YYZ / Canada • Toronto

How You Can Support Local Toronto Restaurants and Bars Right Now


October 7, 2020

Being fiercely proud and protective of the Toronto food scene, the pandemic lockdown had me at a complete loss for how I could support my local restaurants and bars.

Besides the fact that I become very attached to people who bring me delicious food and ply me with alcohol, the restaurants and bars in Toronto have become an extension of home to me. It’s where I go to celebrate birthdays over loaded tacos. It’s where I go to 🥂 to the freakin’ weekend or wallow into a pint glass over painful breakups.

Pre-lockdown, ordering one of everything on the menu or running a lengthy tab at my favourite watering hole was my preferred way of spreading the wealth. But with limitations imposed on dining in, those methods are no longer the viable options they once were.


RELATED READING:

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Scene + Eaten: September 2020 Places to Eat in Toronto


But in the face of these trying times, Toronto restaurants and bars have risen to the challenge, pivoting their businesses in innovative ways to keep moving forward.

If you want to help your favourite neighbourhood spots weather the shitstorm that is 2020, check out these 7 ways you can support local Toronto restaurants and bars:

Makeshift Supermarkets

What started as a way to clear out excess inventory and generate income during the pandemic lockdown has evolved into an iteration of food market for avid home cooks to garner restaurant-quality ingredients. We may not be able to dining in as often as we’d like, but we can still support local Toronto restaurants by doing our weekly grocery shopping at local eateries turned bodegas.

 

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Local carnivorous restaurant, Beast, has reinvented itself into Beast Bodega — a neighbourhood bottle shop, artisan grocery store, kitchen, and outdoor patio. Snag premium cuts of meat, your favourite local beers and house-made treats like a kaffir lime salad dressing.

 

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Add some Asian flavour to your meals with speciality ingredients from By Chef Nuit Market. From the chef that heads up all of your favourite Thai restaurants in Toronto — Pai, Kiin, Sukhothai, Nana, etc… — this virtual marketplace features fresh produce like Thai basil, makrut limes and fragrant pandan leaves, as well as pantry staples like rice noodles and tapioca flour.

 

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If you have friends who fancy themselves to be amateur chefs, order a couple of Grassroots Food Boxes from Montgomery’s and host an Iron Chef-style cook off worthy of the Food Network. They contain everything from meat and specialty cheeses to in-house fermented hot sauce and sauerkraut, sourced from local farmers and growers to reflect the establishment’s focus on sustainability and seasonality.

 

Bottle Shop

Staying home doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a nice glass of vino, if anything that makes it more necessary (I speak from personal experience). If you miss lingering over a chilled rosé at your favourite wine bar, the next best thing is consulting your local bars to see if they’ve instituted an online bottle shop.

 

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Peruse the take-home inventory of Bar Piquette for rare and unusual vintages to savour from the comfort of your couch. From juicy reds to sweet rieslings to oxidative swills, take your pick of bottles that you’ll be hard-pressed to acquire at your local LCBO. And while you’re at it go HAM (hard as a MF) and assemble your own at-home wine pairing with a charcuterie board curated from their selection of cheese, meat, pickles, homemade sourdough, etc…

 

Merch(andise)

Selling merchandise is another way Toronto restaurants and bars are pivoting during COVID times and a great way to show your support. Personally, as a true foodie I’m much more inclined to buy merch heralding my favourite local Toronto restaurant than I am a concert tee or basketball jersey anyways.

Merch for The Federal on the Off Menu site

You all know how I feel about brunch in Toronto so I would definitely purchase a t-shirt from The Federal for their mushroom eggs benny alone.

Off Menu is an initiative that helps small independent hospitality businesses raise much needed funds by giving foodies a new means to support their favourite local establishments. They produce and sell branded merchandise of the small businesses and donate 100% of the profits back to the business.

support local Toronto restaurants and bars

Illustrations by Doublenaut for Bellwoods Brewery labels

Even if I wasn’t a regular on the Ossington strip, I’d be aware of Bellwoods Brewery as my designer eyes noticed their beautiful labels designed by Doublenaut. The distinct style has been applied to all of the craft brewery’s illustrative collateral and is available for purchase on their online shop as screen printed posters, graphic tees, caps and hoodies.

support local Toronto restaurants and bars

(L) Blowfish embellished glass from Bar PIquette (R) Pint glass from Bandit Brewery

The aforementioned Bar Piquette also sells merch in the form of totes and glassware embellished with their cute blowfish mascot. Speaking of cute mascots, Bandit Brewery offers a range of glasses as well as tees, caps and toques (because we’re Canadian, eh!) features a mischievous raccoon peeking out.

