Born in Guatemala, Luis Carpio earned his stripes as a short-order cook in San Francisco, then journeyed north to Canada in 1999 to open Maya Restaurant—a move that, ironically, signaled a return to his Central American roots. "I try to cook similar to back home, try to use our own spices and try to be simple," he told the Toronto Star, which praised the "perfectly cooked chicken," "flavourful refried black beans," and "nicely browned and caramelized" plantain he dishes up.
The concise menu mixes traditional dishes from across Central America, from seafood platters, soups, and ceviche to pork and chicken cooked with herbs not often seen this far north. On weekends, the breakfast menu piles plates with hearty Latin breakfasts, all accompanied by steaming cups of coffee to awaken taste buds and steam-press rumpled tongues.
At Casa Manila, named the best Filipino restaurant in blogTO.com's Best of Toronto, the scents of saffron, coconut milk, and tamarind slip among rustling walls of potted plants. Grass-thatched windows and bamboo shoots hint at the fistfuls of veggies that accent braised meats, grilled king fish, and stews. The dishes all display the exotic style of Filipino fare, which combines Malay, Spanish, Southeast Asian, and Chinese influences. Warm-hued lights, draped in fabric printed with frolicking animals, illuminate the plates, and imported Sarsi, a Filipino root beer, bubbles alongside them. On the patio, umbrellas shelter diners from the hot sun and the sight of clouds being born.
More than 40 years of experience guides head chef and founder Alberto Albanese as he whips up Italian lunches and dinners in his namesake trattoria. Delicate housemade pastas doused in bolognese or ros? sauces join veal piccata, lamb chops marinated in rosemary and wine, and other meat cuts and chops. Espresso and desserts of the day help round out each meal, which can be served beneath chandeliers within the restaurant or under boot-shaped clouds on the outdoor patio.
Inside the kitchens at Il Vagabondo, cooks whip up rosé sauce—a smooth and creamy pink gravy made from fresh-milked tomatoes—to splash onto robust servings of pasta. During dinner, marinated Angus steak medallions arrive at tables slathered in sautéed mushrooms and dry-marsala gravy, and at lunch, pizza pies or meatball sandwiches pair with crisp greens and fresh veggies from the salad bar.
Since 1964, the culinary teams at Golden Griddle Family Restaurants have diligently crafted a massive menu of homestyle classics. They fill three-egg omelettes with spinach and grilled mushrooms, incorporate fruity fillings into crepes, and whip up pancakes from one of three types of batter, including 10-grain. When lunch and dinner roll around, they shift their focus to hearty feasts of English-style fish and chips and slow-cooked pot roast smothered in beef gravy. Since it's free of trans fats, that gravy is part of Golden Griddle's health-conscious stock of ingredients, which also includes diet syrups and reduced-fat cream.
While their elders order off the main menu, kids ages 10 and under can select from their very own menu, which showcases meals such as spaghetti and grilled cheese. In addition, each child receives a complementary toy and crayons, which are perfect for entering Golden Griddle's colouring contest or for penning a newspaper op-ed in favour of outlawing broccoli.
Guests can expect to make tough choices at Shoom Shoom—even when it comes to appetizers. A selection of fresh and healthy housemade dips— including hummus, babaganoush, and roasted eggplant salad feature on the menu, buoying sautéed mushrooms and onions on creamy blended chickpea. Then there are the à la carte kebabs—seven options, including beef, salmon, and lamb—which offset entrees of seasoned rainbow trout, Moroccan-style cod, or grilled whole sea bass, all vying for the stomach's affection.
Of course, there's always the soup and salad bar to simplify things. Soup and signature salads adorn the salad bar, each prepped fresh for presentation daily. The selection accommodates vegetarians and dietary restrictions, and diners can pair their spice-dappled picks with sips of moroccan mint tea—a flavourful alternative to drinking hot water while chewing gum.