Looking for under-the-radar cool restaurants in Toronto? North York is home to a kaleidoscope of multicultural cuisine that rivals any other neighbourhood in the city.
The secret is that you just need to know where to look. What you’ll find will surely surprise you.
There’s a movement of bringing authentic and high quality food that draws on a neighbourhood that’s filled with the pulse of cultures that span around the world. While not often talked about as the culinary centre of the city, there are awesome patios here serving food so good that I guarantee that you’ll want to bring all of your friends and family.
Mantra By Host
Elegant and modern decor meets traditional Indian cuisine. Located at Shops at Don Mills, Mantra has excellent outdoor dining that has plenty of tables and umbrellas that spill out onto the pedestrian street where you’ll find tons of colourful pillows, greenery, and music to match the scene.
Many may have heard of The Host and for those that haven’t, they’re one of the OGs of Indian restaurants in Toronto. Mantra is headed up by the owner’s son, Ashish Sethi, who brings a wealth of experience from his training in New York and a fresh perspective to the cuisine.
You’ll still find many Indian classics such as their clay pot cooked Biryani, Tandoori and Tikka Masala, but you’ll also find innovative fusions in dishes such as Butter Chicken Poutine and Baos, Lamb Galouti Sliders and Tiramisu infused with Kerala coffee and Rasmalai. You can’t go wrong with the tried and true or modern mash-ups.
Auberge du Pommier
One of North York’s premier restaurants for French fare is Auberge du Pommier. Guests that have eaten here will tell you that their food is incredible but their service is even better. Expect this to continue to be the case in their welcoming floral terrace that brings to life the old country charm to their modern and sophisticated menu.
Whether visiting for lunch or dinner, you’ll be treated to refined French favourites such as Escargot, Seared Foie Gras, Tartare, Steak Frites, Tournedos Rossini and Tonka Bean Crème Brûlée.
TIP: Reservations are recommended. Also, note that they are closed Monday and Sunday and have limited lunch hours so make sure to check their schedule.
Their tagline is “Inspired in Italy, made in Canada” and that’s incredibly fitting for a restaurant that brings classic Italian dishes to life with a Canadian farm-to-table twist. Having been in operation since 1989, they know a thing or two about excellent service combined with dishes that are handcrafted with care.
Paese also touts an extensive wine list with a cellar that carries over 800 labels. The best part is that all of the wine is reasonably priced.
The patio space features a covered roof, ample space, warm-coloured string lights and comfortable seating.
TIP: Sundays to Friday, there’s no corkage fee for the first bottle if you bring your own bottle. On Saturdays, it’s $25.
Dal Dong Nae
Dal Dong Nae has quickly risen to be one of the top Korean BBQ joints in the city. The name dal dongnae is a nod to the government-sanctioned slums of the Korean War which explains the quirky vibes with old propaganda posters, the wood-centred stalls and rusted metal signs.
Of course, where they shine is in the perfectly marinated and thick cuts of pork, beef and seafood which you’ll have a hand in cooking atop the domed grill. The best part though is all of the complimentary appetizers that can be refilled for free. A warning in advance—the cheese corn is highly addictive!
TIP: There are 3 different Dal Dong Nae restaurants in North York alone so when a friend says “let’s meet at Dal Dong Nae”, make sure you know which one they’re talking about. Korean BBQ can also be overwhelming if it’s your first time so don’t be shy to ask the staff about how to cook or eat the meat (you’ll be wondering about the giant pieces of lettuce). Also, there’s nothing wrong with asking for refills of the free appetizers.
One of the not-so-hidden cultural gems of North York is the Aga Khan Museum which you’ll see if you’ve ever driven on the Don Valley Parkway. The groundbreaking design that features chiselled angular profiles clad in white granite aims to foster knowledge and understanding of Islamic civilizations.
Reflecting the culinary traditions highlighted by the museum, Diwan draws inspiration from the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia. Must-eats are their Veggie Samosas, Moroccan-style Beef Poutine and Salmon Kebab. If you have a hard time choosing, their prix fixe menu is also superb.
What makes this patio special is that you have a prime spot overlooking the Aga Khan garden that also sits at the base of Fumahiko Maki’s architectural masterpiece. Comfortable bistro tables, large umbrellas, refreshing sips and delicious dishes await!
TIP: Reservations are required. Also, keep in mind that the patio is open from Friday to Sunday only.
The Miller Tavern
There’s a little bit of history to this North York institution. Since the 1860s, the Miller Tavern has been a local favourite for their use of fresh ingredients, serious seafood, a lively bar and even a bit of gambling back in the day.
Outside of their historic building is a cozy patio decorated with string lights, soft wooden accents and plenty of greenery. It’s the perfect spot to order favourites such as their Seafood Tower, Wagyu Burger and Fish & Chips.
Izakayas are lively pub-style restaurants that serve a variety of small dishes like Spanish tapas that can be shared with the entire table along with a pitcher of Sapporo. Kinka in North York brings that strong izakaya energy and incredible service to the forefront, along with must-order items such as Takowasabi, Kaarage, Takoyaki, torched sushi, Tataki, Gyoza and Okonomiyaki.
Their outdoor dining is right near the Sheppard and Yonge junction, making it easy to get to by public transit. Tables are comfortably set apart, spacious for all the plates of food you’ll have and covered by an umbrella.
TIP: Availability for lunch is good but is often fully reserved during the prime dinner hours so make sure you book several days in advance.
You could say that Casa Manila is one of the originals of classic Filipino food in the city. They’re known for their modern approach to homestyle cooking and are also one of the first restaurants in the city to offer Kamayan, a cutlery-free feast of delicious BBQ, served on an entire table covered by banana leaves.
If you don’t end up ordering the Kamayan, they’re constantly tinkering with the menu to bring even more authentic Filipino food to Torontonians. A few things on the menu you should try are their Pork Adobo Fried Rice, Pork Sisig, Mabuhay Mixed Platter and Garlic Shrimp Gambas.
TIP: Their patio space is a bit limited so it’s always recommended to reserve a spot.