Toronto: a city with a lively, varied, and busy nightlife. With all the bars and clubs that serve partygoers from Bloor and Bathurst all the way down to King and John, it’s a bit surprising to find that we’re rather limited when it comes to 24-hour dining options. For example, though you can find plenty of Asian eateries open past 2am in Chinatown, such as Rol San, New Ho King, and Swatow, very few of them are open 24 hours.
To help you find somewhere to crash and satiate your food craving after last call, here’s a handy guide to the most notable (and notorious) 24-hour restaurants in Toronto.
Fran’s is my first choice when it comes to late-night dining. I like it for several reasons: its locations are close to my regular club crawls (one on College near Yonge; another on Shuter and Victoria, right across from Massey Hall: plus a new location on Yonge and Front); its 50s-diner style décor is bright and friendly; and it serves all-day breakfast with big portions. Besides bacon and eggs, I also recommend the chili, the sandwiches, and especially the milkshake.
A spot I visit when I want a late-night date with someone special, or a long chat with a close friend, 7 West is all about ambiance, grabbing a drink, and dessert. I have eaten meals here before, from a menu consisting of pastas, pizzas, and sandwiches, but the highlight is the intimate, candlelit, wood-based atmosphere, spread out over 3 small floors of a former Victorian townhome, perfect for sharing feelings and secrets. Located at 7 Charles West, both the décor and the menu at 7 West are probably the most upscale out of all the eateries listed here. And there’s always a nice selection of cake too.
Located on 700 Bloor West next to Clinton (look for a bright yellow sign on the second floor), Owl of Minerva (which has other locations with different owners) is all about one dish: the pork bone and potato soup (Gam Ja Tang in Korean). For fans of spicy fare or soup seekers in the wee hours of the morning, this dish serves soft, tender pork pieces in a garlic-and-chili broth that hits the spot after bar-hopping or karaoke. Be aware that the place leans towards the quick-and-dirty end of restaurants, and that servers may not speak much English.
Indian Cuisine by Wikimedia
Got hunger pangs for Indian or Pakistani food after midnight? Part fast-food and part cafeteria, this popular joint on 820 Church (near where Church intersects with Yonge) boasts dozens of authentic dishes including Kashmiri chicken, butter chicken and lamb curry in trays at the main counter. The freshly-made naan is a definite highlight and should be chosen over the rice in combos, which cost around $11-$12 and come in portions big enough for leftovers the next day. Taking out is a better idea than eating in since the place has limited seating and shabby décor; I also recommend packing combo items in separate containers and heating them up back home for the best taste.
Right in the heart of Chinatown, at 525 Dundas, Pho Pasteur is probably the only Asian eatery in the area that stays open past 4am. Vietnamese pho noodles are of course the main draw here, served with ample amounts of meat and veggies. While the prices are higher than what you’ll find elsewhere in the neighbourhood (close to $10 for a large pho), the portions are big, the quality decent, and you get the 24-hour convenience that you just can’t find nearby. Be sure to also try the other items on its lengthy menu, like spring rolls and grilled pork and chicken cutlets.
If your watering holes and party spots are over in Little Italy or along Ossington, you’ve probably been to Lakeview, which has been open since the 30s and retains a vintage diner feel somewhat like Fran’s. Located at 1132 Dundas next to Ossington, the resto features a beautifully designed and tongue-in-cheek menu (“Water: the best no-calorie drink in all the world”) with all-day breakfast, several types of poutine, burgers, sandwiches, milkshakes, floats, and the deep-fried Mars bar. Drinks are also very cheap, assuming you still need more liquor in your system: $3 mimosas, $4 daily pint specials. Take a seat by the big front windows and watch the after-hours crowd as you devour diner fare, or stop by next door at the Lakeview Storehouse for take-out.
An infamous Annex all-night spot at 474 Dupont (by Bathurst) that gives a very particular local experience, Vesta Lunch serves Greek greasy spoon fare in arguably the grimiest spot on this list; beer goggles recommended, germophobes need not apply. The menu offers gyros and souvlaki along with all-day breakfast and burger selections, with quality being rather inconsistent. While I wouldn’t recommend coming here in broad daylight, its cheap price (under $10 for a plate), fast and friendly staff, and the dearth of late-night eatery options nearby keep it running into its fifth decade of service.