The Bars and Eateries of Toronto's Top Chefs and Restaurateurs
Over the past few years, Toronto has started to hone in on its culinary identity, helping the city to earn a spot on reputable lists as a global contender in gastronomy. Toronto’s top restaurants and bars offer a distinct edge and flavour that combines classic American fare with influences drawn from the multicultural diversity the city is known for.
Instead of settling for a commercial chain, here are but a few of the top chefs and restaurateurs behind some of Toronto’s favourite places to eat and drink where you should stop by instead.
Le Swan, Grey Gardens, Cocktail Bar, Rhum Corner
This high-profile Toronto restaurateur (and published author!) is behind some of the city’s favourite and most influential places to eat. She made her mark with the Black Hoof and has gone on since to open a bevvy of establishments, her most recent being Grey Gardens, a bistro in Kensington Market, Le Swan, a French-style dinner, and her upcoming venture (which will be the tenth restaurant she’s incepted), Bar Vendetta, a pasta and wine bar opening in the former spot of the Hoof in 2019.
If you’re in the mood for upscale Mexican, look no further than Los Colibris, located inside the Assembly Chef’s Hall (more on this place to come!). Chef Elia Herrera—who appeared on Season Six of Top Chef Canada—hails from Veracruz, Mexico and prepares fresh, gourmet and authentic tacos using traditional family recipes that have been passed on over generations.
Trattoria Nervosa, Gusto 101, Chubby’s Jamaican Kitchen, PAI Northern Thai Kitchen
Janet Zuccarini is behind the Gusto 54 restaurant group and a resident judge on Top Chef Canada. She opened her first restaurant, Trattoria Nervosa, in 1996, which remains a Yorkville staple for Italian fare. Since then, she’s opened Gusto 101 (also Italian cuisine) and expanded her culinary ventures to Thai food and Jamaican.
Ruby Watch Co.
With over 25 years of culinary experience under her belt, Lynn Crawford is a Candian culinary treasure. You may recognize her from the Food Network show, Restaurant Makeover, where she lent her talents to help floundering restaurant businesses. Her Toronto restaurant, Ruby Watch Co., offers a prix-fixe nightly menu, consisting of Canadian-style dishes made using seasonal ingredients.
Lee, Luckee, Lee Kitchen, Kid Lee
Celebrity chef Susur Lee was born in Hong Kong but has been an icon of Toronto’s food community since he moved here in 1978, following a prestigious apprenticeship at Hong Kong’s Penninsula Hotel. He finished second in the television series Top Chef: Masters and was the second Canadian chef of all time to make an appearance on Iron Chef America. He now runs four restaurants in Toronto and is renown for his Asian-fusion cuisine.
Rose & Sons, Fat Pasha, Big Crow, Schmaltz Appetizing
If you ever find yourself on Toronto’s Dupont Street, take your pick from one (or more—we won’t judge) of four eateries headed by Chef Anthony Rose. For a barbecue cookout, opt for Big Crow, or mow down on comfort-food classics at Rose and Sons. Fat Pasha focusses on Middle Eastern and Jewish plates, while Schmaltz Appetizing serves the best lox, bagel and cream cheese in town for a quick lunch on the go.
Grant van Gameren
Bar Raval, Bar Isabel
Formerly the head chef of the Black Hoof, Grant Van Gameren’s went on to open Bar Isabel in 2013. This cosy spot serving Spanish-inspired small plates proved so popular that he went on to open the beautiful Gaudiesque Bar Raval in 2015. Head to Bar Isabel if you want a seated, long-lingering dinner, whereas Bar Raval is best suited for late-night tapas and cocktails.
New restaurant — coming soon!
Though he’s no longer the executive chef at Parts & Labour, which is widely viewed as serving some of the best burgers in the city, we couldn’t go without mentioning this legend of Canadian cuisine. Since his days of being a culinary force in Toronto kitchens, Matheson has gone on to write a cookbook and host the Vice series It’s Suppertime and the culinary travel series Dead Set on Life. Matheson is planning on opening a new restaurant on Queen Street West later this year, and we can’t wait to check it out!
Assembly Chef’s Hall
Can’t make up your mind? Visit the Assembly Chef’s Hall, which puts 17 of the city’s best chefs under one roof in the first chef-driven community market in Canada. From speciality coffee to Mexican cuisine and everything in between, you’ll be certain to find something to pique your interest among this mouth-watering collection of flavours. Better yet—join us on one of our Food & Booze tours and let us guide your senses to sample a little bit of it all!
Other noteworthy mentions:
Mark McEwan (Host of The Heat on Food Network Canada), ONE Restaurant
Patrick Kriss, Alo (named one of the world’s 50 best restaurants)
Carl Heinrich (Top Chef Canada Season Two winner), Richmond Station