Illustration by Aly Miller

The Best Jewish Food in Toronto

Honey boiled bagels, old school delis, and modern Israeli cuisine too.

Toronto is a bustling world-class city and one of the most diverse urban centers on the planet. At Kensington Market, a must-see destination for all visitors, you can taste an array of foods prepared by Torontonians with roots all around the world, from churros and pupusas to artisan Japanese baked goods to Jamaican-Italian fusion dishes. Kensington Market was also once the center of Toronto’s Jewish community. Look closely and you’ll spot a couple of the original synagogues from the neighborhood’s past. Many of the Jewish eateries have since moved north along with the Jewish community. Nevertheless, the Jewish influence in Toronto is an undeniable part of its diverse food landscape.

The first Jews settled in Toronto in the early 19th century. In the 1960s and ‘70s, as the Quebecois separatist movement grew in strength, many Jews in Montreal moved west to the booming city on Lake Ontario. They brought with them many of Montreal’s celebrated Jewish foods, including Montreal-style bagels and smoked meat, and they encountered well-established Jewish food traditions (like the uniquely Toronto-style fluffy bagel — far different than those in Montreal). The Jewish population soon spread to the suburbs outside of the city core. In the 1990s and 2000s, another influx of Jews came to Toronto from the former Soviet Union, once again bringing new elements of Jewish cooking. Despite its population today of nearly 200,000, the Jewish community remains tightly knit.

There’s a 100-plus-year-old dairy restaurant, United Bakers, which has been a central meeting place for the community since it first opened in 1914. Its founders and owners, the Ladovskys, are fixtures in the community, whose establishment tells the story of Toronto’s Jewish life through its menu of dairy dishes, smoked fish platters, and its celebrated pea soup. There are also old school delis that have been serving the Jewish community in Toronto’s Northern suburbs for years, like Pancer’s. And there are young Toronto-based restaurateurs, like Anthony Rose, who is exploring Jewish traditions in his restaurants Rose & Sons deli, Schmaltz Appetizing, and Fat Pasha. Rose’s new restaurant, Fet Zun, explores Middle Eastern and Israeli flavors.

The Toronto Jewish foodspace becomes more and more dynamic over time, as young chefs and entrepreneurs continue to get into the action. In addition to restaurants and bakeries, there are Jewish farms, pop-ups, and classes to take, so give yourself time to take a bite and explore this city.

When a city has this many great Jewish bakeries, you know the Jewish food scene is thriving. Harbord Bakery is a local favorite located close to downtown, in what was the original Jewish neighborhood in Toronto. It’s known for its poppy seed rings, cheese Danishes, spicy cheese straws, and especially its giant challah, which can be ordered for special occasions. Folks love its butter tarts too (a uniquely Canadian pastry cup filled with a pecan pie filling, sans pecans). Further north, up the Bathurst corridor, you’ll find Hermes, Toronto’s first formally kosher bakery. The nut-free bakery makes wonderful challah, bagels, homemade matzah ball mix, and blueberry buffaloes (a cross between a Danish and a bun). Grodzinski churns out what some consider to be among the best challah in Toronto, as well as rich chocolate babka and fresh sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts). You can also find herring and potato salad on the menu.

Haymishe is another classic spot offering creative hamantaschen during Purim season (i.e. cheese and almond flavors) and custom cakes all year round. Richmond Kosher Bakery has you covered for challahs, rugelach, bagels, and so many more breads. Kosher City Plus is a kosher grocery with a bakery section that specializes in baked goods like cookies and apple bundt cakes. You can also go there for Gryfe’s bagels (see below). My Zaidy’s Bakery carries the typical challah, danish, rugelach, and bagel combo, as well some crafty custom cakes. Isaac’s Bakery carries an assortment of challah, from water challah to whole wheat to raisin. Their danishes and cakes are also loved.

Pro-tip: If you’re looking for some kosher eats on your way in or out of town, swing by Terminal 1 at Pearson Airport, where Grodzinksi offers packaged sandwiches and baked goods at several of the food stalls. Looking for a bris or shiva catered like a Torontonian? Check out Sonny Langer’s.

Harbord Bakery
115 Harbord St
Toronto, ON M5S 1G8
(416) 922-5767
Neighborhood: Harbord Village

Hermes
2885 Bathurst St
North York, ON M6B 3A4
(416) 787-1234
Neighborhood: North York
*This is bakery is kosher.

