It’s a debate as old as time itself: Is it best in the west? Or is the east where it’s at? Torontonians can agree on a lot of things — the miserable state of the TTC, too much construction in the summer, too much traffic all the time — but when it comes to the east end versus the west, the city remains firmly divided into two camps. Yonge Street is the no man’s land slicing Toronto in two.
There’s no denying that each side has some of the best restaurants in the city, and last year’s Michelin Guide recommendations were spattered across the map. But the question remains, does summer in the Beaches outrank West Queen West? Can the quirky Kensington Market go toe to toe with the charming Distillery District?
Here, we’ve put it to you to decide. For every awesome spot that we love in the west, we’ve found one in the east that could give it a run for its money, and vice versa. All that’s left is for you to decide, who’s doing it best?
East vs West: Who has the best rooftop patio with a view?
106 Broadview Ave.
Set at Queen and Broadview — an area significantly lacking in skyscrapers — the Broadview Hotel offers one of the best vantage points in the city. From The Rooftop, guests can gawk at unobstructed views of the Toronto skyline and the Don River. The indoor-outdoor space features retractable windows, so even if you don’t snag a spot on the patio, you can still bask in the summer breeze. Sip on cocktails and snack on tidbits as the sun goes down and the vibe turns up.
550 Wellington St. W.
At Harriet’s, the twinkling lights of skyscrapers surround you as you nibble on Japanese small plates like shrimp tempura and yakitori chicken. The prices are as high as this rooftop patio with fancy, truffle-infused maki rolls running you more than $30. But it’s well worth it to just to spend the night in the luxurious atmosphere sipping on complex cocktails while you show off your best outfit. Stay until late with DJ beats and bottle service.
Who has the best patio with a view?
East vs West: Who has the best pizza?
Slowhand Sourdough Pizza
99 Pape Ave.
The east end is blessed with multiple pizza joints that all deliver superior slices and pizza pies, but our fave is Slowhand on the corner of Pape and Queen. Slowhand has one obsession: light and airy sourdough pizza. Unlike the excellent Descendant Detroit Style Pizza, Slowhand favours a shallower sourdough crust and simpler toppings on its airy pizza. Head to this unassuming strip mall spot and choose between a pie made with their signature Stanislaus red sauce or a creamy parmesan base.
181 Dovercourt Rd.
Toronto loves a line-up, but every once in a while, it’s in the pursuit of something noble — like the west end’s top slice. Tucked away on a leafy street, you’d walk right past Pizzeria Badiali, if the waft of New York-style 'za didn’t slap you in the face. Three Bar Isabel alums are behind this eatery, where tomatoes are slathered over a crispy dough, and sold by the slice or 16-inch pie. But why choose? Grab a slice while you wait for your takeaway pie.
East vs West: Who has the best barbecue?
Beach Hill Smokehouse
172 Main St.
With two locations across the city, Beach Hill Smokehouse’s tiny Texas barbecue empire is taking over and we’re pretty pumped about it. Their east-end location in the Upper Beaches is our go-to spot for fall-off-the-bone pork ribs and Southern comforts like mac and cheese and smoked baked beans. This BBQ joint really leans into the Central Texas style, where pit-masters rub meats with spices and cook them for hours over indirect heat and fragrant pecan or oak wood chips.
Smoque N’ Bones
869 Queen St. W.
Memphis, Texas, Kansas and the Carolinas meet Toronto in Smoque N’ Bones’ unique style of barbecue. Ribs come spiced and sauced, with more sauce and a brush on the side so you can really slather it on. It’s all family-style, and they offer different combos that let you sample the best of the menu. Chow down while you sip on a pint or a bourbon-forward cocktail in the rustic atmosphere of reclaimed wood and exposed brick.
Who has the best barbecue?
East vs West: Who has the best bar?
Pinkerton’s Snack Bar
1026 Gerrard St. E.
Pinkerton’s Snack Bar on Gerrard Street East is the closest you’ll get to a Cheers-esque experience where everybody knows your name. Step inside this friendly haunt and let the exposed brick, quirky knick-knacks and funky decor soothe your soul as you slip into a seat. The food — a dynamite selection of bao and Asian-inspired snacky bites — will send your eyeballs rolling, the cocktail list will satisfy purists and mixologists, and the vibes are immaculate. Safe to say, you’re always glad you came.
