Toronto, the largest city in Canada and the fourth largest metropolis in North America, received more than 27.5 million visitors a year before the pandemic, making it Canada’s top tourist destination, according to Destination Toronto. , the city’s tourism marketing arm.
As travel picks up, Canadian tourists are predominant, with traffic from the United States just beginning to return and foreign visitors still few in number, according to agency data. Summer is usually high season; this may be the last year to take advantage of Toronto’s warm weather before the city is flooded again.
More than 5,100 restaurants have closed across the province of Ontario during the pandemic, says Restaurants Canada, a national trade organization. But the food scene of this omnivorous city has come back to life. In May, Michelin chose Toronto as the first Canadian city to have its own guide.
“The vitality and diversity remain intact”, said Scott Beck, president and CEO of Destination Toronto. “Everything that makes our food scene so unique in North America is still there. The diversity in the arts and culture is still there.”
And yes, cannabis stores have mushroomed during the pandemic, but “they’re not an event,” Beck said. “Cannabis is legal throughout the country. Toronto is not Amsterdam.
eating and drinking
The busiest restaurants tend to open in Toronto’s bohemian suburbs. But now attractive restaurants have sprung up in the city center. “Weekend warrior demand for social dining and entertainment is making a real comeback,” said Hanif Harji, chief executive of Scale Hospitality, which operates 14 restaurants. “There is a murmur in the streets again.”
Mr. Harji’s Bar Chica, open since April, hides behind an unsigned door next to a condominium tower on King Street West. On a recent Thursday night, the high-ceilinged room pulsed with what seemed like pre-Covid energy. Chef Ted Corrado modifies traditional tapas with Canadian provisions; think prawn ceviche from British Columbia or Canadian beef chimichurris with ramps from Ontario (tapas range from C$9-24, or C$7-18). In August, Mr. Harji will open Miss Likklemore’s, a Caribbean joint in King West Village. Come fall, Scale and Montreal chef Antonio Park will open AP, a fine dining spot atop Eataly’s Yorkville outpost.
Also in Yorkville, chef Rob Rossi’s Ligurian menu at Osteria Giulia is attracting well-dressed locals who feast on traditional flatbreads, cold cuts and pasta (entrees C$32-C$75). Open since October, it is still the hottest table in the neighborhood. Just around the corner, Adrak employs a team of chefs, each specializing in a regional style of Indian cooking; the offbeat menu includes smoked salmon with pommery mustard ($29-60 CAD entrees).
Toronto offers endless options for all kinds of Asian food. One new spot being talked about is Cà Phê Rang, opened south of Chinatown by veterans of French mainstay Le Select Bistro. A deceptively simple menu yields extravagantly seasoned surprises like halloumi banh mi, pickled shiitake spring rolls and house-made peanut praline sauce (mains C$15-C$20).
On the north end of Yorkville, Mimi Chinese returns to the future in a neon-lit room with red velvet banquettes staffed by bow-tie waiters. The menu spans China’s southern provinces, from Guangdong-inspired raw yellowtail to Shaanxi charred cabbage. It opened in October and is still a tough ticket (C$26-C$88 tickets).
Smorgasburg, the Brooklyn-born outdoor food market, will debut its first international edition at Toronto’s waterfront Queen’s Quay on July 23; runs for eight Saturdays, showcasing local vendors. In the West Side neighborhood of the Annex, the new Superfresh Night Market showcases “Asian-owned and targeted” food and beverage vendors in a 4,000-square-foot hall “in the style of an Asian alley,” according to organizers.
With commercial rents on the rise, condos mushrooming everywhere, and space at a premium, nightlife has yet to catch up with food service. “We are getting a lot of restaurants, which is great. The challenge is finding a place to dance,” said Michael Nyarkoh, community marketing manager at the new Ace Hotel Toronto.
back on stage
Closed for renovations three years ago, the 127-year-old Massey Hall reopened in November with red velvet seats, lavishly restored stained glass windows, full accessibility and a crystal-clear sound system. His return had a special meaning for this music-mad city. “Massey Hall was built a year after Carnegie Hall, and it’s a Toronto band’s dream to play there,” said Kevin Drew, one of the founders of the Toronto band Broken Social Scene, who first played at the Massey Hall in April. The $146 million restoration “did an amazing job of keeping the ghosts and the warmth in,” he said. Canadian music royalty from Oscar Peterson to Rush have played the hall, whose packed 2022 lineup includes soul legend Mavis Staples and alt-country star Orville Peck.
