We’ve all had sushi, pizza, burritos, shawarmas, and various other well-known international fare. But in a city with as many nationalities represented as Toronto, an entire world of cuisine is at your fingertips, just waiting to be discovered. Many of these food items are delicious, underrated, and—to the average Canadian—unfamiliar. Any one of these could end up being your new favourite food item.
Okonomi House Restaurant
23 Charles St. W., Toronto, On., M4Y 2R4
Okonomiyaki is colloquially known as the “Japanese pancake”, but it’s really unlike any pancake you’ve ever had before. As opposed to the more ubiquitous sushi and other typical Japanese fare, this dish, commonly eaten as a street food in Japan, is relatively unknown to many outside Japan. These savoury pancakes contain meat (you can choose between beef, pork, chicken, bacon, and various seafood and vegetarian options) and a variety of sauces and toppings.
Gordo Ex Café
1048 Bathurst St., Toronto On., M5R 3G7
This delicious South American “sandwich” composed of a variety of ingredients, including shredded meat, surrounded by two large fried plantain slices, is something that can be eaten in a variety of ways. If you want to look prim and proper, you can attempt to use a fork and knife to eat it, but the Venezuelans see no need for such formalities and opt instead to pick it up and eat it like a sandwich. I opted for the latter, and I have no regrets. Also recommended are the arepas, tostones, and cachapas, all of which are South American specialties (this restaurant is Venezuelan but Colombia and other nearby Latin American countries also take claim to these dishes).
949 Gerrard St. E., Toronto, On., M4M 1Z1
Pide is often known as “Turkish pizza,” but it has its own shape, taste, and ingredients that differentiate it enough from pizza to be a cuisine item in its own right. Made typically with thin dough, mozzarella cheese, and various toppings (no tomato sauce), sometimes with egg as an added ingredient, it has a spicy and cheesy taste that is distinctly Middle Eastern. The mix pide is the best choice for someone who has never tried it before, as each of the segments contains a different set of toppings—kind of like a sampler of different pide types.
3 Byng Ave., Toronto, On. (North York), M2N 6E0
Dubbed the “Persian pizza,” the best choices, to try something truly unique, are either the “rolling pizza” or the “snack,” both of which include dough, meat, cheese, and the delicious “special sauce.” Neither of these look anything like pizza in terms of their shape and design, and their taste is quite distinctive thanks to the unique special sauce.
Europe Bar and Restaurant
3030 Bathurst St., Toronto, On. (North York), M6B 3B6
The deliciously underrated hortobagyi palacsinta are a Hungarian crepe filled with minced meat and doused in decadent amounts of sour cream and paprika sauce. Having been to Hungary, the hortobágyi palacsinta here are every bit as good as the ones there. This item is always served as an appetizer, but it is so filling that it could easily be a meal in and of itself. The restaurant’s walls are lined with paintings of Jerusalem left over from its previous owners, which feels jarringly at odds with its Hungarian cuisine, but this dish is as authentically Hungarian as you can get.
Naan and Kabob
1801 Lawrence Ave. E., Toronto, On. (Scarborough), M1R 2X9
These deliciously spicy Afghan meat dumplings have a taste that is unique to the unfamiliar palette. Filled with onions and ground beef, made with a spicy yogurt sauce and topped with yellow split peas and a ground beef sauce, these delicious dumplings will have you ordering seconds. This restaurant is often crowded and sometimes runs out of food due to high demand periods, so it is good to call in advance.
Porto Novo Restaurant
1474 St. Clair Ave. W., Toronto, On., M6E 3V4
This absurdly over-the-top and decadent “sandwich” to end all sandwiches, originating from the city of Porto in northern Portugal, can best be described as doused in heapings of gravy, topped with egg, and containing multiple types of meat and cheese. Obviously, you are going to need a knife and fork to eat this. In terms of taste and texture, it reminds me more of poutine than any other dish, which should give you an idea of what you’re dealing with here. Having tried the Francesinha in Porto as well, I can safely say that the Francesinha at Porto Novo is authentic and delicious in the true Porto style.
812 Queen St. E., Toronto, On., M4M 1H7
This tasty, pizza-like dish from the south of France is essentially composed of dough topped with caramelized onions, tomatoes, olives, and anchovies. This cozy little restaurant has a café-type atmosphere and often gets quite crowded. Other recommended dishes include the quiches and the croque madam sandwich.
2006 Highway 7, Vaughan, On., L4K 1W5
This is the only restaurant featured here that is located outside of the city of Toronto, but its unique Georgian cuisine (the country, not the American state) is more than worth the trip. This delicious oval-shaped bread pastry dish is filled with cheese and egg, eaten by scooping it up with pieces of the bread lining the periphery. Also recommended are the khinkali meat dumplings which, if ordered in addition to the adjarian khachapuri are enough to constitute a hearty meal, as well as the cabbage rolls, which are a filling meal in and of themselves.
Potato Pancake with Goulash
195 Roncesvalles Ave., Toronto, On., M6R 2L5
Served at the Roncesvalles Ave. Polish restaurant Café Polonez, this dish is truly international, combining Hungarian goulash with the unique Polish twist of adding a potato pancake enveloping it. Shaped somewhat like a quesadilla, this is a very hearty and delicious meal.
Photo Courtesy of Ali Inay via www.unsplash.com
James is an avid lover of cinema, travel, novel writing, and pseudo-intellectual discussions about random obscure topics. He is a copy editor at OTD. When he’s not traveling across Europe or the Americas he is usually reading or writing something. He enjoys fiction and non-fiction in equal measures.