FOOD AND DRINK
Table for One: Where to Dine Alone in Toronto
When dinner for one is on the menu, these five places invite and delight.
Just because you’re travelling alone, doesn’t mean you have to subsist on room service. Nor does it mean you have to succumb to the convenient evils of fast food chains. In Toronto there are plenty of seats at restaurant bars where a “table” for one is a whole lot of fun. No need to be the odd man out – here are five of the best.
A short walk from the St. Clair West subway station, the menu at this casual, all-American eatery reads like a compendium of death row meals. You’ll want to grab a seat in front of the open kitchen, and watch the short-order cooks work their magic. The animal burger is outrageously good, a griddle-smashed, double-stacked tower of juicy, beefy perfection. The crunchy fried chicken tastes like it was made south of the Mason-Dixon, as does the succulent slow-smoked chicken and ribs. The latter two are only available on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays at 5 p.m. sharp, and they sell out fast. Warning: there’s no liquor license.
699 St. Clair Ave. W., 416-658-9666
This new spot from the owners of 416 Snack Bar – also excellent – is part of a pioneering wave of modern restaurants joining the noodle joints and dim sum parlours of old Chinatown. The snacks section of the menu allows you to sample a range of flavours when you’re dining solo. Order the General Tso tofu, crunchy, spicy, sticky cubes of silky bean curd. And don’t miss little potato latkes topped with sour cream and pastrami-cured trout, a historical nod to when Spadina was the main artery of Toronto’s Jewish neighbourhood. From expertly mixed cocktails, to food-friendly wines, to farmhouse ciders, the beverage program is first rate.
307 Spadina Ave., 416-792-1784
The Black Hoof
From craft cocktails to house-cured salumi, this slim restaurant was at the forefront of many trends when it opened in 2008. It’s still going strong, and not only is the bar an excellent place to dine, many regulars prefer it. Order a charcuterie platter, if that’s your thing, but the real fun is in the small plates of inventive nose-to-tail cooking including fried tripe karaage with kewpie mayo, or the superlative horse tartare. The cocktails are extraordinary – the deservedly famous Manhattan is a gold standard – and wine wonks will salivate at the succinct list of terroir-driven vino.
928 Dundas St. W., 416-551-8854
Grant van Gameren’s tapas joint made so many top 10 lists after it opened, both local and national, that it became the toughest table in town. Things have settle down since then and the bar is open for walk-ins, where you can watch the young barkeeps ply their trade and admire the gorgeous custom woodwork of the taberna interior. There are no whammies in this menu, but don’t miss the smoked sweetbreads paired with raw albacore tuna, or van Gameren’s signature grilled octopus, the most perfect cephalopod you will ever eat. If you’re a night owl, the kitchen is open until 2 a.m.
797 College St., 416-532-2222
Yasuhisa Ouchi opened his 11-seat sushi counter to instant, universal acclaim, and many consider it to be the best sushi restaurant in Canada. On most nights there are just two seatings with the whole room dining at the same time. It’s a set omakase menu of about 20 pieces of exquisitely fresh seafood served on still warm, perfectly cooked rice. From the first bite, it becomes clear you are in the hands of a master. Served one at a time at a steady pace, it could range from toothsome amberjack, to rich tuna belly, to satiny monkfish liver. Unfortunately, many diners feel the need to Instagram the experience, but you won’t be out of place on your phone.
81 Harbord St., 416-477-2361