Food & Drink

Toronto Restaurants Showcase World Cuisines

In chef Victor Ugwueke’s kitchen in the Parkdale neighborhood of Toronto, Afrobeat music blares from the speakers, and the smell of jollof wafts through the air. “I like to have the music on loud so when we are cooking, I can be dancing too!” says Ugwueke, who named his restaurant Afrobeat Kitchen after the West African music genre. Having grown up around his mother’s restaurant in Nigeria, Ugwueke is on a mission to make West African food more widely accessible in Toronto.

Beyond classic Nigerian-style dishes like pounded yam and jollof, the Afrobeat Kitchen menu offers variations on traditional dishes, from assorted vegan egusi (traditionally a seafood stew) to sticky suya wings which take three days to make to “naija hot” spiciness for full-on spice lovers. While many of its customers drive from all over Ontario for a taste of home, Afrobeat Kitchen is an introduction to West African food for many others. “We are moving the culture forward together, and it feels like we get to be part of this moment of crossing over and being seen,” says Ugwueke.

Afrobeat Kitchen is located at the edge of Little Tibet, a cultural enclave in Parkdale known for its abundance of Tibetan restaurants. A few blocks to the west, there is a Filipino restaurant, and across the street from it is a Mexican taco place. This is only a slice of Toronto’s food scene, but it is characteristic: Toronto’s culinary identity is expressed in a kaleidoscope of offerings that can make you feel like you can be anywhere in the world. As a city of three million people, of which around half have been born outside of Canada, Toronto is home to chefs who seek to share the flavors of their culture and heritage with the world.

Patois, located in Toronto’s west end, is led by chef Craig Wong, who combines the memories and nostalgia of his Jamaican Chinese heritage with his upbringing in Scarborough, Toronto. When Wong returned home after completing his culinary training in Michelin-starred establishments across Europe, he decided to merge the flavors of his culture with his culinary skills.

Take, for instance, Patois’s prosperity jerk lobster nuggets, which are inspired by Wong’s travels to Jamaica. Wong recalls that the local fisherman would set up a fire and do a beachside cookout for his family. The fisherman would scale and gut the fish; stuff them with jerk paste, butter, and water crackers; and then cook the fish over a fire, where it would take on the rich aroma of the jerk paste and the smoky flames. For Wong, it was some of the juiciest and most memorable seafood and he brought the principle he learned on the beach home. The result is one-of-a-kind: crispy wok stir-fried lobster, tater tots, and jerk butter with Atlantic lobster.

While the jerk lobster nuggets are enough of a reason to visit, Patois has much more to offer, from a Chinese Pineapple Bun Burger to Jamaican oxtail to the famed jerk chicken known for being the juiciest in the city. “We cook from our core. There’s nothing on the menu that we don’t love,” says Wong. 

A spread of signature dishes at Afrobeat Kitchen in Toronto.

Carbelle Djossa

While west end Toronto offers a plethora of options — from Antler on Dundas West focusing on locally sourced game to Karahi Boys on Queen St. West offering traditional Pakistani food — no culinary adventure in Toronto would be complete without a visit to downtown. An eclectic array of bánh mì shops, ramen bars, and shawarma spots lines Yonge Street. In Yorkville, designer boutiques and art galleries neighbor restaurants in Victorian houses. Nestled among the row lies Sassafraz, a local landmark established in 1997, around the time the food scene was just beginning to come into its own. Known for its sophisticated charm, Sassafraz offers contemporary Canadian cuisine using seasonal ingredients.

“We define Canadian cuisine as a celebration of the country’s rich culinary heritage and diverse cultural influences,” says Zoran Kocovski, founder and owner of Sassafraz. The menu features a variety of dishes that are at once familiar and new, from pistachio-crusted Itsumo tuna salad to beef tartare with rich quail egg and spicy horseradish cream.

To the south, the city’s harborfront offers dinner with a view. Sitting atop the 38th floor of the Westin, the Michelin-starred Don Alfonso 1890 boasts expansive views of the city skyline and Lake Ontario. “Every city needs a Don Alfonso,” says the Michelin Guide Toronto, and one can see why. More striking than the vista is the signature tasting menu featuring a range of choice dishes — from the seared Muscovy duck breast to Manitoba tenderloin wrapped in layered Swiss chard to Prince Edward Island Otoro. For each menu item, there is a perfect wine pairing from the 745-plus labels offered. While sipping wine with a view of the lake can be a defining fine-dining experience, you are in luck if you are craving either steak or sushi (or both). Don Alfonso 1890 is a five-minute walk away from Blue Bovine Steak and Sushi House, the latest restaurant from the Liberty Entertainment Group.

The pineapple bun burger at Patois in Toronto, Canada.


In Toronto’s historic Union Station, Blue Bovine emanates grandeur. Designed by Nadia Di Donato, the VP and creative director of Liberty, Blue Bovine is a visually striking space that combines sleek modernism with the architectural charm of a rail station. The menu features an impressive range of beef choices, from Japanese Kobe to Canadian AAA. But the pinnacle of the beef offerings is a Flaming Tomahawk, which features Australian Wagyu beef and is presented with a dedicated tableside flambé using premium Cognac. As the flames sear the surface of the steak, they enrich the flavor of the beef and provide a hint of smokiness.

“It’s not just a dish; it’s a sensory journey that combines culinary expertise with theatrical flair,” says Nick Di Donato, the president and CEO of Liberty. The sensory journey doesn’t end in the steakhouse. In the sushi bar, fresh seafood is curated into precise and artful offerings. A true showpiece is the stunning three-tier Sushi Tower, featuring the best maki, nigiri, and sashimi. 

Heading to Toronto’s east end brings us to North America’s largest Greek neighborhood. Along Danforth Avenue, Greek restaurants with bustling patios and a friendly atmosphere abound. A local favorite is Mezes, which specializes in meze-style small plates like souvlaki — marinated skewers of grilled meat — and moussaka — a layered casserole of eggplant, ground meat, and béchamel sauce, in addition to updated familiar dishes, from spanakopita-stuffed chicken to shrimp saganaki. The cherry on top to any Mezes order is the creamy Greek yogurt drizzled with thyme honey and sprinkled with nuts or fresh fruit.

Sitting at a Mezes table, one is energized by the lively conversations and exchange of the platters from the tables nearby. Greek dining celebrates sharing and community, and Mezes captures that essence: Its dishes are vibrant and decadent, the atmosphere cozy and home-like. 

For a city as diverse as Toronto, there is no single cuisine or restaurant that defines the food scene. Instead, it is defined by the kind of magic that makes you feel like the whole world is just around the corner. The secret ingredient behind its success? Toronto is perpetually inspired by cuisines from all over the world.

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