Go Out for Home Cooking with Toronto's Best Homestyle Restaurants

When you make something from scratch, you know exactly what goes into it. You minimize the salt, you cut the corners that can be cut and you maximize the results. You develop a relationship with the ingredients and it permeates your experience with your meal.

Not to put down restaurants: going out ensures that your food is being treated with the utmost respect. Going to a homestyle restaurant ensures that you are getting a dose of comfort food on those nights when you want to indulge your tastebuds without turning on your oven.

Toronto, in its expansiveness has a little bit of everything when it comes to restaurants. Our picks for homestyle restaurants will make you feel as welcome as when you come back for the holidays and pull up a chair at the family dinner table (assuming that your family likes you). Smell the long simmering sauces as you walk in, order a drink and if you close your eyes. It is almost like you are home. 

The Ace in Roncesvalles changes its menu every night in order to keep you satisfied and on your toes. Beast works with local farmers and producers and offers one heck of a brunch. No one will force you to clean your plate and it's even better if you don't. Less cooking for tomorrow!


There is usually nothing neat and put-together about a burger. Admit it: the minute you bite into it the toppings squish out onto the wrappings. And you love it. The Great Burger still has burgers that are embarrassingly high but with a twist: they are committed to local and ethical eating. The Great Burger even goes as far to say that they support healthy eating, while having a menu with ingredients like a poutine with goat cheese and BBQ pulled pork. We'll let it slide, as these burgers are fantastic. Choose from 100% Ontario beef or lamb, chicken or pulled pork, or veggie burgers. Free range, locally raised and just delicious.

Little Italy
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.

It is rare (and definitely appreciated) when a restaurant can master both the art of brunch and late-night cocktails. Make a wish and go to Wish to make it come true. It feels a little like you are in a Caribbean resort, with whitewashed walls and cozy pillow-strewn couches. Brunch items are decadent, such as the benedict poached eggs over peameal bacon with leek and parmesan fondue. The dinner continues the comfort food vibe with a less than traditional spin. Homemade gnocchi gets a hearty helping of whisky braised beef shortrib ragu. Or you can just give in to one of their many tempting burgers made with everything from black angus beef to black beans. If only your lottery wishes were so easily granted.

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 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.

White Brick Kitchen
Photo courtesy of The White Brick Kitchen Facebook page

Macaroni and cheese with four types of cheese. Chicken and waffles. Meatloaf with buttermilk mashed potatoes. You had us at hello, White Brick Kitchen. This restaurant knows how to tug at the heartstrings of its patrons with the right combination of salty and cheesy and sweet. Portions are enormous, so if you play your cards right, you can get away with eating just one meal that day. Whether you are drowning the sorrows of your circumstances in comfort food or you are celebrating the fabulousness of your life, this is the place to go for unabashed emotional eating. With friends, of course.

Harvest Kitchen is like a farmer's market brought to life through vibrant recipes and knowledgeable staff. From consciously sourced meats to a variety of fresh vegetarian dishes, there is something for every type of eater, with a wide range of flavours to match. The African peanut soup with spicy tomatoes is a good place to start, followed by the wild mushroom pot pie in a white wine cream sauce. Come for the popular weekend brunch, with three types of bennies (Toronto's golden brunch standard) and corn and millet pancakes. It's worth the long wait, especially if you get a spot on their charming rooftop patio.

High Park/Roncesvalles

Like a fine wine, the area of Roncesvalles in Toronto just keeps getting better with age. Enter The Ace, which used to be a Chinese restaurant and has become a chic and cozy gastrobar which is just the ticket on a cold weather day. Dinner and lunch items take from varying world cuisines, coming together for an exquisitely comforting dish every time. Brunch is so busy, you may have to be there as early as 9:30 to get a seat (pyjamas welcome). Cocktails are strong ("like bull") and confident. The Canadian sour has forty creek Canadian rye, lemon juice and triple sec to start. Drinks make you wonder why you don't have a more stocked bar at home, so we will answer for you: you can't recreate magic like this.

Rose & Sons doesn't follow the rules. It is hard to pin down what kind of food they specialize in, as their menu has as diverse ingredients as bagel and pastrami lox and fried rice with pork belly. It is no matter, as Torontonians love their fusion food and they also love places whose hours are specified as "til the joint closes." The patty melt burger is substantial and stuffed with fried onions and served with chili mayo. Vegetarians will delight in the zucchini parmesan with smoked mozzarella. If you want to go whole hog, you can get everything from buttermilk chicken to mac and cheese on one plate. Don't be shy. Comfort food deserves your full attention.

High Park/Roncesvalles
Barque Smokehouse
Photo courtesy of Jill Chen

If you are a person who hears the words "baby back ribs" and salivates, you must make a trip over to Roncesvalles for a spectacular lunch. Lucky for us, owners and childhood friends Jonathan Persofsky and David Neinstein left the corporate world to dedicate more time to their passion of genuine pit BBQ. Every piece of meat is treated like a work of art, and the word succulent doesn't even begin to do it justice. Nosh on the complementary popcorn with dipping sauces as you wait for the meal, and try your best not to drink the homemade BBQ sauce. Tuck into a sandwich with meats ranging from sliced smoked pork to blackened smoked chicken with candied smoked bacon. You may find yourself making socially awkward noises as you devour your sandwich, but it is rare that you find meat cooked to perfection. There is nothing wrong with enjoying it.

West Toronto
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, 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.


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