If you're looking for new international tastes, here are Toronto's best.
Toronto is one of the world’s most diverse cities, and as new immigrant populations settle in and around the city, they add new dishes to the culinary canon. You might not be able to try everything during one trip, but here are the dishes, cuisines, and experiences you should put first on your list.
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Browse the World’s Cultures in Kensington Market
The bohemian Kensington Market is one of Toronto’s most unique and vibrant neighborhoods, with a diversity that’s reflected in its mix of shops and restaurants. The area’s Latin presence is highlighted in eateries like Jumbo Empanadas or Emporium Latino, the latter a hole-in-the-wall grocery store with a take-out counter in the back that does great pupusas (stuffed corn- or rice-flour flatbreads) for just a few bucks. Seven Lives, a take-out joint serving big, flavorful seafood tacos, is a neighborhood favorite, but if the line is too long, just grab the jerk chicken lunch special at Italian-Jamaican spot Rasta Pasta next door. The area is also home to a rising Japanese influence seen in snack shops like Koi Koi, a hip sake bar that does small plates, and convenience store Sukoshi.
Try Jamaican-Chinese Fusion at Patois
Toronto doesn’t have one signature dish or cuisine—it’s more about an eclectic mixing and matching of styles—and the Chinese-Jamaican-Southern mishmash you see at hip Dundas West joint Patois is unlike any other in town. The party-ready spot is fueled by dishes from the chef’s Jamaican-Chinese upbringing. While the kitchen’s best-known creation is probably the “Jamaican patty double down,” there’s also an indulgent burger built on a Chinese pineapple bun, fried chicken with pickled watermelon (or an equally-delicious cauliflower version), and plenty of tropical cocktails to wash it all down.
Experience Indigenous Cuisine
In recent years, Toronto has become home to several restaurants serving traditional dishes from the area’s First Nations peoples, which serve an important dual function as local hubs for Indigenous culture. The longest-running is Tea N Bannock, a Little India café with a menu that puts staples like bison, frybread, and arctic char front and center. Up on Bloor Street is NishDish Marketeria, a café and caterer with a seasonal, ever-rotating menu and a selection of Native-made products for sale. In Kensington, Pow Wow Cafe recasts the Ojibway taco (rounds of frybread topped with tasty stews) as a brunch staple.
Grab Some Regional Chinese Cuisine
Toronto is home to a sizeable Chinese population, so it’s no surprise that a number of China’s local cuisines are represented. Start at Yueh Tung, a family-run spot that’s a stone’s throw from Yonge-Dundas Square, for a variety of Hakka dishes ranging from traditional 12-hour-braised pork belly to Indian-influenced chili chicken. In Chinatown, Rol San (a fave of Raptors star Serge Ibaka) is an always-busy, no-frills spot for Cantonese dishes and all-day dim sum. Head up Spadina to Mother’s Dumplings for Northeastern eats like pork and chive dumplings and scallion pancakes.
Go on a Momo Crawl in Parkdale
The west-end stretch of Queen Street is home to a large Tibetan population, which is reflected in the proliferation of eateries serving momos, Tibetan dumplings stuffed with a variety of meats and veggies and served steamed or fried. Takeout counter Loga’s Corner is a favorite among locals, with Loga himself serving up cheap portions of dumplings (ready for dousing in housemade hot sauce) at all hours. Tibet Kitchen takes a slightly more artful approach, with tableside service and a variety of dumplings served up with curry or tamarind sauces on sizzling plates. If you want to sample the whole local smorgasbord, Students For A Free Tibet hosts a Momo Crawl food event every summer.
Spice Things up With Indian Cuisine
If you find yourself craving a good tikka masala while in Toronto, a great option is rarely far away. Your first stop should be Banjara (which has locations near the Annex and Yonge and Eglinton), which offers a broad, universally delicious menu that features some unusual dishes like tandoori salmon. In the east-end stretch known as Little India, the raucous, always-busy Lahore Tikka House specializes in grilled kebabs, tandoori chicken, and biryani. Vegetarians should head east to Udupi Palace, where the pakoras and dosas are popular with herbivores and omnivores alike. If you’re looking for a hearty meal on the go, there’s the butter chicken–stuffed roti (which has become something of a local signature) at Gandhi Roti, a lunch counter on Queen West.
Sample the Latest in Japanese Snacks
Toronto has enjoyed a Japanese food boom in recent years, spurred in large part by the arrival (and viral success) of Uncle Tetsu’s Japanese Cheesecake in 2015. The city’s hunger for the light, eggy cakes has cooled somewhat, but you’ll still see plenty of folks walking around with those signature boxes. Japan’s love of fluffy treats is also reflected in the arrival of Japanese pancakes at Fuwa Fuwa in the Annex and Hanabusa Cafe for in Kensington. Matcha snacks are also big; visit Tsujiri near Dundas Square for green tea drinks, soft serve, and more. Want something more substantial? Ramen shop Ryu’s Noodle Bar, with locations in Greektown and Queen West, was recently granted its own stall in Japan’s ramen museum. At the downtown location of Konjiki Ramen, you can try the chain’s Michelin-starred noodles without going all the way to Shibuya.
Dive Into Northern Thai at Pai
The family behind Pai runs several of Toronto’s most beloved Thai joints, including tried-and-true Sukhothai, snack bar Sabai Sabai and genteel, marble-swathed Kiin. You can’t go wrong with a meal at any of them–but Pai just might be the most memorable. Take a few steps down into an unassuming-looking Financial District basement and you’re suddenly inside a night market, with flags fluttering, music blaring, and hungry diners tucking into bowls of northern Thai specialties. Classics like pad Thai are here, but so are oxtail in garlic ginger curry, northern Thai sausage with makrut lime, and papaya with salted crab.
Stop by Market 707 for an International Smorgasbord
It might not look like much, but Market 707, a row of shipping-container food stalls on a quiet stretch of Dundas, is an incubator for some of Toronto’s most interesting new food businesses, playing host to everything from Zimbabwean to Jamaican food. The offerings change as businesses come and go, but some of the staples include Japanese fried chicken at Gushi, Quebecois poutine at Nom Nom Nom, and Filipino staples at Kanto by Tita Flips.
Feel the Heat With Caribbean Eats
Toronto’s thriving Caribbean population fuels a vibrant dining scene. Many of the old-school Caribbean roti joints have fallen victim to rising rents, but mom and pops like Ali’s Roti in Parkdale are still holding strong. Most of the best Caribbean dining is in the suburbs, but some long-running businesses are maintaining a presence downtown, like Allwyn’s take-out shop on Queen West. Out in the east end, The Real Jerk (with locations in Leslieville and the Beaches) is just as well-known for its oxtail and jerk as for its role as the setting for Drake and Rihanna’s “Work” video.