Nowhere else in Ontario, or anywhere else in Canada, contains a larger or more diverse number of restaurants than the Greater Toronto Area surrounding one of the world’s most multicultural cities. Many of Ottawa’s tastiest eats are served from food carts, and the sweet and savory beaver tails sold at ByWard Market’s Hooker’s stand are local institutions. Lively nightlife is equally easy to find in Toronto, but slightly less so in Ottawa, whose young people frequently flock across the river to take advantage of Québec’s younger drinking age and previously, later opening hours. Most other major Ottawa cities also contain their fair share of good quality eating and drinking establishments.
Bars and Pubbing in Ontario
No other Toronto nightclub rivals the size of The Guvernment (132 Queens Quay East, Toronto), located on Toronto Harbour, just east of Yonge Street, Canada’s longest thoroughfare. The Queen and Beaver (35 Elm Street, Toronto) provides a statelier British themed alternative to the ever-changing stream of nightclubs which open and close in Toronto’s appropriately named Clubland neighborhood.
Ottawa’s nightlife has overcome its staid and boring reputation with hotspots like Zaphod’s Beeblebrox (27 York Street, Ottawa), named after the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy character and featuring the Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster drink on its menu. Wednesday Hump Night at the Mercury Lounge (56 Byward Market Square, Ottawa), one of Ottawa’s most popular gay nights, is just one of many themed nights at this lively three-story facility. Although Ontario’s legal drinking age remains 19 compared to Québec’s 18, bars on both sides of the Ottawa River now have the same 2:00 a.m. closing time.
Ontario’s oldest tavern, Collins Brewhouse (33 King Street West, Dundas), is actually located not far from the province’s often overlooked third largest city, Hamilton. The regular poker tournaments, live music, Cajun fare, and dozen draft beers served at this 1841 brewhouse are especially popular among McMaster University students. The Coach and Lantern (384 Wilson Street East, Ancaster) may be a more recent pub, but its stone walled building and cobbled courtyard date from 1823, and the War of 1812’s Bloody Assize supposedly took place here.
Dining and Cuisine in Ontario
Diners can find nearly every type of cuisine on Earth in Toronto’s restaurants, but those wanting to sample dishes from Canada’s First Nations peoples can find them on the menu at Keriwa Café (1690 Queen Street West, Toronto). One Toronto staple cuisine which cannot be found anywhere else outside of India and Southeast Asia is hakka, a fusion of Indian and Chinese food created by Kolkata, India’s migrant Chinese population. One of Toronto’s most highly ranked hakka restaurants is Kim Kim Indian Hakka Chinese Restaurant (1188 Kennedy Road, Scarborough), which has served up masala fried rice and thread chicken since 2000.
Toronto’s ethnic enclaves or Chinatown, Little Italy, Little India, Koreatown, and Portugal Village offer the best of their respective country’s dishes. In many cases, the eateries in these communities offer the best value for money of all the city’s restaurants. Exploring these food districts is a must for any foodie.
Even the most die-hard carnivores may enjoy the vegan meals served on the summer patio at Ottawa’s Zen Kitchen (634 Somerset Street West, Ottawa), named the best new restaurant in the city in 2009. Zen Kitchen also holds regular wine tastings and vegetarian cooking lessons. Those craving more traditional Ottawa fare can find it in large portions at the 24-hour Elgin Street Diner (374 Elgin Street, Ottawa), whose menu features several poutine variations alongside Philadelphia cheese steaks and Montréal smoked meat.
Hamilton also boasts its fair share of highly rated restaurants, including Hutch’s (325 Bay Street North, Hamilton), which many believe serves Canada’s best hamburgers as well as Hamilton’s best fish and chips. Hutch’s former beach strip location may be gone, but its summer cruise nights remain. Hamilton’s tallest building, Landmark Place, houses the Taiwanese Tea Hut (100 Main Street East, Hamilton), a popular place for Hamilton’s Chinese community to sip bubble tea, play Xiang Qi Chinese chess, or simply use the Tea Hut’s wireless internet.