Food and drink - Toronto - Travel | Monocle

Le Swan, Queen Street West

After 18 years on Queen Street West, Swan – a treasured Toronto diner – shut in 2015. But the venerable old bird took flight again for restaurateur Jen Agg in late 2018 under the new (and tongue-in-cheek) name Le Swan. As the name suggests, the menu has been given a Gallic spin. Here, chef James Santon serves bistro favourites such as beef-cheek bourguignon and salad niçoise. But there’s no need to get your feathers ruffled: Le Swan still delivers diner specials and does hearty comfort food, which can often be seen coming out of the kitchen late at night, served to hungry guests on the restaurant’s tufted oxblood banquettes.


Oddseoul, Trinity Bellwoods

Brothers Leeto and Leemo Han, who were raised in Philadelphia, opened Oddseoul in 2013. Melding South Korean staples with favourites from their hometown, their small sharing plates are imaginative delights. The lip-smacking Bulgogi cheese-steak sandwich, the delicious Buffalo tofu and the seared mackerel (blackened with a blow torch at the table) are standouts. The space resembles an old warehouse – most of the fixtures and furniture were sourced from a friend’s junkyard. 

90 Ossington Avenue, M6J 2Z4


Black Dice Café, Little Portugal

When his collection of 1950s and 1960s US memorabilia began to overwhelm his small Toronto home, Hideki Saito decided to mix work and play. And so he opened Black Dice Café as a Japanese rockabilly bar. Americana dominates the decor – the walls are decked with old vinyl and vintage film posters, complemented by the popular jukebox and pinball machine – but the drinks here are exclusively Japanese. A good range of beers, both bottled and on tap, rubs shoulders with a fine selection of whiskies and saké. 

Although the kitschy bar has its fans on the basis of its eccentric decor alone, ask most regular patrons why they keep returning and the response is invariably an enthusiastic: “Hideki!” Current restrictions mean that drinkers are relegated to the patio space at the front of the bar for now – but it’s a good opportunity to get some fresh air and watch the world go by.

1574 Dundas Street West, M6K 1T8
+1 647 748 1574


Hastings Snack Bar, Leslieville

When the owner of Hastings Snack Bar retired after 53 years, Karolina Conroy, who owns the barbershop next door, took over. She updated the space with wood and exposed-brick accents and restored the original bar stools and countertop. Enlisting the help of her mother, she serves a small menu of traditional Polish breakfasts and lunches, including pierogi (dumplings), cabbage rolls, paczki (doughnuts) and home-baked pastries. With a chalkboard menu and a charming stained-glass window façade, this is one of the most inviting of the city’s no-frills options.

5 Hastings Avenue, M4L 2L1
+1 416 896 1466


Miku Toronto, Financial District

Aburi Restaurants’ 200-cover venue specialises in aburi (part-grilled, part-raw sushi). Located in the Royal Bank of Canada building, the sleek glass-walled space is favoured by those entertaining business clients. The Aburi Oshi sushi plates starring flame-seared British Columbian salmon, saba (mackerel) and ebi (prawn) are popular. A raw bar serves delicacies such as oysters from Prince Edward Island. Miku also bottles its own water and donates the proceeds from sales to a local charity.

105-10 Bay Street, M5J 2R8
+1 647 347 7347


Founded by Canadian design-studio owner Fraser Greenberg, Milky’s coffee shop has become a neighbourhood staple along Dundas Street West ever since it opened in 2019. The interlocking pattern of its wood-panelled interior was designed by Toronto’s Batay-Csorba Architecture studio and the lighting was created specifically for the small, cosy space by Anony. The shop is also stocked with a well-selected array of ceramics, trinkets and coffee-making equipment by designers in Japan and Taiwan, including sleek cups and saucers by Big Game.

Images: Lorne Bridgeman, Jaime Hogge 


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