Anthony Bourdain in Toronto: 10 Spots Where Tony Ate

Visiting Toronto, Tony Bourdain finds a criminally underrated town. Beneath its tall buildings and pushing aside its busy people, there is a rippling undercurrent of food and nightlife activity that elevates the city to a new level of cool.

Anthony Bourdain visited Toronto to film season 1 (episode 5) of The Layover; it was his only visit to Canada’s largest city, though he did visit other Canadian cities like Montreal and Vancouver. While he doesn’t spend as much time and attention in Toronto as other large North American cities, he does dive deep enough to leave us all wanting more.

Anthony Bourdain in Toronto Hero

If you’re planning a trip to “Hogtown” – a nickname you’ll soon understand – or call it home, use this guide to the places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Toronto to guide your next culinary adventure. Some of the great restaurants where Tony ate a decade ago are still open today, and many of the additional spots he recommended are too. Ready to dig in?

Want to watch the episodes where Anthony Bourdain visits Toronto?
The Layover episode is available on Amazon and Apple TV.

In this post, I promote travel to a destination that is the traditional lands of the Anishinabewaki ᐊᓂᔑᓈᐯᐗᑭ, Wendake-Nionwentsïo, Ho-de-no-sau-nee-ga (Haudenosaunee), Mississauga, Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation peoples, among others. With respect, I make a formal land acknowledgment, extending my appreciation and respect to the past and present peoples of these lands. To learn more about the peoples who call these lands home, I invite you to explore Native Land.

Carousel Bakery

Anthony Bourdain in Toronto - Peameal Bacon Sandwich

Meeting with David Sax, author of the book ‘Save the Deli’, Tony first tries exactly that; Carousel Bakery sells traditional deli-style sandwiches. Here in Toronto, one of the specialties is the peameal bacon sandwich.

Peameal bacon is a wet-cured, unsmoked back bacon made from trimmed lean boneless pork loin rolled in cornmeal. Found mainly in Ontario, it is cured, but not intensely salty, and served best with house mustard made with maple syrup and horseradish. For dessert, a butter tart, which is similar in taste to a pecan pie – without the pecan.

Ronnie’s Local 069

Next up, Sax and Bourdain make a quick stop at Ronnie’s Local 069 in Kensington Market; this patio beer bar has a distinct hipster vibe – think the Toronto equivalent of Brooklyn‘s Williamsburg.

Agave & Aguacate (CLOSED)

Anthony Bourdain in Toronto - Lengua Tacos

While in Kensington Market, Tony and David also visit Agave & Aguacate for some of the most amazing Mexican takeout north of the border – or I guess I should say, both borders!

Inside a small market, chef Francisco Alejandri takes his time to prepare the dishes. For his visit, Bourdain tries tender lengua (beef tongue) with mole sauce, a tostada layered with avocado, pinto beans with chorizo, pecorino fresco, homemade creme fresca, habanero, and puya sauce, and finally agua chili, a hollowed-out cucumber spiced with peppers, filled with tomato, lime juice and shrimp with chimichurri.

Tony later calls the experience – especially the lengua taco – “extraordinary,” which makes its closure (and somehow a single 1-star review on Google???) mystifying and sad.

(Hoof) Cocktail Bar

While it had not yet become known as his trademark drink, Bourdain was already digging the Negroni and trying them frequently on his travels. He decides to grab one at the aptly-named Cocktail Bar in Little Italy, which he says is a great place for a pre-dinner drink and exists as complement to his next stop (hence it occasionally being called “Hoof Cocktail Bar” instead of just “Cocktail Bar”).

The Black Hoof (CLOSED)

Anthony Bourdain in Toronto - Bone Marrow

Bourdain then crosses the street to the conveniently located Black Hoof. Given its name, it should be no surprise this is a nose-to-tail joint specializing in using every part of the animal. An ardent follower of the great Fergus Henderson (of London‘s St. John’s), Bourdain is in his element here, as the dishes served perfectly encapsulate the philosophy.

First, he tries braised pig’s liver stuffed with vermouth, onions, and mushrooms, followed by rosemary ‘blood custard’ (lightly toasted blood served in the style of crème brulee with rosemary, topped with fresh pear, onions, and coriander). This is followed with beef hearts with mussel-marinated mayo, asparagus, and horse tartare; spicy raw ground horse meat, served with caper hollandaise, hickory sticks, mint, and fennel fronds on top, with pickled green beans.

There is a main course of beef tongue on brioche, a playful riff on the deli tongue sandwich, served with tarragon mayonnaise, pickled celery, and pickled mustard seeds. Finally, roasted bone marrow, this one with the unique twist ending of once the marrow has been scraped and sucked from the bone, a shot of bourbon is done from the now empty bone tube.

Unfortunately, this restaurant closed back in 2018.

Cold Tea

Meeting with Toronto-based hardcore punk band F*cked Up, Bourdain moves into the depths of the city’s nightlife with a visit to the speakeasy-styled Cold Tea.

An excellent example of a refined cocktail bar, it’s discreetly tucked away from the herd in Kensington Market: enter through an unmarked door, pass by the lady selling authentic dim sum, and continue your way to fine beverages. The name ‘Cold Tea’ is a play on the codename given when ordering beer after hours in Toronto.

