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Top 10 foodie cities in Canada
Read time: 7 mins
There’s a lot to love about Canada’s dining scene; from hearty comfort food that warms the soul, to chef-driven artisanal cooking that celebrates the nation’s culture. We’ve travelled coast-to-coast to stake out the country’s finest culinary cities, all of which offer a unique selection of ingredient-driven dishes to tantalise your taste buds.
Victoria, British Columbia
Why: Given it has the highest number of restaurants per capita in all of Canada, it’s no wonder that the little city of Victoria is a big hit with lovers of craft beer, creative cocktails, and the farm-to-table movement. Most exciting here are the outdoor markets, pop-up street food vendors, British-style pubs, global eateries, and microbreweries (many of which offer tours and tastings).
Defining dishes: Sustainably-sourced fresh fish (halibut or cod) served with chips and tartar sauce, Pacific Rim-inspired seafood dishes (Dungeness crab, oysters, prawns), and five varieties of salmon (King, Sockeye, Silver, Pink, and Chum). Most dishes incorporate local produce such as farm-raised game, grass-fed beef and lamb, organic cheeses, and home-grown fruit and veg.
Book a table: Ferris’ Oyster Bar on Yates Streets for its upstairs oyster bar, downstairs grill, and tapas lounge, North FORTY-EIGHT on Langley Street for its fondues, global comfort food, and house cocktails, and Be Love on Blanchard Street for its flavoursome farm-to-table vegan cuisine and organic plant-based dishes. Also try Pizzaria Prima Strada on Cook Street for its fire-roasted pizzas and house-made gelato, Hank's *A Restaurant on Douglas Street for its seriously good meat selection, and OLO Restaurant on Fisgard Street for its ingredient-driven Pacific Northwest dishes and extensive organic kitchen and vegetarian tasting menus paired with fine wines.
St. John’s, Newfoundland
Why: Newfoundland and Labrador has made a mighty comeback following the collapse of its cod fishing industry in the early 1990’s - and its capital city, St. John’s, is leading the way. Once famous for home-cooked comfort food built around local game and salted meat and fish, it now reveals a nouveau yet traditional culinary scene mastered by a bounty of young hot chefs.
Defining dishes: Fish and brewis, cod cheeks or tongue, and seal flipper pie pay homage to the city’s Irish and Scottish heritage. Other specialities include bakeapple pie topped with tinned cream, toutons (fried bread dough) served with a drizzle of molasses and butter, and Jiggs’ Dinner - a traditional boiled Sunday meal with salt beef, fresh vegetables, and pease pudding.
Book a table: Raymonds on Water Street for its sophisticated Nordic-style menu, Bacalao on Lemarchant Road for an ever-evolving and sustainably-sourced menu that puts a creative spin on traditional dishes, and Chinched Bistro on Queen Street for cocktails, charcuterie, and incredible mussels with kimchi (Korean chilli paste). Also head to Duckworth Street where you’ll find Sprout for spectacular vegetarian and vegan eats, Saltwater Restaurant for land and sea creations (the risotto and paella are both fantastic), and The Reluctant Chef for its signature five-course tasting menu, reworked French bistro classics, and globally-inspired small plates.
Kelowna, British Columbia
Why: As the unofficial capital of the Okanagan Valley (one of Canada’s best wine-producing regions), the city of Kelowna has graduated from a humble cattle and fruit-growing hub to a forward-thinking foodie powerhouse. The dining scene here is unbelievably diverse; think hip brunch spots, trendy diners, and award-winning restaurants specialising in farm-to-table eats.
Defining dishes: Bannock (a traditional First Nation’s flat, quick bread) with innovative toppings, mashed potato brioche, charcuterie using local cheese and house-cured meats, and goat's milk gelato. There’s also excellent reds and whites from the explosion of wineries, many of which have restaurants that are at the forefront of the area’s Cuisine de Terroir movement.
Book a table: RauDZ on Water Street for its trailblazing menu of playful dishes using organic and local ingredients (this also extends to cocktails), Old Vines Restaurant on Boucherie Road for fantastic entrées presented with suggested wine pairings, and Little Hobo Soup & Sandwich on Lawrence Avenue for its made-from-scratch breakfasts and lunches. Also try Bouchons on Sunset Drive for French bistro cuisine and a weekly set-price menu, and Okanagan Street Food Crowley Avenue for simple yet bold creations such as the Market Breakfast Wrap - a flour tortilla with house cured and applewood smoked bacon, egg, potato, aged cheddar, and salsa.