Grodzinski
3437 Bathurst St
North York, ON M6A 2C3
(416) 789-0785
Neighborhood: North York
*This is bakery is kosher.

Grodzinski
1118 Centre St #3
Thornhill, ON L4J
(905) 882-1350
Neighborhood: Thornhill
*This bakery is kosher.

Haymishe
3031 Bathurst St
North York, ON M6B 3B5
(416) 781-4212
Neighborhood: North York
*This bakery is kosher.

Richmond Kosher Bakery
4119 Bathurst St #1
North York, ON M3H 3P4
(647) 776-5995
Neighborhood: North York
*This bakery is kosher.

Kosher City Plus
3468 Bathurst St
North York, ON M6A 2C5
(416) 782-6788
Neighborhood: North York
*This bakery is kosher.

My Zaidy’s Bakery
7241 Bathurst St
Thornhill, ON L4J 3W1
(905) 763-0373
Neighborhood: Thornhill
*This bakery is kosher.

Isaac’s Bakery
3390 Bathurst St
Toronto, ON M6A 2B9
(416) 789-7587
Neighborhood: Ledbury
*This bakery is kosher.

Photo credit Lox and Schmear

Toronto offers bagel lovers a wide variety of bagel styles to choose from. This being Canada, Montreal-style bagels are prevalent, made by boiling bagels in honey water and baking them in a woodfired oven. Try Saint Urbain — family-owned and operated for generations — in the historic St. Lawrence Market. Nu Bügel is located in the middle of Kensington Market — the heart of Jewish life in Toronto for many years, and now a must-visit destination for food lovers. Nu’s smoked trout sandwich has been voted the best sandwich in the city by Toronto Life Magazine (smoked rainbow trout, baby arugula, sweet horseradish jelly, and pommery mustard). Bagel Time is a new addition to the Montreal bagel scene in Toronto. They even offer gluten-free bagels! The Bagel House has multiple destinations churning out Montreal-style bagels 24 hours a day.

If you’re looking for a style of bagel that is less explicitly Montreal, What a Bagel is a local chain with locations throughout the city, some of which serve a full breakfast and lunch menu in addition to freshly baked bagels and a full line of baked goods, too. Mention Gryfe’s and you might stir up some controversy among Torontonians. These super fluffy rolls with holes are not considered true bagels by some, but others praise their soft texture, perfect for schmear. Bubby’s serves up NY-style bagels in a simple, carryout setting. Bagel World is a favorite spot for many Torontonians who love a NY-style bagel or their famous giant twister, a bagel that is twisted before the bagel ring is sealed. Bagel Plus has been serving the community for 40 years. Their bagels are fresh each day and they offer soups and salads as well. Lox and Schmear is a new sandwich shop in town devoted to the appetizing tradition. Everything they serve (lox, schmear) comes on a fabulous and freshly baked bagel.

Pro-tip: Primrose Bagel Co. is the newest addition to the Toronto bagel landscape, boiling and baking bagels and serving them at pop-ups all over town. Follow Primrose on Instagram to find out about their brick and mortar shop, coming soon. You’ll also find top-notch bagels at Schmaltz and Kiva’s (don’t worry, we didn’t forget!), listed below and served at many of the local delis and dairy restaurants.

St. Urbain Bagel
St Lawrence Market
93 Front St East #11
Toronto ON M5E1C3
(416) 364-8305
Neighborhood: St Lawrence

Nu Bügel
240 Augusta Ave.
Toronto, ON M5T 2L7
(647) 748.4488
Neighborhood: Kensington

Bagel Time
582 Danforth Ave.
Toronto, ON M4K 1R1
(416) 546-0177
Neighborhood: The Danforth

The Bagel House
1722 Avenue Road
Toronto, ON
(416) 781-0032
Neighborhood: Ledbury

The Bagel House
1438 Yonge Street
Toronto, ON
(416) 913-3132
Neighborhood: Deer Park

The Bagel House
450 Eglinton Avenue West
Toronto, ON
(416) 901-9594
Neighborhood: Forest Hill

The Bagel House
2572 Yonge St
Toronto, ON
(416) 481-2572
Neighborhood: Yonge-Eglinton

