From Arepas to Zucchini Blossoms: Toronto’s Top 10 Restaurants for Globe-Trotting Tastes
From Arepas to Zucchini Blossoms: Toronto's Top 10 Restaurants for Globe-Trotting Tastes - Little India's Fragrant Curries
Aromatic spices and complex flavors are the hallmarks of Indian cuisine, and Toronto is home to several excellent restaurants serving authentic dishes from across the subcontinent. In Little India, located along Gerrard Street East, you'll find some of the city's best curries outside of India itself.
For the freshest, most authentic Indian fare in Toronto, head to Banjara. Their chefs hail from different regions of India, bringing their own unique styles and secret family recipes. Recommended dishes include the creamy chicken tikka masala, the vegetarian baigan bharta made with roasted eggplant, and flaky parathas to scoop up the flavorful curries. Be sure to order a mango lassi - the sweetened yogurt drink is the perfect foil for spicy dishes.
Another top choice is Friends Restaurant, loved for its extensive vegetarian and vegan menu. Their rava dosa, a crispy lentil crepe filled with flavorful potato masala, makes a satisfying meal. And the chana masala, chickpeas in an incredible sauce, is so good even meat lovers will enjoy it. The vegetable samosas and onion bhajis are some of the best in the city.
For a contemporary take on Indian cuisine, try Bombay Street Food. Their creative fusion dishes include butter chicken poutine served with Quebec cheese curds and fries, and the Mumbai burrito with curried chicken, basmati rice, raita, and mango chutney wrapped in a roti. More traditional options are also available, like their outstanding lamb vindaloo packed with warm spices.
In a hurry? Stop by Krishna's Kitchen for fast, fresh, and inexpensive Indian street food. Their combo plates, like the paneer tikka with grilled cottage cheese, or the seekh kebab featuring skewers of spiced ground lamb, offer lots of flavor for just a few dollars. Grab a mango or rose lassi to wash it all down.
Indian sweets are just as delicious as the curries. At Mona's Roti, try classic desserts like gulab jamun, fried dough balls soaked in rose-scented syrup, or kheer, a creamy rice pudding with nuts and raisins. And don't miss their hot, fresh jalebis - wildly popular pretzel-shaped pastries dipped in sugar syrup.
What else is in this post?
- From Arepas to Zucchini Blossoms: Toronto's Top 10 Restaurants for Globe-Trotting Tastes - Little India's Fragrant Curries
- From Arepas to Zucchini Blossoms: Toronto's Top 10 Restaurants for Globe-Trotting Tastes - Chinatown's Dim Sum and Dumplings
- From Arepas to Zucchini Blossoms: Toronto's Top 10 Restaurants for Globe-Trotting Tastes - Koreatown's Spicy Barbecue
- From Arepas to Zucchini Blossoms: Toronto's Top 10 Restaurants for Globe-Trotting Tastes - Little Portugal's Pastéis de Nata
- From Arepas to Zucchini Blossoms: Toronto's Top 10 Restaurants for Globe-Trotting Tastes - Greektown's Moussaka and Gyros
- From Arepas to Zucchini Blossoms: Toronto's Top 10 Restaurants for Globe-Trotting Tastes - Little Italy's Wood-Fired Pizza
- From Arepas to Zucchini Blossoms: Toronto's Top 10 Restaurants for Globe-Trotting Tastes - Little Jamaica's Jerk Chicken
- From Arepas to Zucchini Blossoms: Toronto's Top 10 Restaurants for Globe-Trotting Tastes - Little Mekong's Pad Thai
From Arepas to Zucchini Blossoms: Toronto's Top 10 Restaurants for Globe-Trotting Tastes - Chinatown's Dim Sum and Dumplings
Chinatown is home to some of the best dim sum and dumplings in Toronto. These small, savory dishes originated in southern China but are now enjoyed all across the country and beyond. Steamed, pan-fried, or deep-fried, the varieties of dumplings seem endless, with fillings like pork, shrimp, chicken, beef, and vegetables. Dim sum – meaning “touch the heart” in Cantonese – encompasses dumplings along with other small plates that are usually served for breakfast or lunch. From har gow shrimp dumplings to char siu bao pork buns, these bite-sized foods offer complex layers of flavor in just a few perfect bites.
For classic Cantonese-style dim sum, head to Crown Princess Fine Dining. Their expansive menu includes all the classics like shaomai pork dumplings, crispy spring rolls filled with vegetables, and pan-fried turnip cakes studded with Chinese sausage. Don’t miss their signature dish – baked bbq pork buns, the sweet char siu filling encased in a soft, slightly sweet bun. Round out your meal with a pot of gently floral chrysanthemum tea.
