When dining, the rule-of-thumb is that you don’t expect to get good seafood unless you live in a coastal city. However, with Toronto's massive multicultural makeup, there are many ethnic groups that insist—no, demand—great seafood.
Fish and seafood arrive hourly from far off ports along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts to fill the fish monger stalls from the cavernous the St. Lawrence Market to the Portuguese Kensington Market. The scallops, shrimp, and calamari caught that morning all end up on someone’s table that night or in thousands of the city’s countless restaurants.
Here then is a selection of places to get great seafood in Toronto:
The owners of the Atlantic decided to do away with the tyranny of a set menu and now create a new one every day based on whatever is the freshest at the morning market. This way you know the shrimp, calamari, scallops, etc will only be the best. If you just want a little tasting, sit at the bar for one of their daily $3 specials.
The Boulevard Café
This little Peruvian restaurant excels at putting a decidedly unique, spicy spin on all of its creative seafood dishes. The place warm and friendly with fireplaces to help dispel the Toronto winters. If you are a first-timer, order the parihuela, a seafood stew of Spanish/Incan background, filled with a tasty concoction of monkfish, mussels, clams, tomatoes, cilantro, and wine. And of course, try the ceviche.
Fisherman’s Wharf Lighthouse
After 41 years, this restaurant is still going strong. It has always been popular for the business types in the downtown banking area and a destination restaurant for others. Do try the tequila oyster shooters, the massive lobster salad or grilled black cod with miso-ginger glaze. Often voted the top seafood restaurant in the city, they can accommodate hundreds with three dining rooms and a private function room for that hold up to 80 people.
John & Sons Oyster House
This is a friendly, casual, stand-at-the-bar-with-a-platter-of-seafood-goodies kind of place. It is a perfect location for the Bay Street business crowd, who pack the little spot at lunch and after work. Oysters of course are the mainstay, but try some of their daily seafood specials. Get there early for one of the window tables so you can watch the commuters rushing for the train as you slurp some cauliflower and crab soup or chew on some yellow Thai curry mussels.
Long a staple of the local Rosedale crowd, and a favorite of Hollywood celebrities in town to film a movie or appear at a film festival. The two-storey restaurant is known for seafood specials marinated in black squid ink for a unique briny seafood flavor. Best to book a reservation – especially on the weekends, and do keep an eye out for movie stars. "Fish and seafood arrive hourly from far off ports along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts to fill the fish monger stalls from the cavernous the St. Lawrence Market to the Portuguese Kensington Market."
King Seafood Restaurant
There are so many excellent little places featuring seafood along the strip of Chinese restaurants filling both Dundas West and Spadina Avenue. King Seafood is an example of one of the largest and busiest; the place is packed from noon until close. There may be a line but it moves fast. The fresh seafood – and low Chinatown prices – make it worth the wait.
You must experience a Mandarin “all-you-can-eat” buffet at least once in your dining career, though once will probably not be enough. This restaurant does not specialize in seafood specifically, it offers every type of seafood or fish you could ask for. It's so popular there are now 26 locations. Buffet ranges from weekdays at $14.99 to $28.99 for weekend evenings.
One of the first fine-dining restaurants in the Distillery District and still one of the most popular, especially the outdoor patio whenever summer finally arrives in the city. There is also a long bar indoors that serves up platters of oysters and seafood specialties. Make reservations for the evening because many diners stop here before the 8pm curtain at nearby Soulpepper Theatre.
Like Mandarin Buffet, this Asian-based restaurant has become so popular there are now 12 locations. Spring Rolls is known for its fresh sushi and crispy tempura shrimp. The Dundas location is a huge two-level space that always seems to be full. If you are going with a group, best to book a reservation.
Rodney’s Oyster House
This is likely the best known name in seafood dining in Toronto – everyone knows Rodney’s and Rodney himself. He started as an East Coast chef and oyster shucker for hire and now has the premier seafood dining spot in the city. Whether it is fresh lobster, king crab or, of course, oysters, Rodney’s is always packed. Make sure you try the daily seafood chowder.
Our Best Seafood Pasta Recipes with Crab, Anchovy, Lobster and More
Fact: Pasta makes everything better. This is especially true with seafood—we love that briny, fishy-in-the-best-way taste paired with some kind of noodle. Here are some truly great seafood pasta recipes we love.
The 20 best restaurants in Toronto
This Canadian city loves discovering the culinary new: new flavors, new cooking styles, new chefs, new ingredients and, of course, new entries on our best restaurants in Toronto list.
It being the most multicultural city in the country, Toronto embraces foodie trends with open arms, from experiential pop-ups (which are some of the best things to do in town this year) to regional, specialty food halls and excitingly novel bar destinations. Which all leads to an amalgamation of flavors and techniques from different cultures rarely seen in a single city&rsquos restaurant landscape.
Expect Thai cuisine and Mexican street food to rub shoulders with Venezuelan arepas and Italian food. And the recent influx of Middle Eastern and Latin American folks has brought with it vibrant gastronomical flavors infusing the city&rsquos already rich culinary fabric with precious new spice blends. Bonus fact: tasting menus are back.
On the flip side, Toronto is also a town that embraces stalwarts with no intention of moving any time soon&mdashyes, poutine is here to stay.
So, whether looking for the new or the traditional, the safe or the culinary adventurous, we&rsquove got you covered: the best restaurants in Toronto will truly delight your taste buds.
