Toronto’s best casual date night restaurants

When choosing a restaurant feels more akin to choosing what to watch on Netflix (read: an hour or two of scrolling, scrolling, scrolling), be thankful that maxed-out, relaxed-out dining is something that Toronto does best. With an emphasis on soulful, filling food and chill vibes, surprisingly free of pretense, put on your best fashion sweats and check out some of the city’s best spots for a casual dinner date.

The Hole in the Wall

2867A Dundas St W, Toronto, ON M6P 1Y9

This Junction gem is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it watering hole with a carefully curated dinner and drinks menu. Canadian crafts line the taps and made-from-scratch offerings stream steadily from the kitchen, including cheeseburgers, braised lamb and buck-a-shuck oysters. But the space itself is the star of the show: long and narrow with brick walls and high ceilings, it oozes coziness, especially near the back, where nearly every night of the week you’ll hear live music playing from the stage.

Maker Pizza

59 Cameron St, Toronto, ON M5T 2H1

When one grows weary of pizza, one grows weary of life. So no, we haven’t reached “peak pizza” in Toronto just yet. The city’s newest and perhaps most-Instagrammable pies come readily fired out of this beautiful, white-bricked Cameron Street space. Toronto celebri-chef Matty Matheson (Parts & Labour) was brought on as a consultant to direct the menu, which features red and white sauced pizzas focused on classic flavours and local ingredients. Buffalo chicken wings and seriously satisfying sandwiches round out the menu, including a divine and decadent meatball sub.

416 Snack Bar

181 Bathurst St Main, Toronto, ON M5T 2R7

Perpetually busy and with cozy vibes for miles, this snack-happy Bathurst Street space serves up handheld victuals meant to be shared, like Korean fried chicken and steak tartare. Service is swift and sincere, so the wait between standing in line and face-stuffing time is kept to a much-obliged minimum.

The 3 Speed

1163 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M6H 1M9

No matter where in the city you live, Three Speed never fails to make you feel like you’re a Bloordale local. It might just be the inviting outdoor fireplace in the spacious back patio, but the service here is no slouch either: warm, inclusive and ready to suggest suitable drink pairings for the home-style cookin’, with offerings like handmade samosas and hangover-curing mac ‘n’ cheese with fried chicken.

La Cubana

392 Roncesvalles Ave, Toronto, ON M6R 2M9

Bright, colourful and gleefully cheap, this always-on-point Roncesvalles spot serves sandwiches in the Cuban-style, pressed and hot to-order. The guava barbecue short-rib medianoche sandwich (Spanish for midnight, alluding to its Havana nightclub street food origins) is a show-stopper, but make sure to save room for a $5 dessert. We love the delicious buttermilk donut holes, dusted with cinnamon and sugar.

Zakkushi On Carlton

193 Carlton St, Toronto, ON M5A 2K7

If it’s available, ask for a seat in the cozy corner booth, it provides the best vantage point to watch the organized chaos unfold at this lively and cacophonous yakitori spot – especially so during the frigid winter months, being strategically located next to the warm wood-fired grill where chefs crank out a staggering stream of expertly seasoned food-on-skewers. And don’t be afraid to get a little adventurous in your ordering – the beef tongue, chicken heart and pork intestine are the menu’s standouts.

Descendant Detroit Style Pizza

1168 Queen St E, Toronto, ON M4M 1L4

For those that prefer their pies deep and dense, the “Detroit-style” pizzas are this Queen East shop are ooey-gooey, doughy and decadent. Toppings are rich and piled with abandon, including such offerings as chorizo and peppers, cilantro sour cream, and truffles and mushrooms. But despite the so-savoury combinations, it’s the sturdy, perfectly cooked crust that’s the star of the show.

An oasis tucked away from the busy din of its surrounding streets, the St. George campus of the University of Toronto offers an easy excuse to while away a day admiring its stately green spaces and age-old architecture. You’ll also find some of the city’s most charming cafés in the area, perfect for a study session (Wifi included), some pre-class reading or a caffeinated catch-up with a pal. [Photo: latte at Voodoo Child]
There are two kinds of wine drinkers: those that taste with their palate, and those that taste with their wallet. For those of us in the latter category, you’ll be pleased to find Toronto’s east-end offers a number of budget-friendly wine nights throughout the week, sure to satisfy your inner wino as well as your inner cheapskate.
Tiki is in, gin joints are out – that’s how Toronto’s bar trend skews. Whether you’re looking for a new locale to wet your whistle on a weekly basis or out to annex a portion of your liver to the city’s most visionary cocktails creators, for richer or for poorer, here are Toronto’s best new and notable bars for 2016. [Image courtesy of Track & Field Bar]
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