Toronto is a good place to eat. In keeping with the city's overall character -- generally agreeable, occasionally inventive, sometimes brilliant -- you can expect to find plenty of decent food here, as well as some truly memorable fare (fine or rustic).
The prevailing multicultural makeup ensures a rich banquet: There are authentic Thai, Ethiopian, and French bistros; an emerging Canadiana cuisine; excellent Indian; Portuguese grills; halal and kosher; Japanese beyond sushi; oodles of good Italian; and more. It's hard to find a taste that Toronto can't satisfy, from greasy diners to organic vegan "bars," molecular gastronomy to pub grub. The one thing you won't find is an entrenched culinary tradition; food culture is very much of the here-and-now, which has its pros and cons. On the whole, this work-in-progress makes for a good deal of gusto and on occasion some appetizing originality the city can call its own.
More good news: In comparison to other big cities, it all adds up to a fairly affordable feast. The bad news is that high taxes on food and alcohol put a dent in the budget, even if menu prices are generally fair.
While restaurants of all descriptions are found across the city, certain neighborhoods are renowned for their specialties: Little Italy for its trattorie, Chinatown for its Chinese and Vietnamese eateries, and the Danforth for its Greek tavernas. King Street West, in the past several years, has become a magnet for gourmet restaurants, offering a bevy of bistros and boîtes. One thing that's particularly wonderful about Toronto's dining scene is that it's entirely possible to have a great meal at a bargain price. Restaurants such as Guu Izakaya and Woodlot let you dine well without breaking the bank.
Here's one more indulgence, if you have the time for a day trip. Just south and west of Toronto is the Niagara region, the biggest wine country in Canada. Follow its Wine Route to discover the reason local vintners such as Inniskillin and Henry of Pelham, and garagistes ("garage" winemakers) such as Daniel Lenko, are winning international competitions. Niagara's wineries use imported European vines, and because the region lies on the same latitude as France's Burgundy region, this meeting of Old and New World results in bottles of Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Sauvignon that are consistently excellent.
On second thought, even if you don't have the time for a day trip, you can try many of these wines at the local restaurants. Along with a celebration of local ingredients, the nearby grape is to be found in the city's best spots.
Ice Wine & Cool Chardonnay
Ontario vintners' greatest successes so far have been mainly with white wines (although cool-climate red varietals like Pinot Noir are on the rise). Often delicious and complex, they can compete on an international scale. Varietals include fine Rieslings, Gewürztraminers, Chardonnays, late-harvest vintages, and interesting blends. Lately, international wine critics are praising "cool Chardonnays" from Ontario (as well as British Columbia). The top ones are from smaller wineries, and a summer-time festival highlights the top of the crop: www.coolchardonnay.org.
In winter, there are festivals that celebrate an Ontario specialty: ice wine. A highly sweet, and sometimes heavenly, creation, it's the wine that launched the local industry more than 20 years ago when it was honored abroad. Ice wine is a tricky business: The grapes are left on the vine until the arrival of the first frost and then immediately harvested. (While the frost sends grapes' sweetness through the roof, it can also ruin the fruit if it's exposed too long.) Pickers often work through the night, but the hard work can pay off, as it did for Inniskillin in 1991, when the Ontario winery won the Grand Prix d'Honneur for its 1989 Vidal ice wine.
To learn more about Ontario wine before your visit, check out the Ontario Wine Council at www.winesofontario.org. And be sure to buy VQA (the acronym for the Vintners' Quality Alliance), which guarantees wines made from 100% Ontario-grown grapes. ("Cellared in Canada" means it was bottled here, but not grown or made here.)