The lawyer's guide to dining out in Toronto

The lawyer’s guide to dining out in Toronto

The 12 Toronto restaurants you need to try right now (and who to take with you)
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The 12 Toronto restaurants you need to try right now (and who to take with you)
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When Precedent needs help picking the perfect restaurant, we turn to the expert: Kirsten Thompson (aka Judge Foodie), a privacy and information lawyer at McCarthy Tétrault LLP who’s been wining and dining her clients around Toronto for years, and writing about her gastro-adventures in her online column. Here, the Judge offers up her top choices for where to take just about anyone on your to-lunch list.


Who: The anemic office-dweller

Want to treat your work pal who’s been chained to her desk all winter? A patio is key for a much-needed vitamin D boost. And in Toronto, if your drink doesn’t freeze, it’s patio weather.

Where: The Chase

10 Temperance St.

The Chase has all the elements of a good patio: accessible bar, downtown locale, lofty perch away from exhaust fumes, and a good mix of sun and shade. Plus, it’s a downright gorgeous place to spend an afternoon.

Runners up: DEQ at the Ritz-Carlton, Soho House


Who: The 1% club

If you’ve got money to burn, or you’re being wooed by someone who does, you might want to try these restaurants by the one-percenters, for the one-percenters (and their expense accounts). You know who you are.

Where: Shangri-La Hotel Lobby Lounge

188 University Ave.

Though it doesn’t have the most expensive dish in town (that would be the $492 steak at Jacobs & Co.), the return on investment here will make your mutual funds seem like rock stars. There are $14 fries on the bar menu; consider yourself forewarned.

Runners up: Stock, Momofuku Shōtō


Who: The old guard

Remember the days when you started and ended your career at the same law firm? When there was no such thing as in-house counsel, and an equity partnership was a lifelong sinecure? You don’t, but some in your office do.

Where: Biagio

155 King St. E.

With career waiters and solid Italian cooking, Biagio is old school in all the right ways. No palate-challenging molecular gastronomy here. This is a place to come to seal the deal, whether it’s a big deal, or a big date. Dates will also be impressed by the patio under a canopy of trees.

Runners up: The Roof Lounge, Bardi’s


Who: The parental unit

Kids are the new marketing tool, especially since women are increasingly in control of legal spend, so you’re going to have to think of the children. Not a fan of Chuck E. Cheese? Try a family-friendly(ish) alternative where you can entertain clients and still keep the small set amused.

Where: El Catrin

18 Tank House Ln.

This place has a young amigos menu, mesmerizing decor (painted skulls! blacklight! a decorative crypt!) and an enormous patio to entertain the little tykes. As the kids beat each other over the head with their tacos, adults can sample Toronto’s largest selection of tequila.

Runners up: Canteen, Café Belong


Who: The silverback

Every firm has one — the senior partner in the corner office, chummy with the Bench and possessed of decades of legal knowledge. Yet he still doesn’t know the difference between “reply” and “reply all.” Take him somewhere relatively hip to make him believe he’s still got it.

Where: The Carbon Bar

99 Queen St. E.

With a good menu, decent wine and an eclectic crowd that usually includes a luminary or two, your certain senior someone will feel like part of the in crowd. If you find yourself taxed for conversation, ask for his first-hand recollections of the Baby Blue soft porn series that used to broadcast from here.

Runners up: Bar Isabel, THR & Co.


Who: The secret agent

Whether you’re dining with sketchy clients, having an illicit liaison or just “exploring options” with another firm, sometimes you don’t want everyone to know who you’re taking to lunch.

Where: George

111 Queen St. E.

Tucked behind windows adorned with wrought iron, the award-winning food is a big draw here. Another draw is the discreet enclosed courtyard at the rear of the restaurant — summer breezes and sunlight without all the eyeballs.

Runners up: Woods, Toca


Who: Les intolerables

For when the drink is more important than the dinner (or the company). All you have to do now is decide between a great wine list and a fabulous mixologist.

Top pick for wine: Le Select

432 Wellington St. W.

With 1,200 labels and the largest collection of wine in the city — some bottles dating back as far as 1947 — you’d be hard-pressed to do better. Prices range from $25 to $2,500, so you can decide exactly which bottle your date is worth.

Runners up: Crush Wine Bar, Reds

Top pick for cocktails: BarChef

472 Queen St. W.

Your table can order a punch bowl full of your cocktail of choice, or try the “spherified Campari granita.” I don’t even know what that is, but I’m impressed. (Ed note: it’s essentially a flavoured, booze-soaked snowball.)

Runners up: The Harbord Room, The Spoke Club


Who: The last one standing

No matter who you wind up with on one of your drunken stupors, by last call, you’re going to need some grub. Available 24 hours, this is good food that rises to great after a pint or six. You know, for when you don’t get enough to eat at home.

Where: Pho Pasteur

525 Dundas St. W.

A little pricier than some of the other pho places, it makes up for it by being open all day and night, and serving up enormous portions. Cash only, so stuff a $20 in your shoe before you head out for a night of debauchery.

Runners up: Thompson Diner, Fran’s


The best view in the city: Canoe
Grab a spot in the southwest corner for a view of the lake.

The most dependable Thai food: Sukhothai
The Pad Thai is crazy good, and they deliver.

Where to watch the big game: Real Sports Bar
The TV is two storeys high. Game on.

Find the right food truck: torontofoodtrucks.ca
Download the app to keep tabs on your favourite mobile meals.


Photography by Vicky Lam

For more reviews of Toronto restaurants, check out Judge Foodie’s column.