Maple Leaf Tavern

The secret to this place isn’t the million dollars sunk into the century-old building’s restoration, or the potency of the double Manhattan, which is so popular it’s on tap. It’s not the old-timey jumbo shrimp cocktails or the all-star cooking team (though they’re great—pulled from spots like the Spoke Club, Scaramouche and the Saint).

A million-dollar reno transformed the former east-end dive into one of Toronto’s most comfortable dining rooms.

The secret is the kitchen’s built-in wood-fired grill with racks raised and lowered by custom pulleys. Wood-grilled everything is as trendy as it gets this year, and any restaurant would be lucky to have this set-up. Executive chef Jesse Vallins grills veggies and whole potatoes, whole fish, he-man tomahawk chops, mutton and rib-eye. The smoky, charred outcome is like campfire cooking, only far better.

955 Gerrard St. E., 416-465-0955, mapleleaftavern.ca

Chef Jesse Vallins uses an elaborate wood-fired grill to cook chops, steaks and whole fish, such as the sea bream served with beurre blanc.
Grilled hassleback potatoes with truffle butter and chilled foie gras.