Prompted by a question on Chowhound, I put together a rough version of this list as a reply. While I can’t say I dine alone often, these are certainly restaurants where I have, or would, pull out a magazine or sketchbook, and to me, that qualifies.
So while you can dine alone anywhere, some places are more suitable for a solitary diner. Here are my suggestions.
While I couldn’t eat there every day (why hello, heart attack!), currently The Black Hoof would appear on every list I’d ever make about the Toronto food scene. Except a vegetarian one. Prime-time is always busy and there’s usually a wait-list going, but you can loiter at their Hoof Café across the street at least. House-cured meats, interesting drinks, and lots of less-common meat bits ‘n’ pieces done up in creative ways. On the menu right now is a pork belly with rhubarb that I would recommend (re)ordering – as a dessert. It’s that good (and potentially that sweet).
On the other end of the spectrum is Manpuku, my comfort-food place and where I could eat almost every day. Serving Japanese rice and udon bowls, you can eat for under $10 and leave satisfied. Or too full, as I’ve done on many occasions. Found inside the Village By The Grange complex in the rear part of the food court. My favourites include the curry udon when it’s cold and the Jumbo inari, well, pretty much all the time. I can never finish it all.
Beer Bistro has many bar perches for the solo diner and food is decent-to-good. My default tends to be the horse tartare and a side of fries. I always order fries here, as they’re consistently good and they make ’em how I like ’em. Crispy outside, smushy inside. Pizzas can go from awesome to just barely okay. Beer is used in everything on the menu. And of course, an extensive beer list is offered. It’s a busy place in general, especially when the after-work crowd comes out.
More: Beer Bistro on Flickr
Duggan’s Brewery is along the same vein as Beer Bistro, but with consistently better food. However, their beer is limited to their own microbrewery label. You can check out the basement set-up as you walk in. Though their #9 is award-winning (and served at many other local establishements), I prefer their porter. Apparently, they’ve now taken to calling their pork hock “Knuckle of God,” after my post on it. Don’t order that if you’re on your own though. You’ll have leftovers for days.
I’ve only visited Nota Bene‘s bar area later in the evenings, but while it’s not packed, it’s busy enough that you get the spill-over of energy/noise from the main dining area. It’s a bit fancy-pants, but certainly less-so at the bar. And I really like their pasta + morels that they have going on right now. I’d say this is border-line solo dining, as while I’m okay with pulling out a magazine here, you might not be.
More: Nota Bene on Flickr
I like Ceili Cottage for its convivial atmosphere, though food, like at Beer Bistro, can vary. It’s a bustling neighbourhood place with a small, but decent, on-tap beer selection. This is one place to go when you’re not in a rush though, so bring a magazine or newspaper and you’re set.
A loud and over-the-top experience – almost a bit raucous, even – I think Guu Izakaya is a great spot to dine alone and drink at their bar. Lots of small dishes to sample and some interesting sake-inspired drinks to try.
It’s not a long list – there are probably many other places to go in the city – but these are the places that come to mind and cover a variety of vibes to suit your mood. Where would you go to eat when you’re on your own?
Locations mentioned in this post