We've spent the last few months hunkering down in our stretchy pants waiting for our favourite takeout and delivery to arrive, getting alcohol shipped right to our doors and maybe (if we were feeling extraordinarily ambitious) cooking something up from one of the best grocery box delivery services.
But now that we can finally go out again, and the best new restaurants in Toronto can offer dine-in and patio service as well as takeout and delivery, it's time to shed our cocoon of loungewear and crumbs, and head out into the sunlight.
It takes a lot of courage to open a restaurant amidst a global pandemic, and we salute these new spots. Running the gamut from Thai snacks to authentic French fare, to Mexican-style sushi, these are the best new restaurants in Toronto for summer 2020.
The best new restaurants in Toronto to eat at right now
Venice Beach Bar
1251 Dundas St. W.
Collaborations abound in lockdown, with yet another duo partnering up for some fun in the sun. The owners of Dundas West's Unboxed Market have teamed up with the people behind Bar Mordecai to create a "staycation-inspired" beach bar. Drinking cocktails and eating southern Californian snacks in a storage lot might not seem like paradise, but after a pastel paint job, that's exactly where you'll be transported to.
Buena Copa and Campechano Mariscos
460 College St.
Buena Copa, Little Italy's newest Mexican snack bar is having a year of firsts. The people behind Good Hombres and Campechano Taquería completed their trifecta in February with this antojeria at 460 College St. Buena Copa serves antojitos (small plates): colourful bites made of masa, a Mexican corn dough. Choose your masa (thick, fried, thin or stuffed) and your filling (meat, fish or veg).
Now they're launching Campechano Mariscos, a hidden back patio pop-up with a focus on seafood, serving dishes like ceviche, aguachiles and plenty of fish tacos. Patio dwellers can also expect an almost entirely gluten-free and celiac friendly menu, plus signature cocktails, natural wine and craft beer.
597 College St.
Being “pompette” means to be in a state of bliss, and that’s exactly how you’ll feel tucking into Martine Bauer’s authentic French fare. The chef brings classic training and a storied career (including a stint at Hôtel de Matignon, the official residence of the French Prime Minister) to the quaint restaurant on College. The bar offers twists on classic cocktails while the list of wines by the bottle stretches on for days.
Dzo Viet Eatery
308 Dundas St. W.
Dzo Viet Eatery aims to show Torontonians that Vietnamese cuisine goes way beyond pho – though
the soup does make an appearance. Make a reservation for the petite patio and tuck into dishes like banh mi sliders, Saigon grilled wings or caramelized pork belly, slow cooked in individual clay pots and topped with pickled cabbage.
291 King St. W.
Casa Mezcal dishes out North Mexican-style sushi. But what does that mean exactly? For starters, there’s no raw fish (gasp!) in these delicious rolls. However, there is more rice, Mexican ingredients like carne asada and more avocado than you can shake a chopstick at. Don’t miss the ceviche or the cactus enchiladas.
252 Carlton St.
From the people behind Southern Thai restaurant Koh Lipe and beloved Toronto curry and noodle group Eat BKK comes Maya Bay. Perched at the corner of Carlton and Parliament, this Thai snack bar is serving more than just small plates. You’ll find Tom Yum fried wings and shrimp chips alongside heartier dishes like green curry with rice and scrambled egg. For a tropical escape, opt for the whole pineapple smoothie – it’s served inside (you guessed it) a whole pineapple.
229 Richmond St. W.
What do you do with a vacant lot with a perfect view of the CN Tower in downtown Toronto? Answer: convert it into Toronto's biggest outdoor picnic. Rendezviews, a collaboration between the Fifth Social Club and the Ballroom, has transformed a private parking lot on Richmond and John into a sea of 80 picnic tables and umbrellas with concessions, offering tipples like Sol or Bacardi cocktails. Drink tokens are $10.50 and allow for a cash-free transaction.
Gianna's Patties and Pies
Back lane entrance, 1554 Queen St. W.
Thelma and Louise; Shaggy and Scooby; Batman and Robin: some of the best things come in twos, and Gianna’s specializes in perhaps one of the most iconic duos out there: Detroit-style pan pizza and burgers. Taking over the former Tennessee Tavern in Parkdale, this is a place where pizzas are thick and burgers are stacked.The smashed fried mozza on the frico cheese burger brings a particularly satisfying crunch.
8366 Woodbine Ave., Markham
For those in the north east regions of the GTA, this Markham eatery specializes in Japanese-Italian fare. You’ll find creative takes on familiar dishes like the wafu carbonara – spaghetti with thick-cut smoked bacon, onsen egg, ponzu and nori seasoning. We’re sold already. Elsewhere, karaage (Japanese fried chicken) and waffles, Japanese soufflé pancakes and the classic sausage and eggs breakfast – turbocharged with seared pork belly – make up the brunch offerings.
The Smoke Stop
Just as every restaurant in the city was shuttering, this Mediterranean barbecue food truck bravely opened for
business. It pivoted from its usual curbside service to deliver smoked meat pitas, ribs and chicken wings straight to your door – or you can book them to park on your street for a local cookout.
Meat and Pie Co.
212 King St. W.
This Adelaide barbecue joint made headlines when it invited people experiencing homelessness to dine before the official opening. It might not seem obvious from its name, but this isn’t your average smokehouse. The mouth-watering menu is completely halal, the drinks are alcohol-free and the pies are more personal than your browsing history.
New location coming soon
For flexitarians and meat-eaters alike, SweetChops manages to nail juicy and hearty dishes without using meat thanks to a mushroom and lentil base. Try it in the Big Chops Burger, layered with a house-made mushroom-lentil patty, thick guacamole and crunchy shoestring potatoes stacked on a fresh bun; or in the Meatball Sub, sandwiching mushroom and lentil meatballs with tangy tomato sauce, stretchy dairy-free mozz, arugula and sunflower pesto.
The menu features entrees like the Shibuya Bowl, named after the Tokyo neighbourhood. The dish is packed with savoury flavours: soft and creamy miso eggplant, roasted until blistering; saucy teriyaki tofu; sesame shiitake mushrooms; and edamame laid atop a bed of steamy sushi rice. Adorned with pickled ginger and a soy-miso dressing, the bowl is so umami it takes our taste buds straight to Japan.