From steakhouse favourites to the original old-school no-frills diners of previous generations, these establishments have stood the test of time.
Waterfront & Toronto Island
Being the revolving restaurant at the top of Toronto’s biggest tourist attraction, the 360 at the CN Tower didn’t have to be a good restaurant. But it is as much a must for locals as visitors.
Barberian's Steak House
There are a lot of great steakhouses in town, but this is the stone-cold classic. Founded in 1959 by Harry Barberian and not one tchotchke on the wall or book in the upper private dining room has been changed since.
There were certainly diners in Toronto before Fran’s, but when Francis Deck opened his 10 stools at Yonge & St. Clair in 1940, it became the standard by which all other diners were judged. And as a result, it’s survived the decades. The original’s gone, but there are several locations, the most established of which is on College Street just west of Bay Street.
One of the oldest spots in town (been there since 1929), and still one of the classiest. A diner for breakfast, a lunch counter at mid-day and jazz joint at night.
This is one of the spots only real old-school Torontonians even know about, but enough of them have been coming often enough over the decades that it’s still there, one of the last remaining high-end neighbourhood Italian spots. Named, obscurely, for the Ettore Fieramosca, the Count of Mignano (1475-1515). On any given night, half the guests will be regulars, but their secret is, they’ll make you feel just as welcome.
The bar where deals have been made, law students have networked and everyone else has just had fun since the 1980s.
One of the ancient ones (founded in 1981) and a secret to many, hidden as it is behind its famous circular window in a courtyard you might not even know was there unless someone pointed it out to you. So, like Fieramosca, but maybe a bit fancier.
Known for its curvaceous statuary, Toronto’s most famous Dalmatian restaurant started as a Yorkville coffeehouse in the 60s where acts like Harry Belafonte, Nana Mouskouri, Gordon Lightfoot and even Liberace would play, before it moved a couple of blocks north into its current Victorian digs.
The walls are filled with pictures of the film festival celebs who have made the high-end Italian Sotto Sotto an annual stop since the 80s.
Cafe La Gaffe
One of the city’s earliest brunch spots, where Portuguese bread and French sauces combine for what’s still one of the best Benedict plates in the city. Try to get one of the two coveted window seats (the one on your left as you go in is the prize).
House of Gourmet
Classic massive-menu’d, shared round-table, pan-Chinese spot. They call themselves a seafood place, but there are as much BBQ and noodles and chicken and pork and duck feet as there are squids and abalone.
King's Noodle (296 Spadina Ave.)
The other classic, massive-menu’d, shared round-table pan-Chinese restaurant, this one on Spadina. Try the salted doughnut with your congee.
The restaurant that introduced Toronto to Vietnamese food, and is still the go-to for everything but banh-mi. Regulars scribble their favourite numbered dishes down on the slip without even bothering with the menu (mine’s 19A). Find a second location in Mississauga.
Everyone’s favourite Old Chinatown dim sum place, on Spadina since before most Torontonians could tell their har gow from their siu mai.
Stop in for a glimpse of what Old Chinatown looked like when it was new. The newspaper-clipped reviews on the walls are older than almost all the staff, but the Cantonese food’s still good (especially the snails in black bean sauce).
The Avenue Diner
This place is old enough for Margaret Atwood to have worked here as a waitress when she was a teenager. Still a hangout for the literary and media elite, especially on a Saturday morning, it’s a slightly pricier version of your classic Canadian diner.
Another secret spot that only the savviest Torontonian knows about where you can get some of the best French food in the city for about half the price you’re probably guessing.
Though it’s only been around since the 1980s, it’s as classic as a Toronto pub gets, built into a late Victorian bank, complete with an old safe that’s become a snug. Jane Jacobs used to hang out here, and it’s got one of the best patios and the best rooftop in the Annex.
There are diners, and then there are counter diners. What you see is what you get at Vesta Lunch, and what you get is greasy and fast and perfect. “Reputable,” as the sign says, “since 1955.” Also, open 24 hours.
There’s some dispute as to whether this is Toronto’s oldest pub. Founded in 1833, it’s been there longer than the Wheat Sheaf (see below), but it closed for a while in the middle there. One of the most popular patios on Queen West, it’s where you want to get your first beer on a sunny afternoon.
Le Select Bistro
Home of what is probably Toronto’s finest wine list, it’s also the place to get your steak frites, duck confit and other bistro standards you can, just like in France, order without having to look at the menu. If it’s a classic, they make it and make it well.
Queen Mother Café
With its lovely back patio, only accessible after descending into an underground labyrinth that’s been a rite of passage for Torontonians since it was added in 1984 (six years after it opened), it’s known for its baked-in quirk. Despite its name, the menu is a Sri Lankan-Italian-Thai-Laotian hybrid.
The Kids in the Hall got their start here, and Amy Winehouse and Adele have both played the famous back room. It’s got a huge pool hall on the second floor, and the food is another made-in-Toronto mix of Southeast Asian, Indian, Italian and Tex-Mex.
If you were to try to pin down a Toronto-style pizza (you shouldn’t—there’s no such thing), it’d be Terroni’s. A minichain, born of an Italian-Canadian trip back to Puglia, that manages to feel like your favourite neighbourhood haunt no matter which location you choose. (The one on Queen West is the original.)
Wheat Sheaf Tavern
With at least one break in 2019 for a renovation, this place has been serving beer to Torontonians since 1846, making it the longest (almost) continuously operating pub in the city, and home of one of the earliest versions of Toronto wings.
Continue reading at: https://www.destinationtoronto.com/leisure-blog/post/classic-toronto-restaurants/