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The 38 Essential Toronto Restaurants, October '13

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Drum roll please: it's time to launch the inaugural Toronto Eater 38, your answer and ours to any question that begins, "Can you recommend a restaurant?" This highly elite group covers the entire city, spans myriad cuisines, and collectively satisfies all of your restaurant needs, save for those occasions when you absolutely must spend half a paycheck. Every few months, we'll be adding pertinent restaurants that were omitted, have newly become eligible (restaurants must be open at least six months), or have stepped up their game. Think of this as the beginning of an ever-evolving and exciting glimpse into the food scene in Toronto.

The Eater 38 is in no particular order.

For those of you readying the pitchforks because your favourite restaurant isn't on the list, wouldn't it just be more productive to leave your thoughts in the comments? State your cases for (or against) restaurants in the comments or in the tipline And don't forget to check out the Eater Heatmap too, which lists what's new and hot in the city - and is updated monthly.


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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Momofuku Noodle Bar

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190 University Ave., Toronto
ON M5H 0A3, Canada
(647) 788-8888
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David Chang’s Noodle Bar started the Momofuku empire and it’s for that reason that dining here first, before Daishō and Shōtō, is essential. With innovative twists on what would normally be considered fast food, Noodle Bar’s specialty is a shared, gourmet, fried chicken dinner. [Photo Credit]

2. FARMHOUSE tavern

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1627 Dupont Street, Toronto
ON, Canada
(416) 561-9114
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A relative newcomer to the locavore scene, FARMHOUSE has entered with much fanfare. Highly engaged in the culinary community, this Junction eatery urges you to F*ck Mondays every Sunday night. [Photo Credit]

3. Parts & Labour

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1566 Queen St W, Toronto
ON M6R 1A6, Canada
(416) 588-7750
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Chef Matty Matheson is the antithesis to the 1990s version of a gourmand: tattooed and handled @mattydeathbro. But with a talent in the kitchen that is bar none, he’s the epitome of 2013’s chef du jour.

4. L'Unita Restaurant

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134 Avenue Rd., Toronto
ON M5R 2H6, Canada
Yorkville’s cozy comfort spot, this Italian restaurant serves up dependable favourites to a crowd as beautiful as the venue – and the fare.

5. Playa Cabana

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111 Dupont St., Toronto
ON M5R 1V4, Canada
(416) 929-3911
At the forefront of Toronto’s Mexican explosion, in just three years this restaurant ‘chain’, which has spawn two off-shoots, went from three employees to selling $10 million a year.

6. Canoe Restaurant & Bar

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66 Wellington St West, Toronto
ON M5K 1H6, Canada
(416) 364-0054
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One of the most iconic restaurants in Toronto; for its acclaimed regional Canadian cuisine as much as for its stunning views from atop the landmark TD Bank Tower.

7. Campagnolo

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832 Dundas St. W., Toronto
ON, Canada
(416) 364-4785
Fresh, simple takes on Italian favourites and raving reviews of their bone marrow and tartare make this Dundas West spot an instant classic. [Photo Credit]

8. Nota Bene

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180 Queen St. W, Toronto
ON M5V 3X3, Canada
(416) 977-6400
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Consistent quality in the kitchen keeps Nota Bene on the essentials list, and proximity to the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts keeps new patrons coming. Contemporary, continental cuisine includes a pre-theatre menu.

9. Buca

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604 King St. W, Toronto
ON M5V 1M6, Canada
(416) 865-1600
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Hidden down a King West alleyway, Buca needs only a small sign to signal the way in. Chef Rob Gentile’s passion for food shines through, especially for seasonal, local ingredients that he’s been known to forage himself. [Photo Credit]

10. Drake Hotel

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1150 Queen St. W., Toronto
ON M6J 1J3, Canada
(416) 531-5042
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The Drake pretty much made West Queen West cool, and it continues to be a must for any resident of or visitor to Toronto. For the cocktails, the art, the ambiance, the clientele, the celebrities, the music, the rooms and the cuisine … nine years later it remains just as relevant.

11. The Queen and Beaver Public House

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35 Elm St., Toronto
ON M5G 1H1, Canada
(647) 347-2712
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It was the first high-end British restaurant in Toronto, starting a series of brethren like The Saint and The Grove. Q&B reigns though, through its delightfulness, its casual approach to fine dining and its curry ketchup and chips. It even spawned its own offspring: Yorkville’s The Oxley.

