There are fully grown adults who suffer through vegetables on a daily basis, but save their delight for when their mouth meets a heavenly piece of beef. For those adults, the steakhouse was created. Toronto has many steakhouses that have an old-world charm with a gentleman's club vibe (with ladies certainly welcome these days). We have found the best restaurants with the ability to sear steak to perfection. Some of them are a little dated in terms of decor, but that's in part what makes them so appealing.
Note the elegant magnetism of Barberians, a steakhouse that is tucked onto a side street just steps from the commotion of Yonge and Dundas Square. It will transport you from our technological universe, into a masculine era where the sizzle of steak could call a man out of his office at a reasonable hour. Or try your hand at dry-aged beef at Jacob's & Co, which can be served with sauteed kale with blue cheese and walnuts. Food math: kale will absorb all other calories surrounding it.
Wash down your once-in-a-lifetime (or ten-times-in-a-lifetime) meal with a $12,000 bottle of wine. Wait, you can't afford that? Us neither. But that doesn't mean we don't deserve a little fancy in our lives. Slip into your finest suit or little black dress and slow down your chewing speed for an evening.
10 Wildfire Steakhouse & Wine Bar
Cows don't have a chance at Wildfire. Not only are the exceptional steaks the star of the show, but the decor includes plush leather seating. There is quite a variety of wine warranting the title "Wine Bar" and the steaks come with garlic mashed potatoes and seasonal vegetables included in the price, a rare feat in the steakhouse world. There is an open kitchen to give you a bird's eye view of your meal's preparation. The cooks know their steak terminology, and whether you are a rare or a well done kind of person, you are certain to be satisfied. The steaks are grilled with maple flavoured charcoal. The parmesan polenta fries have to be tried. (416-483-4800)
9 The Keg Mansion
The Keg mansion is certainly the best Toronto location of this chain of North American restaurants. The gothic heritage building was built in 1868, during a period of great wealth in Toronto. It has had some renovations since, but apparently retains some of its history in the form of ghosts. You can visit this location on one of Toronto's ghost walks, or go to feast in a stunning atmosphere. The rich appetizers impress, such as Baked Brie or Scallops and Bacon. The prices are impressively lower than average for prime cuts of meat such as Filet Mignon or Manhattan Cut New York. Some cuts have inventive toppings, such as pecans and goat cheese that complement rather than overshadow the steak. (416-964-6609, 604-276-0242)
8 The Fifth Grill
The Fifth Grill is French inspired and offers some of Toronto's finest ambience. Catch a vertically opening vintage freight elevator to the loft space, which will offer relief from cold winter weather or celebration of fleeting summer sun. You can cozy up with a fancy red wine next to an impressive fireplace, or dine alfresco on the gazebo terrace. Tuck into your choice of gorgeous steak, or sample the mixed grill which will give you the chef's daily selection of three types of grilled meats. The wine list is extensive, and live jazz music often echoes in the background. Incroyable, as the French would say. (416-979-3005)
7 Harbour Sixty Steakhouse
The waterfront in Toronto is a prized location, and this restored 1917 Harbour Commission building offers a stunning backdrop for some of the best steak in the city. There are three levels of dining on offer, with baroque inspired decor. Harbour Sixty is dripping with opulence, from tall candlesticks to marble countertops and freshly ironed tablecloths. The lovely ambience works well to match the high-quality standards of the food. The steaks are well-seasoned and moist and juicy on the inside. The side dishes are often infused with gourmet ingredients, such as lobster mac and cheese and truffle mashed potatoes. Should you have any room for dessert, the Coconut Cream Pie is what dreams are made of. (416-777-2111)
6 The Shore Club
This gem of a restaurant lies within walking distance to the night life on King Street West. The Shore Club on Wellington is upscale and impressive, with a warmth that can help to heat up the iciest Toronto day. The decor pays tribute to art deco ocean liners, and the main dining room exudes elegance. With high ceilings and esteemed artwork, it is worth having some time to let your eyes wander beyond the food. When it comes to the food, however, The Shore Club is a great place to go for variety. Not only are the beautiful cuts of meat (such as Porterhouse and Filet Mignon) cooked to perfection, but the seafood is much more than an afterthought. Try the salmon wellington, which surprises with the sweetness of papaya. Or go whole hog and have the steak and lobster. Don't you deserve the best after all? (416-351-3311)