The Bagel House
1548 Bayview Avenue
Toronto, ON
(416) 481-8184
Neighborhood: Leaside

What a Bagel
130 Spadina Ave.
Toronto, ON M5V 1X9
(647) 347-7222
Neighborhood: Fashion District

Gryfe’s
3421 Bathurst St
North York, ON M6A 2C1
(416) 783-1552
Neighborhood: North York

Bubby’s New York Bagels
3035 Bathurst St
North York, ON M6B 3B5
(416) 862-2435
Neighborhood: North York

Bagel World
336 Wilson Ave
North York ON
(416) 635-5931
Neighborhood: North York

Bagel World
10 Disera Drive
Thornhill ON
(905) 709-7776
Neighborhood: Thornhill

Bagel World
16995 Yonge St,
Newmarket, ON
(905) 235-8000
Neighborhood: Newmarket

Bagel Plus
634 Sheppard Ave W
North York, ON M3H 2S1
(416) 635-9988
Neighborhood: North York

Lox and Schmear
1030 St. Clair Avenue West
Toronto, ON M6E 1A4
(647) 349-8777
Neighborhood: St.Clair West

If you want to get to know Toronto’s Jewish community, the first place you need to visit is United Bakers, where everybody knows your name. The third-generation-owned dairy restaurant opened in 1912 by a young couple from Kielce, Poland. The owners today are descendants of that couple, the Ladovsky family (Ruthie, Nathan, and Philip) and you’ll almost always find one of them there to greet you. It’s not only the place to see and be seen in the Toronto Jewish community, but it’s also home to a vast menu of classic dairy foods (the dairy restaurant was once the deli alternative), from its world-famous pea soup to its cheese blintzes, smoked fish, and yes, shakshuka, too. Don’t miss a trip to United Bakers whenever you’re in town.

On Sundays, at the border of Harbord Village and Kensington Market, visit Free Times Cafe for its famous klezmer brunch. Be sure to say hi to the owner, Judy, who is usually around and is always warm and welcoming. Order the “Bella! Did Ya Eat?” buffet, which features dairy classics like cheese blintzes, latkes with sour cream and applesauce, gefilte fish, and smoked salmon, and be sure to ask Judy how the signature buffet got its name. Kiva’s is a bagel shop, first and foremost, but it offers a whole lot more at its locations throughout the city. Delicious dairy fare includes a rotating list of soups, a full line of salads, and of course, classic cheese blintzes. Schmaltz Appetizing (see below) sources its bagels from Kiva’s.

Pro-tip: While the much-loved Daiter’s may no longer be around, its blintzes continue to be served at many Jewish food shops across Toronto. They’re still hand-rolled and as good as ever!

United Bakers Dairy Restaurant
506 Lawrence Ave. West
Toronto, ON M6A 1A1
(416) 789-0519
Neighborhood: North York

Free Times Cafe
320 College St.
Toronto,ON M5T 1S3
(416) 967-1078
Neighborhood: Harbord Village

Kiva’s Bagel Bar
15 St Clair Av W
Toronto, ON M4V 1K6
Neighborhood: Yonge-St. Clair

Kiva’s Bagel Bakery and Restaurant
1027 Steeles Ave West
Toronto, ON M2R 2S9
(416) 663-9933
Neighborhood: Thornhill

Kiva’s Bakery & Market
2496 Yonge Street
Toronto, ON MP4 2H7
(416) 488-4000
Neighborhood: Yonge-Eglinton

Kiva’s Bagel Bar (Financial District)
133 Richmond St. West
Toronto, ON M5H 2L3
(416) 607-5858
Neighborhood: Downtown

Toronto has some fantastic old school delis that have nurtured an appreciation of classic Ashkenazi cooking among Torontonians. Need proof? Save the Deli, the influential work on the Jewish deli, was authored by Toronto-based journalist and author, David Sax. Pancer’s Original Deli has been around since 1957. Their smoked meat sandwich is a Toronto favorite, served with thick-cut fries, of course. Don’t forget to try a knish. New Yorker Deli offers breakfast all day (salami and eggs, anyone?), a great cabbage borscht, and everything else in between. Great for takeout. Wolfie’s Deli is another old school spot that offers full-service catering and Montreal-style smoked meats. Everyone loves the warm atmosphere and large portions of great deli fare at Centre Street Deli. This is the kind of deli that gives you coleslaw and a pickle no matter what you order — always a great sign. Yitz’s Deli is comfort food heaven when you find yourself in the middle of the city. Stop by for breakfast or lunch and try the steak and eggs, if that’s your kind of thing.

