Get excited, Toronto: Summerlicious 2014 is back again! Starting July 4th and running until July 20th, take advantage of prix fixe lunch and dinner menus at Toronto’s top dining establishments. Even if you’re not a foodie, this celebration of culinary delights will definitely appeal to you – after all, who could possibly reject a cut-rate three-course meal? Now realistically, some of these restaurants can be pretty hit-and-miss, and since this year’s lineup has over 200 of them, selecting a place to go might be a little bit overwhelming. Good thing you’ve got us, right? We’ve picked the top 25 restaurants that you may have hesitated to choose, but we can guarantee are worth your time and paycheck. Now all you need to do is pick up the phone and call to make your reservation…
For good food at a good value, Archeo can deliver. Their meals are hearty, their service is friendly, and their Distillery District back patio is one of the coziest getaway spots in the city. For $15, you can grab steamed mussels, smoked chicken penne primavera, and homemade apple pie with vanilla Chantilly cream. And of course, the dinner menu is no less impressive: $25 nets you some delicious options including grilled calamari, pizza primavera, and lemon sorbet.
You may be stuck in Toronto for the summer, but New Orleans is just a short subway ride away. Big Daddy’s celebrates the food, flavours, and spirit of this lively city with authentic Louisiana cuisine and fresh seafood. The mix of Southern hospitality and great prices are a good enough reason to go, but now that they’re a part of Summerlicious there’s no reason left not to check them out. If you’re feeling like a plate of jalapeno cornbread, jambalaya, and bread pudding would make a great addition to your summer, book your reservation at Big Daddy’s ASAP.
Bloke & 4th
In this trendy, cool supper club, you can also find local food made from scratch. That’s great and all, but is the food itself anything special? Short answer: Yes. Long answer: Definitely yes. At only $35, indulge in an open-faced pulled pork brioche, potato and Guinness lobster pie, and deep fried strawberry cheesecake – decadent and comforting. You can even burn off your dinner’s calories by dancing the night away as Bloke & 4th is also one of Toronto’s best nightclubs.
If you’re looking to enjoy some fantastic French food on an equally fantastic patio, your search ends here: Bodega’s got all of your needs covered, and then some – fast, friendly service and beautiful décor will be waiting for you when you book your reservation. French at its finest, the menu includes chilled asparagus soup (which is delicious), duck leg confit (also delicious), and orange crème brûlée, all just waiting to be devoured.
Okay, you need to visit Bosk because it is amazing, and you need to visit it now because it’s an opportunity to try their celebrated menu without breaking your piggy bank. If you recognize that this is the signature restaurant at Shangri-La Hotel Toronto, you know to expect freshly harvested ingredients mixed together to create some of the most succulent food you’ll ever have. Since we’re pretty hefty carnivores, we’re excited to try the roasted flat iron steak and soy glazed pork belly, but vegetarians can definitely get their fill here, too. Start with a marinated cucumber salad or creamy tomato soup, then treat yourself to some Capellini pasta and dark chocolate mousse.
Located inside the exclusive Four Seasons Hotel in Yorkville, Café Boulud serves timeless French classics with a twist. Chef de Cuisine Tyler Shedden’s passion shines through his imaginative creations and is well known for wowing his guests. Mostly locally sourced, the menu is spectacular, and while Summerlicious is on you can indulge for only $45. Our recommendations? Albacore tuna tartare, Cumbrae beef brisket (with, hello, grilled watermelon!), and no meal is complete without their chocolate gateau.
With its rustic interior and beautiful outdoor patio, the atmosphere at Destingo is casual and inviting but still provides a high quality of Italian cuisine. Since we’re always craving seafood in the summer, we’ll definitely be trying out the tilapia in white wine sauce and the lobster agnolotti. If you’d prefer some heavier fare, the rack of lamb in fresh mint sauce or the chicken breast stuffed with goat cheese and pine nuts should satisfy your stomach like no other.
