If poutine and Montreal bagels are all that come to mind when you think about Canada’s food scene, then you have some more dining to do. The country is buzzing with attractive restaurants and creative, forward-thinking chefs. Eat your way across the country, from east to west, with this look at 10 of the best eateries in Canada.
Raymonds | St. John's, N.F.
In most provinces, it’s illegal to serve wild game in a restaurant. But in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada’s easternmost province, chefs can get a permit to purchase the meat from (also permitted) local hunters. Which means a spot like Raymonds is one of the only places where diners can taste ptarmigan, moose, or caribou.
The province’s coastal location also means the fish and seafood are super fresh. Opt for the seasonal tasting menu (five or seven courses).
Joe Beef | Montreal
Joe Beef — Photo courtesy of Joe Beef
It’s impossible to talk about Montreal’s roaring food scene without mentioning Joe Beef. The 12-year-old restaurant in Notre Dame West has an on-site smokehouse, trout pond and vegetable garden. The food (lobster spaghetti, smoked meat croquettes) is indulgent and precise, the staff is welcoming, and the dimly lit setting makes it feel like you’ve stumbled upon a well-kept secret.
Au Pied de Cochon | Montreal
Eater restaurant editor Bill Addison once called this 16-year-old eatery a “shrine to excess.” It’s not a surprising label for a restaurant that has an entire section of its menu devoted to foie gras. (Foie gras terrine! Foie gras poutine! Foie gras nigiri!)
Another signature dish from chef Martin Picard is the duck in a can, which is served tableside. However, you can watch it all being made through the open kitchen.
Alo | Toronto
The bar at Alo — Photo courtesy of Alo Restaurant
Alo nabbed the top spot on Canada’s 100 Best Restaurants 2017 list. The elegant Toronto eatery is helmed by Patrick Kriss; he spent three years working under French chef Daniel Boulud at his namesake Michelin-rated restaurant in New York City.
To access the acclaimed six-course tasting menu, you must first find the unassuming front door and take an elevator up to the third floor. The contemporary space you enter is convivial and posh, and the food exceptional.
Dandylion | Toronto
Pork terrine — Photo courtesy of Dandylion
This cozy, unassuming spot on Queen Street West isn’t a vegetarian restaurant, but the precisely cooked and seasoned veggies are the highlight of almost every plate. Dinner begins with fresh-baked, naturally fermented bread and fromage blanc.
From there, guests take their pick from chef and co-owner Jason Carter’s small, Scandinavian-inspired menu – three starters, three mains, and three desserts, all of which change regularly. It is simple, unpretentious dining done right.
Bar Raval | Toronto
Bar Raval — Photo courtesy of Alexa Fernando/Overbudget Inc.
Those who can’t afford the plane ticket to Spain can at least enjoy the flavors of the vibrant European country. Prolific chef Grant van Gameren’s standing-room-only Spanish tapas bar in Little Italy is open from morning – when guests enjoy custom-roasted coffee, baguettes and sweets – until 2 am.
The bar itself is a work of art, with undulating wood that stretches above drinkers’ heads. Sip a cocktail and nibble on one of the canned seafood specialties (popular in Spain); closing time isn't any time soon.
Little Grouse on the Prairie | Saskatoon, Sask.
Pasta at Little Grouse on the Prairie — Photo courtesy of Bob Deutscher
Saskatchewan is likely low on the list of places that come to mind when one thinks of fine dining. But Little Grouse – named after the provincial bird emblem – is worth the trip for its classic Italian cooking and intimate setting (nab a seat at the pasta bar if you can). The year-old restaurant is part of Top Chef Canada winner Dale MacKay’s Grassroots Restaurant Group.
Pigeonhole | Calgary
Pigeonhole — Photo courtesy of Heather Saitz
Canada’s 100 Best Restaurants editor Jacob Richler calls Pigeonhole chef Justin Leboe an “unusually cerebral chef” and his food “smart and unusual.” All that and affordable prices to boot. The charcoal-charred cabbage has been on the menu since opening day, and the veggie-focused dishes are all standouts. A concise menu of cocktails and a varied wine list are the final touches one needs for a casual yet polished night out.
Hawksworth Restaurant | Vancouver
Travelers often want to spend as much time away from the hotel as possible, but Hawksworth Restaurant, located in the Rosewood Hotel Georgia, is a good reason to stay put. Opened by native Vancouverite David Hawksworth in 2011, the menu showcases the chef’s European-honed finesse with local and seasonal ingredients.
Guests can enjoy a meal at any time of day, but ordering a cocktail off the creative – and extensive – drinks menu is a must.
Kissa Tanto | Vancouver
Flash-fried whole daily market fish — Photo courtesy of Ian Lanterman
Vancouver’s gastronomy is heavily influenced by Asian flavors. One of the most exciting examples of this can be found at Kissa Tanto in Chinatown, where Japanese and Italian cuisine find a shared place at the dinner table.
The quirky pairing results in many a creative dish, like lamb shoulder with kimchi glaze or fried olives stuffed with yuzu and smoked chili sausage. It’s all far from expected and will likely delight even the most seasoned palate.