Thirsty and Miserable (CLOSED)

Tony then continues his exploration of the Toronto nightlife at Thirsty and Miserable in the Kensington-Chinatown neighborhood. Unfortunately, this spot closed at the end of 2021 in the heart of the pandemic when their 10-year lease ended.

Poutini’s House of Poutine (CLOSED)

Anthony Bourdain in Toronto - Poutine

After a few cold ones, Bourdain and the boys move to Poutini’s, a late-night eatery specializing in – what else? – the fine Canadian dish of poutine.

If you’re not familiar with this institutional dish of America’s northern neighbor, poutine is made of hand-cut, blanched, and fried French fries, topped with cheese curds and brown gravy, a perfect soaker-upper to help absorb the evening’s drinks.

Unfortunately, this spot closed in 2020, an early casualty of the pandemic.

Bacchus Roti Shop

For his ‘hangover cure scene’, Bourdain visits a traditional roti shop, in this case, Bacchus Roti in Parkdale.

Roti is a flat, unleavened bread that is popular in Southeast Asia and parts of India, as well as the Caribbean. The particular one he tries is topped with spicy jerk chicken, which cuts through Tony’s hangover and leaves him with a healthy sweat.

Porchetta & Co.

Anthony Bourdain in Toronto - Porcetta Sandwich

For his final stop, Bourdain meets with the guy who convinced him to come to Toronto in the first place: chef Scott Vivian of Beast Pizza. The pair head to Porchetta & Co., an establishment is known for doing one thing and one thing only: porchetta sandwiches.

Porchetta is a savory, fatty, and moist boneless pork roast of Italian culinary tradition, wrapped in prosciutto and then wrapped in cured pork belly, with the crackling removed from the meat and double baked to ensure crispy perfection. The sandwiches here are made with incredible porchetta – juicy meat with ultra-crispy skin – and Italian salsa verde on sourdough bread and a variety of toppings.

A fitting end to a city with the nickname ‘Hog Town’, where a pig turning on a spit is guaranteed to be somewhere close.

Additional Spots Bourdain Recommends in Toronto

Per usual for episodes of The Layover, Bourdain also mentioned lots of spots he didn’t actually visit on-screen. I wanted to include the list here in case you’re looking for more potions – especially given how many of the spots he did visit are now closed.

  • Chez Vous (Evergreen Brick Works Market) – A good sandwich spot; opt for the popular choices of grilled cheese with caramelized onions or scrambled eggs with aged cheddar – both are made even better with maple bacon.
  • The Bellevue (Kensington Market) (CLOSED) – Another sandwich spot, you could have try the salmon lox and guacamole bacon or opt for the full English Breakfast if you want an alternative to start the day. Unfortunately, this spot is no longer open.
  • Altona Kabob – A nice alternative for an ethnic restaurant option, this spot specializes in koobideh kebab, sizzling and grilled fresh to order and served with salad garnish.
  • Churrasqueria Bairrada – For flavors of the Iberian peninsula, this is the spot. They specialize in fiery piri piri chicken and grilled spit hog.
  • WVRST – Another continental option, this German-style beer hall serves locally made sausages of every variety inc. duck, elk, and venison, together with a choice of 32 beers. Feeling adventurous? Then look no further than the “dirty duck fries:” Belgian-style fries cooked in duck fat, piled high with sautéed peppers and onions, jalapenos, and special sauce.
  • Beast Pizza – Chef Scott Vivian’s spot in King West offers local dishes and elevated Canadian classics in addition to kick-azz pies.
  • Edulis – Chef Michael Caballo’s restaurant specializes in wild game and mushroom dishes, channeling rural flavors into the heart of the urban core.
  • Sneaky Dee’s – A local watering hole on College Street that attracts an age-appropriate crowd for its location.
  • Horseshoe Tavern – Another option for an evening on the town…
  • The Dakota Tavern – One final recommendation that Tony provided. One could easily do a bar crawl with all of these suggestions!
  • Spence’s – Located in Little Jamaica, this jerk chicken spot might not sober you up, but it will leave a lovely taste in your mouth for the next morning.
  • Owl of Minerva – This Koreatown spot serves up comfort classics like hot bowls of bone soup, and slow-simmered pork bones in a spicy broth 24 hours a day – perfect for a late-night bite.
  • The Burger’s Priest – Perfect for morning hamburgers and with a secret menu including such crimes against nature as a burger that uses grilled cheese sandwiches instead of a normal bun.
  • California Sandwiches – If burgers for breakfast don’t sound good for curing your hangover, opt for the breaded chicken or veal sandwich here instead.
  • Forestview Chinese Restaurant (CLOSED) – Located in Chinatown, this all-day dim sum spot was worth queueing for even if you have a raging headache from fun the night before. This spot closed back in 2013, not long after Tony recommended it.

Toronto Food Tours to Try

While you’ve got plenty of choices listed above, food tours are always a great way to sample a lot of flavors in a short time. Here are a few food tours in Toronto that visit similar parts of the city and offer you a similar experience to what Tony showed – with a bit more structure, and no fixer required!

Have any questions about the places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Toronto? Let me know in the comments below!

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Matt Young is a street food fanatic and world traveler, currently splitting his time between Europe and South East Asia.

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