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The Michelin Guide never comes to Canada

by Kent Vargas
The Michelin Guide never comes to Canada

Let’s face it, Canada isn’t exactly known for its cultural cuisine. Our namesake dishes include fried potatoes soaked in gravy and cheese curds, elbow macaroni doused in neon powdered cheese sauce and something called the “Figgy Duff.”

Compared to other cultures of the world, these recipes don’t sound very appealing as far as cultural richness is concerned.

Canadian restaurants rarely make the U.K based Restaurant’s influential World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. Also, no homegrown restaurant has cracked into the list’s top 50 since 2003.

The Michelin Guide – the most influential restaurant rating system in the world, doesn’t even bother with us.

It’s not just that we aren’t home to a single restaurant holding a much-coveted star; the Guide doesn’t even send inspectors to Canada anymore.

For years, Canada has been assumed to be a lost cause by the international gourmet food community.

 

When Anthony Bourdain visited Toronto in 2012 to film a segment for his former show “The Layover”, he had some thoughts on what the city could do to become an internationally recognized food mecca: “Maybe you just need a good slogan”.

Maybe you already had it. “Hogtown. Hogtown, eh?”

The advice seemed less aspirational and more of a blunt suggestion that, perhaps, we should just come to terms with the fact that there’s not much to be done about our culinary status.

We are what we are, and there’s a lot we’ll never be.

 

However, things have changed since Bourdain’s visit. In just four years, Toronto’s food scene, which used to boast only a handful of must-eat restaurants, is now so full of them it’s hard to keep up.

Several international stars opened outposts in the city, including Daniel Boulud with The Four Seasons’ Cafe Boulud and David Chang with Momofuku. But, more importantly, Canadian chefs have been stepping up to the plate, as well.

 

These results aren’t merely restaurants imitating the French greats or recreating derivatives of New York trends, either.

Torontonians are witnessing a rise in uniquely Canadian restaurants that celebrate our nation’s diversity. Some of these include Chinese-Jamaican hybrid Patois, Byblos’ mix of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines, DaiLo’s French-inspired Chinese fare, Antler’s local forest-to-table dishes and Alo’s modern take on French tasting menus.

With so much hype surrounding Canada’s newfound food scene, is it high time the Michelin Guide gave us a shot?

The best restaurants in central Ontario

by Kent Vargas
The best restaurants in central Ontario

The Craftsman Restaurant

This place has been around since 1955, and the key to its longevity is found in, believe it or not, the great food.

They’ve got special features every night, such as Cajun-style blackened catfish, maple stuffed roast pork, and grilled rainbow trout, to name a few.

Moreover, there’s a traditional roast beef dinner every Sunday, which sounds just about right for a town of 4,000 people.

Memphis Fire Barbeque Company

Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are all on the menu here and the Sneaky Cheeseburger has developed a loyal fan following.

You get a patty made from fresh ground beef from local farms, dressed with ranch, lettuce, tomatoes, dill, and caramelized onions and topped with a smoked cheddar spread.

And while you can get a single, you end up getting the triple patty.

Frijoles Fresh Mex Burritos

You’ll find all the classic Mexican foods here. From tacos to burritos and quesadillas, everything is served without any of the unnecessary frills.

However, you must try out their burrito, served with homemade guac, pico de gallo salsa, toms, sweet corn, fresh cheese, romaine, crisp cabbage, jalapeños, plus chicken, beef, and pork.

But that’s not it. There are eight of the house-made sauces that you can try with it.

Era 67 Restaurant & Lounge

The steaks here are cut in-house daily and easily stack up against anything any big city has to offer, especially their 14oz AAA Angus Reserve Alberta Beef Ribeye monster.

Feel like something different? Try some hand-made pasta stuffed with Era 67 homemade wild mushroom duxelle and a chardonnay reduction, shallots and fresh thyme.

It also incorporates Woolwich goat’s cheese and Balderson aged cheddar tossed with a roasted garlic cream sauce and topped with wilted baby arugula and duo of grape tomatoes in maple marinara.

That Little Place By The Lights

A fairly sizable family runs this amazingly named Italian restaurant, where everything actually does taste homemade.

Try the linguine puttanesca (black & green olives, capers, garlic, hot peppers, and anchovies in tomato sauce), or their meat-loaded Mamma Anna’s pizza with Italian sausage, salami, ham, and bacon.