 

Livestream cooking classes

We’ve never had more time than now to sharpen our chef skills, especially when we can be guided through cooking an entire meal by some of Toronto’s culinary masterminds.

 

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Book an interactive livestream cooking class through ChefsFeed Experiences featuring recipes made with Field Roast plant-based meats and cheeses. In an effort to support local restaurants in these trying times, Field Roast is donating a total of $250,000 to participating chefs like Steve Gonzalez (of Baro). Book a free class to follow along as he whips up his flavourful choripapas, a tortilla topped with onions, peppers, corn, and a confit garlic plant-based mayonnaise.

You can also join them in their fight to save local, independent restaurants affected by COVID-19 by donating to the Independent Restaurant Coalition (IRC). ChefsFeed will match up to $25,000.

 

Entire dinner delivery

Go hard or go home, right? Well, with limited indoor dining available these days, home is the more convenient albeit less appealing option. But you can still get as close to the IRL experience and support local Toronto restaurants by ordering entire meals to be delivered directly to your doorstep.

 

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Usually a reservation for a coveted spot at Edulis must be made a month in advance but now you can order Edulis at Home for pick up. The delectable 5-course meals change weekly including dishes like braised beef cheek, roasted porcini mushrooms, marscapone cheesecake, etc…They even come with simple plating instructions for the full restaurant experience!

 

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Every time I go to DaiLo, I opt for the chef’s tasting because everything on the menu is 👌🏼. Now you can order their Take Home Tasting with a selection of drool-worthy entrées like smoked duck breast with truffle fried rice or a 45-day aged ribeye steak followed by courses including fresh watermelon salad, Big Mac Bao (!!!), etc…

And since no meal would be complete without something sweet, all meals come with Aloe Sake Sorbet & Fortune Cookie Roll for dessert. Send your orders to office[at]dailo.com.

 

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If you’re craving a top shelf sushi dinner, check out the Aburi At Home bento boxes from Japanese fine dining restaurant, Miku. Masterfully presented, they’re full of premium goodies like wagyu steak, chirashi, lobster tempura and luscious scallops.

 

Meal Kits

If you possess limited kitchen skills then meal kits from your treasured local restaurants will have you whipping up impressive meals with relative ease. Complete with pre-portioned ingredients and recipe cards, you can cook your favourite menu items in the familiar setting of your kitchen.

 

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Coming from a rambunctious West Caribbean family, I have a soft spot for Patois. Specializing in Asian and Caribbean dishes, they’ve partnered with PC Chef to create meal kits with the exact amount of ingredients that you need to rustle up their crowd-pleasers like Jerk Pork Belly Yakisoba and Patois Doubles at home.

support local Toronto restaurants and bars

Red curry meal kit By Chef Nuit

In addition to selling fresh produce, Chef Nuit also offers a personalized beginner-level meal kit. You can prep red curry chicken with eggplant, Thai holy basil and jasmine rice to bring a taste of her restaurant, Pai, to your humble abode.

 

Cocktails To-Go

Do you miss celebrating happy hour with co-workers? Are you worried that your favourite watering holes won’t be able to weather the storm? Kill two birds with one stone and support local Toronto restaurants and bars by getting your cocktails to-go.

support local Toronto restaurants and bars

While you miss out on the welcoming staff and vibrant ambiance of the brick-and-mortar venue, Mother Cocktail Bar offers an innovative alternative in the form of mixology kits containing pre-portioned ingredients for inventive boozy concoctions. You can also request a workshop option where they walk you through the history and process of the cocktail, perfect to gather your co-workers for a post-work happy hour over Zoom.

 

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Pivoting to become a juice joint by day (in addition to being a hip bar with performance artists by night) The Painted Lady developed a new menu of drinks to include smoothies, fresh-pressed juices and cocktails. Made with 100 percent organic ingredients, these delightful concoctions are prepared in one-litre mason jars making it convenient to grab on the run.


Additional ways you can support local Toronto restaurants and bars:

+ savehospitality.ca: Visit savehospitality.ca to learn more about the coalition of independent Canadian restaurateurs and suppliers that have come together to #savehospitalityca, and please share this post to help us have a unified voice.

+ Gift Cards/Certificates: This method of paying cash upfront is a great help to restaurants and bars that don’t have e-commerce set up.

+ Opt for Debit: Often, debit fees are lower than credit so for small businesses running on tight margins, this is the ideal payment method


For the time being, dining in is still an option with limited seating so if you’re still showing your support by frequenting your favourite establishments, try to be considerate. Wear your mask until you sit down and whenever you have to get up. Try not too linger too long so tables can be turned over for new customers. Be kind and tip your servers well. 

If you’re also looking for ways to support black-owned restaurants in Toronto, check this post out.

Keep your stalking game strong and follow me @teriaki if you aren’t already!