They aren’t kidding – chunky Chilean empanadas (baked pastry parcels stuffed with beef, chicken, cheese or vegetables) and savoury com pie with beef, olives and eggs always sell out early at this simple Little Italy spot. A mini empanada will only set you back £1. Bread and salsas are also homemade.
AUNTIES & UNCLES
Brunch is an institution for Torontonians and there’s usually a line outside this cafe with a menu of cheap and cheery homemade favourites. Plop yourself down in one of the mismatched chairs and dig into dishes such as grilled brie with pear chutney and walnuts on challah, banana oatmeal pancakes or grilled Canadian cheddar.
Cuba receives more tourists from Canada than any other nation, so it’s no surprise to find this restaurant serving Cuban dishes, such as ropa vieja (shredded beef in spicy tomato sauce with ripe plantains, white rice and black beans). Every effort has been made to keep its original comer-store vibe.
PAN ON THE DANFORTH
As Greek as Greektown (aka The Danforth), colourful, casual Pan serves unpretentious dishes such as calamari, moussaka and chicken stuffed with spinach and feta. Finish with a sticky chocolate baklava. A band plays Thursday to Saturday.
This delightful Hungarian diner in The Annex neighbourhood, with its checkered tablecloths and friendly family staff, has barely changed in at least a generation, even after a facelift last year. The enormous, perfectly crunchy breaded schnitzels are the best in town and the cucumber salad is a treat. Hopefully they’ll never change a thing. Note that menu prices include tax, which is unusual in Canada.
The Financial District branch of this popular Italian restaurant (there are multi pie offshoots in Toronto and more in LA) occupies a former courthouse with high, vaulted ceilings and labyrinthine dining areas. It’s open, fun and, despite the size, generally packed. Reasonably priced wood – fired pizzas, rich pastas and fresh panini would make the Godfather proud.
Dinner at acclaimed chef Susur Lee’s flagship restaurant in the Entertainment District is quite an experience. Servers help navigate the selection of East-meets-West delights to get the pairings right. The signature Singaporean slaw is a wonderful dance of flavours, textures and aromas.
Ramen noodles are practically a religion in Japan and they’re now increasingly popular in Toronto. The brains behind this clever outfit leapt on the bandwagon with their distinct flavour: caramelised pork. There’s even a version with cheese, if you can imagine. This branch (there are several across Toronto) is lively, noisy, steamy and beery, but classy.
QUEEN MOTHER CAFE
This Queen St institution is loved for its cosy, dark-wood booths and excellent menu of Lao and Thai specialities, including curries and dumplings. Canadian comfort food is also on offer. Check out the display of old stuff they found in the walls when they renovated and don’t miss the garden patio.