Riverside Eats & Shops | Your Dinner and Late Night Spots on Queen Street East

Enjoy this guest blog by Chef Scott Savoie (@TOfoodTourGuy)

With so many great places to eat in Toronto’s Riverside, along historic Queen Street East between DVP and Degrassi Street, it’s hard to pick just one. Here are my top picks for dinner and drinks:


il Ponte

I can’t say enough good things about this place. Giancarlo Catalona is the ultimate “Gentleman Restauranteur and consummate Italian host.” The restaurant has a modern feel and a greatvibe combined with some killer pizzas and pastas.

Some of my favorite dishes include the CALAMARI FRITTI, which is lightly dusted in chick pea flour, deep fried till golden brown and served with house aioli but the GRILLED 16OZ. VEAL CHOP with seasonal vegetables is my go to dish. Italians “own” veal and while most restaurants play it safe and serve a traditional veal parmigiana, Giancarlo chooses to go the Chop route and get it right every time; perfectly seasoned, and grilled to your liking. A healthy alternative to steak if you happen to be watching what you eat. The pizza of course is to die for. I think the true test of every Italian restaurant is the Margherita Pizza. Let me tell you they pass with flying colors. My fav however is the DON STEFANO with mozzarella, sliced potato, quanciale and shaved black truffles. The pastas are a generous portion and full of flavor.


The MEZZE MANICHE ALLA NORCINA is artisanal pasta, shallots and ground sausage in a white wine, pecorino and nutmeg sauce. They offer gluten free, spelt and whole wheat pasta options as well. Can you say delizioso? I love how they take local ingredients and combine them with imported Italian items to create a unique Italian cuisine that can only be found in the kitchens of Il Ponte.


Sushi Bar

This casual neighborhood spot has been around since 2009 serving classic Japanese dishes, including sushi, tempura, udon, teriyaki & bento boxes. Although I have never dined in, I have picked up takeout on many occasions. The SUSHI is very fresh and flavorful and I must say, I really enjoyed it. Friends who eat there regularly tell me that the service is great.


Prohibition GastroHouse

Any Restaurant that uses Duck Fat as a staple is my kind of place. They don’t even try to hide it. They proudly display it on the menu. Well done my friends…Well done! Fat is flavor. The other thing that impresses me about this place is that they run a scratch kitchen, use local ingredients and smoke their own meats and bake their own breads. Pretty impressive considering the age of convenience that we live in. I am sure it would be a lot less work and more cost effective if they cut corners, but they don’t. This says a lot about what the owners and the chef believe in. As a chef myself, I admire that. I have eaten here on several occasions and have always been quite satisfied.


Dinner offerings include pub favorites, as well as CHICKEN & WAFFLES, STEAK FRITES, LAMB SHANK CONFIT and SMOKED BEEF SHORT RIBS. The kitchen is open late with a special late night menu and they have a pretty famous HOOCH HOUR that runs from 5 till 7 and 10 till 11 PM with all draught, bottle beers, house wines and high end liquor brands for $5.09 plus tax. You really need to check this place out if you haven’t already.

Don’t miss their Summerlicious menu on during the Sounds of Leslieville/Riverside (July 8 to 24th).


Hi Lo Bar

Some of you may remember Gavin from his time at Table 17, well he teamed up with the former owner Eric & Chef John Sinopoli and together the 3 amigos started Hi Lo. A great neighborhood bar that filled a much needed void in the hood. It’s unpretentious and totally chill. Vintage concert posters adorn the walls and reclaimed wood tables and arcade games give the room a throwback feel. The food menu is a little light, so come for drinks before dinner or light snacks and cocktails afterward. All in all it’s a great place with great vibe. If you want to drink where the locals drink… this is the place!


Boots & Bourbon

If country music is your thing be sure to check out Boots & Bourbon while you’re in the hood. Be prepared to line up to get in because, yes, this place is that popular! They offer live country bands on Friday and Saturday nights and a mechanical bull so if you feel like showin’ off a bit or making a fool out of yourself, take that bull for a ride. Riverside-Eats-Shops-Dinner-Boots-bourbon

Trust me after a couple of cold beer and a few shots of Bourbon you’ll be line dancing to the Boot Scootin’ Boogie


Ruby Watchco

The flagship in celebrity chef Lynn Crawford’s Empire since 2010. Chef Lynn is Canada’s best loved female chef. She has earned international culinary accolades as the executive chef of the Four Seasons in both Toronto and New York City. She is a cookbook author and has appeared on the television show “Restaurant Makeover” as well as her own hit television series “Pitchin’ In” She has been a judge on “Top Chef Canada and “Chopped Canada” and has competed on “Top Chef Masters” and “Iron Chef America” against Bobby Flay. The menu at the restaurant changes daily (see this week’s menu here) and is served family style at your table. Sometimes by Chef Lynn herself—if you’re lucky and she happens to be at the restaurant that night.