Welcome to Mermaid Fish and Grill House Restaurant
Located in the heart of Toronto, Mermaid Fish Restaurant has become a loved address of seafood restaurants since opening in 2014.
With Mediterranean inspired cuisine, attentive, and seamless service, Mermaid Fish and Grill House Restaurant have earned a vast range of guests. Mermaid offers an exquisite menu with the high-quality ingredients and freshest fish recipes.
You can choose a huge selection of fresh fish, shrimp, calamari, crab & lobster. If you want to taste amazing fish recipes prepared with an authentic touch, Mermaid would be the best choice for you.
Do you want to eat healthy food?
Do you want to taste delicious fish grills with low calories?
If it is, the Mermaid restaurant will be your favourite place.
Throughout the wide range of choices among sea foods, you will not give up here!
Mermaid Fish and Grill House Restaurant is one of the best places where you can meet with your friends, family or co-workers. You should not skip trying our shrimp plate that it can be prepared as barbecued, fried or tagine. It is a very strong candidate for being your favourite among seafood. After a cool fish recipe, you can try our authentic deserts baklawa or basbousa. You can also enrich your meal with a side order which can be torshi, homus, tahina or Babaganouj
Warm atmosphere and fast service will show you that your choice is true. The talented chef of Mermaid Fish and Grill House Restaurant prepares your plate with an amazing and authentic design. Lots of vegetables and greenies will accompany your fish. And you and your friends can enjoy delicious foods, and suggest to others for trying Mermaid Fish and Grill House Restaurant.
The 25 Most Unique Restaurant Concepts in Toronto
Narrowing down the top restaurants in Toronto is no easy feat. On any given day, Toronto diners can choose from one of 12,000 restaurants within the city’s walls.
And with one of the most diverse restaurant scenes in the world, we’re sure we’re missing a ton of amazing options – so make sure to do your homework on your niche if you’re thinking about opening up a spot in Toronto.
For the budding restaurateur, Toronto is ripe for conceptual analysis: which concepts are working? which are not? To help you fine tune and differentiate your restaurant concept, we’ve created a list of 25 of the best restaurants in Toronto.
With these creative concepts in mind, we hope that you can refine your startup idea or fill out your current concept so that your offering stands out from the rest.
Byblos is a contemporary eastern Mediterranean restaurant whose philosophy is to use hand-made, homemade, in-house ingredients. But they also import the olives, oils, and spices they use from Israel, Morocco, and Turkey.
What sets it apart? A fusion of traditional and contemporary, Byblos uses time-honored cooking techniques along with modern methods to create an entirely novel taste experience.
Despite its city chic feel, Byblos keeps with middle eastern dining traditions: food is served family-style, and the ambiance is friendly and bustling.
2. Richmond Station
In a city that hustles and bustles as much as Toronto, time stops at Richmond Station. The brainchild of Top Chef Canada winner Carl Heinrich, Richmond Station is a casual, trendy restaurant in the heart of Toronto’s financial district.
Despite its artfully crafted menu and reputation as one of downtown Toronto’s best restaurants, Richmond Station remains unpretentious. Before its grand opening, staff sat together for Thanksgiving dinner and enjoyed a meal together. Years later, the restaurant’s humble atmosphere remains.
3. Nōmads Restobar
Toronto diners who want to eat their way around the world don’t have to go far. Nōmads Restobar is a delicious, close-to-home alternative, where diners can visit a few countries by taste bud in a single sitting.
Diversity is exactly what sets Nōmads Restobar apart. While most restaurants stick to a single cuisine, Nōmads Restobar goes the extra air mile, incorporating dishes from around the world. In one sitting, diners could eat Chinese bao, Italian arancini, and Portuguese piri piri chicken.
And diners are loving it: so much so that Nōmads Restobar is opening a twin concept in Mississauga’s Port Credit.
4. Kinka Izakaya
Prepare for some yelling, all in great fun! Kinka Izakaya is Toronto’s take on a traditional Japanese pub, known in Japan as an “izakaya”. Diners eat at communal tables and food is served tapas style. With a robust sake and Japanese cocktail list, diners can expect a loud, boisterous, communal, and delicious experience.
5. Chill Ice House
How much do Torontonians love the cold? So much that they’ll drink in an ice bar, even in the depths of a sub-zero city winter.
Chill Ice House is a … very cool bar where everything is made of ice. Everything, you ask? Yup, everything. Well, everything except the floor. The walls, the bar, the seating, the sculptures, and even your drinking glass are made of ice. At minus five degrees Celcius, the bar provides guests with parka-like capes so they can comfortably enjoy the brisk environment.
On its face, O.NOIR offers guests a fine dining experience. The caveat? They can’t see a thing.
As the O.NOIR experience proves, seeing isn’t everything. The restaurant aims to provide an experience that actually amplifies diners’ ability to taste and smell. O.NOIR’s entire waitstaff are also visually impaired. The restaurant has aimed to replicate the socially conscious concept of Jorge Spielmann, a blind pastor in Zurich who blindfolded dinner guests so they knew what it felt like to taste while visually impaired.
Remember the feel of a glossy comic book page? The smell of the ink? Figures brings that nostalgia back with its restaurant concept. No wonder Forbes names Figures one of 2017’s best new restaurants in Toronto.
Figures is fully committed to the comic book theme. When diners walk into Figures, they pass through a comic book and collectibles shop, through the hidden door camouflaged by figurines, and into an eclectic dining room where comic book pages wallpaper the walls.
Once seated, diners will notice that there are no appetizers, mains, and desserts. Instead the menu categories are “exposition,” “climax,” and “resolution”. And they accept Bitcoin, too!
8. Mysteriously Yours
You could simply describe Mysteriously Yours as “dinner and a show.” But the experience goes far beyond that: there’s fake-blood shed, lies, deceit. Chicken marsala. We digress…
Mysteriously Yours is also a theatre company that has been performing murder mysteries for over 30 years. Diners don’t just watch: they’re brought into the show and get to mingle with the characters, murderer included.
As diners try to solve the case, they feast on a three-course meal while trying to identify the killer. Once they’ve fine-tuned their sleuthing skills, they even have the chance to win prizes based on their guesses.
9. The Addisons
At The Addisons, guests are invited to make themselves at home – literally. The bar itself is modeled as an expertly decorated family house.
What makes The Addisons stand out from the crowd? A night at the Addisons allows bar-goers to relive their teenage house party days as an adult. Guests can order bottle service, play Jenga, marvel at the fine art on the walls, or nab a slice of pizza from a box. With a frequently packed house, nostalgia is the winning ingredient for this Entertainment District bar.
10. Snakes and Lattes
Board games and booze, anyone? Snakes and Lattes promotes dining room table favorites. Now with three locations across downtown Toronto, guests can choose from games that range from trivia to strategy to dexterity.
For those who are easily intimidated by games — or just can’t quite figure them out — Snakes and Lattes employs “game gurus” to help everyone get the most out of their experience. The cafe also regularly has games nights to engage hardcore gamers. For those diners who can’t get enough, they can buy games from their retail shop.
11. Rec Room
With over 40,000 square feet of event space, Rec Room is kind of like Playdium for grown-ups. It’s a restaurant, bar, arcade, pool hall, meeting space, concert venue, and patio lounge. Games include the typical shuffleboard, ping pong, and pool. But they also offer video games, a car simulator, and a real-life 3D video game experience called The Void.
Besides the entertainment options, the Rec Room offers two dining experiences. The first, Three10, is an ode to Canada’s three territories and ten provinces, with province- and territory-specific cuisine. The second eating option is called the Shed, whose menu consists of poutine and pizza share plates.
Photo credit: The Rec Room
Yasu isn’t your average California roll, in-and-out sushi hole in the wall. The restaurant serves twelve people at one table and one price per person. With only two nightly sittings, 6:00 pm and 8:30 pm, diners must make a reservation and arrive on time. Since the entire restaurant is a chef’s table, diners get a first-hand look at the meticulous curation of each roll.
13. The Keg Mansion
You’re probably thinking, “What? The Keg isn’t unique. It’s a franchise.” But hang tight.
The tales of toilets flushing and washroom stalls opening on their own are just the beginning.
As history would have it, a young boy once fell to his death after popping a spindle out from the staircase. A spindle, we should mention, that continues to fall out on the same day every year.
14. 360 Restaurant
There’s no better way to see Toronto than from 350 meters above the city. 360 is the CN Tower’s restaurant, and in the … sigh… second highest building in the world.
A spot often frequented by tourists and for special occasions, 360 revolves slowly so guests get a complete view of the city from the sky. Like most fine dining restaurants, 360 has an extensive wine list. But unlike most fine dining restaurants who keep their wine buried in cellars underground, 360’s 9,000 bottles are suspended in the sky.
15. Medieval Times
Some like forks, knives, and theatres. Others want to sink their teeth into a pound of meat and bare witness to an “an epic battle of steed and steel.” For the latter, Medieval Times offers dinner and a show like no other.
In the course of an evening, men on horseback joust to the death (ok, not really, it is a family show). For birthday parties or pure entertainment, the appeal behind Medieval Times is legendary for a reason.
16. Sultan’s Tent and Cafe
When diners walk into the Sultan’s Tent, they leave Toronto and enter Morocco. Guests sit on plush cushions against a backdrop of jewel-toned silk curtains. Under a golden tented tapestry, diners enjoy a Moroccan-French inspired menu. As if the decor wasn’t inspiring enough, belly dancers complete the Moroccan experience, weaving between tables in all their glitter and gold. Some diners are lucky enough to leave with a new move or two.
Photo credit: Jeff in TO
17. Track & Field
Track & Field is a restaurant and bar that has all the games most retirees enjoy. Funny, because on most nights, the bocce ball, shuffleboard, and crokinole areas are usually occupied by young professionals.
Beyond the games, Track & Field is known for cocktails on tap and a vast selection of craft beers. Track & Field is often the venue of choice for special events like birthdays, corporate gatherings and group socials. One of Toronto’s trendiest restaurants, Track & Field keeps their concept and cuisine fresh, but the fun is old school.
18. Rodeo Brazilian Steakhouse Rodizio
It’s not all you can eat at Rodeo Brazilian Steakhouse Rodizio: it’s “all you can meat.”
Servers walk table-to-table carving sizzling meats off skewers and directly onto diners’ plates. While this is business-as-usual in Brazil, for many Torontonians, the experience is entirely new. As if the endless meat carving wasn’t entertainment enough, Samba dancers and Brazilian music complete the dining experience.
19. 3030 Dundas West
Located in a grungy warehouse in the Junction, 3030 Dundas West is a throwback to the 1990s.
In a space characterized by exposed brick and excellent acoustics, diners can play board games, pinball machines, or sit back with a couple of share plates and watch VHS tapes on old school TV sets. Known for having one of the best trivia nights in Toronto, the restaurant regularly hosts special events, movie nights, live music, and is frequently rented out as an event space.
20. The Shameful Tiki Room
Toronto can get cold. Really cold. This could be why The Shameful Tiki Room works so well. The Shameful Tiki Room is a restaurant and bar that successfully brings warmth to the Great North through Polynesian rum-based cocktails and home cooking.
The restaurant has an extensive “grog” (or drink) menu that is comprised of various rum rhapsodies. With drink recipes as complex as they are colorful, diners should note: the drinks may take longer than the food. Each cocktail follows the original decades-old recipe down to the letter – and that’s what diners come for.
21. Kaiseki Yu Zen Hashimoto
When many diners hear “Japanese cuisine”, their brain likely goes straight to sushi. But there’s none found on Kaiseki Yu Zen Hashimoto’s menu.
Kaiseki is the golden standard of gourmet cooking in Japan. As a culinary art, Japanese chefs have long preserved the Kaiseki tradition. True to its name, Kaiseki means “a very long history” and has been around for five centuries. During this time, generations of chefs have upheld its culinary secrets.
For diners, a kaiseki meal begins with a tea ceremony before a choreographed nine-course meal. Kaiseki Yu Zen Hashimoto is most well-known because it is one of the most expensive fine dining experiences in Toronto.
22. Arriba Restaurants
Forget dinner and a show. Diners come to Arriba for dinner and the big game.
Located past second base and beyond the outfield, Arriba looks into the Rogers Centre, Toronto’s premiere sports arena. With floor-to-ceiling windows and real-time audio, Arriba makes diners feel like they’re apart of the action … without the chaos of the stands.
Photo credit: Toronto Drinks Weekly
23. The Black Hoof
What makes The Black Hoof unique? Well, it’s definitely not for everyone, namely vegetarians. Part controversy, part oddity, part delicious, the menu features bone marrow, horse tartar, and beef tongue.
For carnivores and the curious, The Black Hoof offers a completely unique taste experience. One thing is certain: diners won’t find these dishes on any other menu.
24. Blueblood Steakhouse
What better way for the average diner to feel like royalty than to have dinner in a castle? Casa Loma is one of the largest castles in North America, and Blueblood Steakhouse calls it home.
And what a home it is. The venue is decorated with antiques that preserve the castle’s early 20th century feel. The menu is a smorgasbord of fine and expensive meats from around the world.
25. Mariposa Dinner Cruise
Dinner, cocktails, lunch, or brunch, Mariposa Cruise diners enjoy a buffet-style meal while touring the city on Lake Ontario. Since the cruise is arguably one of the best places to see Toronto at sunset, guests on the Mariposa Cruise are often looking for something different to commemorate a milestone, celebrate a holiday, or simply have a romantic evening.
Toronto’s ever-shifting culinary landscape favors diversity and creativity. Strange? Good. Outlandish? Even better. To survive in a city where restaurants don every corner, finding your differentiator is as important as your stove.
Tiffany was the Content Marketing Manager at TouchBistro, where she shared knowledge with restaurateurs on how to run their business. She’s passionate about traveling the world and getting to know communities through great food.
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The Phillips Family
Bringing the culinary traditions and welcoming hospitality of Maryland's Eastern Shore.
The Best Seafood Restaurant in Every State
Where to get fresh fish, real-deal lobster rolls and more under-the-sea grub near you.
If you thought seafood was just for the coasts, you've got another thing coming. And that thing is delicious eats from under the sea, in each and every state. According to Yelp, these are the top-rated restaurants serving everything from lobster rolls and lox to sushi and ceviche &mdash no rod or reel required.
Cafe Acadiana, Silverhill
"We love this little piece of Cajun heaven in Silverhill, Alabama! Delicious, authentic Creole food. gumbo, jambalaya, etouffe, fried shrimp and crawfish, and more!" &mdash Yelp user Ginger M.
Memories of Toronto’s restaurants of the past
Dining in Toronto in past decades was far different to the culinary scene that the city now offers. When I was a boy in the 1940s, my family did not visit restaurants as my parents considered them too expensive. The only food that was prepared outside our home was a take-out order of fish and chips from “ Oakwood Fish and Chips ,” located on Oakwood Avenue, north of Rogers Road. However, memories of food cooked beyond our kitchen, during my boyhood years, include the hot dogs and the aroma of the ice cream waffles in the tunnel under Albert Street. The passageway connected Eaton’s Queen Street Store to Eaton’s Annex. Other “exotic” foods of my childhood were the free samples and greasy treats at the CNE, which we loved.
In the early-1950s, my family moved to the west end of the city, near Jane Street and Lambton Avenue, and our local fish and chips shop became “ Golden Crip Fish and Chips ,” at 1364 Weston Road. It remains in business today (October 2015) and is now operated by the son of its original owner.
During my high school years in the 1950s, I often visited local restaurants for a coffee and a slice or pie. My favourite was the Paragon Restaurant on St. Clair West, near Oakwood Avenue. However, I never indulged in an evening meal until I was of an age to travel downtown. W hen my friends and I attended theatres such as Shea’s Hippodrome, The Imperial, Loew’s Downtown, Biltmore, Savoy or the Downtown, we sometimes splurged and went to the Chicken Palace at 404 Yonge Street, where we ordered deep fried chicken and french fries, served in a wicker basket. It was very similar to the KFC of today. We thought it was great.