5 Ruth's Chris Steak House
There are many things that Canadians insist are best when home-grown. However, steak is not one of them, and this American transplant has attentive service and succulent steak. Underneath the Hilton, and a stone throw from the Delta Chelsea, it is a traveler's dream. The filet mignon has been described as "melt in your mouth delicious." The Porterhouse for Two can be a romantic experience, or you can go all out and try to master the Cowboy Steak, which is an impressive 22 ounces. The steaks are cooked at 500 degrees Fahrenheit and arrive at the table sizzling. The sides are generously proportioned, and rich enough to bring a vegetarian home happy. (416-955-1455, 800-544-0808-48)
4 Jacobs & Co. Steakhouse
With cozy golden lighting, solid wood furniture and a grand piano providing background music, Jacobs & Co has not forgotten any detail. Situated in downtown Toronto, the service, food and atmosphere is consistently top-notch. Jacobs & Co showcases its dry aged beef in the middle of the dining room in a climate controlled glass case. Chef Danny McCallum is incredibly proud of the fresh food that he serves, with the steaks aged, butchered and portioned on the premises. They have a french frier that only uses duck fat to make the most crisp and addictive french fries that you have ever tasted. They also supply Canadian flavour with poutine on the menu, but it is classed up with fois gras chicken gravy. This incredible food has nothing to hide. (4163660200)
3 Morton's, The Steakhouse
With 72 locations worldwide, Morton's may not be the most unique steakhouse experience. However, there is a reason it has been dubbed the Rolls Royce of Steakhouses.
The decor in Mortons is sleek and masculine. Located in Toronto's chic Yorkville neighbourhood, the white linen tablecloths inspire a classic fine dining experience. The staff will go through the details of each cut of meat if you are a steak neophyte. Even though the steak may be the highlight, appetizers such as lobster bisque and prosciutto wrapped mozzarella come highly recommended. The USDA prime aged beef is outstanding, and deliciously juicy. That white tablecloth may not stay immaculate for long, but it will be worth every bite. (416-925-0648)
2 Tom Jones Steak House
Tom Jones is the place to go to if you have reached an age where you already are starting to say "I remember the days when..." Those days will be back in a flash with stained glass windows, warm woods and waiters in tuxedos. One staircase doubles as a bookshelf, and you can almost imagine gentlemen talking shop with fat cigars, before kale salad counted as dinner. It is dark and cozy, begging you to spend 15 minutes to watch your waiter make your Caesar salad at the table. The portions are quite generous, and the Chateaubriand is worth capping off a special occasion. Located in the Bay and King financial district, this place requires a pretty penny, but is class all the way. (416-366-6583)
You can excuse Barberian's for having a slightly dated atmosphere. The restaurant opened in 1959 and some of the patrons have a long standing history, equating Barberian's with celebration for more than 50 years, which certainly bodes well.
Barberian's has a simple charm with artwork by the Group of Seven hanging on the walls. All of the steaks are aged on the premises. There are a myriad of steak sizes and proportions, and the chef's quiet confidence shines through from the first bite. If you are not in the mood for steak, rack of lamb with mint jelly and salmon also get rave reviews.
If you have a special occasion, consider renting out the Wine Cellar at Barbarians. Housing 20,000 bottles floor to ceiling with the fragrance of fresh cork, it is an unforgettable space. Ask to visit before you sit down for dinner. (416-597-0335)
About Courtney Sunday
Courtney Sunday lived and worked in Europe in the travel industry until 2010. She learned the pleasure and the frustrations of being a foreigner; living in Canterbury, England and Luzern, Switzerland before returning to Toronto in 2010. Yoga teaching and writing became her full-time professions, as she learned the true meaning of the statement: "If you love what you do you'll never work a day in your life."
Courtney loves the cafe culture of Toronto and the ever-expanding group of foodies. When not leading a company through their lunchtime "Oms" she explores the corners of her city by foot: www.courtneysunday.com, @Omathome.
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