At Dim Sum King, diners rave about the texture of the dumpling skins – delicate yet strong enough to encase the savory fillings without tearing. The har gow shrimp dumplings are perfectly pleated money bags filled with plump shrimp. Sui mai pork and shrimp dumplings burst with flavorful juices when steamed. And their fried taro dumplings are crispy outside with a meltingly smooth interior. Their pork soup dumplings are exceptional.
For a contemporary twist on dim sum, try DaiLo. Their innovative fusion dishes include General Tso's Cauliflower - fried cauliflower florets glazed in sweet and spicy sauce. Their lobster cheung fun features Chinese rice noodles wrapped around chunks of lobster, drizzled with satay sauce. And their crispy pork belly sandwich stacks tender, meaty slices in a soft steamed bun with pickled vegetables. Don't miss their duck confit dumplings in a hoisin and five spice sauce for finger-licking goodness.
From Arepas to Zucchini Blossoms: Toronto's Top 10 Restaurants for Globe-Trotting Tastes - Koreatown's Spicy Barbecue
The aromas of garlic, sesame, and chili permeate Koreatown, where the best Korean barbecue in Toronto can be found. Known as gogi-gui, Korean barbecue focuses on high-quality cuts of meat like marbled kalbi beef short ribs and tender bulgogi, thinly sliced beef tenderloin. These meats are grilled right at your table over a smokeless grill fueled by charcoal or gas. The customized cooking experience and interactive communal dining have made Korean barbecue a cherished tradition.
At Hanmoto, diners rave about the banchan - small plates of kimchi, japchae noodles, and other Korean appetizers that accompany the meal. Their meats are top-notch; the rich marbling on the kalbi short ribs melts into the meat when grilled, keeping it incredibly moist and flavorful. The bulgogi is sliced paper-thin so it cooks up quickly without drying out. It arrives at the table marinated in a sweet sauce that caramelizes beautifully on the grill. Their seasoned pork belly has a perfect ratio of meat to fat.
For an upscale vibe, try Mapo Seoul Kitchen. Their tables have built-in grills and stylish up-lit hoods to whisk away the smoke. Splurge on the premium beef sets that include wagyu short ribs and tenderloin steak. The marinades are less sweet here; the beef is the star of the show. Banchan options are elevated too, like crispy wontons with salmon and refreshing watermelon salad. Go for lunch to take advantage of their affordable set menus.
Those new to Korean barbecue should head to Oo Kook Korean BBQ. Their friendly staff will help you order, explain the banchan, assist with grilling, and make sure you have a fantastic experience. The banchan is excellent and included with all meals, so you can try favorites like kimchi jjigae stew and spicy braised potatoes. Meat options run the gamut from chicken and seafood to the essential bulgogi and kalbi. Whatever you order, it will come out sizzling hot and full of flavor.
While tabletop grilling is key, Korean barbecue joints also offer pan-fried dishes. Don't miss these at Daldongnae. Their kimchi dumplings pack a spicy punch encased in delicate wrappers. Tteokbokki rice cakes simmer in an addictive chili sauce. And the Korea-style fried chicken boasts an ultra-crispy, decades-old recipe of double frying. Balance out the heat with their refreshing watermelon soju cocktails.
From Arepas to Zucchini Blossoms: Toronto's Top 10 Restaurants for Globe-Trotting Tastes - Little Portugal's Pastéis de Nata
Buttery, flaky pastry cradling sweet custard - that's the sublime experience of biting into a pastel de nata. The classic Portuguese egg tart is a specialty of Toronto's Little Portugal neighborhood. Here, pastelerias bake them fresh daily using recipes honed over generations. Sinking your teeth into a still-warm pastel straight from the oven is a sensory experience not to be missed.
The undisputed destination for the best pasteis de nata in Toronto is Nova Era Bakery. Their signature tarts have been drawing crowds for over 50 years. Each tart sports a crisp, delicate crust that shatters into flakes at the lightest touch. The filling is a perfect balance of silky and just slightly scorched. Nova Era still rolls their pastry by hand rather than using machines to maintain that exceptional texture. Traditional flavors like vanilla custard or egg yolk cream are available, along with creative options like chocolate or coconut. Or try their seasonal pumpkin pie tarts around the holidays.
Nearby Padaria Portuguesa Bakery also churns out phenomenal pasteis de nata. Their secret is in the butter - lots of it in the dough, making each shell extra flaky. The filling is gently sweet and ultra-smooth. The sugar-dusted tops are browned to a beautiful golden hue. In addition to the classics, they offer innovative flavors too, like their pastel de nata de leite condensado with a rich, caramelized condensed milk custard.
