One Day in Toronto
Take in the quiet refinement of Canada’s largest city between bites on a delectable culinary tour.
Toronto’s local luxuries manifest in a variety of ways — through the city’s keen design aesthetic, its creative culture and its delicious and diverse culinary scene. Subtle rather than splashy, the discreet charms of Ontario’s capital can be savored over a relaxing day in the downtown core.
Wake yourself up with a cortado at local favorite Dark Horse Espresso Bar (215 Spadina Ave., Suite 102, darkhorseespresso.com), where large windows and communal tables foster a sense of sunny goodwill. The Black Ivory Coffee experience at The Ritz-Carlton, Toronto (181 Wellington St. W., ritzcarlton.com) delivers a little more ceremony: the elephant-processed beans are ground and brewed tableside using a machine from 1840. For your morning meal, there’s a tough choice between two local doyennes of the breakfast scene. At Lady Marmalade Restaurant (265 Broadview Ave., ladymarmalade.ca), you’ll find diners dragging house-made tortillas through rich black beans and puddles of vibrant yolk on perfectly poached eggs in the huevos rancheritos (don’t forget a dab of the kitchen’s hot sauce). Maha’s Egyptian Brunch (226 Greenwood Ave., mahasbrunch.com) offers a soothing honey-cardamom latte and hearty goodies scooped up with balady flatbread.
Deep within the warrens of independent design shops in the Distillery District (Mill Street, thedistillerydistrict.com), experts at Ontario Spring Water Sake Company (51 Gristmill Lane, ontariosake.com) use local H2O to brew sake found in restaurants throughout the city, and turn the lees byproduct (sake kasu) into salad dressing and soap. You can grab a chili-spiked hot chocolate at Soma Chocolatemaker’s aromatic open-concept mini-factory (32 Tank House Lane, somachocolate.com) and then browse cult perfume brands and apothecary bottles at Blackbird Vintage Finds (11 Trinity St., blackbirdvintage.com) or futuristic housewares at Bergo Designs (28 Tank House Lane, bergodesigns.ca).
An extravagant enclave of boutiques in the upscale Yorkville neighborhood beckons: International brands dot the plush Mink Mile (bloor-yorkville.com) or, for something more tailored to your preferences, you can work with a personal shopper at Canadian luxury retailer Holt Renfrew (50 Bloor St. W., holtrenfrew.com).
Breeze past the line of Instagrammers at Café CanCan (89 Harbord St., cafecancan.com) to plumb the depths of a brisket-fortified onion soup and a mean French 75. Along with the precious-in-pink décor, the restaurant houses a soulful French heart thanks to chef Victor Barry. Those who long for the traditional niceties of restaurants past will appreciate the divine hand-whipped sabayon that tops the apple tarte at the quietly luxurious Chabrol (90 Yorkville Ave., chabrolrestaurant.com).
Continue on your designing way with controversial artist Ai Weiwei’s boundary-smashing exhibit “Unbroken” at Toronto’s shrine to ceramics, the Gardiner Museum (111 Queens Park, gardinermuseum.on.ca), which houses 4,000 pieces ranging from the ancient Americas to Asia. For homegrown art, explore the country’s largest collection of historical and modern indigenous works at the Art Gallery of Ontario (317 Dundas St. W., ago.ca).
Time for some of Toronto’s best counter culture: Ask the friendly staff at the Gaudíesque but not gaudy Bar Raval (505 College St., thisisbarraval.com) to set you up with sherry, silky boquerones and creamy yet crunchy jamón croquetas. If you’re still peckish, Assembly Chef’s Hall (111 Richmond St. W., assemblychefshall.com) awaits, where local chefs pack fast-food style versions of their restaurant’s dishes into a too-cool-for-school cafeteria space and beer hall.
Two west-side restaurants show off Toronto’s terroir with leisurely tasting menus filled with precise technique-driven cuisine. Canis (746 Queen St. W., canisrestaurant.com) pulls off the balance between trendy foraged ingredients and modern Canadian fine dining — and chances are that chef Jeff Kang will personally present his latest creation to your table. The menu at Edulis (169 Niagara St., edulisrestaurant.com) nods to husband-wife team Michael Caballo and Tobey Nemeth’s culinary experience throughout Spain and France, but the pretension-free hospitality and house-made ethos keep the experience grounded. Call ahead to inquire if the canard à la presse is on the menu that night to see Caballo make sauce with duck’s blood at your table.
Discerning beer drinkers looking to quench their curiosity can sample the local craft beer at Ossington Avenue’s Bellwoods Brewery (124 Ossington Ave., bellwoodsbrewery.com). A modernist nightcap at BarChef (472 Queen St. W., barchef.com) will most likely reflect a liberal use of smoking guns, infusions and nitrous oxide. End the evening with a mystery: Those in the know can visit 1920s Prohibition Paris with a cognac-forward bar and the promise of a perfect Sazerac at the hidden restaurant À Toi, which can be discovered via a concealed lever in the cover café Coffee Oysters Champagne (214 King St. W., sipshucksip.com).