When dining, the rule-of-thumb is that you don’t expect to get good seafood unless you live in a coastal city. However, with Toronto's massive multicultural makeup, there are many ethnic groups that insist—no, demand—great seafood.
Fish and seafood arrive hourly from far off ports along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts to fill the fish monger stalls from the cavernous the St. Lawrence Market to the Portuguese Kensington Market. The scallops, shrimp, and calamari caught that morning all end up on someone’s table that night or in thousands of the city’s countless restaurants.
Here then is a selection of places to get great seafood in Toronto:
The owners of the Atlantic decided to do away with the tyranny of a set menu and now create a new one every day based on whatever is the freshest at the morning market. This way you know the shrimp, calamari, scallops, etc will only be the best. If you just want a little tasting, sit at the bar for one of their daily $3 specials.
The Boulevard Café
This little Peruvian restaurant excels at putting a decidedly unique, spicy spin on all of its creative seafood dishes. The place warm and friendly with fireplaces to help dispel the Toronto winters. If you are a first-timer, order the parihuela, a seafood stew of Spanish/Incan background, filled with a tasty concoction of monkfish, mussels, clams, tomatoes, cilantro, and wine. And of course, try the ceviche.
Fisherman’s Wharf Lighthouse
After 41 years, this restaurant is still going strong. It has always been popular for the business types in the downtown banking area and a destination restaurant for others. Do try the tequila oyster shooters, the massive lobster salad or grilled black cod with miso-ginger glaze. Often voted the top seafood restaurant in the city, they can accommodate hundreds with three dining rooms and a private function room for that hold up to 80 people.
John & Sons Oyster House
This is a friendly, casual, stand-at-the-bar-with-a-platter-of-seafood-goodies kind of place. It is a perfect location for the Bay Street business crowd, who pack the little spot at lunch and after work. Oysters of course are the mainstay, but try some of their daily seafood specials. Get there early for one of the window tables so you can watch the commuters rushing for the train as you slurp some cauliflower and crab soup or chew on some yellow Thai curry mussels.
Long a staple of the local Rosedale crowd, and a favorite of Hollywood celebrities in town to film a movie or appear at a film festival. The two-storey restaurant is known for seafood specials marinated in black squid ink for a unique briny seafood flavor. Best to book a reservation – especially on the weekends, and do keep an eye out for movie stars. "Fish and seafood arrive hourly from far off ports along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts to fill the fish monger stalls from the cavernous the St. Lawrence Market to the Portuguese Kensington Market."
King Seafood Restaurant
There are so many excellent little places featuring seafood along the strip of Chinese restaurants filling both Dundas West and Spadina Avenue. King Seafood is an example of one of the largest and busiest; the place is packed from noon until close. There may be a line but it moves fast. The fresh seafood – and low Chinatown prices – make it worth the wait.
You must experience a Mandarin “all-you-can-eat” buffet at least once in your dining career, though once will probably not be enough. This restaurant does not specialize in seafood specifically, it offers every type of seafood or fish you could ask for. It's so popular there are now 26 locations. Buffet ranges from weekdays at $14.99 to $28.99 for weekend evenings.
One of the first fine-dining restaurants in the Distillery District and still one of the most popular, especially the outdoor patio whenever summer finally arrives in the city. There is also a long bar indoors that serves up platters of oysters and seafood specialties. Make reservations for the evening because many diners stop here before the 8pm curtain at nearby Soulpepper Theatre.
Like Mandarin Buffet, this Asian-based restaurant has become so popular there are now 12 locations. Spring Rolls is known for its fresh sushi and crispy tempura shrimp. The Dundas location is a huge two-level space that always seems to be full. If you are going with a group, best to book a reservation.
Rodney’s Oyster House
This is likely the best known name in seafood dining in Toronto – everyone knows Rodney’s and Rodney himself. He started as an East Coast chef and oyster shucker for hire and now has the premier seafood dining spot in the city. Whether it is fresh lobster, king crab or, of course, oysters, Rodney’s is always packed. Make sure you try the daily seafood chowder.