Why: There’s more to Canada’s political capital than the signature sweet BeaverTails (deep-fried pastries topped with powdered sugar, cinnamon, or whipped cream) found at Byward Market. As home to the world-famous culinary arts institute, Le Cordon Bleu, it reveals a progressive food scene led by game-changing restaurateurs who source from the 1,000 farms within the city limits.
Defining dishes: Canadian classics like poutine and peameal bacon, wine-paired meat and fish dishes with home-made sauces, and artisan cheeses. There’s also a huge selection of well-crafted global cuisine, including French, Japanese, Spanish, Mexican, Italian, Vietnamese, and Lebanese (shawarma is so popular, there’s a joint on every other corner in the city centre).
Book a table: Whalesbone Oyster House on Bank Street for sustainable seafood, Sidedoor on York Street for Mexican and Asian-inspired sharing plates, Fairouz on Somerset Street West for Insta-worthy Middle Eastern cuisine, and New Generation Sushi on Laurier Avenue West for next-level Japanese creations. Other must-tries include Cacao 70 on William Street for its chocolate-with-everything dishes, and The King Eddy on Clarence Street for its classic King Eddy Burger, which consists of two fresh-ground patties topped with Canadian Cheddar and your choice of toppings (select from sautéed onions, mushrooms, bacon, fried egg, or chilli).
Quebec City, Quebec
Why: Ranking with Conde Nast Traveler readers as one of the 20 Best Food Cities in the World, Quebec City does French-Canadian eats like no place else. It’s also home to an extraordinary amount of esteemed new kitchen talents, all of whom are fiercely set on changing the culinary landscape with their cutting-edge spin on “just like grandmère used to make” dishes.
Defining dishes: Tourtière (a simple pie made with a combo of minced pork, beef, veal or venison with a flaky pastry topping), poutine (French fries and cheese curds with brown gravy), and buckwheat pancakes. There’s also fèves au lard (much like baked beans), cretons (pork pâté), and pouding chômeur - an absurdly sweet pudding with maple syrup and caramel sauce.
Book a table: Toast! on Rue du Sault au Matelot for experimental global cuisine using unusual and original combinations of local produce, Chez Biceps BBQ on Boulevard Henri-Bourassa for slowly-smoked and juicy meat dishes, and iX Pour Bistro on 18e Rue for an eclectic neo-bistro menu featuring family recipes paired with private wine imports. Also try La Taqueria on 4e Avenue for street-style Mexican specialties, Laurie Raphaël on Rue Dalhousie for plates of French haute cuisine laden with the province’s finest ingredients, and The Billig on Rue Saint-Jean for the most mouth-wateringly good sweet and savoury crêpes citywide.
Halifax, Nova Scotia
Why: Its proximity to the Atlantic has always made Nova Scotia’s hip and profoundly historic capital of Halifax the go-to place for fresh-off-the-boat fish and seafood. But in recent years, a new breed of chefs are making their mark and moving beyond the ocean’s offerings to take full advantage of the region’s organic farms and award-winning craft breweries.
Defining dishes: A sloppy pita sandwich filled with spit roasted shaved beef, raw tomatoes and onions, and signature sauce, the Halifax Donair is the city’s official snack (it’s also a very effective hangover food). There’s also no shortage of scallops, lobsters, crabs, mussels, oysters, and chowder, washed down with champagne-style cider from the nearby Annapolis Valley.
Book a table: Brooklyn Warehouse on Windsor Street for New Canadian cuisine using locally-sourced produce, Five Fisherman Restaurant & Grill on Argyle Street for Nova Scotia seafood (lobster, oysters, and steamed mussels) served with four signature sauces, and Agricola Street Brasserie on Agricola Street for thoughtful French-inspired fare. Also try EDNA (Eat, Drink, Nourish, Always) for market-fresh soups, salads, and fine butcher’s cuts, and The Press Gang Restaurant & Oyster Bar on Prince Street for a menu that pulls focus on seafood, meat, poultry, and game (be sure to order the seared Nova Scotia halibut with ginger lime thyme sauce).
Why: No longer flying under the radar when it comes to cooking, the meat-centric city of Calgary (it’s Canada’s largest beef producer) has caused a stir in the last decade with an explosion of independent restaurants. Most fabulously, the scene is run by a gang of bold young chefs who are happy for local diners to watch them preparing their delicious food in open kitchens.
Defining dishes: Prime steak cuts, Chinese-style ginger beef (deep-fried strips of beef coated with a ginger, garlic, pepper and vinegar sauce), Sylvan Star’s award-winning Gouda, Brassica mustard, and mini-doughnuts (a Stampede staple that was introduced here in the late 1960’s). Don’t miss Flapper Pie - a sweet creamy custard creation usually crowned with meringue.
