While the flora and fauna of Toronto may be slowing down and fattening up for winter, it seems that the humans of Hogtown are also indulging a little more these days. Whether it’s all the red and orange stimulating our appetites (Psychology of Colour 101, FYI), local farmer’s harvests filling the markets, or the seemingly endless list of autumn holidays, something about the season wakens our stomachs and makes it somehow okay to forget about all that work we put into our summertime beach bod. Womp womp.
Particularly tempting is this fall’ s latest crop of restaurant openings. From on-trend speakeasies to familiar favourites moving to new climes, the city has become a veritable buffet of choices for your autumn appetite. We’ve rounded up our favourite new Toronto restaurants for you to try this October.
It’s an interesting reflection on people’s perceptions of modern food when a luxury restaurant can be named America. A partnership between local hospitality heavyweights Oliver & Bonacini Restaurants and Charles Khabouth’s INK Entertainment, the high-end hotspot is taking over the space in the Trump Tower that Stock used to occupy. With its namesake country best known for cuisine of deep-fried convenience, America reinvents regional classics into elevated – yet familiar – fare. Examples such as the “Foie Gras Buckwheat Flapjack” and “Roast Scallop Jambalaya” (featuring foie gras, octopus, and Andouille sausage) are undeniably “Made in the U.S. of A” dishes that import foreign techniques and ingredients for results that are sexy, opulent, and savoury. While most people associate “America” with burgers and fries, this decadent combination of new world plates with old world flavours is an apt reflection of truly modern American cuisine.
If you feel like you’re experiencing some déjà vu with this Buca opening, it’s understandable. Having just opened Bar Buca at King and Portland (the sister snack and wine bar to their insanely popular Buca restaurant) this March, partners Peter Tsebelis, Gus Giazitzidis, and Executive Chef Rob Gentile are at it again with the long-anticipated Buca Yorkville. First hinted at on Gentile’s Instagram two years ago, the new 85-seat location is attached to the Four Seasons Toronto and will serve much of the same fare as the King West Buca. Buca Yorkville will also feature décor better suited to the uptown neighbourhood (think brass, bronze, and white). While currently opened in soft launch for friends and family, look for its doors to open to the public October 16th.
Only in Toronto would you find an Argentinian restaurant with a Cambodian-born chef. Located far west on Dundas West, Branca prepares all of its cuisine with either a traditional Parrilla grill, or in the dramatic “Al Asador” style using only fire, salt, and time. While the cooking techniques may be imported from South America, all the produce is locally grown, with all meat coming from naturally raised, hormone-free livestock.
Eat, bubby, eat! Essen (which literally translates to “eat” in Yiddish) pays homage to chef/owner Leor Zimmerman’s Jewish upbringing. Taking over the Dundas West space formerly occupied by Portuguese restaurant Quinta, the new spot aims to provide guests with an authentic Jewish family dining experience. Much like any Yom Kippur you’ve ever been at, expect a meal where everybody shares plates, wine, and – potentially – passive-aggressive comments. We kid, bubby, we kid. While centered around tradition Jewish fare, the food takes inspiration from around the globe. Flavours are fresh and ingredients are local (whenever possible). Fun fact: While the restaurant is not certified kosher, Essen does not serve pork or shellfish, and does not plate dairy with meat (in accordance with Jewish dietary laws or, kashrut).
The Keg – King Street West
It’s The Keg. It’s on King Street West. It’s officially open. Fin.
If you were wondering what was going to happen with the space that used to be Remy’s in Yorkville, Montage is it. Between this and Buca Yorkville, it seems like the uptown neighbourhood’s food scene is experiencing the sort of facelift popular among many of its denizens. Montage offers guests a jaw-dropping rooftop patio with heated cabanas for 8 to 12 people (by reservation and for members only), bottle service, and nutritionist-approved organic fare. Essentially, it’s the celebrity TIFF experience – 365 days a year.
It’s a cheap cliché, but Dundas West really is becoming the “new Queen West.” With restaurants popping up everywhere in the Junction, new Italian spot NODO is wading into an already crowded pool. Sicilian-born Chef Roberto Marotta doesn’t have much to worry about though as his pasta recipes, stone-baked pizzas, and homemade cannelloni are sure to be a hit among the city’s Italophiles. The décor is a mix of ultra mod salvaged furniture with some self-aware nods to typical Italian restaurant kitsch (like a sign for “Nona’s Kitchen” and a portrait of Vittorio Emmanuel II circa 1861). For our full sneak peek of NODO, click here.
If you enjoy going out for quiet meals by yourself, this is probably not the place for you. Nuit Social has replaced the space formerly occupied by Happy Child on Queen Street West and offers guests a variety of “social boards” (think finger foods like charcuterie, cheeses, and olives) and oh-so-shareable “social plates.” Chef John Rosal (formerly of Modus) sources his ingredients globally, though the menu’s lynchpins are traditional Italian fare such as arancini balls, grilled octopus, and crispy artichoke. Perfect for a first date, Nuit Social is a long, narrow room filled with small, intimate tables organized around a glowing stained-glass bar. Oh yeah, and there’s 20 different kinds of wine so you can impress your amore with your vino know-how.
In Toronto, what Mexican restaurants were in 2013, speakeasies are in 2014. As lovers of dim lighting, strong drinks, and all-velvet everything, however, we are not complaining. Opened just above The Good Son on Queen West, Wayward promises chill vibes, cold beverages, and warm service. For our full sneak peek, click here.
With an opening date that has been pushed back more times than Doug Ford says “folks” in a campaign debate, Wilbur Mexicana is finally looking ready to welcome the public this month on King Street West. As with most Mexican spots in the city, the restaurant purports itself to having authentic cuisine without the mariachi band.
Sad Farewell: Ursa
After much speculation, Ursa at 924 Queen Street West has closed its doors. We wish co-owner/Chef Jacob Sharkey-Pearce and his team all the best and look forward to seeing what the future holds.