12. Hopgoods Foodliner

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325 Roncesvalles Ave., Toronto
ON M6R 2M6, Canada
(416) 533-2723
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East coast comfort food comes to the west end with Hopgood’s Foodliner in Roncy. Chef Hopgood is formally from Hoof Café but gets to embrace more of his maritime roots nowadays – in cuisine and service. [Photo Credit]

13. Bar Isabel

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797 College Street, Toronto
Ontario, Canada
(416) 532-2222
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Another Black Hoof alum’s success story, Bar Isabel is a collaboration between chef Grant van Gameren and restaurateur Max Rimaldi (of Enoteca Sociale and Pizzeria Libreto). Bar Isabel is a cozy, welcoming Spanish addition to Little Italy, and its tapas have had everyone talking since it opened in the spring. [Photo Credit]

14. The Black Hoof

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928 Dundas St. W., Toronto
ON M6J 1W3, Canada
(416) 551-8854
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Nose-to-tail was not a common dining experience in Toronto before The Black Hoof boisterously made it famous. Everything’s created in house here, from the cocktails to the charcuterie. Owner Jen Agg also has a little libation gem across the street with Cocktail Bar, and expectations are high for her newcomer, Rhum Corner. [Photo Credit]

15. Queen Margherita Pizza

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1402 Queen St. E, Toronto
ON M4L 1C9, Canada
(416) 466-6555
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There’s gotta be something cooking when a chef leaves the fine dining world to work for a pizzeria. But Leslieville favourite Queen Margherita has taken on Langdon Hall chef Jonathan Gushue with plans to continue expanding its doughy empire, this time into the downtown core.

16. Lai Wah Heen

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108 Chestnut St., Toronto
Canada M5G 1R3, Canada
(416) 977-9899
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Since 1995 this high-end Chinese restaurant inside the Metropolitan Hotel has been serving up the dim sum yin to Rol San’s yang. Critics have even called it the best Cantonese restaurant in Canada. [Photo Credit]

17. Mistura

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265 Davenport Road, Toronto
Canada M5R 1J9, Canada
(416) 515-0009
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Chef Massimo Capra, one of CityLine’s ‘Three Chefs’, and his moustachioed smile are famous in this city. Known for his fine Italian cuisine, Massimo has been delivering consistently for sixteen years. [Photo Credit]

18. Trattoria Sotto Sotto

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116 Avenue Road, Toronto
ON M5R 1R2, Canada
An essential Yorkville dining experience, and not solely for the celebrity proximity during TIFF. Sotto Sotto serves up authentic Italian cuisine the way Momma made it … because she does. Roman chef and owner Marisa Rocca’s menu is based on family recipes handed down and perfected since immigrating to Toronto in 1989. [Photo Credit]

19. Lee

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603 King Street West, Toronto
ON M5V 1M5, Canada
(416) 504-7867
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Susur Lee’s reputation in New York City may not have the legs it does here, but in Toronto he’s still the culinary legend of eponymous Susur and Lee restaurant fame. Nowadays he’s also got family resto Bent on Dundas West, but go to Lee first. [Photo Credit]

20. Local Kitchen & Wine Bar

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1710 Queen St W, Toronto
ON M6R 1B3, Canada
(416) 534-6700
A charming, bustling, cozy Parkdale fixture, Local Kitchen attracts a diverse crowd, mainly comprised of – what else – locals. Owners Michael Sangregorio and Fabio Bondi take pride in serving fresh, house-made pastas and a rotating chalkboard of specials like ‘Italy vs. Spain’ charcuterie, and when in season, lemon and ricotta stuffed zucchini flowers. [Photo Credit]

21. Auberge du Pommier

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4150 Yonge St., Toronto
ON M2P 2C6, Canada
(416) 222-2220
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Oliver & Bonacini (of Canoe et al) bring French cuisine to North York with Auberge du Pommier, their first restaurant set in two 1860s cottages. The menu, which does include foie gras, is designed by Chef Marc St. Jacques who recently received gold at the 2013 Canadian Culinary Championships. [Photo Credit]

22. North 44

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2537 Yonge St., Toronto
ON M4P 2H9, Canada
(416) 487-4897
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Mark McEwan, along with Michael Bonacini, Massimo Capra, Jamie Kennedy and company, is without question one of the forefathers of culinary excellence in Toronto. North 44 continues to attract the city’s high rollers and helped set the bar for fine dining – and for McEwan’s many other projects that followed. [Photo Credit]

