Toronto boasts some of the best restaurants in North America, if not the world. I’d bet on it. There’s a huge culture of small to mid-sized bistro-style places opening up over the past few years with unique smaller menus and/or niche fare.

As a resident of the city, I have to be very careful that eating out doesn’t eat away at all my earnings, as I could dine out every night and never get tired.

This list of some of the great places in Toronto’s west end features my favorite places that are all casual and in the mid-higher price range.     

Not too long ago, the village of Bloordale was a disgusting area populated by drug addicts and sketchy characters. They’re still there, but in smaller numbers, and over the past few years it has become a gallery strip with businesses and restaurants popping up with alarming regularity. My favorite place on this row is Ortolan, a small French/Italian eatery named for a tiny bird considered a rare delicacy in France (1211 Bloor Street West). Captured alive, drowned in armagnac and eaten whole, the ortolan is not actually served at Ortolan. Try the steak instead – it’s consistently delicious – with one of the sides on the always-changing menu. Everything comes a la carte, so there are no sides with the mains and each dish must be ordered separately but portion sizes are perfect (if you’re not a bird or a glutton). Try a sbagliato cocktail as an aperitif and one of the scrumptious, creamy panacottas for dessert. 

Another magically transformed Toronto area is Ossington Street between Dundas and Queen Streets in Little Portugal (207 Ossington Avenue). Foxley Bistro and Bar is a major standout around here. The casual contemporary Asian menu is a la carte with a wide range of options. Among the things to try are the Chimichurri hanger steak, the black cod with truffle oil; the lamb, duck and prosciutto dumplings; and the asian greens. Pair it with something from the good and reasonably priced wine menu. 

If you’re feeling decadent, also in the neighborhood is the Black Hoof, a charcuterie joint with a fantastic cocktail menu that leans towards manlier and more sophisticated drinkables. No cosmos here. The place is loud and busy and the food menu features house cured meats, roasted bone marrow, blood custard and spicy horse tartare. So, not for the picky eater. Pair your food with a Blood & Sand #3: “Scotch, cherry heering, antica, pink grapefruit;” Tea & Sympathy: “Earl Grey infused gin, sherry, honey, lemon, jasmine bitters;” or a Hoof Manhattan: “10 year rye, antica formula sweet vermouth, house bitters.” The owners also have the Hoof Raw Bar, which focuses on seafood, and the Hoof Cocktail Bar. They’re not all open every day so check the website. And they don’t take reservations so be prepared to wait. 

One of the best Italian experiences I’ve ever had is at Campagnolo, which is on College Street, close to Bathurst, just on the edge of Little Italy. The wonderful quail dish I had was a special. The regular menu features such fare as “Grilled Treviso and Puntarelle salad Alla Romana,” “House-Made Spaghetti All’Amatriciana.” (had it – delicious!)  and “Fisherman’s Pie with Striped Bass, Scallops, Mussels and Pommes Duchesse.” All this to say that you must – MUST – try the salted caramel pudding with meringue, if they haven’t done something stupid like take it off the menu. It’s hands down the best dessert I’ve ever had and the perfect way to end your meal.