The very first MICHELIN Guide Toronto is launching with 17 Bib Gourmands spread across the city, from barbecue in Port Lands to Middle Eastern fare in The Annex. Read on to find out who's joining the guide. Bon appétit!
Brunch usually isn’t a kitchen’s brightest moment, but that's far from true at The Ace, a slim vintage diner that first opened in the 1950s. Maggie Stackpole and her husband, Rafael Badell, are the latest to hold the keys to this historic haunt. Whatever you do, save room for what is likely, the city’s best French toast. A triumphant square of brioche arrives topped with caramelized pears, vanilla bean whipped ricotta, and toasted pistachios.
Chef Anna Chen dazzles in Bloordale Village from this minimally adorned shoebox of a restaurant. Scallion bread with stracciatella cheese and eggplant dip. Parmesan tapioca fritters. Is this Chinese or fusion? Red lanterns dangling from the ceiling and a ceramic lucky cat waving from the corner hint at the menu's intentions but the chef needn’t be bothered with labels.
Grant van Gameren’s ode to Spain is the kind of place to get lost in and lose track of time. The cozy room is a stunning cocoon of curved, South African mahogany that wraps around every surface. The menu is small but offers a striking roster of conservas and pinxtos. Briny boquerones laid over stracciatella are a must, as are the plucky shrimp a la planxa coated in a riot of smoked paprika, cumin, and garlic.
If you’re here for anything but tacos, you’ve come to the wrong place. The menu is short and sweet, but still, how does one pick between the smoky barbacoa with jalapeño salsa and the flaky, beer-battered haddock with red cabbage? Everything arrives fast and hot, and then, in a blink, it’s all over and you’re back outside, plotting your inevitable return.
After years of competing and judging with the Kansas City Barbeque Society circuit, Lawrence La Pianta knows his way around a broad range of tastes, from Texas-style brisket to St. Louis-style ribs. Lightly charred wings and snappy, finely spiced sausage links are sleeper hits. Everything is smoked on the patio inside a redesigned shipping container and saucing is kept to a minimum.
This humble corner in the Junction is a faithful tribute to "hot chicken," a fiery, eye-watering style popularized in the American South. Chickens are dry-brined for two days and seasoned with a dark, brooding mix of spices. Diners in a hurry can grab a boneless sandwich and be on their way, but true fans know that excellence takes time and are content to wait the full half hour as bone-in birds are fried to order.
This restaurant is as inviting as they come, radiating comfort and anchored by a marble bar that welcomes solo diners like long- lost friends. From bread to charcuterie, practically everything is made in-house here, down to the fantastic pastas that make up the very heart of this menu. There isn’t a table in sight that hasn’t ordered either the signature cacio e pepe or the bucatini all’Amatriciana.
Under a canopy of trees, communal tables and an easy breeze make for a surefire summer destination. Sharing is paramount here, though on your own you could make a meal out of the salatim platter, which samples excellent dips like creamy hummus and smoky muhammara, fantastic falafel and grilled pita.
A quick walk through a tiny coffee shop to the very back leads to this bright, narrow dining room, anchored by a small kitchen fitted with binchotan charcoal grills. A particularly clever fried calamari salad demonstrates the creative talents of this kitchen. From green curries with fish to red curries with duck, the curated menu offers wide appeal for groups.
What started out as a summer birria pop-up by celebrity chef Matty Matheson and former Quetzal chefs Kate Chomyshyn and Julio Guajardo quickly evolved into this brick-and-mortar where tortillas are made in-house. The menu has expanded sensibly with aguachile de camaron, spicy seafood cocktail and sweets like chocolate cake with coconut flan.
Jen Agg's hip, boisterous venue manages both style and substance with confident charm. An excellent wine list is paired with a small, mercurial menu that punches above its weight class, where ostensibly simple, unassuming dishes turn out to be heavy hitters. Raw items like oysters and crudos are commendably fresh, and the house-made pastas are real showstoppers.
This neighborhood stalwart delivers a tight menu of street food favorites and regional curries from various corners of India. Order the thalis to see the breadth of this kitchen’s talent in one large, oversized platter featuring delicately spiced lamb curry, rich dhal makhani and a superb south Indian vegetable curry.
Chef/owner Ivan Castro developed a passion for cooking at the heels of his mother and grandmother, and he shares the vibrant spirit and bold flavor of his native Mexico City at La Bartola. Bright colors and vivid artwork echo the upbeat mood here, but this isn't your typical taqueria. Instead, traditional and authentic Mexican dishes offer a surprise—they're completely meat-free.
This itty bitty kitchen is the little engine that could: it doles out bold flavors and phenomenal bites, leaning heavily on seafood while spotlighting regional cooking from Tampico on the Gulf of Mexico. One dish worth ordering is the wera tostada, a riot of colors and textures. The crispy corn tostada is layered with mashed avocado and thin slices of octopus and shrimp tossed in a spicy macha mayo for a vibrant meal.
Chef Alvin Leung was one of the judges who declared Eric Chong the winner of MasterChef Canada first season, before taking on the younger chef as his protégé. This is the product of their partnership, serving up just the sort of freewheeling fusion cuisine that made Chong a TV hit. The assortment of decidedly untraditional dim sum serves as a prime example, drawing upon a grab bag of international flavors, including French, Chinese and Korean.
Sumith Fernando spent nearly two decades learning his craft at Schwartz's in Montreal before settling on his own recipe. He opened in 2018 and has been behind the counter ever since, building sandwiches out of thinly sliced, peppery brisket piled high on soft, spongy rye smeared with yellow mustard.
The open kitchen is the heartbeat of this place—snag a seat at one of the tables to watch the chefs at work. The young team is relaxed but efficient, and all guests are well looked after, with staff members happily recommending dishes or wines. Seasonality drives their selections, and the menu changes weekly.
Hero image: Fonda Balam © Julio Guajardo/Fonda Balam