Book a table: Smuggler’s Inn on Macleod Trail South for prime ribs, Cafe 100% on Country Hills Landing for pan-Asian tapas and sushi pizza, and Cluck ‘n’ Cleaver on 14th Street Southwest for Southern-style fried chicken and all the sides. Also head to Catch & The Oyster Bar on 8th Avenue Southeast for impressive surf and turf, and Wurst on 4 Street Southwest for its innovative German-style menu (the fiery Chilli Bacon Calamari appetiser with double smoked bacon, kale, pickled hot peppers, Greek yoghurt dip, and a Bloody Mary sauce is a must-try).
Vancouver, British Columbia
Why: Canada's epic west coast city of Vancouver continues to delight discerning restaurant-goers with a world-class selection of food festivals, wineries, microbreweries, markets, food trucks, and concept eateries where culinary masterminds mix up fresh ingredients, modern techniques, and exciting new flavours. The scene here is so diverse that you’re likely to find a Peruvian restaurant, Belgian bistro, and Japanese raw bar within a single street block.
Defining dishes: Sushi (the BC Roll was invented here), JapaDog (hotdog with teriyaki sauce, mayo and seaweed), and salmon candy glazed with maple syrup (the smoky, salty, and sweet taste is strangely addictive). Menus routinely include ingredients from local farms, butchers, anglers, artisan cheesemakers, and the city’s beloved Granville Island Public Market.
Book a table: Tojo's on West Broadway for its sushi bar and open kitchen, Vij's on Cambie Street for its groundbreaking curries paired with BC wines and funky cocktails, and Osteria Savio Volpe on Kingsway for its wood-fired Italian fare. Also try Miku on Granville Street for splurge-worthy Western-Japanese cuisine, Bishop’s on West 4th Avenue for inspiring British Columbia seafood and organic meat dishes, and L’Abattoir on Carrall Street for raved-about West Coast-inspired French cuisine and interesting cocktails. For delicious afternoon teas, head to the 900 West Lounge at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver - a beloved city landmark since 1928.
Why: For most Canadians, Montreal is a little taste of France without the transatlantic flight. The city is one gigantic melting pot of different types of cuisine, with the foodie scene very much dominated by tried-and-true chefs and talented up-and-comers who work their magic at famous headliner restaurants, forward-thinking diners, and low-key neighbourhood haunts.
Defining dishes: Bagels (they are famously rolled by hand and honey water is used for blanching them), smoked-meat sandwiches with coleslaw, chips, and a pickle, and the Wilensky Special with five slices of salami, a slice of bologna, and optional Swiss cheese. Also try Shish Taouk - the Canadian-Lebanese lemony chicken kebab version of a classic Persian dish.
Book a table: Stash Café on Rue Saint-Paul Street West for its traditional Polish dishes and set-price menus, Toqué! on Place Jean-Paul-Riopelle for its award-winning Québécois cuisine under the direction of esteemed chef Normand Laprise, and Brit ‘n Chips on McGill Street for its deep-fried fish with different flavoured batters and notable English-style pub specialties. Also try Le St-Urbain on Rue Fleury Ouest for its high-end bistro fare, Olive & Citron on Avenue de Monkland for its extensive Greek menu, and Damas on Avenue Van Horne for its mouth-melting Syrian delicacies, exquisite grilled dishes, and Middle Eastern hot and cold mezzes.
Why: The city that keeps breakneck pace with its diners’ insatiable hunger comes up trumps with a competitive crew of all-star chefs who are constantly experimenting with menus themed around unsung ingredients. With current culinary trends including comfort food, wood-fired grilling, farm-to-table cuisine, and veganism, the scene here is by far one of the most diverse in Canada.
Defining dishes: Peameal bacon sandwich (made with cured bacon from the pork loin rather than the belly), chicken shwarma, veal sandwich, Jamaican beef patties, and Pastéis de nat (Portuguese custard tart often spiced up with mustard and/or horseradish). Also try artisan sausages made with bison, elk, kangaroo, guinea fowl, pheasant, wild boar, or venison.
Book a table: Alo Restaurant on Spadina Avenue for classic-but-playful French fare, Canoe Restaurant & Bar atop the 54th floor of the Toronto-Dominion Centre on Wellington Street West for modern Canadian cuisine, and Adamson Barbecue on Wicksteed Avenue for slow-smoked meats and other Texan delights. Also try Street Shak on Queen Street West for fast-casual Barbadian eats, Bar Isabel on College Street for Spanish-influenced plates, Foxley on Ossington Avenue for Asian & Pan-Latin flavours, and Rasta Pasta on Kensington Avenue for combos of pasta and homemade jerk chicken as well as creative Caribbean and Italian-inspired specials.