Best Restaurant - Origin
Just thinking about Origin's delicious mozzarella crostini's makes the mouth water. It's no surprise chef and owner Claudio Aprile (who is also the force behind Colborne Lane) impressed everyone with a highly inventive and creative menu not seen in Toronto before. Some standout dishes include: bufala mozzarella with confit tomato, basil and preserved lemon; bufala mozzarella with pear, rosemary oil, pinenuts and honey; Japanese style tuna salad with Asian pear and avocado; miso glazed black cod with soba noodle salad; spicy Spanish fries with chorizo and manchego; Bangkok beef salad with peanut, mango and mint; and wokked and fried calamari with caramelized peanut sauce. Everything is good here and remember, never leave without dessert. The banana cream pie is a must.
If you haven't been yet, what are you waiting for!
Best New Restaurants - Ruby WatchCo, Guu, Local Kitchen & Wine Bar, and La Bettola
Ruby WatchCo. -
This Leslieville hotspot turned traditional dining upside down, introducing a daily changing set menu, priced at a reasonable $49 per person. Sure chef Lynn Crawford's concept was risky, but the risk paid off as people are still buzzing about it. And of course we knew the food, served family style, would be delicious. Sign up for Ruby's menu emails because it's fun to see what they're cooking everyday, and what other email will have you drooling at your desk!?
It's been open for almost a year and there are still big lines - it's safe to say Torontonians have embraced the Vancouver Izakaya, and are even willing to wait. Forget about the lineups, it's once you get inside the fun really begins. The noise, the shouting, the food, you'll leave thinking 'when can I come back!?' Be sure to have one (or three) Cherry Blossoms and order the butakimchi bibimbap. Trust me.
Local Kitchen and Wine Bar -
It may be a bit of a schlep to get to, but the Queen West, West, West locale definitely adds to Local's low key charm. The wooden tables, tattooed staff and small menu on clipboards, make the restaurant memorable, as does the food. Don't leave without ordering the house-made Ontario berkshire pancetta (maple cured then smoked). It's outstanding.
La Bettola Di Terroni -
Attached to their other restaurant Osteria Ciceri e Tria, La Bettola offers different pasta and pizza variations found at sister spot Terroni. How can you go wrong with a blockbuster special that includes spaghetti in a lobster sauce (BIG chunks of lobster) with roasted cherry tomatoes. The location is perfect when searching for a spot to eat around Yonge and Queen.
Best Brunch - Hoof Cafe
Where else can you have a tongue grilled cheese sandwich that melts in your mouth? The Hoof Cafe. From the owners of The Black Hoof comes a dynamic and rich menu that entices you to order everything on it, no matter how strange it might sound. Warning, this place is not for your average brunch goer (tongue grilled cheese) but it's a must try, especially the suckling pig benny and brioche french toast with foie gras.
Best Poached Eggs - Canteen
The new Oliver & Bonacini located in the TIFF Bell Lightbox, delivers the perfect poached eggs with two different dishes - the eggs benedict with pulled pork, english muffin, hollandaise sauce and home fries. Yes, you read that correctly, pulled pork benny. A close second is the poached eggs with potato beef hash. After eating here, you're never going to want to go back to boring poached eggs ever again.
Best Pancakes - Mildred's Temple Kitchen
The picture says it all. Fluffy. Thick. Topped with a perfect combination of maple syrup, whipped cream and blueberries. When you go to Mildred's you order them, simple as that.
Best Waffles - Starving Artist
Whether you like them sweet or savory, Starving Artist has the waffle for you. The waffle bacon (bacon battered and cooked in the waffle maker) is fantastic.
Best French Toast - Union
The challah french toast at Union is perfect in every way. Crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, add in some gooey cheese and top with a fruit compote, you'll still be thinking about it hours later. Plus a plate of pancakes before your breakfast is served, yes please!
Best Burger - The Harbord Room
It's true, over the last year we've seen burger joints popping up all over Toronto, but hands down, The Harbord Room wins this one. It'll cost you a little more than your average burger, but again it 'aint average. Cory Vitiello's naturally raised beef burger with sharp cheddar and caramelized onions, literally melts in your mouth and is the best burger you'll ever have. Try it. Now.
Best Mac & Cheese - The Counter
Most restaurants (including The Keg) now offer this comfort staple, but the mac & cheese found at The Thompson Hotel's The Counter, stands out above the rest. Served in a cast iron skillet, the large portion is topped with breadcrumbs and infused with truffle oil. The pancetta crisp doesn't offer much but after taking a few bites nothing else matters. Honourable mention goes out to Weezie's.
Best Pizza - Queen Margherita Pizza
Let's see - they take reservations, they have a gorgeous space, a very reasonable 3 course meal and of course, delicious thin crust pizzas. The meza luna - half margherita and half calzone stuffed with ricotta is a favourite, as is their speciality the margherita. It's simple, but what dreams are made of.
Best BBQ - The Drake BBQ
Anything Anthony Rose is involved in stands out, so when The Drake BBQ opened 2 doors down from the hotel, it wasn't a shock to anyone how darn good it was. It's a simple menu but sometimes those are the best. Here you've got three choices - a Carolina pulled pork shoulder sandwich, a Texas chopped beef brisket sandwich or half and half (what they call 60/60). Be sure to get a side of coleslaw and a homemade whoopie pie.
Best Poutine - Fire on the East Side
Poutine for breakfast? If you're not hungover the idea can be a little scary, but not at Fire on the East Side. It's a must indulge combo of home fries, pulled pork, monterey jack, chipotle hollandaise with a poached egg on top. Just do it.
Best Bar - Goodnight
Making a reservation to go to a bar may seem unconventional, but once inside you'll understand. Goodnight stands for what cool means. The wooden room and cottage vibe makes you feel like you're at home. The drinks are expensive but treat yourself because you're worth it. Order the Fat Sailor, you'll get drunk.
Best Cupcakes - Sweet Bliss Baking Co.
After a Toronto-wide search for the best cupcake, the winner is Sweet Bliss Baking Co. One thing to keep in mind - the cupcakes are kept in a fridge, so wait until they are fully thawed to enjoy. There is a lot of icing and it's sugary, thick and rich. No complaints here. There is a huge selection and the flavours vary day to day, but the best are the chocolate, vanilla and carrot. The store itself is cute but it would be nice to see them transform their front space into a small cafe where people can sit and relax.
Best Bakery - Clafouti
From the friendly staff, to the delicious sandwiches and pastries, Clafouti will put a smile on your face every time you go. The chocolate croissant is probably their most popular item. It's gooey, and chocolatey, and you want to eat five of them. Get their early because if you arrive any time after 11, they are usually sold out. And unfortunately, rarely ever restock throughout the day.
Best Photo - Broiled Grapefruit at Wish