Canada’s largest and most diverse city is a patchwork of neighborhoods of all shapes and sizes. 140 are officially recognized, while 100 more live in the imaginations of the nearly 3 million people who call Toronto home.
For this piece, we’ll focus on gastronomy and mix the well-established enclaves like Chinatown and Little Italy with diverse and constantly evolving locales, such as Kensington Market and Bloor West Village.
Here are 10 of the best Toronto neighborhoods for foodies.
Bloor West Village
Queen’s in Toronto’s Bloor West Village — Photo courtesy of Brian Cicioni
In Bloor West Village, Japan meets Italy with the obligatory Tim Hortons strategically placed every eight blocks. For upscale Italian, try Queen’s Pasta Café, which is located in the geographic center of this rectangular-shaped locale. One spoonful of their densely packed short rib ravioli or rich fettucine pescatora will leave you with no doubt as to why many local restaurants and hotels buy their pasta wholesale from Queen’s. For dessert, try the chocolate lava cake or their homemade tiramisu. For wood-fired Neapolitan pizza, head across the street to GATTO or over to Goodfellas, which is located at BWV’s western edge.
For every pizza joint, pasta house and espresso bar along Bloor Street, there’s at least one Asian noodle house, sushi bar or upscale Indian option. For fancy ramen bowls and Japanese beers, check out Kinton. There are a handful of sushi spots on both sides of Bloor between Jane and Windermere. Bukhara and Durbar both prove that you don’t have to go to Little India for delicious Indian fare.
Nearest subway station: Runnymede (2)
King’s Noodle in Toronto’s Chinatown — Photo courtesy of Brian Cicioni
Take the 505 or 510 streetcar to Dundas and Spadina, and you’ll be in the heart of Toronto’s original Chinatown. From there, you can walk in any direction and find dim sum, dumplings, hot pot and bubble tea. We recommend letting your nose be your guide.
Dumpling House is a popular spot for Beijing-style dumplings. The cash-only King’s Noodle is known for its roast duck, which you’ll see hanging in their windows. For Shanghai-style dumplings and all-day dim sum, check out Juicy Dumpling.
Nearest streetcar stop: Dundas at Spadina (310/505/510)
The 506 streetcar runs along Gerrard in East Chinatown — Photo courtesy of Brian Cicioni
Like New York, Toronto has more than one Chinatown. Gerrard Street is the main drag in Chinatown East, which is small and compact, with a bowl of pho being as easy to find as dumplings or bubble tea. The BBQ spots are located along Broadview Avenue, which represents the head in this hammer-shaped neighborhood. There, you can see chickens and ducks hanging from the storefront racks, inviting passing carnivores in with prices significantly lower than what you’ll pay in the original Chinatown. At Sing Sing Barbeque House, you can enjoy one of their ample lunch specials for as little as 6 CAD.
For sweets, check out Boba Boy, located at the corner of Gerrard and Broadview, which is the neighborhood’s main intersection. This is where the 306/506 streetcar stops. Namwan is another equally delicious option.
Nearest streetcar stop: Gerrard East at Broadview (306/506)
Fenwick Avenue in Greektown — Photo courtesy of Brian Cicioni
The stretch of Danforth Avenue between Chester and Carlaw is lined with upscale Greek restaurants, mom-and-pop bakeries and multi-generation gyro stands. Alexander the Great Parkette serves as the neighborhood’s main meet point. Here, you’ll find Greek-Canadian grandparents sipping Greek coffee as if it’s the most important activity of the day. We recommend grabbing a gyro from Alexandros and joining them at one of the outdoor tables.
We all have those moments where we bite into something, and within a few seconds, we are telling ourselves that this slice of pizza, soup dumpling or bowl of ramen cannot be improved upon. For many, the gyros at Alexandros fit that description. The fire-roasted pork butt and shoulder option is the most popular, but you can’t go wrong with the chicken either. No matter which option you choose, the meat will be plentiful and tender, despite the slightly charred outsides of the heavenly slices.
On the other side of Danforth, Athens Pastries has been selling spanakopita and loukoumades since 1978. You can purchase the latter by the dozen for less than 5 CAD. Like the gyro meat from Alexandros, the latter are slightly crispy on the outside. But when you bite into them, the mix of honey and rosewater explodes in your mouth, sending your taste buds into a food coma that will make you wonder if any other bakeries in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) can compete.
Nearest subway station: Chester (2)
Kensington Market is located between Chinatown and Little Italy — Photo courtesy of Brian Cicioni
The feel and flavors of Kensington Market are similar to what you’ll find on both sides of the Williamsburg Bridge. Here, you’ll find trendy bars, vintage boutiques and a mix of world cuisine that rivals any other part of the GTA. The eastern border of this square-shaped hipster haunt borders Chinatown, so you can expect to find a variety of sushi, ramen, dumplings and pho along Spadina.
But if you walk just one block west to Augusta, everything changes. The stretch between College and Wales is like the United Nations of dining options. For German food, check out Otto’s Berlin Döner. Pow Wow Café is the neighborhood spot for indigenous cuisine, while Rasta Pasta gets creative with Caribbean dishes with an Italian twist. Try the jerk chicken lasagna or the dreadlock pasta. For desserts, check out Wanda’s Pie in the Sky or the fruit-centric Mango Like Desserts. The latter is known for its mille-crêpe cakes.
Nearest streetcar stop: College at Spadina (306/310/506/510)
Manning Avenue in Koreatown — Photo courtesy of Brian Cicioni
Toronto’s Koreatown is one of those neighborhoods where you can have breakfast, lunch and dinner for days in a row without getting bored. The five blocks of Bloor Street West between Christine and Markham are densely packed with traditional Korean barbeque joints, bakeries, grocery stores and the most bizarre dessert bar in North America.
