Readers’ Choice 2015: Food & Drink

Highlights from what you think rules in Toronto's restaurant scene


[See the full list of results here]

Best Burger Under $10

Burger’s Priest 463 Queen East, 647-748-8108, and others, theburgerspriest.com, @burgerspriest

Time and time again, the faithful return to the Priest to baptize their chins with a whole lot o’ burger grease. The cult burger joint with a “secret menu” (now clearly listed on their website) has embraced its lofty ambitions to become a cross-Canadian burger chain, but those juicy patties and eye-popping configurations (a double cheeseburger built on two grilled cheese sandwiches!) are as good as ever.

Runner-up: P & L Burger 507 Queen West, 416-603-9919, partsandlabour.ca, @partsnlabour

Best Bakery

Bunner’s Bakeshop 244 Augusta, 647-350-2975, bunners.ca

It says something about Bunner’s mastery of the art of gluten-free baking that they beat out every other bakery in town (gluten-ed or not) in our readers’ poll. Their cinnamon rolls, topped with vegan buttercream, are legendary. You’ll also find scones, cakes, breads, bagels and their signature “creamies” cookie sandwiches.

Runner-up: Andrea’s Gerrard St. Bakery 635 Gerrard East, 416-465-4567, andreasbakery635.com, @Andreasbakery

Best Bar

Three Speed 1163 Bloor West, 647-430-3834, @thethreespeed

The Three Speed is an eclectic and familiar outpost in a fast-developing ‘hood, a bar known and loved by many. It’s the place you drag your friends for a cider on a sunny day (because that patio), it’s where you crawl for brunch after imbibing too enthusiastically (probably there) the night before, it’s where you can drink solo without feeling alone. All things considered, it’s a haunt that understands two elements vital in a bar – personality and soul.

Runner-up: The Gaslight 1423 Bloor West, 647-402-9728

Best Brunch

Lady Marmalade 898 Queen East, 647-351-7645, ladymarmalade.ca

Leslieville is Brunch Central in Toronto, with the long-running Lady Marmalade at its epicentre. Even though the local competition is mighty fierce, it’s hard to top a half-dozen-strong lineup of benedicts (cochinita pibil or brie-avocado-bacon, anyone?) or cheddar cheese waffles lashed with tomato crema – all made from free-run eggs and Rowe Farm meats, organic bread and local produce.

Runner-up: Insomnia Restaurant and Lounge 563 Bloor West, 416-588-3907,  insomniacafe.com, @insomniacafe

Best Burger Over $10

Allen’s 143 Danforth, 416-463-3086, allens.to

The secret to Allen’s melt-in-your-mouth burgers: they’re ground to order in the back from a side of beef brought in weekly by the restaurant, meaning you can get your patty as rare as you like. They’re served a la carte (might we suggest some polenta fries and curry mayo on the side?) and can be topped with double-smoked bacon or a range of cheeses (get the Ontario goat cheese for maximum meltiness).

Runner-up: Whippoorwill 1285 Bloor West, 416-530-2999, thewhippoorwill.com, @WhippoorwillTO

Best Caesar

Rock Lobster 110 Ossington, 416-533-1800, rocklobsterfood.com, @rocklobsterfood

Canada’s national cocktail routinely comes with a mini-meal stacked on top – pickles, sausages, olives, bacon and onion rings are not uncommon “garnishes.” But Toronto’s trump card is, for the second year running, a mug of Caesar slung with a succulent lobster tail. Thanks to Rock Lobster’s signature cocktail, the humble hangover has never been remedied so classily.

Runner-up: R&D 241 Spadina, 416-586-1241, rdspadina.com@rdspadina

[See the full list of results here]

Best Café

Snakes & Lattes 600 Bloor West, 647-342-9229, snakesandlattes.com, @snakesandlattes

Remember when this Annex game café landed on the scene and the mind of every nerd in town was blown by the thought of a coffee shop packed with playable board games? Now, S&L has two locations (including a massive new spot in the old Andy Poolhall space on College), plus a beer-oriented sister pub, Snakes & Lagers, with everything from Abaddon to Zombies!!! The Card Game available for your gaming pleasure. (Oh yeah, and the coffee’s good, too.)

Runner-up: Cafe Fiorentina 236 Danforth, 416-855-4240, cafefiorentina.com, @cafefiorentina

Best Cheap Eats

Banh Mi Boys

392 Queen West, 416-363-0588, and others, banhmiboys.com, @banhmiboys

The term “cheap eats” is bandied about a lot when we talk about food. But at Banh Mi Boys’ two shops, they mean it – almost everything on the menu, from baguette sandwiches to stuffed Chinese bao to sides, clocks in at $6.50 or less. The pricier offerings include duck confit and blackened mahi mahi subs – but don’t worry, even the $5.50 lemongrass pork makes for a lip-smacking lunch.

