10 Toronto spots to visit during Winterlicious

Another year, another Winterlicious. Coming January 29th is Toronto’s long-loved food festival, where top restos across town feature prix-fixe menus for $25, $35 or $45 dollars. It’s a choice time to dine out at the hotspot you can’t afford on your post-holiday budget, or a cheap way to try a new spot you’ve been eyeing. Here are our top picks from this year’s line-up. [Photos courtesy of Cluny Bistro]

Bar Buca

1
75 Portland St, Toronto, ON M5V 2M9

$18 lunch; $25 dinner. Consider yourself an expert on Italian cuisine? The words being thrown around this King West eatery will have you thinking twice about that. Sample a little “testa” (crisp pig’s head), barbabietole (salt baked beets), or porchetta schiacciata (Tuscan roast pork, mascarpone, and apple mustard) and expand your vocabulary – and your palate. This is an interior where modern decisively meets intimate, with both twosome and communal tables, a white marble bar and an eye-catching wine rack that stretches up towards the high cement ceilings.

Luckee Restaurant

2
328 Wellington St W, Toronto, ON M5V 3T4

$35 dinner. If you love traditional dim sum and count yourself a connoisseur of modern Asian cuisine, a visit to Luckee is a must. Susur Lee is the modern-minded chef behind this Nouvelle Chinoise resto-bar in the SoHo Metropolitan Hotel, hosting a three-course feast during Winterlicious. To start, we recommend the Luckee basket of dim sum, follow by Luckee duck (complete with steamed Chinese pancakes), or Singaporean curry noodles. And for dessert? There’s a lovely selection, but we’ve got our eye on the sesame rice donut, topped with dark chocolate sauce.

The Rosedale Diner

3
1164 Yonge St, Toronto, ON M4W 2L9

$23 lunch; $35 dinner. Peckish midtowners would do well to check out the internationally inspired prix-fixe menu on show at this Yonge Street spot, a marriage of a 1950s malt shop and a Parisian bistro. Although hosting a tempting dinner menu of items like baked brie topped with Earl Gray rhubarb preserve, ginger hoisin sticky pork ribs, and pan-roasted pickerel with Israeli couscous, we’re keen on the gourmet lunch potential of a menu stacked with items like Israeli breakfast, duck poutine, mussel musselewitz, and a horseradish brisket sandwich.

Cluny Bistro and Boulangerie

4
35 Tank House Lane, Toronto, ON M5A 3C4

$23 lunch; $35 dinner. Have you visited the Distillery District’s little trip to Paris? This sprawling French bistro – complete with gilded wall hangings, exposed brick, and plush seating worthy of Versailles – is as much a pleasure on the eyes as on the tastebuds. Armed with the title of Toronto’s best French restaurant, the boulangerie will serve classics and modern spins during Winterlicious – start with escarole, goat cheese and pear salad, or blood orange marinated arctic char, and tuck in for mains that include albacore tuna on a fennel seed crepe, and Quebec duck confit.

L'Unità Restaurant

5
134 Avenue Rd, Toronto, ON M5R 2H6

$35 dinner. This low-lit Yorkville enoteca is known for combining local Canadian ingredients and authentic Italian cooking – and this year’s Winterlicious menu is no exception. Think roasted chestnut zuppa and lamb carpaccio to start, followed by an entrée of grilled duck sausage (doubled down with a duck egg accent), or a red beet risotto with sorrels and smoked ricotta. Pasta lovers: L’Unita does it right, and their tagliatelle carbonara is the gourmet comfort food you’ve been craving all winter. For those with a sweet tooth, may we suggest the white chocolate budino (pudding) with espresso ganache?

Tabülè Middle Eastern Cuisine

6
2009 Yonge St, Toronto, ON M4S 1Z8

$18 lunch; $25 dinner. A critically acclaimed Toronto OG of authentic Middle Eastern fare, Tabule’s quaint, uptown location will be a Winterlicious go-to for anyone seeking the freshness of the Mediterranean during a winter in the 6. Start with the signature fatush salad, or sample the hummus, babaganoush, tabouli, and falafel plate (it’s vegan!). As for entrees, a variety of juicy kebabs and skewers are served alongside marinated vegetables, mujaddara rice, and garlic tomatoes. We’ve got our eyes on the Knaffa Ashta for dessert, filo pastry layered with custard and covered in rose water syrup.

The Chase Fish & Oyster

7
10 Temperance St, Toronto, ON M5H 1Y4

$23 lunch; $35 dinner. Yes, this downtown restaurant is one of the city’s best for market-fresh seafood, but they’ve also caught our eye for one of the best Winterlicious dessert menus on the roster. We suggest you visit in threes, guaranteeing a sample of the caramelized banana sundae, the peanut butter ice cream and chocolate cake, and the donuts topped with cinnamon apple compote, caramel, and calvados cream. But there’s plenty of savoury goodness to go around: salmon tartare, lobster bisque, creamy spinach and mushroom lasagna, and braised beef short rib are just a few of the stunners on offer.

Barnsteiner's

8
1 Balmoral Ave, Toronto, ON M4V 3B9

$23 lunch; $35 dinner. Word is getting out about this uptown eatery’s new reno and redesign – and rightly so. With a warm interior that combines crown moulding, walls in a deep teal, art deco lighting, wood-panelled columns, comfy-yet-sleek seating, and colourful Mediterranean tiles, Barnsteiner’s truly is eclectic décor at its best. Now for the food. On this year’s Winterlicious menu, the Yonge Street restaurant will host its intriguing Americana fare – think smoked chicken salad with grilled oyster mushrooms, Cornish hen with candied apples, venison braised in a juniper red wine sauce, and warm chocolate cake, spiced with oranges.

The Carbon Bar

9
99 Queen St E, Toronto, ON M5C 1S1

$35 dinner. BBQ Berkshire Pork bao anyone? Perhaps some South Atlantic Snapper in coconut and achiote curry, or fried chicken and ribs with all the fixins? Finish it off with dulce de leche ice cream or triple layer carrot cake with green pistachio frosting. If you haven’t made it out to one of TO’s swankiest cocktail bars and eateries (a sprawling spot with leather parlour booths, architectural lighting, and an undeniable industrial-modern flair), Winterlicious is a great time to visit and get a taste.

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On Sunday May 1st 2016, the Artscape Wychwood Barns hosts TO’s largest festival for gluten-free foodies. With workshops led by gluten-free experts and over 65 food vendors to sample from, this event is a must-attend for wheat-sensitive Torontonians. From cupcakes to malt beer and cider tastings, the Gluten Free Garage is where to snack up and stock up this weekend. [Photo by Franco Deleo; courtesy of the Gluten Free Garage]
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