An ideal day in Koreatown can start with walnut cakes from Hodo Kwaja; the red bean option is their most popular. It takes the team 36 hours to prepare their walnut-shaped namesake confection. While you’re there, you should also try their “hotteok” (stuffed Korean pancakes).
After that, there are a dozen different Korean barbeque joints you can try. Korean Village was in Koreatown before Koreatown was cool. This OG K-town spot was started in 1978 by a former Korean actress and fitness instructor couple who had no previous experience in the restaurant business. The Owl is known for its spicy pork bone soup, which they serve daily. Imonay (“auntie” in Korean) is a popular spot for dumpling soup and Korean sushi.
From there, things can get as bizarre as you’d like. Chung Chun sells Korean rice hot dogs with ingredients ranging from fried ramen to squid ink. At Poop Café, you can enjoy Korean bingsu while sitting on a toilet seat. The karaoke bars between Christie and Clinton are open until at least 2 a.m.
PAT Central is an Asian grocery store located in the geographic center of Koreatown. If you’re looking to try and replicate any of the dishes that make Koreatown one of Toronto’s best neighborhoods for foodies, chances are, you can find the ingredients here. There’s a can’t-miss mural on the side of the building facing Manning Avenue. At this intersection, you can also grab a bike and ride to nearby Little Italy or Little Portugal.
Nearest subway station: Christie
Rendez-Vous is a popular spot in Little Ethiopia — Photo courtesy of Brian Cicioni
The stretch of Danforth Avenue between Jones and Woodbine has the highest concentration of Ethiopian restaurants and stores in the GTA. No matter which eatery you choose, you can count on friendly service, as well as large portions, for reasonable prices.
Rendez-Vous started as a one-woman show in 2001 and is an ideal place to start your Little Ethiopia tour. Their full bar and catchy wall art give the spot a cozy lounge vibe. And if you’ve never seen an Ethiopian coffee ceremony, you can witness it here. They are open until 3 a.m. on weekends.
Lalibela serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, and also has a full bar. Here, you can try traditional North Ethiopian flavors, as well as East African dishes with a Canadian twist. They also serve Ethiopian honey wine, which is one of the world’s oldest alcoholic beverages.
Nearest subway station: Greenwood or Coxwell (2)
Gerrard India Bazaar — Photo courtesy of Brian Cicioni
The eight blocks of Gerrard Street between Greenwood and Rhodes are densely packed with Indian grocery stores, saree shops and several mostly informal dining spots. You can even find the subcontinent’s fast food at Desi Burger or Lahore Chaat. Both stay open until 4 a.m., making Little India a nearly 24-hour dining destination.
Lahore Tikka House is such a local favorite that even chefs from other Indian restaurants will tell you to go there. Chelsea Hotel head chef Gaurav Kapoor is a fan, as is local tour guide Kevin Durkee. Between the parking lot rickshaws and the ornately decorated main dining room, this 25-year-old neighborhood institution looks like a movie set – and it has been. In late April 2021, the restaurant closed for a few days of filming for “Wedding Season.”
Owner Gulshan Alibhai is passionate about protecting heritage communities like her own. Her menu offerings range from Lahori street food and individually-sold kebabs to Lahore’s signature tikka dishes. Don’t leave without trying pani puri (Pakistani nachos) and at least one lahori kulfi for dessert.
Nearest streetcar stop: Gerrard at Woodfield (306/506)
The corner of College and Euclid in Toronto’s Little Italy — Photo courtesy of Brian Cicioni
Shaped like a perfect square with College Street and the 306/506 streetcar running through the middle, Little Italy is best enjoyed in the evening. The restaurants, pizzerias and gelato shops you’ll want to try are spread out between Manning and Shaw. During the summer, you’ll hear live music coming from east and west. At the same time, conversations from sidewalk tables amplify the festive atmosphere that makes this area a popular destination for people of all ages.
Bella Vista is a popular spot, with a prime location for people watching. The streetcar stops at the nearest intersection. Their namesake gnocchi dish is rich and creamy, with the gnocchi being soft enough to crush with your tongue. If you’re craving meat, try the chicken parmesan, which they finish off with crushed black pepper. For dessert, try their homemade tiramisu.
Nearest streetcar stop: College at Grace (306/506)
The Portuguese Canadian Walk of Fame — Photo courtesy of Brian Cicioni
The borders of Toronto’s Little Portugal can seem debatable to first-time visitors, but there’s no disputing the fact that a handful of classic Portuguese restaurants and bakeries are located along College and Dundas. Most of what you’ll want to see and taste starts as far east as College and Crawford. This is where the Portuguese Canadian Walk of Fame is located.
The restaurants and bakeries start at Ossington, which is where Little Italy ends and Little Portugal begins. Try Chiado for upscale Portuguese dining. More casual options like The Portuguese Chicken Guys and Bairrada are located a couple blocks west. The latter is a small local chain.
And you can’t leave Little Portugal without checking out one of the small, family-owned bakeries. Those are located between Dundas and Douro, which is named after the river that flows from Spain into Porto. Bom Dia, Venezia and Brazil are within the generally recognized borders. The small local chain, Nova Era, is in Little Italy but still worth trying for their breads and egg tart varieties. If you only plan to visit one, we recommend Brazil, as it’s a café, deli and bakery all in one. They import an impressive variety of meats and cheeses from the motherland and also allow you to dine in.
Nearest streetcar stop: Dundas at Sheridan (505)