23. Le Select Bistro

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432 Wellington Street West, Toronto
ON M5V 1E3, Canada
(416) 596-6405
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Emigrating from its original Queen West haunts (would it actually fit in today?), Le Sélect is nestled away on Wellington where patrons can easily pretend they’ve been transported to the bistros of gay Paris. It’s a little more upscale than it used to be, but still delivers the same fare you’d expect – including a late night steak-frites dinner. [Photo Credit]

24. Barque Smokehouse

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299 Roncesvalles Ave., Toronto
ON M6R 2M3, Canada
(416) 532-7700
The smoky fumes from Barque are irresistible. Everything here is smoked; even the cocktails. If you’ve got kids, go on a Sunday for Family Night, where mounds of barbecue and a selection of fries and veg are served family style to a bustling restaurant of Roncesvalles families. [Photo Credit]

25. Tappo Wine Bar & Restaurant

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55 Mill St., Toronto
ON M5A 3C4, Canada
(647) 430-1111
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Dining al fresco in the courtyard of Toronto’s Historic Distillery District is a delight no matter what the meal, but when it comes from Italian restaurant Tappo, it’s even better. An extensive wine list makes this an oenophile’s dream. [Photo Credit]

26. Guu Izakaya

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398 Church St., Toronto
ON M5B 2A2, Canada
(416) 977-0999
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The Guus are taking over Toronto, one restaurant at a time. The Village’s Izakaya is the original from this (originally west coast) Japanese-style pub chain, and its dining experience is not like British pubs to say the least. Do not be put off by yelling staff; that’s just part of the charm. [Photo Credit]

27. Kaiseki Yu-Zen Hashimoto

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6 Garamind Court, Toronto
Canada, Canada
One of Toronto’s most expensive culinary experiences, kaiseki chef Masaki Hashimoto allots one staff per patron in his Don Mills restaurant. His nine-course menu, which costs about $300 per person, is as carefully planned as the atmosphere; everything in its place, and a place for everything. [Photo Credit]

28. Via Allegro Ristorante

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1750 The Queensway West, Toronto
ON M9C 5H5, Canada
Located in a non-descript Etobicoke parking lot across the street from Sherway Gardens, Via Allegro shocks patrons upon entrance with its sheer scale and extravagant offerings. The wine list is the oenological equivalent of War and Peace, and the extensive Italian menu has been known to include jewels (read: sheep testicles). [Photo Credit]

29. Queen Mother Cafe

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208 Queen St. W, Toronto
ON M5V 1Z2, Canada
(416) 598-4719
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A comfortable, casual classic. For over 30 years, this favourite Queen West Thai locale has been the perfect après shopping destination. Many patrons order the same dishes, year after year (with Pad Thai reigning supreme), relying on the consistent quality that Queen Mother delivers. [Photo Credit]

30. Mideastro

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27 yorkville ave, Toronto
Ontario, Canada
Celebrating its second anniversary, this Yorkville restaurant fuses Sicilian, Greek and Moroccan cuisine from Israeli chef Benny Cohen. Dine on Mediterranean classics like paella, fish tagine, lamb kufta and black truffle carpaccio. [Photo Credit]

31. Barberians Steak House

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7 Elm St., Toronto
ON M5G 1H1, Canada
(416) 597-0335
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This family restaurant has been in operation since 1959 and continues to attract Bay Street’s movers and shakers – and recurring celebs – hungry for meat. Barberian’s is where to go to get your Canadiana Chateaubriand on. [Photo Credit]

32. Ruby Watchco

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730 Queen St. E, Toronto
ON, Canada
(416) 465-0100
When she’s not making waves on her Food Network program Pitchin’ In, Celebuchef Lynn Crawford is creating a unique prix fixe experience at her Riverside resto, Ruby Watcho. Focussing on artisanal ingredients, Crawford and co-chef Lora Kirk reinvent the restaurant nightly. [Photo Credit]

33. Marben Restaurant

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488 Wellington St. W, Toronto
ON M5V 1E3, Canada
(416) 979-1990
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The Sausage League has brought even more attention to King West’s Marben after it upped its ante with a revised menu that brought it from being just another restaurant to a farm-to-table dining experience. [Photo Credit]

34. Grand Electric

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1330 Queen St. W, Toronto
ON M6K 1L4, Canada
(416) 627-3459
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Get here early or line up for the city’s rowdiest taco and bourbon joint. It’s a place where hip hop blasts and plaid reigns, and the demand for one of its limited seats has not yet decreased one bit. [Photo Credit]

35. Bangkok Garden

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18 Elm Street, Toronto
Canada M5G 1G7, Canada
Recently awarded the Thai Select Premium designation by the government of Thailand, Bangkok Garden is one of only four restaurants in Toronto honoured by the program that highlights authentic Thai cuisine, décor and service. Bangkok Garden, at 25 years, was also one of the first Thai restaurants in the city.

