Eating locally sourced and in-season foods is the best way to guarantee you're being eco-friendly, helping the sustainable movement, and choosing healthier options than those imported from long distances. You are contributing to the community and encouraging the food movement to continue in this direction. In a search for local food restaurants and suppliers, we are lucky to live in this area of Canada. Between the abundance of the Holland Marsh and the numerous farms in the region, we are spoiled for choice.
Although it is not easy to find restaurant who focus on local food, there are a handful of wonderful restaurants in Toronto that have developed a Canadian-inspired menu with a focus on locally sourced ingredients and buying organically wherever possible. With the following restaurants, you don't have to break your diet and commitment to eating seasonally when you go out.
Led by celebrity Food Network Chef Lynn Crawford, who opened the restaurant in 2010, Ruby Watchco exudes strong philosophies of having food locally grown, harvested, and raised, which Lynn portrays through an always-changing Canadian prix fixe menu for $49. Ruby Watchco has a different selection of items every day, which varies based on what seasonal ingredients are fresh and available. Prepare to be surprised, because you have to make a reservation well in advance and you can only see the menus on their website per week.
On one evening, you may find golden quinoa and Carron Farms' (Bradford) red beet salad (with gala apples, crispy chicken skin, garden radishes, and cucumbers) and on another Hillside Gardens' (Schomberg) heirloom carrot and squash salad (with toasted pumpkin seeds and marinated feta). Entrées to look out for would be grilled flank steak, served with local carrots and potatoes, or pan-seared steelhead trout with bacon almond sauce. Even if locally sourced isn't how you eat daily, Ruby Watchco is a great place to see how delicious Canadian ingredients can taste.
The Beast Restaurant uses local and sustainable ingredients from Ontario whenever possible, with a list of their suppliers showcased on their website — including Monforte Dairy, Perth Pork Products, 100km Foods, and Augusta Fruit Market. Hidden on a residential street near King Street and Bathurst Street, Beast is a small restaurant in a neighbourhood known for its great food (Pizzeria Libetto, Buca) that is finding its niche as a locally sourced hotspot, with owners using farmers markets in the area as inspiration. Their dinner menu has a Canadian artisanal cheese plate selection, curried sweet potato soup, and the best of fish or meat, like their token "poutine" with fried gnocchi, rabbit ragu, and cheese curds. Prices are reasonable at $6–$17 per dish, with elegant plating and semi-formal décor.
They also offer some of the best brunch options in the city, with a very interesting selection of dishes, like a Labatt 50 Breakfast with your choice of smoked beast bacon, grilled chorizo, or peameal bacon with two eggs, toast, house potatoes, and a bottle of beer. Also try the breakfast sandwich with grilled pork belly or the challah french toast with duck confit.
Oliver & Bonacini (whom you may have seen as judges on MasterChef Canada) have created a company that has become a leader in fine dining restaurants across Toronto, and Canoe is the duo's critically acclaimed opus. Nestled atop the 54th floor of the TD Bank Tower on Wellington Street, this restaurant has upscale food with a Canadian menu and the best view of the city. The restaurant is elegant and contemporary, very stylish, and with lavish prices to match the posh diners that pay it a visit.
Their dishes include Canadian specialties cooked to perfection that must have required a lot of trying and exploring to come up with, like Alberta Lamb with preserved ratatouille, Guelph beans and sea buckthorn berries ($47), West Coast Ivory Salmon with curried squash ($38), or pan-seared Quebec foie gras with Nova Scotia seaside blueberries, Ontario peanuts, and toasted bulrush brioche ($28). The chefs here have taken little bits from across Canada, the best of what we harvest, and have melded the flavours into simple yet delicious entrées. This restaurant is one of the best in the city and is worth the price for the view alone.
Executive chef John Horne describes his commitment to cooking with local ingredients:
"For veggies and fruits I feel that the fresher the products, the better they taste... I come from a family of farmers so I know the care it takes to grow potatoes, carrots, pigs, chickens, et cetera. There is no calling in sick or waiting until tomorrow; it's 24 hours a day. It's their entire life. So to be able to show support and use local farmers ensures we will have them in the years to come."
This Little Italy restaurant's menu isn't the only thing that is Canadian — the wood it cooks with is too. They go through thousands of pounds of wood per month to fire up the wood-burning oven that cooks their creative comfort food dishes. They have two seasonal menus, one carnivore-based and one vegetarian-inspired. Look out for their famous wood-fired caramelized onion soup with raw gruyere cheese and red fife sourdough ($13), just one of their seven varieties of 100% organic, handmade, and wood oven–fired breads (available for pick-up after 12). Also try the naturally raised flat iron steak with bernaise, black trumpet mushrooms, and winter herbs ($27) or russet potato gnocchi with beer, leeks, mustard seeds, and pretzel crumbs ($23).
They have a list of local suppliers on their website that they support, like Cumbraes Farms, Forbes Wild Foods, and Organics 4 Life. The restaurant's portions are famously large, and you won't want to leave without trying dessert — pumpkin pie parfait, anyone?