Are you a foodie? Or just someone who enjoys a great meal out? Then you know that looking for that perfect beef patty, or those extra-soft cheese curds, or perhaps that freshly boiled bagel can be a daunting task. You will be taste-testing lots of dull entrees along the way. So we decided to take the hard work out of your next three-course meal and rounded up the 10 best food cities in all of Canada.
We looked at several criteria to come up with this list. How diverse is the food selection? What’s the concentration of good restaurants? Does this place have an iconic dish—a plate or dish you simply must try? We wanted to make sure we crossed off every box so that all you have to do is start collecting menus for your next journey.
Here are the 10 best food cities in Canada for all you foodies.
10. Stratford, Ontario
While this small city in southern Ontario might be more famous for its Shakespeare Festival, Stratford has an amazing culinary scene that is too good to pass up. The name of the game here is proximity. You can hop from one amazing spot to another without even breaking a sweat. What’s the secret sauce in this small town? It probably has a lot to do with the tourism and the chef’s school right on the banks of Lake Victoria.
Where do you have to go? Madelyn’s Diner on Huron Street is a must-stop for anyone who loves great, home-cook style diner food (and who loves to share it).
9. Ottawa, Ontario
Ah, the capital of Canada! The streets of Ottawa flow with politicians, dignitaries and foodies of all kinds. Regardless of your particular favourite food, the one item you have to try when you’re in the nation’s capital is a Beavertail. This iconic treat is uniquely Canadian and offers the recipient a sweet, fried dough pastry that’s stretched out to resemble a Beaver’s tail and topped with a variety of goodies, including chocolate hazelnut sauce, bananas and chocolate, cookies and vanilla icing, as well as classic icing sugar and cinnamon.
A Beavertail while in Ottawa is a must, but the reason for the city’s inclusion on this list is for the vegan foodies in this great nation. Vegan cuisine is growing quickly in this city, thanks to the efforts of long-time vegan advocates, like Pamela Tourigny, who won a Mayor’s City Builder Award for her contributions to animal welfare.
Where do you have to go? You could spend an entire day simply strolling through the Byward Market, breathing in the ambience and checking out the 600 or so stores before grabbing some fresh produce and a Beavertail. For the best vegan ice-cream try Moo Shu or Little Jo Berry. For a great vegan cafe try the food at Grow Your Roots. And for vegan doughnuts head over to Maverick’s Donut Company.
8. Calgary, Alberta
Calgary isn’t just flat land and cowboy hats. Yes, the beef here is amazing. That just goes without saying! But what about other culinary delights? Thank goodness foodies know that the Calgary scene is deliciously good and uniquely diverse. Who would’ve thought that ginger beef and a Caesar would pair so well?
Where do you have to go? Check out Eats of Asia. Chef and owner, Jay del Corro is the creator of the online cooking series, The Aimless Chef. Every day at his restaurant he serves up traditional and fusion Asian-inspired fare. For fine dining try Model Milk, which is located in a converted dairy farm.
7. Kelowna, British Columbia
When you’re in the heart of the Okanagan Valley, there are perks; like fresh produce from Canada’s “Napa of the North.” As a result, Kelowna has turned into a premier destination for good food. After all, good chefs love working with the best ingredients.
Where do you have to go? No matter what you try and where you go, make sure it includes cherries. The growing area around Kelowna is famous for its cherries, so chefs in Kelowna tend to use them liberally and very, very well.
6. Halifax, Nova Scotia
Ever heard of the Halifax donair? Foodies have. While lobster boils and cod tongues get more press, real food lovers know that the treat in this city is it’s official late night snack: the Halifax donair. It’s a pita stuffed with shaved roasted beef, tomatoes and onions and smothered with its signature garlicky sauce. It’s spicy goodness that leaves you wanting more. How do we know? Because even the Food Network offers a delicious history on this classic Halifax dish.
Where do you have to go? It’s all in the name, just head to the King of Donair.
5. Quebec City, Quebec
One of Canada’s oldest cities is also one of Canada’s best foodie destinations. The old-world ambience of Quebec isn’t just on display in the spires and the fortresses but in the food! Here you’ll find amazing fresh-baked bread, handmade cheese, and freshly dipped chocolates. Plus, there’s poutine: The fry, gravy and squeaky cheese delicacy that put this province on the foodie map.
Where do you have to go? For poutine go to Ashton’s—the place poutine was born—and indulge in some real Canadian history.
4. St. John’s, Newfoundland
One of Canada’s oldest cities also has one of the nation’s most illustrious dining cultures and secures its spot on our list of best food cities. Comfort food is the name of the game here with east-coast options that include: toutons (fried dough treats), flipper pie (yes, from seal flippers), or bakeapples (another tasty treat that will make any cold tummy happy).
Where do you have to go? For brunch head over to Quidi Vidi Village to Mallard Cottage. This hidden gem offers fresh, local and sustainable hearty brunches. For a fast, fresh lunch head over to Rocket Bakery and Fresh Food. Consistently high-quality ingredients make up mouth-smacking sandwiches, soups and salads. Finally, if you need a 24-hour spot, head to Celtic Hearth. It’s got a pub-like atmosphere and a simple, but tasty menu. Hint: Try the fish and chips.
3. Vancouver, British Columbia
Vancouver is on this list. And, yes, it’s for their fresh fish. Come on, this is the place where the California Roll was created! There’s also quite a few fusion restaurants and great brunch spots in the downtown core, including the Red Wagon Diner on East Hastings (which serves up down-home diner-style breakfasts and lunches).
Where do you have to go? For fresh sushi try Sushi Bar Maumi on Bute Street or Miku on Granville. For fusion try PiDGin on Carrall Street or, if you can find it, the Roaming Dragon food truck.
2. Montreal, Quebec
Smoked meat and bagels, sounds like a pretty good combination (enjoyed separately or together, it doesn’t matter to us). Not only is Montreal home to some of Canada’s most iconic chefs (think: Chuck Hughes) but it is the place where new ideas tend to flourish and classic cuisines are being perfected. Take, for instance, the Montreal bagel. Moulded with care, boiled in sugar water, and blessed with fire—is there anything better in life than a fresh bagel?
Where do you have to go? Debates rage in Montreal over the best bagel place. Are the bagels served at St. Viateur the best? Or the bagels served at Fairmount top-notch? Go to each and have your own taste test—just pass the cream cheese this way!
1. Toronto, Ontario
Canada’s largest city also happens to be one of the best for cuisine melting pots. As the city where people from all nations gather—and eat—it’s easy to stroll from Little Portugal, to Little Tibet, to Little Malta all in an afternoon. While Toronto may not have an iconic dish (yet), it certainly has a level of selection, diversity, skill, and nuance, that can’t be matched.
Where do you have to go? You could ask a hundred different people in Toronto where you need to go to eat and get a hundred different answers. To avoid the debates, and get in on the city’s recent trend, try the fare from food trucks. Buster’s Sea Cove is both a brick-and-mortar and a food truck and it offers fresh Maine-style lobster rolls as well as shrimp tacos. If you find Feedthe6, you’ll be in for a treat as these culinary wizards combine everything from Filipino to Cambodian. Plus, keep your eyes peeled for the top food truck, according to Canadian Living magazine, Fidel Gastro. Try their Kingzilla, the root beer-braised short rib topped with kimchi, or their Fat Boy Shrimp, with panko fried coconut shrimp and pineapple ketchup.
Canadian cuisine is hard to nail down because it borrows from such a rich lineage of cultures from around the world. Yet, that’s also the best part about being a foodie in Canada—the diversity! Now, stop drooling and start eating your way across the Great White North today with some of the best food cities in our country!