Toronto’s live theater scene, one of the largest on the continent, is coming back to life after pandemic shutdowns. For the first time since 2019, the Toronto Fringe Festival, which ends on July 17, has brought back live performances. In the big Broadway-style houses, glitzy openings include Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, which opened in May; Jesus Christ Superstar (opens August 10) and Singin’ in the Rain (September 23). Hamilton returns in February. Tickets range from 99 to 260 Canadian dollars.
On the independent stages, intriguing work includes the suburban drama “Detroit” at the East End’s Coal Mine Theater (through Aug. 7); the world premiere of Erin Shields’ Shakespeare prequel “Queen Goneril” at Soulpepper (opens August 25); and the Kafka-inspired “Cockroach” in Tarragon (opening September 13). Tickets at these theaters range from 25 to 60 Canadian dollars.
Arts and images
After nearly two years of online shows and intermittent openings, Toronto’s museums have returned with powerful lineups. In June, the Art Gallery of Ontario presented the sweeping exhibition “Faith and Fortune: Art in the Global Spanish Empire” (through October 10), featuring 200 works spanning four centuries and three continents. More intimate shows from Canadian artists Ken Lum and Ed Pien explore personal stories through images and text. A few blocks north, the Royal Ontario Museum opens Harry Potter-themed “Fantastic Beasts: The Wonder of Nature,” exploring what the museum calls “the intersection of natural history and pop culture” (through June 2). January 2023).
A few blocks west, the Bata Shoe Museum launches “Future Now: Virtual Sneakers to Cutting-Edge Kicks,” showcasing high-tech designs like Nike’s self-adjusting MAGS and a Zaha Hadid/Rem Koolhaas collaboration (through October 2023). The fabulous Gardiner Museum, one of North America’s only museums dedicated to ceramics, presents “Sharif Bey: Colonial Ruptures,” featuring African-inspired icons from the Syracuse artist (through August 28). And the four-year-old Museum of Contemporary Art, in a converted car factory in the West End, offers two impressive shows: “Land of Dream,” haunting portraits by New York-based Shirin Neshat, and “Summer,” the first solo show. exhibition by Félix González-Torres, co-founder of the seminal queer collective, General Idea, who died in 1996 (both through July 31).
New hotels by the handful
This is proving to be a banner year for hotel openings. Canada’s first Ace Hotel will open this summer on a quiet cul-de-sac between busy Queen and King streets. Toronto-based Shim-Sutcliffe Architects have designed a curvy modernist façade whose soaring concrete interiors house Alder, a Mediterranean-inspired restaurant by Toronto celebrity chef Patrick Kriss (rates start at C$349 a night).
With the closure of a large Hudson’s Bay department store in March, the intersection of Yonge and Bloor streets has felt bleak. The mood should lighten this month with Toronto’s first W Hotel, on the northeast side. Formerly a dour Marriott, the 254-room W modifies its brutalist concrete building with riotous colors and abundant greenery. On tap: An airy street-level lobby cafe, a 5,000-square-foot tapas and champagne bar, and a massive rooftop lounge seemingly inspired by Yves St. Laurent’s Marrakech villa (rates from C$475 per night).
The 1 Hotel brand, from former Starwood chairman Barry Sternlicht, made its Toronto debut last August on the western edge of the Entertainment District. Promising “sustainable luxury” and boasting 3,000 floors, the 112-room hotel was the only Canadian competitor on Condé Nast Traveler’s 2022 Hot List (rates start at C$530 per night).
The 19-room Drake Hotel on Queen Street West isn’t exactly new — it opened in 1890 and underwent renovations in 2004 — but its 42-room Modern Wing just debuted in a sleek, compact building next door. This is the kind of property with a full-time art curator, color-saturated interiors by innovative DesignAgency, and live music in the basement. Its windowed restaurant offers great views from the sidewalk (rates start at C$379 a night).
On the site of the former Pilkington glassworks, near the entertainment district, the Robert De Niro-backed Nobu brand will open its first mixed-use development in 2023, featuring a hotel, 650 residences and a Nobu restaurant. Toronto architect Stephen Teeple has likened his perforated black building design to a tuning fork.