Another favourite downtown restaurant was Bassel’s, on the southeast corner of Yonge and Gerrard Streets. After attending the theatre, we visited Bassel’s where we usually ordered coffee and pie with whipped cream, or if we went to Bassel’s in the evening, before the theatre, we had a western sandwich and fries. Because it was considered a classy restaurant, we felt very grown-up whenever we went there.
The only other eatery I remember from the 1950s is the Honey Dew restaurant located on the mezzanine level of the Odeon Carlton Theatre, which served fish and chips and Ritz Carlton hotdogs, along with the famous Honey Dew orange drink.
Bassel’s on the southeast corner of Gerrard and Yonge Streets in April 1954. In the background is the Coronet (Savoy) Theatre. Toronto Archives, S0372, SS058, item 2482.
Bassel’s Restaurant, which occupied the equivalent space of three stores on Yonge Street.
I came of age to attend “real” restaurants in the 1960s, in a decade when more Torontonians were beginning to discover the delights of dining out. It was also the era when post-war immigrants were changing the restaurant scene. The well-seasoned spicier foods that ethnic eateries offered were challenging the more bland style of dishes that Canada inherited from Great Britain. I still remember when my mother discovered the delights of adding garlic to her recipes, much to the chagrin of my father. My mother ignored his comments. For her, there was no turning back.
When I commenced working full time, in the 1960s, I had a few more dollars to spend. One of the first restaurants my friends and I visited was the Swiss Chalet . This chain first appeared at 234 Bloor Street West, in 1954, and in the years ahead opened over 200 eateries throughout Canada and the U.S. However, my first experience with its barbequed chicken was at 362 Yonge Street, which remains in existence today. However, the original location on Bloor Street closed in 2006 a condo is now on the site. It is difficult to realize today how popular the Swiss Chalet was in the early-1960s. I once attended a wedding reception in the banquet room in the basement of the Swiss Chalet at its Yonge Street location.
Another bargain restaurant chain we frequented in the 1960s was the Steak and Burger. It had many outlets throughout the city, but the one we frequented the most was on the west side of Yonge, south of Bloor Street. We also enjoyed Smitty’s Pancake House on Dundas Street West, east of Islington Avenue, and their location in Yorkdale Plaza. Another bargain chain of steak houses was Ponderosa , named after the fictional ranch in the TV program “Bonanza.” These restaurant chains offered affordable steaks that were reasonably tender. Remember, I said “reasonably.”
My first experience with a steak house of quality was Barbarian ’s, on Elm Street. This restaurant opened in 1959, and is one of the few from the days of my youth that still exists. I thought I had died and entered heaven when I first tasted their Delmonico steak. I also visited Carmen’s Steak House at 26 Alexander Street (now closed) and Tom Jones Steak House at 17 Leader Lane, located on the east side of the King Edward Hotel. This restaurant still exists today.
Tom Jones Steak House on the corner of Colborne Street and Leader Lane in 1989. Toronto Archives, F1526, fl0008, item 0116.
The Steak and Burger on Yonge Street, south of Bloor Street in the 1970s. The Golden Nugget Restaurant was slightly further north. These restaurants were favourites when we visited Loew’s Uptown or the Town Cinema Theatre on Bloor Street East. The Java House was also in this block of buildings, south of Bloor Street, and was great for coffee after the theatre. In the photo, the black building in the distance, on the far left, is a Coles Book Store. It was where we purchased our high school texts each September. In the 1950s, high schools did not provide texts. We bought our own, sometimes saving money by purchasing second-hand books. Photo, Toronto Archives, F0124, Fl 0002, Id. 0111.
The Swiss Chalet at 362 Yonge Street. Its facade has changed greatly since the 1950s. This is where I attended a wedding reception in its banquet room in the basement. Photo taken in 2014.
After I started working full time, one of the first staff Christmas parties that I attended was at the Ports of Call, at 1145 Yonge Street. It opened in 1963, and for the next decade was one of the city’s most popular dining establishments. It contained three dining rooms—the Bali Hai Room (Polynesian), the Dickens’ English Inn (roast beef) and Caesar’s Room (Italian). The Ports of Call also had two bars — the Singapore Bar (Asian) and the Batton Rouge Bar (French), the latter featuring dancing. I remember that when entering the restaurant, I walked over a wooden foot bridge that spanned a stream of flowing water. We could remain for an evening at the Ports of Call, as after dinner, we could visit one of the bars for music and dancing.
My Favourite seafood restaurant in Toronto was The Mermaid , at 724 Bay Street, which opened in 1964. It was on the west side of Bay Street, a few doors north of Gerrard. A small cozy establishment, owned by John Lundager, it featured Danish/Canadian cuisine. Its . Inside, near the entrance, there was a replica of Copenhagen’s famous statue of The Little Mermaid, from the Hans Christian Anderson tale. We always started the meal at the Mermaid with the Copenhagen Seafood Chowder, which was a Danish version of New England clam chowder—rich and creamy. The complimentary salad had a tangy garlic dressing. The main courses we enjoyed the most were Lobster Newburg, Lobster Cardinale, Lobster Thermidor, and Seafood Newburg. From the late-1960s until the 1980s, the name of the Maitre d’ was Tage Christensen. We visited the restaurant after it relocated to Dundas Street West, opposite the Art Gallery (AGO), but it was not the same. Its new owners began substituting lobster-flavoured pollock for real lobster meat, and the Mermaid closed shortly thereafter.