For an amazing eats-on-the-run experience, visit Caldense Bakery, famed for their pasteis de nata. Grab a bag of the still-warm tarts and continue exploring the neighborhood, letting the flakes rain down deliciously with each bite. The crust has an almost shattering crispness contrasting the custard's just-set wobble. Tart yet subtly sweet, these are archetypal pasteis de nata. Pair them with a strong espresso for the ultimate Portuguese pastry experience.
From Arepas to Zucchini Blossoms: Toronto's Top 10 Restaurants for Globe-Trotting Tastes - Greektown's Moussaka and Gyros
The aromas of oregano, lemon, olive oil, and grilled meat fill the air in Greektown, Toronto's Danforth neighborhood. Here you'll find some of the most authentic Greek restaurants outside of Greece itself. Top dishes include moussaka, a luscious layered eggplant casserole, and gyros, the famous Greek sandwich of spit-roasted meat carved fresh for each order.
For homestyle classics, head to Athens Restaurant, a Danforth staple since 1971. Their moussaka is lovingly assembled with thin eggplant slices, savory spiced lamb, and a silky béchamel sauce for the ultimate Greek comfort food. Pair it with a refreshing horiatiki salad of chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, onion, feta, and olives dressed in lemon and olive oil. And don't miss their memorably tender lamb souvlaki skewers seasoned with garlic and oregano.
The Village Restaurant is famed for their gyros - and for good reason. The vertical rotisserie constantly turns, keeping the sliced meat juicy and warm. Chicken, pork, lamb or a combo - it's all incredibly flavorful from its time on the spinning spit. The gyros are assembled with care in fluffy warm pita along with tomatoes, onion, tzatziki sauce, and fries when ordered as a platter. Add a Greek salad with creamy dressing and pungent feta cheese for a taste of the Mediterranean.
From Arepas to Zucchini Blossoms: Toronto's Top 10 Restaurants for Globe-Trotting Tastes - Little Italy's Wood-Fired Pizza
The heady scent of yeast, tomatoes, and char is unmistakable as you stroll down College Street in Little Italy. Here, family-owned pizzerias have been perfecting the craft of wood-fired Neapolitan pizza for over 60 years. The blisteringly hot ovens, reaching temperatures upwards of 900°F, create an authentic pizza Napoletana with a chewy, char-speckled crust and just the right ratio of toppings to sauce. It's a far cry from your average takeout pizza, and an experience every foodie should have when visiting Toronto.
Ask any local for the best wood-fired pizza in Little Italy and Pizzeria Defina will top the list. Since 1964, three generations of the Commisso family have been serving gorgeous, generous, naturally-leavened pizzas. Watching the pizzaiolo stretch and twirl the dough before topping it with crushed San Marzano tomatoes, mozzarella di bufala, and ingredients like spicy salami or rapini is performance art. The 900°F oven means a perfect 90 second bake: crisped crust with leopard charring, just melted toppings, and no unsightly soupy center. The Capricciosa with artichoke hearts, mushrooms, prosciutto, and olives is ethereally delicious.
Nearby Bitondo's Pizzeria also specializes in pizza al taglio, pizza baked in sheet pans and sold by the slice. Their signature is the decadent Frittura, with pancetta, caramelized onions, olives, and hot peppers drizzled in lemony extra virgin olive oil after baking. The crust is beautifully puffed yet sturdy enough to support generous toppings. For a taste of dessert, try the Nutella pizza on their fluffy, naturally-leavened dough spread with hazelnut-chocolate heaven.
If you thought wood-fired pizza was just an Italian thing, head to Apiecalypse Now! for incredible Nova Scotia-style pies. Their Acadian features a olive oil and white cheddar base topped with sweet Atlantique shrimp, scallops, pancetta, and pesto. The crust proves that seafood and wood-fired ovens pair deliciously. The Forestière comes laden with foraged mushrooms, caramelized onions, truffle oil and herbs for earthy perfection. And they serve authentic east coast donairs - spiced beef with tomatoes and sweetened condensed milk nested in a garlic-brushed naan.
For a contemporary, California-inspired take on wood-fired pizza, there's Piano Piano. Toppings range from prosciutto with figs, gorgonzola and pistachios for a sweet-savory kick, to the horizon broadening Bangkok with Thai basil pesto, shrimp, peanuts and chili flakes. The Avocado BLT pizza piles pancetta, lettuce, and maple bacon jam atop the avocado smeared base. Their signature is the cross-cultural Butter Chicken Pizza, featuring Indian spices, chicken tikka masala, cilantro and yogurt. The blistering heat of the wood-fired over ensures every thinly stretched crust has just the right char while staying pliable.