Runner-up: Sneaky Dee’s 431 College, 416-603-3090, sneaky-dees.com, @thesneakydees

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David Laurence

Banh Mi Boys

Best Chef

Grant van Gameran – Bar Isabel

797 College, 416-532-2222, barisabel.com, @BarIsabel797

The current trend for Spanish eats in Toronto can be traced almost directly back to van Gameren, to whom Torontonians owe their correct pronunciation of the word “pintxo.” After splitting from the Black Hoof earlier this decade, van Gameren opened intimate taverna Bar Isabel and ignited our collective appetites for jamon iberico and blood sausage. Then he opened Bar Raval in January, single-handedly turning every head in town.

Runner-up Alex Molitz – Geraldine 1564 Queen West, 647-352-8815, geraldinetoronto.com

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Michael Watier

Grant van Gameran

Best Dessert

Bean And Baker Malt Shop 326 Harbord, 416-536-7632, beanandbaker.com, @bandbmaltshopto

Harbord locals and nostalgia addicts alike have embraced this retro malt shop since its opening day earlier this spring. The offerings, served by staff in old-school soda jerk outfits, hearken back to the 50s – malts, Ed’s Real Scoop shakes and sodas made from house-made syrups. Also try the butter tarts, cookies and mini fruit pies, all baked on the premises.

Runner-up: Bunner’s Bakeshop 244 Augusta, 647-350-2975, bunners.ca

Best Diner

Lakeview 1132 Dundas West, 416-850-8886, thelakeviewrestaurant.ca

There are two obvious reasons why Toronto loves the Lakeview: One, it’s open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and two, it gave Toronto the pie milkshake. But the remodelled 30s diner is equally beloved for its cheeky menu (“handshakes – free”, reads a listing in the milkshake section) of brunches, sandwiches and burgers and daily $4 pint deals.

Runner-up: Cardinal Rule 5 Roncesvalles, 647-352-0202, cardinalrulerestaurant.com, @cardinalruleTO

Best Fish & Chips

Chippy’s 893 Queen West, 416-866-7474, chippysfishandchips.com

The 13-time winner of this award, Chippy’s serves up halibut and haddock, twice-fried chips and mushy peas in menu items that have become Toronto classics. Having raised the tone of your average joint by offering shrimps and scallops, too, they’re not afraid to get creative – the new Double Dunk sandwich puts two pieces of Guinness-battered Acadian sturgeon between two slices of deep-fried dough. Snap up any one of the above and picnic at Trinity Bellwoods Park across the street. Deep-fried heaven.

Runner-up: Reliable Fish & Chips 954 Queen East, 416-465-4111

Best Japanese Restaurant

Guu

398 Church, 416-977-0999, and others, guu-izakaya.com, @GuuToronto

One of Toronto’s most fun dining experiences comes to the city from Japan, by way of Vancouver. Bring a crew of friends to this raucous izakaya – all the better to sample your way through a menu of salmon and tuna tataki, stellar Japanese fried chicken, noodles, finger foods and inventive cocktails.

Runner-up Kingyo-Izakaya 51B Winchester, 647-748-2121, kingyotoronto.ca @Kingyotoronto

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David Laurence

Guu

Best Late Night Restaurant

Sneaky Dee’s 431 College, 416-603-3090, sneaky-dees.com

Who among us has not tottered into Sneaky’s appearing slightly the worse for wear, having left last call far behind, and crushed a plate of nachos? Toronto’s most beloved music venue and Tex-Mex joint is open until 3 am most nights (4:30 am on weekends), perfect for mid-evening refuelling or a predawn postmortem on a wild night.

Runner-up: Lakeview 1132/1134 Dundas West, 416-850-8886, thelakeviewrestaurant.ca

Best Local Microbrew

Bellwoods Brewery

124 Ossington, 416-535-4586, bellwoodsbrewery.com, @bellwoodsbeer

It’s crazy to think it’s been only three and a half years since Toronto’s favourite brewpub swung open its garage door. Continually delighting local beer lovers with bold, cleverly crafted and impeccably branded beers, this Ossington mainstay will soon push into far more ambitious territory with an eagerly awaited new brewing facility on Dupont.

Runner-up Mill St. Brew Pub 21 Tank House, 416-681-0338, millstreetbrewpub.ca, @MillStBrewPubTO

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Michael Watier

Bellwoods Brewery

Best Patisserie

Nadège Patisserie 780 Queen West, 416-368-2009, nadege-patisserie.com, @nadegetoronto

While Toronto is home to many remarkable French patisseries, Nadège looks at traditional confections with both a modern eye and a sense of fun. While the trio of bakeries is famous for its rainbow of macarons, it’s also rolled out an array of fanciful snacks, buns and even mouthwatering sandwiches – and no gift basket is complete without some Nadège marshmallows or caramels in a custom-made box.

Runner-up: Bonjour Brioche 812 Queen East, 416-406-1250, bonjourbrioche.com

[See the full list of results here]

Best Pizza

Pizzeria Libretto

550 Danforth, 416-466-0400, and others, pizzerialibretto.com, @PizzaLibretto

We’ve got Chicago-style, Roman-style and greasy post-bar delivery-style pizza in Toronto – but time and time again, we return to the charred, blistered, lightly elastic crusts of Neapolitan-style pizza. Libretto still does the city’s best take, and with a new Financial District location joining spots on Ossington and the Danforth, get ready for our margherita consumption to rise even higher.

