Oh, Canada! Toronto’s top hotels, restaurants and shops are calling our name

Canada, our northern neighbor, just celebrated a milestone birthday, and we’re more than a little excited about spending a crisp weekend in Toronto. Photograph by AJ Fernando.
Canada, our northern neighbor, just celebrated a milestone birthday, and we’re more than a little excited about spending a crisp weekend in Toronto. Photograph by AJ Fernando.

Miami speaks to Canada. Its snowbirds flock here every winter, and its businesses are coming, too: Byblos, Cibo, Gee Beauty and Four Seasons have all settled in South Florida. In hono(u)r of Canada’s 150th anniversary, INDULGE is turning the tables and traveling to Ontario’s lakeside capital of Toronto. Dig out your jacket and boots.

Where to Stay in Toronto

Bisha hotel
The rooftop at Bisha. By Studio Munge.

When you spend a third of your life in hotels, like INK Entertainment CEO Charles Khabouth, you gain insight into what works. Frustrated with lackadaisical boutique properties and stuffy luxury brands, the restaurateur behind Byblos in Miami Beach, as well as a slew of upscale eateries and nightclubs from Toronto to Dubai, decided to try his hand at a 96-room hotel.

Bisha, his Lebanese nickname, meets his gold standard, including interiors by Studio Munge and an entire floor designed by Lenny Kravitz. There are nightlife influences, such as the lounge’s kissing booths and rooms’ retro bar carts, and an open-air rooftop with an infinity pool. Being a Khabouth operation, dining at Bisha goes the extra mile, too. A 24-hour café, lobby bar, Japanese concept and rooftop restaurant can simultaneously serve 600 diners.

He hopes to see Bisha go global like Four Seasons, another Toronto-based brand. To celebrate Canada’s milestone, Four Seasons is offering a package with a two-night minimum stay at its properties nationwide through December 30. Guests of the 259-room Toronto flagship receive a welcome gift and $150 (in Canadian dollars) to spend at Café Boulud and the Spa.      

Toronto’s Best Places to Eat

3 Four Seasons TFY_483
A fresh seafood tower at Café Boulud in the Four Seasons Toronto.

A patchwork of ethnic neighborhoods in all varying degrees of gentrification, Toronto is a foodie’s paradise. Take advantage of Tennessee Tavern’s ongoing Oktoberfest menu of sausage platters and cheddar and potato-stuffed pierogies. (Its Southern moniker merely pays homage to the space’s previous historic steakhouse.)

Adventurous eaters are rewarded with the buttery taste and unctuous texture of wild-caught eel. Like all the smoked fish selections, it comes with sour cream, caper berries and pickled onion. The brewskis runneth over here, but cocktail tourists should also try sister bar Prettyugly across the street. Its Pink Porcelain — green juice with a Cynar and akvavit kick — keeps air-travel sniffles at bay.

Weather wimps who don’t wish to brave the windswept streets of Kensington Market can stay cozy inside Drake Commissary in the emerging Junction Triangle neighborhood. Its ambitiously equipped, 6,000-square-foot kitchen produces astounding amounts of from-scratch fare, not only for the high-energy, onsite bar, restaurant and market but also for the Drake Hotel and Drake General Store in Toronto. Watch hazelnut and prune ice cream churn and loaves of sourdough and stone-milled rye rise while biting into licorice root buns and salt cod and kale open-faced sandwiches.    

Can’t go long without a Cubano? Suzanne Barr, a Jamaican chef who grew up in Broward, sates her Caribbean cravings at Kid Chocolate. Her lunch-to-late-night counter also perfects pastelitos, beef patties and café con leche. 

Top Shops in Toronto

7 Souvenir
Souvenir is Danielle Suppa's lifestyle store features products from Canadian designers.

Clotheshorses could spend hours in Holt Renfrew, Canada’s luxury department store, and wending their way down Queen Street West, but these pearls are worth the extra Uber fare. For her lifestyle store, Souvenir, Joe Fresh alum Danielle Suppa often tweaks wares by dozens of Canadian designers. Aunt Rae’s suede totes, Horses Atelier’s cotton jumpsuits and Mercury Bureau’s pendant lights are all on the receiving end of her creative eye.

Fans of Sunset Harbour’s Gee Beauty are inclined to make a pilgrimage to its original spa and boutique in the Rosedale neighborhood. Evergreen Brick Works, an all-encompassing, environmental community center, hosts the city’s largest, year-round farmers market on Saturdays, as well as an outdoor event on Sundays through November 5.

More to Things to Do in Ontario’s Capital 

As Miami readies for The Underline beneath the Metrorail, Toronto broke ground on its version, The Bentway. Unveiled in phases, the linear public space below the Gardiner Expressway will eventually link more than a mile of gardens and amenities like performance venues and a multi-use trail, including ice skating, by summer.

Until MOCA reopens in a former auto parts factory in Junction Triangle in spring, get your fill at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Its well-timed exhibit for Halloween, “Guillermo del Toro: At Home with Monsters,” culls art and objects from the filmmaker’s personal cabinet of curiosities. Explore AGO’s blue titanium addition by Frank Gehry and other starchitects’ contributions to the skyline with walking tours by appointment with the Toronto Society of Architects.   

Canada’s Most Instagram-Ready Retreat

The June Motel
The June Motel. Photograph by Lauren Miller.

Looking at The June Motel’s well-appointed wine and wellness perks, one would never guess the midcentury-modern motel two hours east of Toronto once harbored hunters and salty fishermen. Alas, there’s proof in amusing vestiges like a posted rule for “No Gutting Fish [in rooms!].”

Following a massive makeover by new owners April Brown and Sarah Sklash, guests are greeted instead with a pink neon sign celebrating, “Peace, love, wine.” The last bit is because Prince Edward County, their bucolic locale on Lake Ontario, is touted for Burgundy-level vineyards. The motif matures like a pinot noir from nearby Norman Hardie, the one that introduced Brown and Sklash to the region’s charms, with 16 rooms classified as Wine Studios and Rosé Suites.

Tailored for Instagram, the grownup slumber party vibe supplies more locally sourced goodies and good times. Baths brim with Sunday’s Company natural toiletries, and mornings present pastries from Perfect Lil’ Bake Shop. With a glass in hand around the fire pit, it’s easy to see why these two swapped city life for the country. —RK

(PrettyUgly photograph by AJ Fernando.)