectic mix of rustic-industrial decor, with reclaimed wood tables and prison lights from WWII. Meanwhile, the upstairs Kohl Bar is a great place to listen to live music or host private affairs. As for the food, chef-owner Alex Rad put together a Southern-style barbecue menu complete with riblets, smoked chicken wings, beef ribs with a signature spice rub, and buttermilk fried chicken—plus bourbon-spiked pecan pie for a sweet finish. 

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Paese (North York)

In Italian, Paese translates to “town or village”—an aptly named spot for this North York restaurant, considering it’s been a beloved fixture in the area since 1989. In cultivating dual identities, much of the food that’s served in Paese’s contemporary-styled trattoria is grounded in both Canadian and Italian cultures. Best exemplifying this is the slow-cooked turkey bolognese, Canadese pizza with beef pepperoni and green pepper, and veal scaloppine with roasted mushrooms.

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Gia (Dundas West)

A restaurant with white brick walls, pink banquettes, dining tables, wooden chairs and a glass window

White brick walls and comfy banquettes set the scene for an intimate meal at Gia. Credit: Gia

This plant-forward restaurant in Dundas West offers vegan and vegetarian Italian-inspired entrees good enough to win over everyone, even meat lovers. White-washed brick walls and tufted banquettes set the scene for a welcoming environment at this restaurant from chef Matthew Ravenscroft. Diners can look forward to a variety of vegetable-forward Italian dishes and housemade pasta, including red fife focaccia, wild mushroom porcini agnolotti, and risotto al pomodoro with cherry tomato confit and cashew butter. With offerings like vegan affogato and seasonal fruit olive oil cake, you won’t want to skip dessert.

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Greta Solomon’s (Leslieville)

East enders head to this petit French restaurant when they’re ready to trade the hustle and bustle of Toronto for the warm, welcoming vibes of a quaint Parisian bistro. Chef James Vigil cooks up classic French dishes like steak frites and tarte au poisson with ingredients that are primarily sourced from family-operated, local producers. The same ethos is applied to the restaurant’s 100-plus bottle wine list, which emphasizes small, sustainable vineyards. 

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La Palma (Trinity-Bellwoods)

La Palma’s effortlessly cool aesthetic is right at home in the equally hip Trinity-Bellwoods neighborhood. From burrata with wood-fired pear to the signature 100-layer lasagna, the Italian fare is remarkably light, flavourful, and beautifully plated. Pizzas are cooked in a wood-burning oven, which is visible in the restaurant’s copper-accented open kitchen. Well-executed cocktails and buzzy vibes make La Palma a dinnertime staple, but the breezy weekend brunch is also a local favorite.

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