Festive dinner. But make it low-key. Done and done at these inviting restaurants that are just about perfect for a cozy and intimate holiday vibe.
Take a breather from the holiday parties and celebrate casually with a low-key festive dinner with your SO or closest friends and fam. Breaking bread with your favourite people will be a welcome change of pace from the party circuit or larger celebrations at glitzier restaurants. These few hours of self-care will fill your cup — and your belly.
From its amiable staff to the star of its menu — golden rotisserie chicken — Taverne Bernhardt’s is the epitome of coziness. Even its charming digs in Little Portugal, alongside modest homes on a tree-lined street, makes it feel like you’re dining at a friend’s place… that friend being one who happens to be a fantastic chef. Their menu of sharing plates changes regularly, but you can count on inventive, flavourful dishes, such as Tokyo turnips with bacon and gribiche, and addictive cauliflower anchoïade.
Kwan at York Mills
Going for dim sum and sharing bamboo steamer baskets filled with har gow and siu mai is an essential best-friends ritual. Kwan at York Mills serves up an elevated dim sum menu all day long in a quietly modern space uptown. Dim sum here is an upscale experience (translation: it may cost a tiny bit more than other dim sum restos), but the handmade rice flour rolls cooked to order and super-fresh, piping hot xiao long bao make it a worthy investment.
House on Parliament
House on Parliament is the pub you wish you had in your neighbourhood. This Cabbagetown favourite features exposed brick walls and dark wood accents that make it feel homey, but it’s the gastropub fare that’s earned it a legion of loyal customers. You’ll find classics including bangers and mash and fish and chips alongside fun cuisine mashups like the falafel naan-wich and jerk quesadilla.
Madrina Bar y Tapas
Dinner with your nearest and dearest at Madrina Bar y Tapas in the Distillery Historic District is the next best thing to reliving your gang’s trip to Barcelona back in the day. With modern takes on Catalan tapas on the menu — think shrimp croquetas served with nori seaweed powder and kimchi, for example — and refreshing pitchers of sangria made with red, white or cava, you’ll feel like you’ve been transported to a chic little tapas hotspot in Spain.
The warm fuzzies you’ll feel at Sugo may be thanks to laughs shared with loved ones — or they may be from devouring this Bloordale hotspot’s delicious Italian comfort food. Favourites include veal parm, spaghetti with meat sauce, and rigatoni in a creamy (and very habit-forming) rosé sauce. With its red-and-white checkered tablecloths and a hip-hop soundtrack, Sugo’s casual vibe calls for denim, not party attire… although stretchy pants might serve you well for this pasta feast.
The understated but welcoming dining room at Alma lets the food steal the spotlight. With a menu featuring fare that appeals to both people who are creatures of habit and adventurous foodies, everyone in your crew will have the happiest bellies. Case in point: dishes such as pork wonton and noodles will be comfortingly familiar, while sea bass with ajo blanco, artichokes and Chinese olives will wake up those taste buds. Either way, you’ll be clamouring to make another reservation pronto at this Bloordale Village gem.
An array of local craft beers and a sensational menu of hearty dishes has made The Wren the cozy neighbourhood pub that east-enders want to keep to themselves. The room’s warm wood tones complement the restaurant’s elevated comfort food menu. Take their fried chicken sandwich: sure, it’s a classic, but the umami aioli, sweet pepper seasoning and charred pickled shallots kick it up a notch. Eat here and you’ll want it to be your own secret spot, too!