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The Farm-To-Table-To-Stomach Restaurants In Toronto That Are Worth A Reservation



You need only turn on the TV for a second to know how widespread the farm-to-table movement has become. Commercials follow the farm-to-table formula of acoustic music, natural environs and close-up shots of fresh produce. Even fast food juggernauts are getting in on the action. We can't deny it: agricultural awareness is hot.

The farm-to-table ethos is so engrained in the minds of Toronto chefs that whether you’re at a burger joint or sitting down to a high-end meal, you can be certain that most of what you’re eating was grown close to home. Still, we have moved past the days when chef knows best. Now the farmer knows best and Toronto is blessed to be near a number of incredible fruit and vegetable growers, dairy and animal farmers and artisan cheese makers. An hour’s drive outside the city in virtually any direction will lead you to farms supplying products to Toronto’s best farm-to-table restaurants. And with wine producers and craft brewers also dotting the local landscape, the circle between grower, producer and chef is a tight one in Toronto.

For rustic and fresh Italian fare like you’d find in Tuscany, try Local Kitchen & Wine Bar, with chalkboard specials and pasta with just the right amount of bite. If you don't like to waste anything, have a seat at Beast, which has established a strong reputation on the Toronto restaurant scene for creating a flavour-packed menu with a nose-to-tail approach.

Nose-to-tail or farm-to-table, let's get real: this is all about fork-to-mouth.


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9
East Toronto


"Think Global. Eat Local!" Globe Bistro takes their motto seriously, sourcing ingredients locally then preparing them with creativity and flair. Although the glory days of the Globe have passed and they no longer have locations all around Toronto, this spot has enough clout to stick around. With a passion for the local movement, menus change frequently, but you might find wild salmon with crab-sweet pea risotto, heirloom beet salad, butter-poached ribeye with house-smoked ketchup, or sweetbreads with ricotta gnocchi and bacon. Choose a wine from the restaurant's extensive list of local VQA selections - premium bottles are half-priced on Sundays - or bring your own wine for a modest corkage fee. Even if the food and drink wasn't so good, the space alone, with 16 foot ceilings, wood floors and stunning artistic accents, would make Globe well worth a visit.


8
West Toronto


The upward growing nature of Toronto's condominiums puts us further and further away from farm-to-table dining. Luckily, there are people that save us from ourselves, such as the manager of Farmhouse Tavern, Darcy MacDonell. Darcy grew up in rural Ontario, and he has brought rustic touches to the restaurant in the form of antiques and weathered wood accents. A little bit of country in the outskirts of the city. Meals are delightful to carnivores, with steaks with foie gras butter, plougman's platters with duck confit and burgers that are dripping in cheese. Brunch menus are charmingly written on a chalkboard, and unlimited coffee is poured to wash it down. Bottoms up.


7
West Toronto
Beast


Chef Scott Vivian spent time early in his career cooking under Jamie Kennedy, the chef most often associated with farm-to-table cuisine in Toronto. So it was of little surprise that his own restaurant, Beast, celebrated local farmers and producers with indulgent dinner and brunch offerings. As expected with a name like Beast, many parts of many animals are utilized to add pizzaz to dishes. A dinner example is their take on a Canadian poutine, with fried gnocchi standing in for the french fries, braised rooster replacing plain gravy and cheese curds staying the same (why mess with perfection?). The popular brunch presents dishes that can't be found anywhere else. Challah french toast is topped with duck confit, cranberry mostarda and whipped creme fraiche.


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In bustling downtown Toronto, there is a brick and tinder building that stands out. Marben is one of Toronto's original farm-to-table restaurants. It continues to focus on fresh and local ingredients. High bar stools in canary yellow drench the palate in a colour meant to convey a deviation from all things stuffy. If you come with a ferocious appetite, the snacks to start are dangerously good. Daily baked bread comes with smoked butter and beet hummus. Patatas bravas come drenched in sauce and with a dollop of aioli work as a perfect accompaniment to a cold one. Mains are simple but well-executed. Delicate gnocchi are topped with a ragu of in-season veggies. Locally farmed trout gets the Spanish treatment with stewed chickpeas and clams. And you can get your brunch and lunch fixes at Marben, too, as the restaurant opens early.




Food is fuel. Food is medicine. Food is love. Or so says Cafe Belong. We believe them, as they practice what they preach, using succulent ingredients that you don't need to be told are picked straight from the vine. Cafe Belong is designed to resemble a post-modern bar and has tall windows that allow for ample light to stream in, illuminating the wooden walls. Lunch, dinner and brunch each have their stars of the show, from gnocchi with brown buttered arugula in the winter to delicate slices of tomatoes making up a fresh caprese salad in the summer. Brunch ranges from quinoa oatmeal to fried chicken and waffles. There is even a communal meal option, if you like to get your fingers into your friend's choices (Admit it).


4
Little Italy
Woodlot
Photo courtesy of Woodlot restaurant


Simple, honest and handmade is not a bad thing to aim for in any diet. Woodlot adheres to that philosophy. Situated in the heart of Little Italy, Woodlot cooks spectacularly filling dishes without overloading them with unnecessary ingredients. Their bread is worth the visit alone, with 7 varieties of sourdough, organic, woodfired and warm. Foods are light and inspiring, such as the carrot and ginger stuffed sourdough agnolotti. Woodlot doesn't shy away from fat, with duck fat potatoes complementing the roasted fillet of rainbow trout. However, fat is used as an accent rather than the star of the show. It is moderate eating at its finest.


French food is often still seen as fussy, even though decades of nouveau cuisine have proven otherwise. Union Restaurant has the attention to detail you may expect from a French restaurant, with surprises like a delicious red wine float that puts root beer in its place. Ribs and steaks show on every menu, including brunch. The food is presented beautifully and flavours are fresh and to the point. Don't leave without slathering their house-made mayonnaise on something (we recommend the french fries). Union is a champion of farm fresh food and chef Teo Paul can be spotted daily at farmer's markets in and around Toronto. Eating at Union will expose you only to seasonal ingredients and your palate will thank you for it.


Local Kitchen & Wine Bar
Photo courtesy of Local Kitchen


2009 was a memorable year for restaurant openings in Toronto, and Local Kitchen and Wine Bar was among the notable debuts. Childhood friends Fabio Bondi and Michael Sangregorio teamed up to open the space. It's tiny and decorated in an unpretentious style, resembling a hole-in-the-wall you might find while wandering around Florence. But don't judge a book by its cover, because chef Bondi's food packs this place on a nightly basis. The small menu of locally sourced ingredients features a selection of cheeses and meats, including the fresh house-made mozzarella, served warm with tomatoes and basil. Three or four pastas and two protein-based mains are served each day. The former might be smoked potato gnocchi with rapini and taleggio cheese, while locally sourced fish and beef are paired with vegetables in season.


1
East Toronto
Ruby Watchco


When chef Lynn Crawford opened this restaurant on Toronto's east side in 2010, she brought a different dining style and some celebrity to the Riverside neighbourhood. The star power comes from Crawford herself - known for stints as a Food Network personality and her years running the kitchens at Four Seasons Hotels in Toronto and New York City. As for dining style, rather than offering a traditional a la carte menu, Crawford and her team set a different four-course dinner each night of the week, built around fresh, local ingredients and simple farm-to-table cooking. One night diners might be treated to Ontario lamb, while fresh-caught trout is served the next night. The mostly Ontario wine menu echoes the restaurant's local spirit.


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Meet Courtney Sunday

Courtney Sunday has lived in England, Switzerland, Canada and the US, finding her way into the professions of freelance writing and yoga teaching in between travel opportunities. She learned...  More About Courtney

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