Runner-up Terroni 720 Queen West, 416-504-0320, and others, terroni.ca, @terronito

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David Laurence

Pizza Libretto

Best Poutine

Poutini’s House of Poutine 1112 Queen West, 647-342-3732, poutini.com, @Poutini

The quintessential Québécois treat can be found everywhere in Toronto, but there’s something about the Laliberte brothers’ rendition that sets it apart. Is it the hand-cut, twice-cooked russet fries? The long-simmered gravy made from leek and onion stock? The extra pockets of cheese curds layered into the dish? Whatever it is, you will be powerless to resist it come last call.

Runner-up: Smoke’s Poutinerie 218 Adelaide West, 416-599-2873, and others, smokespoutinerie.com, @poutinerie

Best Ramen

Kinton 51 Baldwin, 647-748-8900, kintonramen.com, @KintonRamen

There’s ramen aplenty in Toronto, but Kinton holds on to its crown as Toronto’s top spot thanks to its broth, available in either pork or chicken versions, which is simmered for 20 hours before being poured over noodles and topped with unusual options like sweet corn, grated garlic, Swiss cheese and butter. Soup aside, they also do stellar hot plates, including some of TO’s most beloved takoyaki.

Runner-up: Momofuku Noodle Bar 190 University, 647-253-6225, momofuku.com/toronto/noodle-bar-to

Best Restaurant

Me and Mine 1144 College, 416-535-5858, meandmine.ca, @meandmineto

Chefs Joel MacMillan and Melissa daSilva keep things marvellously low-key at their College and Dufferin kitchen, quietly turning out a revolving lineup of innovative dishes. At brunch, you might find torched cured trout with baked eggs or French onion bread pudding at dinner, cranberry habanero wings or burgers topped with bacon jam. (Of course, that might change again in another week, which is all part of the fun.)

Runner-up: Bar Isabel 797 College, 416-532-2222, barisabel.com@BarIsabel797

Best Scotch Selection

Caledonian 856 College, 647-547-9827, thecaledonian.ca, @CaledonianPub

The perfect haunt for the laid-back Scotch aficionado or the curious whisky noob, the Caledonian stocks its back bar – a mesmerizing wall of amber – with more than 250 malts and blends. Scotch exploration is made especially painless at this pretension-free pub thanks to the warm and knowledgeable staff.

Runner-up: Feather’s 962 Kingston Rd, 416-694-0443, thefeatherspub.ca

Best Splurge Restaurant

Woodlot

293 Palmerston, 647-342-6307, woodlotrestaurant.com, @WoodlotTO

They now share a block with DaiLo, La Carnita and Bar Raval, but that hip restaurant alley remains anchored by Woodlot, a rustic little spot that uses a wood-burning oven to turn out some of the most elegant comfort food in town. Carnivores and vegetarians alike will swoon over the menu: Crispy seared rainbow trout! Gnocchi with porcini mushrooms!

Runner-up Scaramouche 1 Benvenuto Place, 416-961-8011, scaramoucherestaurant.com

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David Laurence

Woodlot

Best Taco

La Carnita 501 College, 416-964-1555 and others, lacarnita.com, @la_carnita

What began as a marketing-agency experiment turned into a cult-fave restaurant empire. Some taco spots win on cheapness, size or authenticity, but Carnita comes out on top thanks to sheer flavour, with their heat-heavy In Cod We Trust taco, Mexican corn, bourbon cocktails and colourful Mexican paletas attaining iconic status in the city.

Runner-up: Tilde Tacos 699 Danforth, 416-469-8226, tildetaco.ca@TildeTaco

Best Thai Restaurant

Sukhothai 274A Parliament, 416-913-8846, and others, sukhothaifood.ca

It spawned an entire restaurant empire that also includes Pai and Sabai Sabai, but Sukhothai’s northern Thai cuisine still impresses. The tiny original Cabbagetown location has since been joined by party-ready spots on Front and Dundas West, all doling out chef Nuit Regular’s signature pad thai, khao soi noodles and other full-flavoured delights.

Runner-up: Pai 18 Duncan, 416-901-4724, paitoronto.com@paitoronto_jeff

Best Wine List

Le Select 432 Wellington West, 416-596-6405, leselect.ca

Charmingly old world, Le Sélect is a favourite for French classics like steak tartare, confit de canard and cassoulet. But what would French food be without wine? We don’t even want to think about it. Le Sélect’s cellar is stocked to bursting with international labels (plenty of them French). Some of the most precious vintages in the city are stored in the cellar alongside a range of bottles that won’t send drinkers reeling into the red.

Runner-up: Enoteca Sociale 1288 Dundas West, 416-534-1200, sociale.ca, @enotecasociale

[See the full list of results here]

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