Perhaps one of the most famous of Toronto dining places was Ed’s Warehouse, at 266 King Street West. It was a bold venture to open a restaurant in that location in 1963, as the railway yards were on the south side of King Street. However, Ed Mirvish had purchased the Royal Alexandria Theatre and wanted to attract people to the area. I first visited Ed’s Warehouse when I received a complimentary coupon for Ed’s Warehouse with my theatre subscription. I believe that the coupon had a value of $20, and it covered the entire cost of the meal. The dining room was Victoriana gone wild the decor was part of the attraction. The meal consisted of thick juicy slices of tender roast beef, mashed potatoes, green peas, and Yorkshire pudding. Garlic bread and dill pickles were included. The dessert was spumoni ice cream. The restaurant was so successful that Ed Mirvish expanded and opened Ed’s Seafood, Ed’s Chinese, Ed’s Italian and Ed’s Folly (a lounge). Ed’s restaurants and the Royal Alex were the impetus that started the gentrification of King Street West.
One year on my birthday, my family told me that they were taking me out to dinner, but they kept their choice of restaurant a surprise. I inquired if I should wear a tie and jacket and was told that they were unnecessary. When we arrived, we discovered that a tie and jacket were indeed mandatory, as it was Ed’s Warehouse on King Street. The waiter offered to provide the proper attire from among the jackets and ties that they kept for such situations. He explained that they required the dress code to prevent vagrants from across the street at the railroad yards from entering the establishment. We were offended, as the clothes they offered were grubby looking, and we were certainly not hobos. We were wearing freshly-ironed sport shirts and neat trousers.
Then, Ed Mirvish appeared and inquired, “What’s the problem?”
He smiled, apologized, and told the waiter, “Escort them to the table that has been reserved.”
We enjoyed the meal and w hen the cheque arrived, the bill had been reduced by 50 per cent. He was a very smart businessman as well as a big-hearted individual. My family never forgot his generosity.
Ed’s restaurants on King Street in 1981. Toronto Archives, F1526, fl0067, item 17 .
La Chaumiere Restaurant at 77 Charles Street East, near Church Street, opened in 1950, and was the city’s first truly French dining establishment. Its intimate atmosphere and excellent food were delightful. I was greatly saddened when it closed its doors in 1988 the historic house was demolished, and for a few years the site was likely a parking lot, as it was not until 1995 that a housing co-operative was erected on the property. Today, I possess fond memories of this fine dining establishment. The feature that I remember the most was the hors-d’oeuvres cart, which contained at least twenty appetizers, including escargot (heavy with garlic), trays of stuffed olives, stuffed mushrooms, wine-marinated anchovies, pureed cottage cheese with cognac and scallions, and quenelles of shrimp. La Chaumiere was also well known for its coq au vin and scallops Normandie.
La Chaumiere on Charles Street, near Church Street in the 1960s.
Another popular restaurant was the Three Small Rooms in the Windsor Arms Hotel. The hotel was a favourite of Hollywood stars such as Katharine Hepburn. Another restaurant I remember fondly, always appropriate for special occasions, was Winston’s at 120 King Street West. It was expensive, but the food was wonderful. It was reported that John Turner had his own table at Winston’s. La Scala on the southeast corner of Bay and Charles was great Italian food it was frequented by the Ontario Cabinet of Bill Davis. However, the food portions at La Scala were small. I dined there once with my father and he asked the waiter if anyone ever ordered in a pizza after finishing a meal at La Scala. The waiter smiled he had likely heard similar comments on previous occasions. Mr. Tony’s Place at 100 Cumberland Avenue in Yorkville was also highly popular, even though it offered no printed menus.
The Hungarian Village at 900 Bay Street served Hungarian food and featured live Gypsy violinists. I remember being treated to lunch there by a friend, prior to my departure for a holiday.
L’Hardy’s restaurant at 634 Church Street opened in 1973 and remained until 1987. Its two owners (and chefs) once cooked for the royal court in Madrid. The food was superb, along with the service. It was located in the southern half of a 19th century semi-detached house, which was on the west side of Church Street, a short distance south of Bloor Street East. The northern half of the semi-detached house was occupied by another well-known restaurant— Quenelles . We visited L’Hardy’s frequently, and when I asked a waiter if I could have a menu as a souvenir, he gave me one that had not been used. I still have the menu today.
This is a photo of the menu at L’Hardy’s that I have kept all these years. I drool as I peruse the entrees and fondly recall the price of the dishes.
Fenton’s was at 6 Gloucester, a few doors east of Yonge Street. It was one of the most well-known restaurants in Toronto for over a decade, famous for its Leek and Stilton soup. I always requested a table in the glass-covered courtyard as it was akin to dining in a garden. This restaurant suffered the same fate as the Mermaid. When it changed hands it cheapened the quality of the food but increased the prices. It did not last long under the new management.
Napoleon restaurant was at 79 Grenville Street, a short distance west of Bay Street. It opened in 1976 in an old house, and remained until 1984. I recall how difficult it was to receive a reservation, so always phoned at least a week in advance. Following a disastrous fire, it was not rebuilt. Rumours circulated that members of the mafia had been turned away at the door, and had put out “a hit” on the place.
One of the ethnic restaurants that stands out in my memory is Acropole . I am not certain of its location, but I believe it was on Dundas Street West, near Bay Street. Greek cuisine was not well known in the 1960s. The names of the dishes so were unfamiliar to most Torontonians that menus at the Acropole were useless. Diners were invited to visit the kitchen, examine the dishes, and point to the ones that they wished to be served. Another ethnic restaurant that stands out in my mind was Michi , when it was on Church Street. It was my first experience with Japanese food.
