Toronto Life’s most popular food stories of 2023

Toronto Life’s most popular food stories of 2023

Our top Q&As, memoirs and restaurant openings

Our readers were hungry for a variety of reads this year, including a biography of one of Toronto’s most prolific restaurateurs, a memoir about turning a dairy farm into a distillery and a ranking of all the new food at the Rogers Centre. Here, a dozen of our most read food stories of 2023.

Rogers Centre

No. 12 All the new food at the Rogers Centre, ranked

When the Blue Jays played their 2023 home opener against the Detroit Tigers, fans at the Rogers Centre had a hard time focusing on the game. That’s because the stadium unveiled a cornucopia of off-field attractions, including a bunch of new stuff to eat and drink. | By Mathew Silver | April 11
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Louie Cristello, owner of the Ladybug Tavern in Toronto

No. 11 “It was time to come home”: After Banknote Bar was booted from King West by the Ontario Line, owner Louie Cristello looked to Little Italy

In 2022, Cristello owned two Banknote Bar locations—one in Corktown, the other on King West. Then came Metrolinx, buying up a bunch of buildings downtown to make way for the 15.6-kilometre Ontario Line. The Banknote on King West became a casualty of infrastructural progress. Suddenly, Cristello was on the lookout for another project, something to do as he approached retirement. That’s when he saw a For Lease sign on the property at 890 College Street, just a short walk from his house. | By Mathew Silver | January 11
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Chef Joe Friday holds a box of burgers and fries behind the counter of Friday Burger Co., his new burger counter on the Danforth

No. 10 What’s on the menu at Friday Burger Co., chef Joe Friday’s new Danforth burger joint

The first time Toronto Life checked in with chef Joe Friday, he was operating a private catering business where he would set up in his clients’ homes and make mochi fried chicken (he grew up in Japan) or camp out in their backyards with a portable pizza oven. Friday still takes bookings for private affairs, but his newest endeavour is more casual and accessible: a burger joint, bringing his North Carolina heritage to Toronto via Nashville fried chicken, Southern-accented burgers and diner-style sides like Mississippi mud pies and hand-spun milkshakes. | By Kate Dingwall | October 23
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The entrance to Fairview Mall's T&T location

No. 9 Inside the new 36,000-square-foot T&T Supermarket at Fairview Mall

Earlier this year, as part of an $80-million glow up, Fairview Mall converted a former Sears into a sprawling Asian food hall complete with vendors selling soufflé pancakes, Taiwanese milk tea and Hong Kong–style baked goods. But the biggest retailer in the revitalized space is a new location of the Canadian Asian supermarket chain T&T. Come with us for a virtual stroll through North York’s newest grocery monolith. | By Liza Agrba | June 1
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Freebird Market

No. 8 Inside Freebird, a swanky new market in Etobicoke for house-made pizza, pasta, pastries and groceries

Freebird, a market for all things artisanal in south Etobicoke, is the pandemic outgrowth of 10tation, a 22-year-old catering company based in the same building. When Covid put the kibosh on large gatherings, owner David D’Aprile saw an opportunity to leverage his commissary kitchen into a neighbourhood market complete with specialty groceries and an extensive prepared-foods section. And thus, Freebird Market took flight. | By Liza Agrba | February 1
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Black and Blue Steakhouse

No. 7 What’s on the menu at Black and Blue, a two-storey, 9,000-square-foot steakhouse in the old Toronto Stock Exchange space

After more than three decades in the restaurant industry, Emad Yacoub has come full circle with his Toronto steakhouse. The founder and CEO of Glowbal Restaurant Group first came to Toronto from Egypt when he was just 18 years old, working in restaurants for $4 an hour. And while he opened his first chophouse in BC, he considers Black and Blue to be a homecoming of sorts. | By Tiffany Leigh | April 21
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Janet Zuccarini, Toronto's most consistent restaurateur

No. 6 The Insatiable Janet Zuccarini

After nearly three decades building her food empire in Toronto, Janet Zuccarini is launching an 8,000-square-foot, $7-million hotspot in LA this fall—all while mourning her husband, Robbie Robertson. Opening a restaurant in 2023 is brave. Running a dozen of them is bonkers. | By Katrina Onstad | October 2
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Circles and Squares Bakery owner David Baxter

No. 5 “We’re selling fifteen times more than normal”: This North York bakery makes the province’s best butter tarts

Circles and Squares bakery won big at this year’s Ontario’s Best Butter Tart Festival. Owner David Baxter weighs in on the secret to their recipe, the fandom around the pastry and the great raisin debate. | By Courtney Shea | June 16
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Jamie Kennedy, seasoning some of his famous frites at his Prince Edward County farm. Photo by Suresh Doss

No. 4 Where to eat and drink in Prince Edward County, according to these Toronto chefs who moved there

Prince Edward County’s food scene is on fire right now. And, in typical Toronto fashion, we can’t help but say, “You’re welcome.” Over the past few years, some seriously heavy-hitting culinary talent has ditched city life for wholesome country living. We caught up with a handful of Toronto chefs and hospitality powerhouses who now call the county home and asked them where we should eat on our next visit to PEC. (And because we’re a little bit narcissistic, we also asked what they miss about Toronto.) | By Caroline Aksich | May 19
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Taylor McIndless and Ryan Fowler, owners of Wild Lot Farm Distillery in Prince Edward County
Taylor McIndless (left) and Ryan Fowler, owners of Wild Lot Farm Distillery

No. 3 “There were waist-high piles of manure”: How this Toronto couple turned an old Prince Edward County dairy farm into a craft distillery

In 2018, Ryan Fowler and Taylor McIndless, who had dreams of opening up their own distillery, stumbled upon an old dairy farm in Prince Edward County. But it needed more than just a little elbow grease—days before they got the keys, there were still cows roaming the property and piles of manure in the 3,500-square-foot barn. Two and a half years later, the couple managed to turn the dilapidated property into Wild Lot, a beautiful distillery and event space. | By Ryan Fowler, as told to Kate Dingwall | August 10
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Chef David Schwartz

No. 2 Where chef David Schwartz eats Chinese food in Scarborough and North York

David Schwartz, the executive chef and co-owner of Mimi Chinese and Sunnys Chinese, sometimes finds his inspiration in the suburbs. “I spend almost every moment of my downtime simply driving and eating through different neighbourhoods,” he says. “Scarborough is probably one of my favourite areas to explore. It has one of the deepest food landscapes in North America—the finds here are unparalleled.” Schwartz took us on a tour of his favourite spots beyond the downtown core. | By David Schwartz, as told to Tiffany Leigh | May 24
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Prime Seafood Palace

No. 1 Where to Eat Now

After two years of takeout and home cooking, Toronto diners were keen to splurge on prime cuts of beef, seafood towers and caviar, so much caviar. And while a Scarborough taco counter, a North York food hall vendor and a Tel Aviv–born fast-casual kitchen made our annual ranking of the city’s best restaurants, most of the other places are for that special night out. There’s more than one French bistro, a two-person-minimum oma­kase spot and a restaurant that identifies as a palace. | By Liza Agrba, Alex Baldinger and Rebecca Fleming | May 15
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