At Volos, you’ll find contemporary takes on traditional Greek dishes, all made from local Canadian ingredients. The artful atmosphere is definitely not lacking in elegance, and the wine list is not lacking in options. Take advantage of Summerlicious and grab yourself lunch for $20, with options like dakos, seafood croquettes, and their amazing traditional baklava. If you’d prefer a dinner reservation, you can enjoy grilled Moroccan octopus, seafood barley pilaf, and Greek yogurt with berries and honey for only $35.
When summer weather starts creeping upon us, we begin to fantasize about meeting up with friends and lounging around on one of Toronto’s many outdoor patios. Ganzi is catering to this fantasy by offering up many delicious share plates, all of which have large enough portions to pass around the whole table. Their outdoor patio is also one of our favourites – it seats 200 people, but the noise level stays below sports bar average. This means you can actually hold a conversation with someone, instead of awkwardly nodding your head in response while desperately hoping they hadn’t asked you a question. The grilled scallops and margherita pizza are nothing to scoff at, either.
There’s not exactly an abundance of vegetarian and vegan restaurants in Toronto, and even less of them have cool settings to dine in and menus to drool over. Grasslands is one of the rare few that inspires even the most whole-hearted of meat eaters to give it a try – after all, a nice seitan steak basted with smoky BBQ sauce and grilled with peach salsa is something every true foodie should have on their bucket list. On the Summerlicious menu? For a starter, the cornmeal battered king mushrooms will definitely not disappoint, and for dessert, the chocolate bundt cake or the sticky toffee pudding are sure to hit the spot.
A View The Vibe favourite, L’Unita is known across Toronto for being one of those restaurants where you just can’t get a bad meal. Vibrant yet intimate and where you are always made to feel at home, this Italian restaurant serves innovative dishes as well as pizzas, pastas, and desserts that are all made in-house using seasonal and local products. While we can guarantee that their Summerlicious dinner options are all delicious, the melt-in-your-mouth buffala mozzarella bruschetta and creamy ciriole lamb Bolognese should be on the top of your list of things to try. Just sayin’.
Lamesa Filipino Kitchen
The Filipino food scene isn’t yet booming in Toronto, so it’s likely you’ve never tried halo halo sisig (chicken, pork, and beef topped with chilies, garlic, onion, and crispy fried egg) or ginataan gulay (roasted squash, beans, eggplant, and rice in coconut milk). Well, now’s your chance – for $25, you can sample all of these dishes and more Filipino delicacies at Lamesa. We’ve got our eye on the sarsi sticky ribs, because grilled pork with a side of coconut coleslaw is always a good idea.
Lisbon By Night
This old-school hidden gem is perfect if you’re looking to have a romantic dinner for two, or if you’d like to spend your summer dining on some amazing seafood. Their grilled calamari tastes unlike any other thanks to the delicious blend of wine and garlic that make up the sauce. If you’d like to try some authentic Portuguese dishes, we recommend the piri piri BBQ chicken and pastel de nata (Portuguese custard).
Despite its sophisticated yet casually cool décor, Little Anthony’s is a very energetic establishment that is always bustling with activity. The service is quick and the food is delicious. In fact, the very notion that we can get their creamy bruschetta, veal marsala, and tiramisu for only $20 sounds almost too good to be true.
Michael’s on Simcoe
This trendy steakhouse serves some of the best hand-picked steaks in Toronto, but also some of the best seafood. Their Italian influenced menu is reflected in such dishes as their flavourful slow roasted Ontario peppers with eggplant and ricotta involtini. For $45, you can treat yourself to a dinner consisting of Cavatelli pasta with sweet tomato and fennel sausage, California cut strip loin with potato and green bean salad, and Bella Casara Ricotta cheesecake with lemon and fresh strawberries.
If you’re looking to try something unique and different this summer, Mideastro’s fusion of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines will definitely not disappoint. We’ve never tasted anything quite like their black truffle carpaccio: Parmigiano reggiano, arugula, beef, and dwarf peaches might seem like a strange combination, but, trust us, it’s delicious. Another interesting menu item is the grilled eggplant and goat cheese agnolotti, with poached egg and yogurt Chantilly. Oh my!
