This year features a steakhouse, a perennial favorite and a couple of new restaurants that have arrived with a splash. In addition, there are a few veteran restaurants that show no intention of slowing down.
10. Wellington 529- Winnipeg, Manitoba
Maybe Winnipeg isn’t known as the Mecca of fine cuisine but I enjoy a good steakhouse. Aside from what was likely the best steak I had all year, the old school service (including white lab coats) and decor made for a delicous and highly enjoyable dining experience.
9. Carmen– Toronto
Carmen is one the better and most underrated tapas bars in Toronto. One dish after another, whether traditional or with a twist, came out thoughtful, well executed and at a decent price point. In particular I still remember the blood sausage and the steak tartare. The service and ambiance were top notch as well.
8. Pizza Libretto– Toronto
In the competitive world of thin crust pizza, Pizza Libretto is one of my favorites. Service is good and everything from the anitpasto to the dessert is nicely executed.
7. Le Jambon Gros- Montreal
The perfect greasy spoon. Although the quarters are tight, the vibe coupled with delightful and innovative grill top provisions makes this a stop for me everytime I’m in old Montreal.
6. Queen and Beaver– Toronto
This long standing British pub serves authentic fare including savory puddings, fish and chips, fine english cheeses and a number of snacks which makes other pubs look like amateurs. Yes, the service can be a bit crusty at times but once you have a few cask ales in you it really doesn’t matter.
5. Thoroughbred– Toronto
Although there was only a bar menu when I went here, it was an amazing experience. The owners gave me a tour of the chef’s table and soon to be dining room. The food was fresh and innovative with a focus on vegetables. The drinks are cleaver. I plan to return early in 2015 to see if my hunch about this place translates to the full menu.
4. Rasa– Toronto
I was probably most excited about the opening of this Food Dude’s industrial looking bricks and mortar location in 2014. I wasn’t disappointed. Whether the regular menu items like root beer ribs or the mysterious fish board, the food was as creative as I expected. The drink list was smart as well. The service was as friendly as that from the food truck itself.
3. Richmond Station- Toronto
Richmond station is a perennial addition to the list. Their system is simple; a small menu (including one of the best burgers in Toronto) to default to in the event the blackboard specials are either sold out or not to one’s liking. To finish off the meal, Richmond Station has one of the most creative and visually stunning dessert menus in Toronto.
2. Maison Publique– Montreal
This fringy pub is quintessential Montreal. The menu consists of sheets of paper written in French and hanging on a bulletin board. That said, the staff are more than helpful in making sure even the English enjoy a good meal. With menu items like buccins (aka big snails) and seal mortadella, it’s almost a underground, taboo Anthony Bourdain type experience. This ultimate foodie experience is enhanced by a good beer, cocktail and wine selection.
1. Whalesbone– Ottawa
Any restaurants that starts with a selection of a half dozen oysters and Kenny Rogers spinning on the turntable is good with me. What follows is a small but impressive choice of draft and a small menu highlighted by fresh sea ingredients presented in a manner that is visually stunning. The tight but comfortable quarters, great service, amazing vibe and innovative seafood based menu including oysters served with one of the most impressive condiment carousels I’ve ever seen puts Whalesbone on top of the list for 2014.