Expand your palette this summer by exploring these cuisines that are under the radar.
One of the best things about Toronto is its diverse food scene. With over 50% of the population being immigrants who brought their cuisines with them, you can find almost any cuisine in the city and it will be authentic.
As a travelling foodie, I’m all about finding and trying different flavours and I love being able to “travel the world” in Toronto for food. With patio season upon us, let’s taste something different and explore the city’s lesser-known cuisines available.
These restaurants are located across the city in different parts of Toronto, so it’s a great opportunity to also explore a new neighbourhood. All are accessible via transit and most accept reservations and walk-ins.
New Orleans Seafood & Steakhouse
Located in York, New Orleans Seafood & Steakhouse is a gem for Cajun and Creole cuisines that I’ve been visiting for years. It’s their first time offering outdoor dining to adapt during the pandemic so it’s a good time to try! Their casual yet classy patio is tented so rain and extremely sunny days aren’t an issue.
New Orleans Restaurant may not be the easiest to get to but it’s worth the trek for their made-to-order jambalaya, long grain rice with Creole sauce baked on a cast iron with andouille sausage, chicken, shrimp and daily fresh fish, mussels and crawfish. It’s great for sharing along with the New Orleans Fisherman’s Plate, which has blackened fish, Cajun calamari and coconut beer shrimp. You’ll also get to enjoy other traditional Cajun favourites like gumbo and crab cakes.
La Cubana has three downtown locations in Roncesvalles, Ossington and Leslieville with patios for you to try Cuban cuisine.
Though you’ll find the classic pressed Cubano on the menu, you can also enjoy other traditional Cuban dishes like tostones (fried plantains), yuca frita (Cassava fries), slow-roasted pork and hard-to-find conch fritters, all while sipping on Cuban coffee and cocktails.
Abyssinia YYZ in midtown Toronto not only serves Ethiopian cuisine but also specializes in the much lesser known Eritrean cuisine. They have a two-table open patio attached to the restaurant with even more outdoor dining on the street as part of CaféTO.
Get ready to eat with your hands to experience traditional Ethiopian culture as you break injera, a spongy sourdough flatbread, to scoop some of the delicious dishes and stews. I highly recommend doing Bunna (the Ethiopian coffee ceremony) so you can enjoy freshly roasted, ground and brewed Tomoca Coffee served in a traditional handmade ceramic coffee pot and cups.
For sharing, the Ewinet T’ibs chef’s platter has many delicious Ethiopian components in one dish and is good for two to three people. If you’re feeling adventurous, try the Tire Siga, an Ethiopian delicacy of raw beef cubes.
Little Sister is Toronto’s only Dutch-Indonesian restaurant with two locations and both with patios: one downtown on Portland Street and the other midtown on Yonge and Eglinton. The midtown location has a two-table covered patio attached to the restaurant plus more seating with umbrellas on the street as part of CaféTO.
Enjoy a vast taste of the Indonesian islands and order a bit of something from each section of the menu of skewers, snacks, sides and traditional dishes because they’re all meant for sharing. Start with an Indo Citrus Sangria, which is unique with the addition of coconut liqueur and lavender coconut water. Satay Lilit is a good way to get a taste of Indonesia because it’s uncommon to find Balinese skewers with its use of ground chicken. If you’re on a tighter budget, get the aromatic Udang Kari for a fuller portion. The rich coconut curry is so good with rice.
Though there’s a little more Malaysian food in Toronto than Indonesian, it can also be difficult to find Malaysian street food. Enter Soos Restaurant.
Specializing in Malay and Nyonya cuisines with a modern twist, you’ll not only find traditional Malaysian dishes but also creative spins like pulled chicken Kapitan tacos and Hainan Chicken Salad, which are poached breast, beansprout & ebi, crispy skin, master stock jus with ginger scallion and ginger chili.
Located in North York, Moldova Restaurant is the only restaurant I know that specializes in Moldovan cuisine and they also serve other Eastern European cuisines like Russian, Romanian and Ukrainian.
Here you can enjoy traditional Moldovan food on the patio like Mămăligă (cornmeal porridge), Zeama (chicken noodle soup), Borscht (beetroot soup), Mititei (small grilled sausages), Golubtsi (stuffed grape leaf rolls) and Dolma (stuffed cabbage rolls).