In a lot of ways, Toronto and Chicago feel like sister cities. They are both big Midwestern metropolis. Both are on a great lake. Both cities offer friendly citizens. Both have a variety of cultural events & activities to explore. But more than any of those, both Toronto and Chicago have a bustling local food scene, filled with talented young chefs pushing the culinary boundaries, putting their cities on par with places like New York and Paris.
There was certainly no shortage of restaurants I wanted to try while in Toronto. There was only a shortage of time! I was only there for 9 meals, so I had to make the most of my visit. As always, I researched local food bloggers and writers to see what some of their favorites were and Thrillist actually offered a good selection of choices. A few of my coworkers had recently visited so they had recommendations, and I connected with Lauren from Twirl the Globe to see what her favorites were. Here is what I ate during my long weekend in Toronto.
Kinton Ramen— 402 Queen St West
Kara and I had been hankering for ramen (or at least Asian food) all weekend, especially after seeing all the Thai places around town. We got this recommendation from a Toronto native who said it was the best ramen in the city. After a long day at a conference, I can’t imagine anything more comforting than hot pork broth and noodles. Kinton is cool because you can build your own ramen, by choosing the type of broth, meat and flavoring. I sent for a spicy garlic flavoring in a pork broth with pork shoulder with an egg added in. This ramen was awesome, like top 5 I’ve ever had. The noodles were clearly house made and super fresh. The garlic flavor was spicy and strong, but built well on the pork flavored broth. The best part though, was the pork. SO TENDER!
Monecito — 299 Adelaide St West
A swanky two story interior houses this modern Italian eatery, complete with leather chairs and modern decor. Don’t be put off by the upscale style, because the food is homey Italian done right. The menu is small plate style so get ready to try a bunch of different things. It’s a bit pricey, but well worth it. Kara and I sat at the bar and shared a tasty bruschetta, with fresh summer cherry tomatoes and a slightly spicy balsamic. For my entree, I went with a favorite: gnocchi. Gnocchi is such a pain to make yourself, so I tend to only order it when I’m out. These little dumplings were fresh, buttery soft and perfectly light. They were served with wild mushrooms, fresh oregano and a browned butter sauce.
Pizzeria Via Mercanti — 188 Augusta Avenue
Authentic Neapolitan pizza is what this pizzeria specializes in and it is well worth the caloric intake. You see brick fired oven right when you walk in and smell the fresh bubbling dough immediately. It was packed when we arrived, so we opted to sit at the bar. Their menu is no frills, traditional Italian. There is only one size, no substitions and with red sauce or olive oil. Kara & I shared a Diavolo pizza, which had bell peppers, spicy Italian sausage, banana peppers and buffalo mozzerella. It came out in like 5 minutes flat, and the cheese was still bubbling! The crust was definitely the best part, perfectly soft and thinly rolled.
Poutini’s Hosue of Poutine — 1112 Queen St West
Arguably Canada’s most famous dish, poutine was at the top of my “must try” list. I’ve tried it in the US, but it’s not nearly as authentic as eating it in Canada! There are a bunch of places with great options, but we settled for Poutini’s House of Poutine. In an unassuming store front, Poutini’s is cash only and offers about 10 different choices of poutine combinations. You can select an accompanying dipping sauce and add on toppings if you choose. This was our first meal in the city, and a rich one it was! I went for a classic poutine and was not disappointed! The gravy was flavorful and went really well with the roast garlic dipping sauce. The cheese curds were nice and squeeky fresh!
Sweet Olenka’s — 1050 Queen St West
An adorable handmade sweets and candy shop, Sweet Olenka is a great bit stop on a walking tour of Queen St West. It’s a small little place that looks like its been in business for about 50 years. Their house made chocolate treats and ice cream sandwiches looked incredible! I settled for a small scoop of granny smith apple and fennel ice cream, which had chunks of apple and fennel in it. Quite a unique flavor, but a good refreshment after the heavy poutine lunch we ate!
Our trip to Toronto was just too short to try all the places that were on my list, and by the time I come back, there are sure to be a whole crop of newly opened eateries that are worth a try. I guess I’ll just have to return :)