While Toronto is a hotbed for international cuisine, it can be hard to locate the best spots for authentic Canadian fare in the city. There’s no shortage of fast food options masquerading as true Canadian fare, but look beyond poutine and maple syrup pancakes and you’ll discover there’s a lot more to authentic Canadian food than TV and movies would lead you to believe. These four restaurants offer a sophisticated approach to Canadian food and local craft beer in lively settings you’ll want to keep coming back to.
The Canadian heritage concept of Boralia encompasses both the decor and the menu. History buffs will love dishes inspired by native and early settler recipes dating back to the 1600s. Take a peek at the bar and you notice stacks of furs next to dark bottles labelled “XXX”. If you’re a large group, reserve the long wooden table in the back where you can admire thickly textured, bespoke woven wall hangings of the buffalo migration. If you order nothing else, go with the L’éclade, a preparation inspired by an original Canadian recipe from about 1605—a divine bowl of mussels smoked in pine butter—which smells delightfully like a Canadian wilderness campfire.
Dive into maritime culture at Hopgood’s Foodliner, the local favourite for seafood fans on Roncesvalles Avenue. In addition to a freshly shucked oyster bar, the menu features clams, lobster, and more—all sourced sustainably from Canada’s east coast. The vibe is borrowed from the east coast too: it’s casual and friendly. But, the sophistication of inventive dishes like octopus paired with crispy roasted chickpeas will knock your socks off. Book the back room, the Oyster Shack, with a group of your besties to sample the chef’s tasting menu. The hanging fishing nets and maritime gear on the walls create the perfect background for photos. If you start with a cocktail, order the Fat Drunk Duck: a rich concoction made with raisin and foie gras-infused whiskey.
Woodlot serves up some of the freshest and tastiest salads that will make any locavore’s mouth water. If salads don’t quite do it for you, forget what you think a salad is and order the Beetroot and Roasted Peanut Salad—you won’t be disappointed. Firm chunks of multicoloured beets share the plate with thin slivers of root vegetables, herbaceous Vento d’Estate cheese, and a just a splash of bitter coffee vinaigrette for a balanced texture and earthy taste. As you walk in, you notice the restaurant exists on two airy levels: the kitchen and the bar on the lower level, and the dining area above in a loft-like space. Grab a seat by the balcony for an unobstructed view of the kitchen. The sheer freshness of the ingredients here, along with the quirky converted industrial space, makes it a must-try spot for an authentic culinary tour of Toronto. Chef David Haman sources his ingredients from local purveyors as much as possible, like tender whey-fed pork from Burkefield Farms via Sanagan in Toronto’s Kensington Market. If you’re pressed for time, at least stop by to pick up a loaf of their freshly baked sourdough bread from the wood-fired oven.
This 1300-square-metre lakeside brewery has everything you could ever possibly want in beer and local food. At Amsterdam Brewhouse, you grab a seat on the patio for an unparalleled view of the lake and choose a seasonal beer to toast the weather: the ruby-red Framboise and the citrusy Oranje Weisse really embody summer in Toronto. In addition to the rotating tap of seasonal beers, the expansive brewpub has a program called the Amsterdam Adventure Brews series that debuts the new, innovative small batch beers brewed on site. The Adventure Brews work on a rotating tap where two are always available to try. Just ask your server what’s currently on tap. Need to work up a thirst to try all those new beers? Now you can get a tasty complimentary pretzel appetizer when you pay with your Mastercard.