From Arepas to Zucchini Blossoms: Toronto's Top 10 Restaurants for Globe-Trotting Tastes - Little Jamaica's Jerk Chicken
The sweet and spicy aromas of jerk seasoning permeate Little Jamaica, Toronto's Eglinton West neighborhood. Here, the city's West Indian community keeps alive the culinary traditions of their home islands. Jerk chicken is the quintessential Jamaican street food, and local joints serve up the very best - succulent chicken slowly smoked over fragrant pimento wood then slathered in scratch-made jerk sauce.
For the most authentic jerk chicken experience, head to Albert's Real Jamaican Foods. Albert Wiggan moved to Toronto from Jamaica over 20 years ago, bringing his family recipes and cooking techniques with him to share with his new hometown. His jerk chicken stays true to Jamaican roots. Albert meticulously hand-cleans each chicken then dry-rubs it with his secret blend of allspice, scotch bonnet peppers, thyme, garlic, and other spices. The chicken smokes low and slow for hours over smoldering pimento wood chips to fully infuse it with that distinctive jerk flavor. A final bast of spicy jerk sauce ensures you get a flavor bomb with each juicy bite. Pair it with fluffy fried festival (almost like a sweet cornbread fritter), roasted yams, and sautéed callaloo greens. Wash it down with a fresh tropical juice or an icy bottle of Ting grapefruit soda.
Randy's Take Out serves up legendary jerk too. Their chicken quarters and legs smoke for hours until the meat nearly falls off the bone and the skin gets perfectly crispy. The jerk sauce sings with scotch bonnet heat balanced by cinnamon and brown sugar. Grab combos like jerk chicken with rice and peas and sweet, caramelized plantains. Randy's has been dishing up their signature jerk on Eglinton West since the 1990s with a look as retro-cool as their flavors.
Get your jerk chicken fix even quicker atciting> and market. Their rotisserie turns out continuously, ensuring the just-cooked chicken is always hot and juicy. Generous applications of jerk sauce throughout the smoking process give it serious kick and impart that iconic charred flavor. In true Jamaican fashion, every meal comes with two hearty side dishes like fluffy rice and peas, sweet fried plantains, or veggie-packed callaloo. The Jamaican sodas made with condensed milk are dangerously addictive.
From Arepas to Zucchini Blossoms: Toronto's Top 10 Restaurants for Globe-Trotting Tastes - Little Mekong's Pad Thai
Amid the bustle of chinatown, there’s a place on Spadina where the scents of lemongrass, fish sauce and chili peppers mingle transportively. Little Mekong seems a world away from the city, featuring restaurants that bring the vibrant flavors of Southeast Asia to Toronto. Here you’ll find some of the most authentic pad thai outside of Thailand itself. The iconic stir-fried rice noodle dish balances savory, sour, sweet and spicy flavors in one plate. The wok hei (breath of a wok) technique adds that coveted smoky essence through blistering heat. Handled right, pad thai is a complex symphony of tastes and textures.
Ask any local where to find the city’s best pad thai and Pai will be their resounding recommendation. Pai Northern Thai Kitchen has been serving their signature pad thai since 2012 to much acclaim. They use the traditional technique of folding the pre-soaked dried rice noodles into the stir fry rather than the fresh noodles common in North America. This imparts an exceptional chewy, toothy texture able to stand up to assertive flavors. Tamarind paste lends a tangy pop, while fish sauce provides an umami backbone. Palm sugar balances with a touch of sweet amid the chili heat. Pai’s pad thai is simultaneously sour, salty, sweet and spicy - as this iconic dish should be. They finish it off with fresh bean sprouts, chopped peanuts, lime and Thai basil for aromatic depth. It’s pad thai perfection in one plate.
Just down the street, Sabai Sabai Thai Kitchen crafts another excellent version with an emphasis on wok technique. The noodles take on a toasty essence from the screaming-hot wok while retaining their springy texture. Plump shrimp, crispy tofu and scrambled egg provide hearty protein. The tamarind and fish sauce punch up the sour and salty flavors essential to pad thai. Sabai Sabai rounds it out with a bright hit of lime, roasted peanuts and piquant chili flakes. Their signature is using both rice and tapioca noodles for extra fun textures. This creativity shines in pad thai variations like their Northern Style with pork belly and chives.