Pro-tip: Looking for one more sandwich before you fly? Visit Caplansky’s at Pearson Int’l Airport.

Pancer’s Original Deli
3856 Bathurst St
North York, ON M3H 3N3
(416) 636-1230
Neighborhood: North York

New Yorker Deli
1140 Bay St
Toronto, ON M5S 2Z4
(416) 923-3354
Neighborhood: Yonge-Bloor

Wolfie’s Deli
670 Sheppard Ave W
North York, ON M3H 2S5
(416) 638-9653
Neighborhood: North York

Centre Street Deli
1136 Centre St
Thornhill, ON L4J 3M8
(905) 731-8037
Neighborhood: Thornhill

Yitz’s Deli
346 Eglinton Ave W
Toronto, ON M5N 1A2
(416) 487-4506
Neighborhood: Yonge-Eglinton

Photo thanks to the restaurants of Chef Anthony Rose

For contemporary Jewish deli fare and so much more, check out Rose and Sons, where you can literally taste the love of Chef Anthony Rose through his pastrami. Don’t forget to take a karnatzel and a smartie cookie for the road. While everything Chef Rose does can be considered elevated, Rose and Sons is still soulful and brimming with schmaltz. Right around the corner is another Anthony Rose spot, fittingly called Schmaltz Appetizing. This to-go shop is perfect for grabbing a bagel filled with schmear, smoked whitefish, and salmon caviar, as well as some poppyseed granola. At the very newly opened Dreyfus (named for the scandalous, anti-Semitic Dreyfus Affair), diners who can snag a reservation at this intimate restaurant can enjoy a French bistro experience with a few Jewish reference points. Chef Zach Kolomeir, a Jew from Montreal, couldn’t help but integrate Jewish flavors onto his menu. At Sumilicious, the chicken, smoked meat, and steak are not only packed with spice and smoke, but the meats are also certified halal. This casual spot also offers a Canadian favorite, poutine. Yiddishe Mame offers old school Eastern European fare in a kitschy setting. Try the Georgian and Uzkbek specialties like Kharcho soup (meat, rice, and vegetables) and Uzbek rice pilaf with lamb.

Pro-tip: Sara Restaurant and Peter Pan are hip spots that serve up a few Jewish-inspired items on their eclectic menus. Try the squash latkes, schmaltzy french fries, and waygu beef Reuben at Sara, and try the shakshuka at Peter Pan.

Rose and Sons
176 Dupont Street
Toronto, ON M5R 2E6
(647) 748-3287
Neighborhood: Casa Loma

Schmaltz Appetizing
414 Dupont St
Toronto, ON M5R 1V9
(647) 350-4261
Neighborhood: Casa Loma

Schmaltz Appetizing
224 Ossington Avenue
Toronto, ON M6J 2Z9
(647) 350-4400
Neighborhood: Trinity-Bellwoods

Dreyfus
96 Harbord Street
Toronto, ON M5S 1G6
(416) 323-1385
Neighborhood: Harbord Village

Sumilicious
5631 Steeles Avenue East #5
Scarborough, Ontario, M1V 5P6
(647) 347-8899
Neighborhood: Scarborough

Yiddishe Mame
1416 Centre Street,
Unit #15, Thornhill
(905) 597-7709
Neighborhood: Thornhill

Photo credit: Parallel Restaurant

Parallel is a new addition to the Toronto scene and it quickly gained local popularity. Its menu centers around tahini, some of which is ground on-site in an ancient stone mill that you can see in action in the sleek industrial space. Fat Pasha is another gem in the Anthony Rose universe (it’s also adjacent to Schmaltz Appetizing). Order up a platter of salatim (a spread of housemade vegetable salads, dips, pickles, olives, pita, falafel, and more) accompanied by a lamb shwarma. The backyard is the perfect setting for brunch in warm weather. Fet Zun is another spot by Anthony Rose, featuring a menu of grilled kebabs, handmade pitas, and excellent cocktails. Aish Tanoor is a simple spot serving up Middle Eastern fare like hummus and kebabs, all kosher certified. Mashu Mashu serves a wide range of Middle Eastern fare, influenced by the Morrocan Jewish heritage of the restaurant owners. Shook Kitchen is a great spot for fresh Israeli cuisine made from locally sourced ingredients. It’s ideal for family-style dining with spreads of salads, falafel, and fresh bread. Dr. Laffa is a beloved community spot for hummus, falafel, and kebabs. It also happens to be kosher certified.

