Cowbell is a favourite for locally sourced, sustainable fare (photo by Derek Shapton)
It’s no surprise that some of Toronto’s top-rated restaurants are devotees of the local food movement: sourcing from nearby artisan farms and producers ensures freshness, which in turn guarantees flavour. Any discussion of “slow food” in this city begins with chef Jamie Kennedy, whose Gilead Café & Bistro serves modern Canadian fare that lets his farm-fresh ingredients shine. Tastefully simple, too, are the artisan meats butchered in-house and served at such restaurants as Cowbell and the Black Hoof—the latter’s charcuterie is legendary, as are the bone marrow–filled beignets at its sister space, Hoof Café. Slightly less meat-
centric is chef Teo Paul’s contemporary country cooking at Union—though you’d be remiss not to order the elk sliders.
Of course, using homegrown ingredients doesn’t mean a chef has to forsake global influences. Local Kitchen and Wine Bar preaches respect for one’s ingredients through exceedingly fresh Italian small plates, while amongst chef Victor Barry’s contemporary offerings at Splendido are a handful of traditional pastas plated with family-farmed accompaniments. High-end, internationally inspired cuisine made with Toronto flair can also be found at long-standing favourites like elegant George and Globe Bistro.
Toronto’s hottest season is in full swing; after so much sightseeing, you’re no doubt in need of refreshment. Pull up a patio chair or stop by a swanky lounge for a sophisticated cocktail, local microbrew and a tempting taste of city life. Click the images below to discover our favourite patios, drinks and more. By Marisa Baratta
- <span style="color: #ff0000;">1</span> For a hearty meal and exceptional beer made on-site, head to the <a href="http://www.where.ca/toronto/guide_listing~listing_id~4385.htm" target="_blank">Mill Street Brew Pub</a>, a fixture in the Distillery Historic District. Sample the brewmaster’s Tankhouse Pale Ale (pictured)—known for its copper-red hue and spicy hop flavour—or down a pint of the rich, chocolaty Coffee Porter.<br />
<span style="color: #ff0000;">2</span> enowned brewer Mike Duggan offers a range of seasonal beers at his <a href="http://www.where.ca/toronto/guide_listing.cfm?listing_id=6155" target="_blank">Duggan’s Brewery</a>. Wash down hearty pub fare with the #5 Asian lager—with notes of malted barley and Japanese rice—or the #9 IPA, made with nine traditional ale malts.<br />
<span style="color: #ff0000;">3</span> In the heart of downtown Toronto, <a href="http://www.where.ca/toronto/guide_listing.cfm?listing_id=5832" target="_blank">The 3 Brewers</a> exudes the comfort and unassuming authenticity of an old countryside watering hole. Get acquainted with one of its delightful “Four Sisters”—blond, red, brown or wheat—straight from the keg to your stein.<br />
<span style="color: #ff0000;">4</span> Steps from the CN Tower and the Rogers Centre, <a href="http://www.where.ca/toronto/guide_listing.cfm?listing_id=1707" target="_blank">Steam Whistle Brewing</a> invites passers by to drop in for a tour of its facilities in a historic roundhouse train depot, then lounge with a free sample of Steam Whistle Pilsner, a golden beer with a crisp, clean finish.<br />
<span style="color: #ff0000;">5</span> Quality house-made wine from South American grapes draw dedicated patrons to <a href="http://www.where.ca/toronto/guide_listing.cfm?listing_id=4442" target="_blank">Olivia’s at 53</a>, a Victorian home with the city’s first micro-winery. Here, epicureans linger over food, wine and fine music from the comfort of the dining room, wine cellar or garden patio.
- Hometown Brews
- Whet your whistle with some of Toronto’s most memorable libations.<br /><br />
<span style="color: #ff0000;">VANILLA HICKORY-SMOKED MANHATTAN</span> Favoured by the well-to-do crowd at <a href="http://www.barcheftoronto.com" target="_blank">Barchef</a>, this sophisticated concoction offers a blend of Crown Royal Extra Rare whiskey, vanilla cognac and cherry bitters served while the hickory syrup is still smoking.<br />
<span style="color: #ff0000;">MANHATTAN</span> At the <a href="http://www.where.ca/toronto/guide_listing.cfm?listing_id=5718" target="_blank">Black Hoof</a> and its sister space <a href="http://www.where.ca/toronto/guide_listing.cfm?listing_id=6159" target="_blank">Hoof Café</a>, co-owner and chief mixologist Jen Agg whips up a more traditional but still amazing version of this classic. Her secret? House-made bitters and rye-soaked cherries.<br />
<span style="color: #ff0000;">NOT YOUR AVERAGE JOE</span> It’s not just a description of the stylish clientele that holes up in <a href="http://www.where.ca/toronto/guide_listing.cfm?listing_id=305" target="_blank">Brassaii</a>, but also one of the restaurant’s top cocktails. Mixologist Jordan Bushell muddles cucumber with Hendrix gin, tonic water, lime and ground pepper to create this summery tipple.<br />
<span style="color: #ff0000;">BADASS MOJITO</span> Fresh mint leaves and a crimson glow make it hard to resist this tempting refresher at <a href="http://www.where.ca/toronto/guide_listing.cfm?listing_id=5262" target="_blank">Sidecar</a>, a hot spot that specializes in classic cocktails. The mojito here follows the time-honoured recipe, but adds a twist of raspberries, house-made schnapps and overproof rum.<br />
<span style="color: #ff0000;">LIBRALOVE</span> A potent mix of Russian Standard vodka, lychee liqueur and cranberry juice, plus raspberry and mint garnishes, comprise this serenity inducing drink at <a href="http://www.where.ca/toronto/guide_listing.cfm?listing_id=4716" target="_blank">Libra Lounge</a>. Unwind with one on a sofa surrounded by candles and smoked glass mirrors, then get back on the bumpin’ dance floor.
