Although the rationale behind what foods fall into this much-loved category is different for everyone, I think most would agree that they tend to be dishes that warm us up from the inside. For some, comfort food is deeply nostalgic and sparks fond memories at first bite, it’s rich, flavorful meals or even an indulgent cup of hot chocolate that help us get through our colder months.
Toronto has one of the most diverse culinary scenes on the planet so there’s no shortage of mouthwatering comfort foods to choose from. Since the plethora of options can be a bit overwhelming for some, I reached out to a few local food lovers to see what their fave eats are. Here’s what they had to say.
When I’m sick or when I want something that makes me feel comforted, my go-to without fail is always Ravi Soups. I love the combinations they offer. My favourite is probably the Chicken Hot Pot Broth: it has some Thai flavours and is as comforting as chicken soup.
—Amanda (Ama) Scriver, freelance writer.
I love the beef Pho at Pho Pasteur. The broth is warm, rich and comforting but the Thai basil, lime and bean sprouts are so refreshing. It’s the best of both worlds.
—Ayngelina Brogan, publisher of the culinary travel site Bacon is Magic.
Italian Comfort Food
The calzone from Frank’s Pizza House is the best in the city. Like that episode of Seinfeld with George Steinbrenner: sometimes I think about a hot calzone all day long. It’s better every time I eat it — so good that I crave it.
—Matt Basile, owner and creator of Fidel Gastro's street food company.
For comfort food, I head to Vinny’s Panini on Dupont. The old-school veal sandwiches are just outstanding. Classic, comforting, working-class!
—Dick Snyder, wine curator at kwäf.
There is nothing better than a badass plate of pasta for me and at Terroni it’s always perfect. I’ve been going for years and have tried almost everything on the menu. I love it so much that I recently went three times in a single week – no shame in my game.
—Camille Moore, Le Cordon Bleu Paris-trained chef and food expert on The Social.
My comfort food is Italian. You can find my favourite pasta Mafalde ai Funghi at Gusto 101. I also love to order a few side dishes like the Arancini or Mozzarella Di Bufala — reminds me of my mom’s southern Italian home cooking.
—Anna Napolitano, influencer.
Hot and Spicy Food
My favourite comfort food is the Jerk Chicken Poutine from Street Shak. Here are the goods: tender and spicy jerk chicken, cheese curds and house-made gravy on fresh cut fries finished with scotch bonnet BBQ sauce and a garlic aioli.
The owner Tony Bradshaw is possibly the nicest restaurateur in Toronto. He is of Bajan heritage just like me (family from Barbados) so we’ve got a bond and his food is full of familiar feel-good flavours.
—Ryan Hinkson, food & lifestyle content creator. Curator at Eat Famous.
When it’s cold outside and I need something delicious to lift my spirits, I want something hot, spicy and satisfying. Traditional Indian street food like Channa Bhatura always hits the spot.
The classic deep-fried Punjabi bread is served with some spiced potatoes and chickpea curry (make sure you get some chopped onions and tamarind chutney along with it). I recommend heading to Punjabi by Nature in Brampton for the dish — best enjoyed when it’s snowy, slushy or rainy outside!
—Angelie Sood, television host; food & lifestyle blogger at The Lifestyle File.
Hearty Meals with Meat
When I need something comforting, it has to be Eastern European food. I like to head to Country Style Hungarian Restaurant in the Annex for schnitzel and dumplings. If I’m hungry, I add an order of pierogi with debreziner sausage and crispy onions.
I love that (until a renovation in 2016) nothing had changed at the restaurant in 40 years! Reminds me of my childhood.
—Joel Solish, brand and business development, mostly for Bespoke Butchers. Culinary Creative Branding + Communications.
When I’ve had a not-so-good day, I head up the street to Enat Buna — a tiny family-run restaurant by moss that has a homely vibe and a menu of traditional Ethiopian breakfast and dinner dishes.
Within the confines of those walls, I bury my face into a mound of injera and platter of lamb tibs. It’s the restaurant’s signature dish. It gives me all the solace I need, stewed vegetables and meats that I sop up with soft spongy bread. For an hour it transports me to another time and place. No phones, no outside world.
—Suresh Doss, food writer and print editor for Foodism Toronto.