36. Mildred's Temple Kitchen

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85 Hanna Ave., Toronto
ON M6K 3S3, Canada
(416) 588-5695
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Ah, brunch; the breakfast of champions. Mildred Pierce had been doing brunch for years, even before it was the thing to do. It’s a classic, and chef Donna Dooher and partner Kevin Gallagher are still doing it right at Temple Kitchen. [Photo Credit]

37. Gilead Café & Bistro

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4 Gilead Pl., Toronto
ON M5A 3C9, Canada
(647) 288-0680
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Visit chef Jamie Kennedy at his Gilead Café for breakfast, brunch and lunch – plus, on occasion, dinner too. Continuing his focus on the local, innovative menus he’s known for, Kennedy is an integral part of Toronto’s culinary evolution. Photo Credit]

38. Edulis

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169 Niagara St, Toronto
ON, Canada
(416) 703-4222
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Named enRoute Magazine's Best New Restaurant in Canada in 2012, Edulis is a hidden, romantic gem nestled off the King West beaten path. With "old school" European bistro fare and a charming atmosphere, it's a perfect date night spot.

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1. Momofuku Noodle Bar

190 University Ave., Toronto, ON M5H 0A3, Canada
David Chang’s Noodle Bar started the Momofuku empire and it’s for that reason that dining here first, before Daishō and Shōtō, is essential. With innovative twists on what would normally be considered fast food, Noodle Bar’s specialty is a shared, gourmet, fried chicken dinner. [Photo Credit]
190 University Ave., Toronto
ON M5H 0A3, Canada

2. FARMHOUSE tavern

1627 Dupont Street, Toronto, ON, Canada
A relative newcomer to the locavore scene, FARMHOUSE has entered with much fanfare. Highly engaged in the culinary community, this Junction eatery urges you to F*ck Mondays every Sunday night. [Photo Credit]
1627 Dupont Street, Toronto
ON, Canada

3. Parts & Labour

1566 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M6R 1A6, Canada
Chef Matty Matheson is the antithesis to the 1990s version of a gourmand: tattooed and handled @mattydeathbro. But with a talent in the kitchen that is bar none, he’s the epitome of 2013’s chef du jour.
1566 Queen St W, Toronto
ON M6R 1A6, Canada

4. L'Unita Restaurant

134 Avenue Rd., Toronto, ON M5R 2H6, Canada
Yorkville’s cozy comfort spot, this Italian restaurant serves up dependable favourites to a crowd as beautiful as the venue – and the fare.
134 Avenue Rd., Toronto
ON M5R 2H6, Canada

5. Playa Cabana

111 Dupont St., Toronto, ON M5R 1V4, Canada
At the forefront of Toronto’s Mexican explosion, in just three years this restaurant ‘chain’, which has spawn two off-shoots, went from three employees to selling $10 million a year.
111 Dupont St., Toronto
ON M5R 1V4, Canada

6. Canoe Restaurant & Bar

66 Wellington St West, Toronto, ON M5K 1H6, Canada
One of the most iconic restaurants in Toronto; for its acclaimed regional Canadian cuisine as much as for its stunning views from atop the landmark TD Bank Tower.
66 Wellington St West, Toronto
ON M5K 1H6, Canada

7. Campagnolo

832 Dundas St. W., Toronto, ON, Canada
Fresh, simple takes on Italian favourites and raving reviews of their bone marrow and tartare make this Dundas West spot an instant classic. [Photo Credit]
832 Dundas St. W., Toronto
ON, Canada

8. Nota Bene

180 Queen St. W, Toronto, ON M5V 3X3, Canada
Consistent quality in the kitchen keeps Nota Bene on the essentials list, and proximity to the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts keeps new patrons coming. Contemporary, continental cuisine includes a pre-theatre menu.
180 Queen St. W, Toronto
ON M5V 3X3, Canada

9. Buca

604 King St. W, Toronto, ON M5V 1M6, Canada