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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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10
East Toronto
Globe Bistro
Photo courtesy of Globe Bistro


"Think Global. Eat Local!" Globe Bistro takes their motto seriously, sourcing ingredients locally then preparing them with creativity and flair. With a passion for the local movement, menus change frequently, but you might find maple tahini Brussels sprouts in a grain bowl, pan seared cod with potato gnocchi or elk loin with sake kasu marinade. 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. The space alone, with 16 foot ceilings, wood floors and stunning artistic accents, make Globe Bistro well worth a visit.

Recommended for Farm to Table because: A glamorous, chandelier-filled room with unpretentious food that pays homage to provenance.

Courtney's expert tip: Globe serves a popular brunch menu on Saturdays and Sundays. You'll find everything from house-made granola with sheep's milk yogurt, to a burger, to the Swine and Dine - which features three eggs and pork prepared six ways.

Read more about Globe Bistro →


9
West Toronto
Farmhouse Tavern
Photo courtesy of Farmhouse Tavern


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 duck wings, 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.

Recommended for Farm to Table because: A quaint farmhouse in the middle of the city puts an urban spin on "farm fresh."

Courtney's expert tip: If you want a cheap drink, come on Monday for their F%ck Mondays specials which roll out every hour from 3pm.

Read more about Farmhouse Tavern →


8
West Toronto
Beast
Photo courtesy of 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, wild boar ragu 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. Bone marrow french toast is topped with a roasted marrow bone, in case you are deficient in protein.

Recommended for Farm to Table because: Sourcing meats from Ontario farms and fruit and vegetables from markets within the city, Beast uses delicious and sustainably sourced ingredients.

Courtney's expert tip: Don't miss brunch, including house-made maple bacon doughnuts which sell out quickly. Beast is one of the city's most popular brunch spots, and doesn't take reservations. Show up early.

Read more about Beast →


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Marben Restaurant
Photo courtesy of Fook Communications


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. Start with some delicately shaved lamb fat on brioche, or swing the other way and indulge in the house ricotta and tomato curd. Mains are beautifully executed such as the pad seared cod with PEI mussels and Ontario shrimp sauce. Brunch includes decadent choices like the brunch doughnut with strawberry sugar, earl grey creme anglaise, mint and strawberries.

Recommended for Farm to Table because: A farm-to-table menu that changes with the seasons and welcomes clientele who wear things other than flannel shirts.

Courtney's expert tip: If you're looking for a great burger, you'll find it here. Marben's is made from black Angus patty and braised brisket.

Read more about Marben Restaurant →


Cafe Belong
Photo courtesy of Tom Arban


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 matcha muesli to pulled pork with hot pickles and a fried egg. There is even a communal meal option, if you like to get your fingers into your friend's choices (Admit it).

Recommended for Farm to Table because: Hearty and exceptional food, Bring Your Own Wine options and a cozy atmosphere that makes you want to hunker down. Farm to table...to heart.

Courtney's expert tip: Even the desserts are seasonal, but they are exceptional. The chevre cheesecake is delightfully silky.

Read more about Cafe Belong →


5
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.

Recommended for Farm to Table because: It was a garage, it was a bar, it was a restaurant, but Woodlot has consistently been farm-to-table fantastic.

Courtney's expert tip: Woodlot works as a bakery with a wood-burning oven right in house until 3pm. Do we even need to tell you to buy breakfast for tomorrow?

Read more about Woodlot →


Union Restaurant


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.

Recommended for Farm to Table because: This farm-to-table venue is true to its concept –with flavours inspired by the French. It doesn't get any more local or seasonal.

Courtney's expert tip: During the summer, enjoy the whimsical picnic tables, complete with a smoker perfuming the air with BBQ.

Read more about Union Restaurant →


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.

Recommended for Farm to Table because: House-made cheese on house-made pasta? These people aren't fooling around...the farm may be as close as the kitchen.

Courtney's expert tip: Try the 4-course prix fix menu on Monday nights for a delightful selection of the Local Kitchen's creativity. Pair it with a bottle of wine that you bring from home and have it uncorked for free (Monday nights only).

Read more about Local Kitchen & Wine Bar →


2
East Toronto
Ruby Watchco
Photo courtesy of 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.

Recommended for Farm to Table because: Menus that change daily and ingredients that stand out with freshness. Chef Lynn Crawford will pleasantly surprise you.

Courtney's expert tip: While the single set menu offered nightly at Ruby Watchco is often centred around meat, they do offer one fish and one vegetarian substitute. Let them know your dietary needs when making a reservation.

Read more about Ruby Watchco →


Montecito
Photo courtesy of Montecito


You would never confuse downtown Toronto with California. Besides having a formidable winter, it also likes a New York pace and prides itself on efficiency rather than a relaxed attitude. However, after avocados reached celebrity status, the intrigue in Californian cuisine picked up momentum. Montecito Restaurant brings a taste of California to Toronto's Entertainment District for those that need a breather from avocado toast (which of course is on the Sunday brunch menu). A collaboration between Hollywood Director Ivan Reitman and Innov8 Hospitality, Montecito is steps from the Toronto International Film Festival Lightbox. Farm-to-table Californian cuisine uses Canadian ingredients, like the Ontario Grassfed Striploin and and B.C. Mussel Tagliatelle. Simple ingredients showcase the best in Canada coast to coast.

Recommended for Farm to Table because: Craft cocktails, California-Canadian cuisine and a location literally set by a Hollywood director.

Courtney's expert tip: For the table, try the Cumbrae Farms 45-Day 32 oz Dry Aged Ribeye, carved and served family style.

Read more about Montecito →


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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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