- Signature Sips
- <span style="color: #ff0000;">RAISE THE ROOF</span> Granite tables and a backdrop of suede and leather create a classy vibe at <a href="http://www.parktoronto.hyatt.com/hyatt/hotels/entertainment/lounges/index.jsp" target="_blank">Roof Lounge</a>. Savour a signature martini by the fireplace or sip a rock-sugar mojito on the 18th-floor terrace that looks toward the CN Tower.<br />
<span style="color: #ff0000;">GO-TO VENUE</span> Bloor Street’s <a href="http://www.where.ca/toronto/guide_listing.cfm?listing_id=3841" target="_blank"> Lobby</a> boasts crystal chandeliers, a 60-foot LED light wall, and scads of celeb cred—it’s hosted parties for Jay-Z, members of the Toronto Raptors and more. Here, fruity martinis like the Mango Tango are popular with the ladies, while gentlemen indulge in scotch.<br />
<span style="color: #ff0000;">RUSSIAN STANDARD</span> Agitprop-inspired imagery competes with sumptuous lounge seating to lend <a href="http://www.where.ca/toronto/guide_listing.cfm?listing_id=4552" target="_blank">Pravda Vodka Bar</a> (pictured) a distinct Slavic vibe. Try the popular Perestroika martini—a vibrant mix of vodka, cassis and cranberry juice—or sample a straight-up splash of more than 80 international vodkas.
- Make it a Martini
- Sit back, relax and revel in the amazing vistas afforded from these popular perches.<br /><br />
<span style="color: #ff0000;">1</span> The view of downtown Toronto from a 51-storey-high patio attracts an eager, adult crowd to <a href="http://www.where.ca/toronto/guide_listing.cfm?listing_id=3850" target="_blank">Panorama</a>. Well, that, and a menu featuring a selection of decadent “drinkable desserts,” including the Black Forest Caketail.<br />
<span style="color: #ff0000;">2</span> Though known primarily as a concert venue, Sound Academy at <a href="http://www.where.ca/toronto/guide_listing.cfm?listing_id=932" target="_blank">Polson Pier</a> (pictured) also features the city’s largest outdoor patio. The 40,000-square-foot space offers a breathtaking eastern view of the city’s skyline—not to mention a thirst-quenching array of beer, cocktails and coolers.<br />
<span style="color: #ff0000;">3</span> Ride the elevator up to <a href="http://www.where.ca/toronto/guide_listing.cfm?listing_id=388" target="_blank">360 the Restaurant at the CN Tower</a> for Canadian cuisine and a glass<br />
from the world’s highest wine cellar—more than 550 vintages are stored 351 metres above the ground. The revolving resto also offers an unparalleled vantage point from which to see the entire city.
- Drinks With a View
- <span style="color: #ff0000;">LOOKIN’ UP</span> Though located in the Financial District, <a href="http://www.where.ca/toronto/guide_listing~listing_id~3811.htm" target="_blank">Vertical</a> (pictured) offers an escape from the hustle and bustle—its modern-chic open-air mezzanine overlooks a parkette instead of Bay Street’s beaten path. Enjoy a fresh Mediterranean-inspired meal while listening to the serene gurgle of the waterfall feature or grooving to the DJ’s mix on Thursday and Friday nights.<br />
<span style="color: #ff0000;">HIP HIDEAWAY</span> Lounge with your friends on pillow-laden benches and shoot the breeze above the cool West Queen West nabe. Palm trees and an unimpeded view make the all-season rooftop <a href="http://www.where.ca/toronto/guide_listing.cfm?listing_id=4586" target="_blank">Sky Yard at the Drake Hotel</a> a desirable destination for relaxing. <br />
<span style="color: #ff0000;">ONE & ONLY</span> Glammed-up residents and visitors frequent luxurious <a href="http://www.where.ca/toronto/guide_listing~listing_id~4795.htm" target="_blank">One</a> for chef Mark McEwan’s cuisine and, in summer, the wraparound patio. Order some cocktails and peer between the bountiful shrubs for a perfect view of upscale Yorkville.<br />
<span style="color: #ff0000;">EXOTIC SIGHT</span> Tuck in at a teak table or swivel into a seat at the black granite bar on the patio at <a href="http://www.where.ca/toronto/guide_listing.cfm?listing_id=3873" target="_blank">Ki Modern Japanese & Bar</a>. Some privacy is afforded by a sleek iron fence and planter boxes with bamboo stalks, but really, you <em>want</em> to be seen sipping sake martinis at this swank spot.<br />
<span style="color: #ff0000;">FEELS LIKE HOME</span> Students, families and young professionals alike gather on the large patio at <a href="http://www.where.ca/toronto/guide_listing.cfm?listing_id=5328" target="_blank"> Café Diplomatico</a>. Ensconced in Little Italy and just off busy College Street, it’s an ideal spot for casual conversation over a round of pints and panini.
- People-Watching Patios
Hoof Café (photo by Paul Kittmer)
Torontonians have been in the throws of a serious sausage-and-salami swoon ever since meat master Grant van Gameren set down his Black Hoof late in 2008. The eatery’s nose-to-tail charcuterie is so sought-after that van Gameren and business partner Jen Agg have opened a second site to handle the carnivorous overflow. Brighter than its predecessor, with modern country–style decor, a polished wood bar and tin ceiling, Hoof Café offers bar snacks and artisan cocktails while you wait for an evening table at its sister space across the street. Better yet, make the café a destination for weekend grazing—its charcuterie-centric brunch spread is the talk of the town, with offerings like cherry jam- and bone marrow-stuffed beignets ($6), pigtails with grits ($13) and foie gras-topped French toast ($23).