Pro-tip: You can find multiple locations of the popular Israeli cafe chain Cafe Landwer in the Financial District and Richmond Hill. A must-try is their halloumi shakshuka. Eggs are baked in a tomato sauce and topped with big hunks of squeaky cheese and spinach. Similarly, there are Aroma cafes, also imports from Israel, serving up coffee, pastries, and sandwiches across Toronto. Also, Jerusalem Restaurant may not be explicitly Jewish but has been a favorite of the Jewish community for decades for all your hummus and falafel needs.

Parallel
217 Geary Ave
Toronto, ON M6H 2C1
(416) 516-7765
Neighborhood: Davenport

Fat Pasha
414 Dupont St
Toronto, ON M5R 1V9,
(647) 340-6142
Neighborhood: Casa Loma

Fet Zun
252 Dupont St
Toronto, ON M5R 1V7,
(647) 352-3337
Neighborhood: Casa Loma

Aish Tanoor
994 Eglinton Ave. W
Toronto, ON M6C 2C5
(647) 352-5535
Neighborhood: Forest Hill
*This restaurant is kosher.

Mashu Mashu Mediterranean Grill
387 Spadina Rd
Toronto, ON M5P 2W1
(416) 840-0848
Neighborhood: Forest Hill

Shook
77 Portland St.
Toronto, ON ON M5V 2M9
(647) 484-7476
Neighborhood: King West

Dr. Laffa
3027 Bathurst St
North York, ON M6B 3B5
(647) 352-9000
Neighborhood: North York

Once you’ve eaten your way through Toronto’s best bakeries, delis, and bagel shops, you might be craving even more Jewish food and culture. Get hands-on with your food at the gardening and farming experiences led by Shoresh, whose tagline aptly reads, “Canadian soil. Jewish roots.” If you’re a food and music lover, sign up for updates from Ashkenaz Festival, held every two years at the Harbourfront Centre in Toronto and featuring incredible music, food demos, and delicious vendors. Same goes for Noshfest, held annually around Hanukkah and featuring some of the very best of Toronto’s Jewish food vendors. And if you really want to take this commitment to the next level, reach out to Toronto’s celebrated food writer and culinary educator Bonnie Stern, who has been central to Toronto’s food scene for years. Bonnie teaches private classes for groups of 10, as well as culinary tours to Israel, so reach out and dive in or follow her culinary journeys on Instagram. You can also explore Kensington Market’s Jewish history with a walking tour from the Ontario Jewish Archives.

Shoresh
Events around Toronto and at Kavanah Garden (145 Lebovic Campus Drive, Maple, ON L6A 4L9) and Bela Farm (5750 Sixth Line, Hillsburgh, Ontario, N0B 1Z0).
Visit their website or call (416) 805-8382 for a schedule of events.

Ashkenaz Festival
Biannual arts, music, and culture festival held in the fall with select events throughout the year. Visit their website for a calendar of events.

Noshfest
Annual Jewish food festival held in the winter. Visit their website for upcoming dates.

Cooking Classes with Bonnie Stern
Visit her website or contact Bonnie to schedule an immersive cooking experience or tour.

Jewish Walking Tours of Kensington Market
The Ontario Jewish Archives offers walking tours of the former Jewish center that’s now an international tourist site. Visit the website for upcoming tours.

Thanks to local Experts: Bonnie Stern (Toronto-based food writer, cookbook author, and culinary educator), David Sax (Toronto-based author, public speaker, and international deli maven), Amy Rosen (Toronto-based cookbook author, food writer, and cinnamon bun entrepreneur), Emma Waverman (Toronto-based journalist), Gaïa Orain (local foodie and caterer), and Sarah Kafka (local foodie).

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