The best restaurants on Queen West right now
Our top tables along the bustling downtown strip
163 Spadina Ave., 3rd Floor, 416-260-2222, alorestaurant.com
Patrick Kriss’s Alo, three storeys above Queen and Spadina avoids all the tasting-menu pitfalls. Courses come with options (counting the amuse-bouche and intermediary courses, the number of plates can actually hit 14), and there’s not a whiff of stuffiness about the beautiful space. Ultimately, what sets Alo apart is Kriss. In his kitchen, lamb becomes as tender as beef cheek, and a stew of veal tendon, trotters, cockscomb, kombu and bonito is finished with frozen and shaved foie gras.
163 Spadina Ave., 416-260-3444, aloetterestaurant.com
Three floors up, Alo is the toughest reservation in town. But Aloette is a mini-Alo only insofar as the menu will never leave you bored. The unfussy but terrifically delicious offerings include lusciously meaty Burgundy snails in a bowl of Puy lentils, greens and a squirt of lemon; and scallop sashimi served on mini-tostadas with crema, diced apple and jalapeño. But the real talk of the town is the burger, which receives added oomph from aged beef fat, a top layer of fried cheese and pickled vidalia onions.
60 Sudbury St., 416-586-1188, bacchanal.ca
The dessert menu competes with the dinner menu for top billing at Bacchanal. Pastry chef Cori Osborne riffs on classic pâtisserie, and her sugar-dusted Paris-Brest is perhaps the finest doughnut known to humankind. Meanwhile, executive chef Luke Donato preps a first-rate choucroute with a white sausage stuffed with veal and another stuffed with foie gras; petal-thin slices of hamachi crudo and pebbles of cuke, dressed with a lemon emulsion; and a grand slab of two-months-aged côte de boeuf. The room is a beauty too, with its cognac banquettes and walls dressed in a toile depicting Toronto’s unsung icons—raccoons, Honest Ed’s and the Zanzibar.
746 Queen St. W., 416-203-3317, canisrestaurant.com
The austere room decorated with a national park’s worth of wood panelling is a clue you’re in for a serious lesson in True North cuisine. Chef Jeff Kang’s Canada includes twig-shaped knives for spreading house-made ricotta on sourdough; PEI oysters dressed with a bracing jalapeno-cucumber granita, served in a bowl of chilled beach stones; 12-hour-braised lamb shoulder, served with charred gem lettuce; a whole-roasted dry-aged duck breast; and a lattice of pink and fatty trout slices, rounds of radish and pickled cucumber, sprinkled with dill and perched in a pool of horseradish cream.
1198 Queen St. W., 647-464-9100, restaurantdandylion.com
This respite in the middle of the Drake-Gladstone party zone presents a menu so joy-inducing, you’d think it was edited by Marie Kondo. Diced raw beef is dolloped with mustard cream and sprinkled with ultra-spicy radish and watercress, a bit of sorghum buried inside the ruby nest. There are often surprise wild ingredients, like the forest of bitter, pine-green agretti on a wild turbot fillet pan-seared until a crackling gold crust forms, or the dainty baby artichoke hearts whose pink centres match the sparkling square of tuna tataki beneath them. By the time a pro server delivers dessert—wild blueberries piled on dense butter cake with a scoop of smooth lemon verbena ice cream—you get it: less really can be more.
1150 Queen St W., 416-531-5042, thedrake.ca
The art hotel and party hub that’s defined Toronto’s hipster culture for more than a decade still turns out very good food and drink. Executive chef Ted Corrado’s menus cater to every potential dining need, from açai bowls for early-morning go-getters, to splurge-level pub dishes at night. There’s even a standalone snack menu meant to be paired with post-work pints and the Drake’s original cocktails: the slow-sipping old-fashioned with brown butter-infused bourbon, cigar tincture and mole bitters is deserving of a visit on its own.
669 Queen St. W., 647-346-2377, lamesafilipinokitchen.com
Lester Sabilano and Daniel Cancino have a valuably rare understanding of how colonial history influences a cuisine’s flavours (in this case, the Spanish-Chinese-Malaysian mélange of the Philippines) and more important, how those flavours can be sold to a mainstream audience. Pancit, a typically egg-heavy noodle dish, is lightened up with a handful of green peas, chopped mint and red chili. The pork inasal—7 Up-marinated pork chop grilled, chopped and tossed with cooked pineapple and pearl onions—is sticky, sweet and excellent. For dessert, there’s halo-halo, a colourful sundae of strawberry jelly, purple taro ice cream and sugar-soaked mung beans, every ingredient of which is house-made.
785 Queen St. W., 647-352-5773, stnnana.com
Diners sit on red plastic stools at a communal table under a canopy of Thai flags and kick back with a lemongrass rum cocktail. For his chicken laab, Monte Wan swaps out the usual fine-ground meat for deep-fried breaded chunks, like gourmet morsels of KFC. Khao soi rates a cut above for the rich depth of the broth and the crispiness of its deep-fried chicken cutlet. The dish that sums the place up is an irreverent variation on pad Thai that Wan calls pad mama, a tangled heap of thin noodles and scored sections of hot dog that, in the heat of the pan, open into garish pink blossoms.
180 Queen St W., 416-977-6400, notabenerestaurant.com
This Queen West go-to for pre-ballet dinners and Wagyu steak lunches continues to look sharp after a subtle but vital refresh. Sashimi plates have joined charcuterie boards on David Lee’s crowd-pleasing menu, and vegetables share equal billing with foie gras. A round of eight-hour-roasted celeriac, for example, tinged with Thai basil and ringed with crema and stewed rhubarb, is just as satisfying as the crispy duck salad with its tangles of fish sauce–soaked green papaya, cucumber and chilies. Little touches, like a sea buckthorn coulis to cut a dark chocolate ganache, elevate dishes to special occasion status. Ditto the pro servers armed with crumb brushes and the perfect wine pairings.
685 Queen St. W., 647-352-1227, rickshawbar.com
Noureen Feerasta’s menu skips merrily across the Indian Subcontinent. Mung bean chaat salad, crunch on crunch, with sweetly savoury tamarind and ginger, would make any bhel puri wala proud. Spicy fried chicken thighs have their deep, delicious gochujang and Kashmiri chili flavour offset by cooling jicama slices. Falooda—rose water and vanilla bean gelato—receives added richness from the presence of malai, an intense clotted cream. And when a plate of masala branzino, hampered by gummy mashed rice, goes untouched, efficient staff notice and the kitchen generously sends out a dynamite Ismaili beef curry as a delicious, if unnecessary, apology.
720 Queen St. W., 416-504-1992, terroni.com
The flagship Terroni on Queen West still runs like a well-oiled machine: the atmosphere is relaxed, the service is friendly and competent, and the kitchen consistently produces well-executed southern Italian plates—a significant accomplishment given the massive menu. As essentially flawless meal begins with the Farinata con le Barbabietole, a hearty salad of roasted beets, heirloom carrots, arugula, watercress and sunflower sprouts, served on a crisp chickpea pancake and topped with an elevating sprinkle of crushed pistachio and mint. Focu Meu, a pizza of tomato sauce, mozzarella, pan-fried eggplant, smoky ‘nduja and a layer of shaved parmigiano, is a standout pie.