Captain John’s Seafood Restaurant was in a ship named the Jadran, which in an earlier life had cruised the Mediterranean Sea. John Letnik purchased it and sailed it from Yugoslavia to Toronto. It arrived in November 1975 and was docked at the foot of Yonge Street, at 1 Queens Quay. The first time I dined on the ship I enjoyed the experience, though looking back, I think it was the idea of eating on a cruise ship that was the highlight, rather than the food.
However, I have very pleasant memories of dining on the smaller ship of Capt. John’s, which was moored on the east side of the Jadran. It was named the Normac. I remember the all-you-can-eat lobster buffet that was served on the top deck during the summer months. Lobster and ice cold beer on a hot July day, overlooking the harbour, was as close to heaven as I’ll likely ever get. Unfortunately, the boat was rammed by the Trillium ferry and sunk. It was eventually re-floated and towed to Cleveland, where it became a seafood restaurant for that city.
The smaller boat of Captain John’s, the “Normac,” in the 1970s, the larger ship the “Jadran” in the background.
Quo Vadis is another restaurant that must be mentioned when writing about the 1960s, as it was the first dining establishment in Toronto to receive international recognition. It opened at 375 Church Street in 1964. I remember it well, but was never inside it.
Photo of the front (insert) and the interior of Quo Vadis Restaurant, from Chuckman’s Postcard Collection ( chuckmantorontonostalgia.wordpress.com )
There were two famous buffet restaurants in Toronto in the 1960s. One of them was the Town and Country, which had opened in 1949 in the Westminster Hotel at Gould and Mutual Streets. Its well-advertised “all-you-can-eat French buffet” was highly popular, though it was not particularly French. For my family, we “pigged-out” on the lobster, with a few slices of roast beef to break the monotony.
The other favourite buffet in that decade was the Savarin Tavern , located at 336 Bay Street. It was on the west side of Bay Street, a short distance south of Richmond Street West. It was on the second floor, with a steep staircase leading to the dining room. In my eyes, the buffet was “lobster-lobster-lobster.” By now I am certain that you have guessed that I LOVE lobster. Patrons often lined the stairs while waiting for their tables at the Savarin, even though they had reservations. The building where the restaurant was located was designated a Heritage site in 1980. However, it was still demolished, though its facade was re-assembled inside the Northern Ontario Building.
The Savarin Tavern at 336 Bay Street .
The Old Fish Market at 12 Market Street, near the St. Lawrence Market, was another of my favourite places for seafood, though it certainly was not in the class the Mermaid. I remember an evening that we engaged in a “progressive dinner.” We visited the Old Fish Market for our appetizer (seafood chowder), and then Graf Bobby at 36 Wellington East for our main course (wiener schnitzel), and then, drove up to the Cafe de la Paix at 131 Bloor West in the Colonnade for coffee and dessert.
The Old Fish Market Restaurant at 12 Market Street.
The Graf Bobby Restaurant on Wellington Street
The Sign of the Steer was a large restaurant located at 191 Dupont Street, where it intersects with Davenport Road. I was never inside this restaurant, but I as I recall, it had a great reputation for charcoal-broiled steak. On its the south facade, there was a green neon sign that created the outline of a steer. It was impressive when a person drove past it at night.
The Sign of the Steer Restaurant at 161 Dupont Street in 1955, the neon sign of a steer visible on the south wall. Toronto Archives, F1257, item 0504.
Harry’s Steak House on the southwest corner of Church and Granby Streets opened in 1961. It was another enterprise of Harry Barbarian, who owned the famous steak house on Elm Street. The prices were more modest and the steaks were almost as good. Because Maple Leaf Gardens was a few blocks south of it, it was very busy on nights when the Leafs played home games.
Harry’s Steak House in 1971. Toronto Archives, F1526, Fl0008, item 0030.
Creighton’s restaurant on the ground floor of the Westbury Hotel was another place that garnered attention in the 1970s. On Saturdays, in the TV Guide that was inserted into the Toronto Star, there was a special feature. Readers were encouraged to write the Star and request their favourite recipes from restaurants. A reader wrote in an asked for the recipe of a shrimp dish named Les Scampi’s Amoureux (Shrimp in Love). I had ordered this delicious dish many times, so I kept the recipe. I believe that the secret is the Pernod. When I prepared the recipe, I substituted large shrimp.
Before closing this post, there are a few more restaurants that I would like to mention. La Provencal at 23 St. Thomas Street (great escargot), Julie’s Mansion at 515 Jarvis Street, Gaston’s at 595 Markham Street (famous for its French onion soup), Sutton Place on the top floor of the Sutton Place Hotel, Valhalla Inn in Etobicoke, and the Black Angus Steak House on Dundas West (Etobicoke). This steak House is still in business. Then, there was the Arcadian Room (Simpson’s), Casa Mendoza (great meat platters, Argentinian style) on the Lakeshore, The Round Room in Eaton’s College, Beverley Hills Hotel on Wilson Avenue (good lunch buffet), the Colonial Tavern and the Silver Rail on Yonge Street, and Diana Sweets on Yonge and also on Bloor, and Fran’s on St. Clair Avenue, Eglinton Avenue, and on College Street. Another favourite of many Torontonians was the Georgian Room on the 9th floor of the old Eaton’s store at Queen and Yonge Street.