Being the rock star chef that she is and with her hectic schedule of TV Shows, Cooking Demos and Guest Appearances she leaves the kitchen in the hands of her partner Chef Laura Kirk. Let me just tell you Laura is one talented chef! She has worked with Gordon Ramsey and has been invited to cook in Kitchen Stadium on Iron Chef America. Together Chef Lynn and Chef Laura are the culinary forces behind a restaurant whose core beliefs are rooted in supporting the locally grown food movement and local farmers. As a chef, I think it is such a great thing to be able to know exactly where your food comes from, how it was raised, and how it was harvested. This is what they do! The food is absolutely wonderful and you owe it to your taste buds to eat here. If not this weekend then sometime soon. Your Tummy will thank you.


I’ll Be Seeing You

A bar owed by two sisters with a dollar and a dream, it’s a great place for you to check out for drinks and nibbles after Jazzfest or any other time for that matter. Located in the former 747 Wine Bar/Picnic space, the sisters have done a great job of redecorating to create a cozy atmosphere. The menu is small but offers some great choices and while I must admit I have not tried the food I do know people who rave about it. The baked SPINACH & ARTICHOKE DIP, the FLAT BREADS and the MAC & CHEESE get particularly high praise and I like the fact that they offer BAKED WINGS rather than the deep fried version that is the industry standard. While one sister is in the kitchen, the other is tending the bar. Now I have had drinks there and I can tell you, this sister mixes up a wicked cocktail! They also offer craft beers, ciders and a good selection of wines by the glass. Be sure to stop by and say hello! I hope I’ll be seeing you there!


Lan Vietnamese Restaurant 

Riverside’s newest restaurant. We were lucky enough to take a group of VIP food tour guests there for opening night and let me tell you it was delicious. Despite a few minor hiccups that every restaurant experiences on opening day, we all thoroughly enjoyed every dish and the service was wonderful. The place was jam packed but Lan and her staff went out of their way to make sure we had a wonderful experience.’Riverside-Eats-Shops-Dinner-lan-restaurant

This is real authentic Vietnamese food. The restaurant brings you back to old Hanoi with its French architecture and hand carved furniture. The menu is inspired by dishes and recipes from Lan’s husband Denny and his family in Northern Vietnam. The PHO, pronounced “FUH” is a dish that originate in the northern city of Hanoi and is served in true northern style without lime, bean sprouts or the usual Thai basil or cilantro. It is delicious. The broth is very flavorful and slightly spicy as a true PHO should be. Other dishes that we enjoyed were the Vietnamese crispy pancake (BANH XEO) and the (MANG XAO TOI) Stir-fried bamboo shoot with garlic. All in all, this is a great addition to the Riverside restaurant scene.


The Comrade

Every ‘hood needs a good brown liquor bar and the Comrade does a great job of living up to that. Cocktails are the order of the day in this old world inspired lounge. Whether you’re a cocktail aficionado or don’t know a bitter from a cordial, you will feel right at home as you sip on the bartender’s latest creations.


Enjoy your drink while sitting in a cool space decorated with Chinese lanterns and propaganda posters. As odd as this may seem, this room works and the friendly vibe from the staff set the tone for a relaxing time. The kitchen is open till 1:00 AM and the menu is definitely focused on small plate sharables. The STEAK TARTAR, DUCK RILLETTE and the BONE MARROW are all excellent choices. It is one of the few places in the area to serve OYSTERS and even better is that they are half price from open till 7:00 PM.



This is another one of my favorite restaurants… Diana and Ronnie her chef husband do a fabulous job. If you love Middle Eastern cuisine you are going to fall in love with Tabule! What started out as one restaurant on Yonge near Davisville, has spawned into a little empire with Queen St being restaurant #2.  With restaurant 3 almost set to open in the former Pan Am athletes village, they have already started construction of #4 in Bayview Village shopping center. To get started you will need to order a platter of the COLD MEZZE to share and might I suggest washing that down with a HABBIBI Cocktail.


If you’re Gluten Free, Vegetarian or Vegan there are lots of options for you to try including the FALAFEL, the FLASH FRIED CAULIFLOWER, the EGGPLANT. If you eat meat, the LEBANESE SPICY SAUSAGE and the CHICKEN KABOB are delicious as is the GRILLED LAMB and the RED SNAPPER. It is all so good! No wonder I am shaped like a pear… every day I eat and drink professionally.

I hope you have enjoyed reading these blog posts as much as I enjoyed writing them. A big thanks to the Riverside BIA for letting me share some of my fav places to eat + drink + explore in the hood and hopefully we will see some of you on our Riverside/Leslieville Food Tour that runs every Wednesday and every Saturday mornings at 11:30am. We would love to have you join us.

Chef ScottAbout the Author | Chef Scott is the Founder and Chief Eating Officer of Toronto Food Tours Inc. He is a World Traveled Chef + Culinary Instructor + Toronto Lover + Story Teller + Stroke Survivor. He has been leading food tours in the GTA since 2010 and is a staunch supporter of the Riverside community, local events and charities. Follow him on Twitter @TOFoodTourGuy

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With all these great options (and more!) available it’s definitely hard to pick just one, but not to worry, you’re always welcome back for more! Be sure to snap and share a picture of your experience in any of our neighbourhood spots with hashtag #‎RiversideTO.

The Riverside Eats & Shops Blog series is your handy everyday guide to some of Riverside’s best, including: