Toronto is a great eating city. Being one of the most diverse in the world, it has long been home to thriving Caribbean, Portuguese, Vietnamese food scenes and countless others. We all know going out to eat isn’t just about the food; it’s about the vibe, the atmosphere, and the experience. If the night calls for celebration, fanfare, and less about the best bowl of pho or plate of jerk, here are the city’s most spectacular dining rooms. Don’t worry, you’ll still be eating well.
If the city has a celebrity chef, it’s Matty Matheson. He opened his temple to steaks, chops and lobster in 2022, and it quickly became “the” place to dine. You’ll feast on caviar, morels and prime rib in one of the most beautiful rooms in the city. Designed by Toronto’s own Omar Gandhi, the space is airy, filled with light wood and Canadian artwork. Snag a booth if you can, the town’s best martinis taste a little smoother when leaning back into the buttery leather. Take note of nerdy design details like each table’s appointed drawer that your server pulls silverware from.
Another 2022 addition to the dining scene, you’ll find Alder at the bottom of Ace Hotel. Although technically subterranean, you’d never know, thanks to the sweeping windows. The theme is wood-fired and you can smell the delicious smokiness from the second you step into the lobby. Everything from the cauliflower to the seabream are cooked over an open flame. The vibe is luxurious yet pretense free. Design-wise, it’s a blend of textures and feels with leather, wood, and concrete elements. Grab a seat at the intimate bar and enjoy a glass of their house cabernet, which is a collaboration with Ontario winery Pearl Morisette.
At this point, this College Street restaurant is an institution. As soon as you enter, you’re transported to the pintxos bars of Barcelona via Gaudi-like curvilinear lines and dark wood. Hours can easily evaporate over glasses of vermouth and tins of conserves. Go early, they don’t take reservations and the patio outside isn’t a substitute for the city’s most uniquely designed restaurants. Pull yourself up to one of the wine barrel tables and lean while you drink your sherry, as just like in Spain, it often becomes standing room only.
This buzzy all-day wine bar relocated from its much smaller and less spectacular Dundas West space just over a year ago. Its new home is in a former autobody shop on the ever-so-hip Ossington strip. The vibe is light and airy, with high ceilings, skylights, and many plants. For lunch, enjoy a kale salad, not just any, as theirs uses both raw and grilled kale and oyster mushrooms. For dinner, try something from their impressive raw bar selection, like the snow crab legs and have a glass of whatever wine they are pouring. When it comes to natural wine, they are some of the most knowledgeable in the city.
The vibe here is French bistro — expect rattan chairs, globe lighting, and leather banquettes. The long subway-tiled dining room is great for a steak tartare or croque madame. The restaurant stays open late — at the bar, sample a glass of Gamay from one Canada’s largest cellars. Take note of all the posters that line the walls; they are from different gallery exhibitions worldwide.
Just off the booming King West strip, you’ll find the ever-so-chic Vela. The dining room and adjacent terrace are big, but at the same time have an intimate feel. Nowhere in the city is the lighting design more considered. There are table side lamps, a backlit bar and a ceiling adorned with curved tube lighting, all giving the restaurant maximum atmosphere. Enjoy the flattering light while sipping on one of their champagne cocktails or enjoying a bowl of creamy ricotta gnocchi.
The newest addition on the list is this Financial District Steakhouse-esque spot from hospitality veterans Charles Khabouth and Danny Soberano. They own other Toronto and Miami hotspots like, Byblos, Akira Black and Margo. It’s one of the largest, with an expansive 8,000-square-foot interior and a courtyard garden terrace. The vibe is spacious, airy, and luxurious. The city’s own design firm Studio Paolo Ferrari, accented the space with archways, many curving lines and intimate lighting, creating private nooks throughout. On the large menu, you’ll find a Waldorf salad, a New York Strip, and white pizza topped with potatoes. It’s recommended to cozy into one of the plush burnt orange booths and order another round of habanero-spiked pineapple margaritas.
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