There are many more Toronto restaurants of the 1960s and 1970s, as I have only listed the ones that either I visited or remember well. Memory sometimes plays tricks, so if I have committed errors, I hope that readers will be understanding. For some of the exact addresses of the restaurants I relied on information posted on-line. I discovered some errors on these web sites, but still, I am grateful that these sources were available.
In response to this post, Paul Coghill of Toronto emailed me his thoughts about restaurants of Toronto’s past. He stated that i n talking about the ice cream waffles, there was also the Honey Dew stand in Simpson’s basement. Scott’s restaurant was on Yonge just north of Dundas, where you sat upstairs looking out onto Yonge St to have bacon burger and fries (that was before we worried or knew about cholesterol). Re membering the early days of the Swiss Chalet , they only served 1/2 or 1/4 chicken with french fries and NO cutlery. I remember the first time I went there with a friend. He knew the chain from Montreal and was watching for my expression when they didn’t bring cutlery. You just picked everything up in your fingers. I also remember the Organ Grinder on the Esplanade. I think it is still there. The Florentine Court was on Church near Dundas. It had old world charm. The Goulash Pot at Yonge and Bloor was another Hungarian restaurant. Mary John’s , I think was on Elizabeth St. around Gerrard. I recently read an article about it but don’t recall where! A lot of artists frequented it. It was closed to make room for an apartment building and was relocated in the new building, but it lost its charm.
One of the novels that I wrote — “ The Reluctant Virgin ”— (a murder mystery) is set in Toronto in the 1950s and the imaginary characters in the story dine in many of the restaurants mentioned in this post.
To view previous blogs about movie houses of Toronto—historic and modern, and Toronto’s Heritage Buildings:
Recent publication entitled “Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” by the author of this blog. The publication explores 50 of Toronto’s old theatres and contains over 80 archival photographs of the facades, marquees and interiors of the theatres. It relates anecdotes and stories of the author and others who experienced these grand old movie houses.
To place an order for this book:
Book also available in Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox Book Shop, and by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791 (ISBN 978.1.62619.450.2)
Another book, published by Dundurn Press, containing 80 of Toronto’s old movie theatres will be released in the spring of 2016, entitled, “Toronto’s Movie Theatres of Yesteryear—Brought Back to Thrill You Again.”
“Toronto Then and Now,” published by Pavilion Press (London England) explores 75 of the city’s historic buildings. This book will also be released in the spring of 2016.
10 Seafood Dishes with a Taste of Italy
If you don't have an Italian nonnaaround to teach you secret family dishes, these recipes for Italian Seafood dishes are the next best thing. Enjoy seafood the way the Italians do, with simplicity and freshness.
You won't find fried calamari in the list below. Instead, you'll find plenty of other Italian seafood dishes to whet your appetite.
From pan fried squid to roasted monkfish these are the Italian seafood dishes that capture a taste of Italy.
10 Great Seafood Restaurants in Toronto - Recipes
The Best Seafood Restaurants in Toronto
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The best seafood restaurants in Toronto are for platters of oysters, snow crab legs, and fish galore. There's a coastal meal for every mood: keep it simple with a humble po'boy, or splurge on a Goliath-sized pile of lobsters, when you’re feeling extra fancy.
Here are the best seafood restaurants in Toronto.
Rodney's Oyster House
King West's dimly lit oyster house has been a certified shucking destination for over 30 years. The legacy of Rodney "The Oysterman" Clark lives on through its menu, populated with the full gamut of seafood, from molluscs to Arctic Char.
Just a stone's throw from Trinity Bellwoods Park is this homey oyster spot that sources its mollusks from sustainable providers from the Canadian coasts. Aside from St. Simon and Colville Bay oysters, they also have a full menu of fried and fresh eats.
This fishmonger in the Junction is both a retail fish counter and a spot with delectable seafare for immediate consumption. Razor clams, grilled octopus with giardiniera, potato salad with smoked herring, and tuna belly are just a few of the dishes that are ready to go.
Fishman Lobster Clubhouse
The green onion-sprinkled lobster mountains and heaps of Cantonese-style King Crab from this Scarborough revelation are world famous. Leave your inhibitions (and budget) at the door and go into this experience ready to embrace your gluttonous side.
The Chase Toronto
Couple one of the best rooftop patios in the city with a seafood menu and you have a winner for your Tuesday half-price oyster splurges. Chase Fish & Oyster has been replaced by Planta downstairs, but head to the top floor of this Temperance Street building where Chase is still operating with a refined seafood M.O.
King East’s neighbourhood spot for seafare-centric pub fare. Comfort eats including a Pearly Chowder, 1.5 lb lobsters with drawn butter, whole sea bream, and crab leg clusters. Pair Beausoleil oysters with beer or their Pearl Diver Caesar.
Buster's Sea Cove
This St. Lawrence Market’s stall is a mainstay at Toronto’s historic market. Founder Tom Antonarakis launched the business in 1992 and it’s been neverending weekend lineups since then for their famous New England clam chowder, po’boys, and fried fish served with sides or in sandwiches.
Diana's Oyster Bar
The legacy of Diana's traces back to 1985, when the Scarborough shop first opened as a retail and wholesale company. Since then they’ve expanded with a flagship restaurant and a second location in Markham, where you’ll find their classic buck-a-shuck deals on varieties like Malpeque and Fanny Bay.
Roncy’s restaurant for maritime eats has a menu of carbed-up seafood. Fish and chips, beer-battered haddock and shrimp sandwiches, and mini salt cod fish cakes are a few options. Chowder fries with haddock, mussels and clams are another favourite.