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Food & Drink

The best restaurants in Parkdale and Little Portugal

Our highest-rated restaurants in the two west-end ‘hoods

Antler
1454 Dundas St. W., 647-345-8300, antlerkitchenandbar.com

Chef Michael Hunter was the target of sustained sidewalk demonstrations by meat-is-murder activists in 2018—he responded by butchering a deer leg in the window. But if the protest’s aim was to hurt his business, it seems to have backfired: Antler has never been more popular. Much of the buzz is justified. Hunter knows how to pack exceptional gaminess into a dish: wild boar flavours the ragoût over hand-cut ricotta cavatelli, and there’s more boar (and venison, and bison) in the burger, where optional foie gras is the only logical move. The menu reads like a cedar-infused love letter to Canadian ingredients, and that includes the maple ice cream sandwich on sweet brioche.    

Bar Fancy
1070 Queen St. W., 416-546-1416, barfancy.ca

This casual snacks and drinks place is hidden down an alley, smack in the middle of the Queen West party district. Tables are closely packed, servers crank the volume on Young Americans, and the drinks list is limited to bar rail and microbrews. The food is coyly posh: mineral Malpeque oysters with a Vietnamese-inspired sauce; deep-fried chicken in a thin, spicy batter; and chicken wings coated with a numbing Sichuan pepper that builds until your mouth burns like a five-alarm fire.    

Chantecler
1320 Queen St. W., 416-628-3586, restaurantchantecler.com

Dinner at Parkdale’s petite French-inspired bistro is both delicious and cacophonous. Music is loud. Cutlery clatters. And, when the street-facing window is open, a literal siren song serenades. Luckily you don’t need ears to enjoy what chef Peter Robson sends out of the twee kitchen: garlicky escargot with grilled sourdough; asparagus drizzled with shallot hollandaise and finished with bacon crumbles; duck two ways (smoked breast, crispy leg) with jus. It’s all very good, and it’s all very rich, so it’s serendipitous that the only available parking spot was five blocks west and two blocks south—a post-prandial walk won’t hurt.    

Enoteca Sociale
1288 Dundas St. W., 416-534-1200, sociale.ca

Even if Dundas West isn’t quite Trastevere, the brick-lined, tree-canopied patio of this Roman-style restaurant is a prime spot for people-watching while poring over one of the city’s most thorough collections of Italian wine. Chef Kyle Rindinella’s menu leans into seasonal ingredients and straightforward classics, like traditional cacio e pepe. A salad of New Farm bitter greens tossed with pecorino romano in a lemon vinaigrette captures the Italian capital’s humble culinary aesthetic with the bounty of Ontario’s freshest produce. The best way to navigate the menu is to round up a group and order family style for a gut-busting procession of Rindinella’s greatest hits, served in the restaurant’s subterranean wine cellar.    

Hanmoto
2 Lakeview Ave., no phone, @hanmoto_

Leemo Han’s secretive Dundas West izakaya bears the junk-shop look he and brother Leeto established at snack-food spot Oddseoul. As at the best izakayas, the chef maintains a healthy disregard for dieters. Prime example: a sandwich of roasted, super-fatty pork belly, coated in soy remoulade, barely contained by a coco bun. Dyno Wings are stuffed with spicy pork and rice, deep-fried and served in a takeout box. Even more impressive are a tartare of fantastically fresh hamachi and the nasudengaku—Japanese eggplant charred until creamy, the length of it covered in finely shredded deep-fried beets. The drinks list is short but thoughtful: Asahi on tap, quality sake and Asian-inspired cocktails.    

Harry’s Charbroiled
160 Springhurst Ave., 416-532-2908, harryscharbroiled.com

When Grant van Gameren and his partners bought this ancient Parkdale diner, they left the look intact, including the patchwork linoleum floors, smoky-mirrored walls and tabletop jukeboxes (last updated circa “Beat It”). The short-order menu, however, has been van Gameren-ized. Be sure to get the burger with a green chorizo patty, its heat slightly tempered by a sweet tomatillo relish. We’re also a fan of the skirt steak on a bun, which is especially good dipped in a bowl of gravy (by request), and the Miami-style ribs, which are sweet, tender and paired with a tart green sauce. Nearly everything comes with chunky fries. They’re crispy and addictive, though we’d try to save room for a dessert special like cherry crumble with vanilla ice cream.    

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Imanishi
1330 Dundas St. W., 416-706-4225, imanishi.ca

There’s no shouting or banging of gongs at this west-end izakaya; the only background noise is Japanese city pop and happy chatter. Here a Guu and Kingyo Izakaya alum pumps tasty small plates out of the kitchen at a rapid pace: things like fat slices of über-fresh bluefin tuna, and karaage chicken, delicious deep-fried morsels of dark meat served with a ramekin of addictive yuzu-Kewpie mayo. Belly-warming Nagoya ramen noodles swim with crumbles of beef and pork in a spicy, fiery-red chicken broth (an animal trifecta). Of course, there’s lots of sake, both by the glass and bottle, and one-litre steins of ice-cold Sapporo—this is an izakaya, after all.    

Local Kitchen and Wine Bar
1710 Queen St. W., 416-534-6700, localkitchen.ca

For nine years now, Parkdale’s Local Kitchen has been one of the city’s best-kept secrets—a neighbourhood spot that’s managed to thrive in the face of the decade-long restaurant boom, buoyed by its practice of using seasonal ingredients, self-grown produce and handmade pasta. Staples include chicken liver mousse with cipollini agrodolce and warm brioche; and ziti pomodoro, built simply with basil and peperoncino. There’s also an exceptional scallop crudo, accented with wild blueberries in a yogurt dressing, and a bone-in pork chop, breaded and pan-fried, in a bright red sauce, served with garlic bread. The wine list is predominately Italian and features hidden gems—though it’s wise to start any meal here with a well-made negroni.    

Tennessee Tavern
1554 Queen St. W., 416-535-7777, tennesseetavern.ca

This Parkdale spot is Grant van Gameren’s interpretation of an eastern European tavern—you wouldn’t guess from the name, a leftover from the last tenant. On the menu is an exhaustive index of sausages (heavenly kielbasa), schnitzel (paper-thin, crispy), pretzels the size of your head (warm, salty), cabbage rolls (oniony, saucy) and, in a nod to his principally hipster clientele, a paprika-dusted corn dog (delicious). This is hearty, gut-busting food, complemented by local craft brews and a long list of obscure eastern European liquors and liqueurs, all offered by the shot.

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