923 Dundas St. W.
Jen Agg’s Cocktail Bar is exactly what the name promises — a moody spot with a quaint back patio serving excellent cocktails. Marble tables almost too close together and rustic kitchen cabinets displaying libations behind the bar give the hipster-cool spot a homey feel. There’s not much by way of food, but the complex, perfectly balanced craft cocktails are where it’s at. Start or end your night here with a Lavender Hound (lavender gin, grapefruit, lemon) or a Mescalero (cardamom tequila, mezcal, Aperol, grapefruit, egg white).
East vs West: Who has the best burger?
758 Queen St. E.
The pull of this east-end haunt is strong. So strong, in fact, that when The Comrade’s former owners put it up for sale, the couple behind Wynona took it over — keeping that iconic burger on the menu, naturally. With the juiciest of patties, made from prime rib brisket, it oozes cheese and has the perfect ratio of pickle to bun. Locals may love it, but this burg is well worth crossing the DVP for.
Danny’s Pizza Tavern
611 College St.
Ordering a burger at a pizza joint may seem like a faux pas, but hear us out. While the thin-crust pies at Danny’s Pizza Tavern on College are a no-brainer, the Tavern Burger steals their thunder. The thick 7-oz, half-chuck and half-brisket beauty makes us never want to look at a smash burger again. Plus, it comes topped with American cheese, briny pickles, lettuce and onion, and is served with a heaping pile of the best matchstick fries in town.
East vs West: Who has the best cold noodles?
Cho Sun OK Korean Restaurant
7353 Yonge St.
Technically, Thornhill’s Cho Sun Ok Korean Restaurant is on Yonge Street, but it’s on the east side. No matter where you’re coming from, their homemade Korean eats and cold noodles are worth the trip. Thin, chewy and scrumptious Naeng Myun arrowroot noodles are served with ice-cold broth (typically beef based) for a surprisingly satisfying mouthful. Our fave is the mool naengmyun with their signature red pepper sauce, crunchy pickled daikon and hard-boiled egg for an icy cool texture party.
456 Queen St. W.
This Queen West outpost of the popular New York-based Japanese noodle house is minimalistic in design, but the tiny, sleek interior is usually bumping with diners slurping and chatting over their hot or cold udon noodles. In the summer, we’re all about their cold udon menu, which features four refreshing options: zaru, hiyashi, oroshi yamakake and ja ja. If we had to choose, we’d go with either the zaru or hiyashi — their dipping sauce is so good you could chug it.
Who has the best cold noodles?
East vs West: Who has the best dog-friendly brewery?
Left Field Brewery
36 Wagstaff Dr.
There are breweries that tolerate dogs, and then there’s Left Field Brewery, with its own furry mascot, Wrigley (head of security and customer relations is his official title, purlease). The east-end pup oasis welcomes well-behaved four-legged friends inside for tummy rubs and treats while their hoomans crush craft brews in the baseball-themed brewery. Order in when you get peckish — Blondies Pizza is in range and their pies go great with the brewery’s easy-drinking ales and summer sours.
Something in the Water
151 East Liberty St.
Something in the Water Brewing Co.’s flagship Liberty Village location is a cool, friendly cottage-dock-inspired oasis. This isn’t a gruff beer hall — oars on the walls, salmon tiles behind the bar, and pink LED signs set a playful, nautical scene for knocking back a refreshing flight of Something in the Water’s acclaimed brews. Dog-friendly inside and on the small patio, there are usually ample treats for furry friends available here, too.
Who has the best dog-friendly brewery?
East vs West: Who has the best ice cream?
1324A Gerrard St. E.
This ice cream parlour is the second location for Good Behaviour, a passion project turned nostalgic franchise by chefs Michael Lam and Eric Chow. You’ll find subs stuffed to the brim with mortadella and other deli meats, plus a “Treat Yourself” pantry dedicated to small business partners at this cute Gerrard East spot — but you didn’t come here for chili crisp, did ya? Get scoops of ice cream in flavours like Bourbon Butter Pecan, Vietnamese Coffee and Torta Della Nonna, or buy by the pint.
1448 Dundas St. W.
Ashley Wittig, co-creator of Bunner’s Bakeshop, moved on to cooler and creamier things in 2021 when she opened her Dundas West vegan ice cream shop, Honey’s. Scoops of her cashew- and coconut-based ice cream come in all sorts of quirky flavours, like peanut butter and saltine crackers or rhubarb oat crisp. Grab an entire pint while you’re there — you’re definitely going to want more later.
Who has the best ice cream?