It wasn’t too long ago that a trip downtown—by which we mean the area bordered by Church to the east, University to the west, Bloor to the north, and King to the south—meant a guaranteed meal at Mr. Greenjeans. Thankfully, the core is experiencing something of a culinary renaissance with restaurants that are dining destinations instead of mere afterthoughts. Here are some of the standouts:
Momofuku: Not only has David Chang introduced Toronto to a number of food trends, but he has also given us three more reasons to eat downtown. While Shoto requires reservations (along with $150 and two hours of your time), you can walk in to both Daisho and Noodle Bar for lunch or dinner. Wash down your pork buns with crafted cocktails at Nikai, on the second floor. 190 University Ave.
Hawthorne Food & Drink: Both a restaurant, and a culinary institute, Hawthorne is appealing to the lunch crowd with their 4 Square meal—a gourmet take on a Lunchable—that can include the likes of braised duck, kimchee noodle salad, chestnut gnocchi, and strawberry kiwi pavlova, all for just $16. Tables at the 40-seater fill up fast, so go early to avoid the rush. Dinner service is also underway, but reservations are recommended. 60 Richmond St. E.
Richmond Station: Like public transit and celebrity chefs? How about a subway-themed restaurant run by the winner of Top Chef Canada? Having opened the space with his $100,000 winnings, Carl Heinrich cooks up a seasonal and meat-centric menu, including a two-course prix fixe lunch that goes for $19. 1 Richmond St. W.
The Gabardine: Downtown’s answer to The Ace Restaurant, The Gabardine is a cozy spot to grab some elevated pub grub and a cocktail or two. Bay Streeters who left home without eating the most important meal of the day can grab brekkie here during the week from 8-10:30 a.m. 372 Bay St.
Sukhothai: Some of the city’s best Thai food is now available in the core, but (thanks to the rent) at prices a little bit higher than at their Parliament location. 52 Wellington St. E.
Sabai Sabai: A little bit out of the core, but close enough to be counted, is another Thai spot—this one with close ties to the popular Khao San Road. A welcome addition to the Village, which was also in desperate need of a culinary injection. 225 Church St.
JaBistro: Now serving lunch, the newest restaurant for James Kim (also of Guu and Kinton Ramen) offers fusion sushi (but no anglerfish despite its logo). 222 Richmond St. W.
Ramen: Oodles of noodles have taken over the city, with many of them landing downtown. The trendy soup has people lining up at a different spot every week it seems, with Sansotei, Raijin, and Santouka giving Ryerson students a nice change of pace from their usual cup-o-ramen.
For those short on money or time, there are some worthy fast-food options as well:
Five Guys Burgers & Fries: Since Five Guys’ opening last fall, fans of the double-patty burger have been flocking to what used to be half of the HMV at Yonge and Dundas. Yes, it’s a greasy fast-food joint, but the meat is fresh—never frozen—and everything is made right before your eyes with better quality ingredients than the other McPlaces. 329 Yonge St.
Banh Mi Boys: Coming soon to the core are the much-loved Vietnamese sammies. BMB will open their second location right around the corner from Ryerson in what was once something called Shakeolait. 399 Yonge St.
Urban Eatery: Even the Eaton Centre has stepped up its game, offering better-than-average food court options, and real cutlery. No longer is a slice at Sbarro your best bet (but it still can be, if that’s what you want).