Tasting menus, comfort food, and hot toddies to warm your soul—when the weather gets blustery in Toronto, it’s time to brush the snow off your boots, unwrap your scarf, and gather the gang indoors. Here are Toronto’s top spots to get friends together for warming winter foods and cocktails, platters of bite-sized morsels, and the requisite steaming mug of cheer.
Irish Embassy Pub & Grill
When the north wind whistles down Yonge Street, join the after-work crowd at the Irish Embassy, a pub that’s a mix of Gothic architecture and a Dublin neighbourhood bar. Step inside this cathedral to conviviality and you’ll be impressed by its marble floors, soaring ceiling, and charred wooden barrels of Jameson. But don’t go gaga over the architecture too long; grab a seat and warm up with a dram from the well-thought-out whiskey menu. There’s plenty to choose from including top choices such as Connemara 12-Year-Old Peated Single Malt with exceptional peat notes inspired by the rugged boglands of the coast of Ireland. Sweeter on the palate is a Red Breast Irish whiskey with a fruity vanilla finish. Explore the comfort food options and dive into an order of gooey chicken wings infused with Guinness or indulge in upscale spins on classic Irish pub fare such as filling bangers and mash or a platter of oysters perfect for sharing. As a special warm-up, finish with a steaming mug of Irish Embassy coffee.
The Carbon Bar
Just a few steps around the corner is Carbon Bar, a hip space where you’re welcomed into a glamorous black reception area and then, a loft-like industrial space with exposed brick walls and neon signs that give a nostalgic nod to its former role as the Electric Circus, a 1990s dance-music hot spot. The street fashions may have changed but this is still a happening place with much of the magic taking place in the open kitchen. Reserve in advance to score front-row seats at the party-sized butcher block table overlooking the bustling kitchen. It’s so action-central you’ll feel as though you’ve landed in the middle of a cooking competition. Begin with an inventive cocktail, like the Mambo Margarita with bitters, and then settle in to explore some quintessential winter foods. Opt for the Pit Master Platter, a tower of carnivore power groaning with three meats: dry-rubbed pork ribs, tender buttermilk fried chicken, and, best of all, thick sliced beef brisket still steaming hot from the white oak wood fire pit. The tower comes topped with a mountain of fries in case you need extra fortification. Finish your night off with tiny, delicious bites of Carbon Chocolate Bar, a caramely bitter-but-sweet chocolate treat.
The Fifth Grill and Terrace
More fiery fun awaits at The Fifth Grill, a fine-dining spot with plenty of glam plus a year-round terrace ready to welcome your most festive group. You’ll feel like you’re in the know when you duck into a laneway in the heart of the buzzing Entertainment District to find the oh-so-hidden entrance. Glide up the elevator and be amazed by the treasures within this loft-like space. Tables swathed in white linen, flickering candlelight and a wood-burning fireplace make the formal dining room an ideal haven from the winter winds. The menu, created by French Executive Chef Jean-Pierre Challet, treats you to some of the most delicious winter foods like the rich meaty rack of venison and, for dessert, a heavenly pear, white chocolate ice cream, and fondant creation that will have you dreaming of sugar-plum fairies. By evening’s end, you’ll have forgotten all about the white snow swirling outdoors.
No matter what the comfort food is that you’re craving, leave it to Toronto to fulfill all your winter warming requests.