The menu at Momofuku Daisho changes often depending on what Ontario produce is available on the market, as well as when locally grown ingredients are at their freshest. While that’s cool and all, what we’re most in awe of is how every dish is pretty much perfect. Seriously, there’s not one item on the menu that will be sub-par. Don’t believe us? Summerlicious is your chance to test our claim and try it for yourself – lunch and dinner are only $25 and $45, respectively.
We’ve had quite a few Italian restaurants on this list, but what sets Paese apart from the others is the contemporary way in which the dishes are created. You’ll be enjoying the Italian food you know and love, but with a bit of a modern twist. They’ve made sure to include some amazing options on their Summerlicious menu – in particular, we love their take on the Ceasar salad made of baby kale, roasted garlic mustard dressing, soft boiled egg, crispy capers, and parmesan frico. Their semolina crusted chicken with cheddar polenta as well as the polenta stuffed ravioli and lobster are pretty awesome, too. At $20 for lunch and $35 for dinner, you really can’t go wrong here.
Pan on Danforth
This is one of those restaurants that knows how to make their clients feel special. Family owned and operated, you’ll get plenty of individual attention here, but, and equally as important, the vibe and food are fantastic. Live music and belly dancers will have you enjoying your trilogy of Greek spreads, succulent Olympus chicken supreme or vegetarian moussaka, and wanting more of the Karidopita (honey walnut cake with vanilla ice cream).
Pure Spirits Oyster House & Grill
Located in the beautiful Distillery District of Toronto, Pure Spirits is known all across the city for being one of the absolute best places for the freshest seafood. If you’d like something a little healthier, their pan seared Atlantic salmon fillet should fit perfectly into your diet. And if you’d like something heftier, Pure Spirits has got you covered with cod and chips, which comes with creamy dill coleslaw and homemade tartar sauce.
A newbie to Summerlicious, Rock Lobster is a welcome addition and a long time favourite. As the name would suggest lobster is the main ingredient on the menu, and the vibe is fun and loud. This is not your romantic dinner-for-two spot. This is where you get a bunch of friends together to indulge in their Summerlicious menu for only $25/person. We can’t recommend their lobster tacos or their signature rock lobster roll enough, but for a seafood place, their fried chicken with waffles isn’t too shabby either.
Shibui Robata Bar
This fun and interactive restaurant is not only a new addition to Summerlicious, but also a newly opened restaurant in Toronto. We recently discovered it and loved it. The crowd is lively but not rowdy, and the vibe is cool but not snobby. And, of course, the food is absolutely fantastic. During Summerlicious, enjoy slow-roasted pork belly, Chilean sea bass, lamb chops, and filet mignon rotated over a live fire and served with your choice of vegetable or salmon sushi rolls, sweet potatoes, and cremini mushrooms. You won’t leave hungry.
The Shore Club
It’s summer, so for those of you who love classic surf n’ turf fare head on over to The Shore Club and treat yourself to some of the best steak and seafood in Toronto. Upscale and usually a place that can make a dent in your bank account, Summerlicious is the perfect time to experience their outstanding quality. Enjoy their grilled calamari to start and then indulge in their NY Striploin with sweet pepper chimichurri… or if you’re not into the meat, treat yourself to their vegetarian crepe stuffed with portobello mushrooms, spinach, ricotta and served with a vegetable terrine.
This modern saloon delivers a new approach to dining and nightlife with their one-of-a-kind ambiance and delicious cuisine. Their salmon tartare is elegant in both appearance and taste, their braised beef cheek is soft and juicy, and the whipped panna cotta will fill your mouth with the sweetest honey and caramelized ganache.
What this restaurant offers is a beautiful, upscale environment that is also warm and inviting and home to some of the most delicious Middle Eastern cuisine in Toronto. If you haven’t yet tried the vegetarian dip platter of hummus, babaghanouj, labneh, and tabuleh – what are you waiting for? For only $25, you can try this and other tantalizing treats, like the Moroccan seven-vegetable couscous. We’re also big fans of the pear and walnut phyllo, because it comes with what has to be the most delectable honey date drizzle.
Which of these restaurants are top of your list of places to go to for Summerlicious 2014? Let us know in the comments below or tweet us @ViewtheVibe.