Choosing a romantic date spot can be almost as anxiety-inducing as choosing your outfit for a first date. While I typically suggest leaving the date planning to the guy for dates 1-3, at a certain point it’ll be your turn to take him out – be it in celebration of a birthday, a promotion, or just as a spontaneous surprise.
When that time comes, you’ll want to be equipped with a few great ideas for a fun but special date spot. Since moving to Toronto, I’ve dined at hundreds of restaurants downtown, spanning from hole-in-the-wall to hipster to fancy. Below are the ten restaurants that stood out in terms of atmosphere (cozy and romantic), food (unbeatable) and experience. I’ve had some of the best dates of my life at the places in this list!
Check out the menu and prices before making your choice. Most of them tend towards the upper end of the price scale, however are still reasonable for the quality of food and experience they deliver.
- Salt Wine Bar
225 Ossington Ave, Toronto ON
Iberian/Canadian TapasSalt stands out for the intimate and romantic atmosphere of their space, in addition to their delicious food. The service is attentive and professional, and the wine selection is impressive. If you choose Salt, make sure you try the Cedar Smoked Manhattan, which is to this day my favourite cocktail of all time. After dinner, you can stroll from Ossington Avenue to Trinity Bellwoods Park, perhaps grabbing a bottle of beer or two from Bellwoods Brewery along the way.
- Branca Restaurant
1727 Dundas Street West, Toronto ON
Argentine Grill HouseChoose Branca if you want an experience that tends towards eclectic and trendy rather than traditional. The ambiance is busy and energetic, but the service is still on point. Like most Argentinian restaurants, the menu is meat-centric, but the vegetarian dishes on the menu do not disappoint. This spot also works well for double and triple dates with friends.
- Portland Variety
587 King Street West, Toronto ON
TapasLocated in the trendy Fashion District neighbourhood at King and Portland, this restaurant is elegant, lively, and sophisticated. Their beef tenderloin carpaccio and grilled squid are mouthwateringly delicious, and they offer a selection of unique cocktail creations. It is worth noting that they also have a bangin’ brunch menu and make a damn fine cup of coffee, so it’s a great Sunday morning brunch destination as well. Just make sure you call early to make a reservation.
- Sassafraz Restaurant
100 Cumberland Street, Toronto ON
French/Canadian CuisineSassafraz is a more traditionally upscale Nice Date restaurant, located in the heart of Yorkville. It’s the perfect spot to savour a selection of fine cheeses and at least one bottle of nice red wine, before taking a romantic midnight walk together through the neighbourhood.
- Bar Isabel
797 College Street, Toronto ON
Spanish TapasBar Isabel is hands-down my top choice for a date destination at any time, for any occasion. Located in a nondescript building on College Street, marked only by a small neon sign, the inside is colourful and eclectic, warmly lit with vintage lamps. The food is absolutely exquisite – the can’t-miss dishes are the roasted bone marrow, and the sobrasada with foie gras.
- Maple Leaf Tavern
955 Gerrard Street East, Toronto ON
North American CuisineLocated in a gentrifying neighbourhood in Toronto’s east end, Maple Leaf Tavern captures the stately class of old-school swanky restaurants, and features elevated North American cuisine. I’d recommend trying the burger or the lasagna – both were amazing.
- Le Select Bistro
432 Wellington Street West, Toronto ON
FrenchExpensive, cozy, and upscale, Le Select offers a wonderful experience that feels (and tastes) just like a classic Parisian restaurant. The duck confit was incredible, but you can choose almost anything on this menu and it will be divine. The service is attentive without being overbearing, and the upscale prices will feel worth it for the quality of meal you will enjoy.
- Dimmi Trattoria
140 Cumberland Street, Toronto ON
ItalianThe most budget-friendly spot on this list, Dimmi Trattoria has been a magical experience every time I have dined there. It is a great place to go in the winter, for a hearty meal in a cozy and romantic restaurant. The service is excellent, and every pasta dish I have tried there has been amazing – which is saying something, as my standards for pasta are pretty high. Terroni and Cibo pale by comparison, and also come with higher price tags. Dimmi Trattoria is a great mid-priced restaurant with a high-end feel, and located in Yorkville no less!
- The Gabardine
372 Bay Street, Toronto ON
Elevated Comfort FoodTiny and lovely, The Gabardine is an unexpected gem located on Bay Street just south of Queen Street. Whimsically decorated with white marble and teacup candles, their menu boasts a concise selection of elevated comfort foods made gourmet.
- Carmen Restaurant
922 Queen Street West, Toronto ON
IberianExotic, cozy, and relaxed, this is the place to go to enjoy Spanish paella and margaritas in Toronto. Prices are on the higher end, but it is worth it to take your time and enjoy everything their menu has to offer. Try the fried artichokes for your appetizer – I still lust after them, and it has been months since my last visit. The restaurant is quite large, so expect some rambunctious groups nearby and an energetic atmosphere.