The distillery district, Toronto, is a must for visitors. The commercial and residential area is made up of around ten streets and forty buildings. The district began life in 1832 when the Gooderham and Worts distillery was founded.
Once a hub of the whiskey export trade, the Victorian era buildings have been preserved, and the area is now a national historic site of Canada. Housed within the charming heritage buildings are numerous restaurants, cafes, and shops.
Where is the Distillery District?
The district is located east of downtown Toronto. To get here on foot from Union street, it’s a twenty-minute walk along the scenic Esplanade. By transit, Take GO Transit to Union Station. Once at the station, connect to Fort York-Esplanade 121 Bus to either Mill Street or Cherry Street.
Which Restaurant in the Distillery District to Choose?
There is no shortage of restaurants and cafes to choose from in the distillery district – all in beautiful settings. Choose from a selection of cuisines, including Mexican, Canadian, Pan-Asian, Seafood, and Vegetarian.
Highly recommended Mexican cuisine is served at El Catrin. Catch classics like Canadian poutine at Mill Street Brew Pub at 55 Mill Street, Toronto, and Asian at the Boku Noodle bar. If seafood is your thing, try Pure Spirits Oyster Bar and veggies should try out the vegetarian tasting platter at El Catrin, including guacamole, esquites, and molotes ensalada diablito, taco vegetariano, and coliflor, and churros.
What to do in the Distillery District
There is so much to do in the distillery district you will truly be spoiled for choice. Shopping is what draws most people along with cafes where you can sit and allow the vibe of a by-gone era to wash over you.
Shops are artisans offering crafts and specialty goods. You can sample boutique chocolate, beers, whiskeys, and more. There’s also clothing, health and beauty, decor, jewelry, and accessories. The district hosts a Christmas market as well as events throughout the calendar.
There are also several art galleries and live performances at culture centers featuring actors and dancers.
The Top 8 Restaurants in the Distillery District
With so many outstanding restaurants from pub fayre at great prices to fine dining, a distillery district is a place foodies will love. Each restaurant is excellent at what they do. Here are some of the best restaurants in the distillery district.
1. El Catrin
📭 18 Tank House Lane, Toronto, ON M5A 3C4, Canada
If you love Mexican, then head to El Catrin for specialties that include guacamole, botanos, huevos, tacos, and specialties such as a braised short rib, shrimp, charred cauliflower, and Ontario striploin. El Catrin also boasts the largest selection of tequila and mezcal in the country.
2. Pure Spirits
📭 17 Tank House Lane, Toronto, ON M5A 3C4, Canada
Pure Spirits is an Oyster House and Grill located in the distillery district. Order small or large plates of their seafood and grilled food. Seafood dishes include loligo squid, sustainable shrimps, mussels, Yellowfin tuna, haddock, sea bream, Rainbow trout, and lobster. In contrast, grill dishes include chicken, burgers, short ribs, and Black Angus steak. Oysters are sold in the half and full dozen. It is also one of the best wine bar and grill restaurants in Toronto.
3. Boku Noodle Bar
📭 42 Gristmill Lane, Toronto, ON M5A 3C6, Canada
Boku Noodle Bar was formerly known as Boku Sushi. The rebranded restaurants now serve Izakaya snacks as well as Japanese cocktails. Snacks include poke balls, ramen, and Tokyo chicken wings. They are all served in the quintessential surroundings offered by the distillery quarter.
4. Cacao 70 Toronto
📭 28 Gristmill Lane, Toronto, ON M5A 3C4, Canada
Chocolate lovers should head straight for Cacao 70 as it’s something of a paradise. The cafe is filled with jars of chocolate drops detailed with their cacao content used to create hot chocolates and liberally decorating chocolate desserts. There are cafe style lunch meals such as crepe sandwiches and brunch items so that you can leave room for the main event. Those chocolate drops also make their way into Cacao 70’s legendary chocolate fondues served with fruit, waffles, and brownies. There are also decadent desserts aplenty, and don’t leave without a box or two of their artisan chocolate creations.
📭 35 Tank House Lane, Toronto, ON M5A 3C4, Canada
Cluny claims to be the very best French restaurant, serving over 200 wines of distinction – probably the largest wine bar in Toronto. Classics include French Onion Soup, Salad Nicoise, Caesar Salad, Coq au Vin, and Duck’s confit. And seafood lovers won’t be disappointed with fresh oysters, Salmon Pilaf, Yellowfin tuna croissant, and monkfish on the menu. Classic French desserts offered include Tarte au Citron, Truffle Bar, and homemade Macaroons.
6. Mill Street Brew Pub
📭 21 Tank House Lane, 55 Mill St, Toronto, ON M5A 3C4, Canada
Mill Street Brew Pub offers the best in affordable and tasty Canadian pub fayre cooked to perfection. There’s classic Canadian Poutine and Smoked Meat Poutine along with pub classics such as fish and chips at great prices in an ambient setting with excellent service.
Mill Street is part of a small chain of pubs with a microbrewery, so expect a great range of beers and lagers. They also have a small batch distillery, so you can also sample small-batch gin, bierscnaps, and one-barrel whiskey.
📭 31 Trinity St, Toronto, ON M5A 3C4, Canada
If you love Italia, then head straight to this Italian restaurant in Distillery District Archeo’s for delicious pizza, pasta, salads, and classic Italian mains like Veal Osso Bucco. The restaurant serves a minimalist menu of perfectly cooked primi piatti or starters, entrees, and desserts. Examples of their a la carte offerings include Spaghetti Carbonara, Lamb Shank with Gnocchi, Calamari, Eggplant Soup, Antipasti, and Warm Chocolate Tart.
📭 2 Trinity St, Toronto, ON M5A 3C4, Canada
Madrina Tapas offers fine dining in the form of creative and original tapas from executive chef Ramon Simarro. Choose from classic small tapas or larger versions that can be shared or eaten as a main meal such as beef medallions. There’s also an excellent selection of dried and smoked meats and cheeses.