This is not a destination for your next date…
These are not restaurants that you go for the ambience or great service (not that the service is bad). This isn’t a list of the best healthy and nutritional meals. This is comfort food in its truest form. Heavy, hearty, and a little bit greasy. After a late night in downtown Toronto, you need some starch and meat to satisfy your hunger, and this is a list of my favourite places that get the job done. It’s exactly what the doctor ordered. The cherry on the sundae. Something to seal the night, and ensure a good night sleep.
Honourable Mention: Street Meat
If you’re like me and have indulged in many a street meat, you’ll know that not all places are equal. After a club, my ability to judge the quality of an Italian sausage is sub par at best, but having a variety in condiments still goes a long way. I remember during my undergrad days that there was a hot dog stand, run by a guy named Frankie, just on the outskirts of the U of T neighbourhood. Frankie used to make his own salsa. Now that’s commitment. Enough for me to remember the guy’s name after all these years. But just as often I could easily come across a stand that serves bland meat and barely serviceable condiments. And that’s the caveat of street meat. After a long night, depending on where you are, buying street meat is a crapshoot. But on those days where you come across a stand that knows what it’s doing, it seems totally worth it.
5) Smoke’s Poutinerie
Poutine is a bit of a new trend for me. I’ve never even tried poutine until a year ago when I was in London, Ontario for graduate school. Strolling down Richmond street after a night at
Ceeps JBR’s Molly Bloom’s The Frog Jack’s, the newly opened Smoke’s quickly became a standard for an end of the night meal. I’ll never forget the first time I had a poutine from Smoke’s. That story became borderline legend during my days at Western University (I’m not going to go into the details of the story, but for people from Ivey, you know exactly what night I’m talking about) . You can even make your own custom poutines if you can’t decide between items on the menu (my usual is a pulled pork + nacho grande). They even have an item not featured on the menu called the slaughterhouse, a combination of every single meat they have to offer (not for the faint of heart. Don’t order this unless you know what you’re getting yourself into). Needless to say, Smoke’s has everything you want in a late night meal. Multiple locations (open until 4am).
4) New Ho King
Late night Chinese isn’t for everyone. A few people I know are sceptical for many reasons, from taste, to service, to hygiene. However, New Ho King is definitely worth checking out. While doing my undergrad at U of T, visiting chinatown was a common occurrence because of how close it is to the campus. But don’t think that I am biased towards Chinese cuisine, because the majority of those restaurants aren’t amazing. They’re OK, but nothing spectacular. That being said, I will say that this restaurant is one of the better finds in the entire neighbourhood. It’s good food, and it’s made pretty fast. And unlike most of the places on this list, this is a place where you can sit down. So take a seat, relax, and enjoy a filling meal. 410 Spadina Avenue (open until 3am).
3) Burrito Boyz
The quintessential food coma injection. After one of these it’s lights out, so plan accordingly. The thing about Burrito Boyz is that it’s so good that it’s the only place on this list that I have consistently gone to even when I’m sober (plus I would say that it’s probably the healthiest option from this list). My grapevine connections in the food scene told me that this place was originally run by 2 cousins. But after they had a falling out, they split up the locations resulting in the new chain, Burrito Banditos. Both places are really good, and for the most part are identical (although I know people who are very loyal to one or the other). In my opinion, the difference is negligible, so just head to whichever one is closer. Just make sure you get to one before the night is out. Multiple locations (open until 3:30/4am depending on location).
2) Pho Train
The funny thing about this place is that it’s name isn’t even Pho Train, it’s Xe Lua. Everyone calls it Pho Train simply because there’s a picture of a train outside, and because they make some damn fine pho. Even though this place is huge, it’s always packed (and for good reason). While the menu is rather extensive, don’t leave without getting some pho. It’s not called noodle train or rice train. It’s called Pho Train. So don’t be one of those people and just get some damn pho. The combination of hot soup and meat will do wonders for you. 254-256 Spadina Avenue (open until 5am).
1) Pat’s Homestyle Jamaican Restaurant
I think what I like about this place other than its amazing food is that it’s a bit of a hidden gem. Tucked away on the west side of Queen street, Pat’s was always my favourite place to go at the end of a night. The problem was what made it a hidden gem, made it a bit inconvenient as well, it’s location. It’s not really near any of the venues you would frequent at night, so taking a trip to Pat’s is a true mission. You have to be willing to go out of your way for good Jamaican food. That’s easier said than done when you’re with a group of people who are tired and hungry. But for those few times that an excursion was made, it was always worth it. Maybe it was the blurry vision, but I’m certain Pat’s only sells 2 dishes during the late night schedule, jerk chicken and ox-tail (both served with rice and coleslaw). I’m a jerk chicken man myself, but if you’ve never tried ox-tail I suggest you do it at least once. That’s the beauty about this place, you have 2 choices and you can’t go wrong with either. It’s filling, hearty, and has the right amount of spice. The price you pay is the commitment to travel, but if you do, trust me, you won’t regret it. 558 Queen Street West (open until ~4am).
It’s been a while since I’ve been to Pat’s (mostly because I haven’t been living in Toronto), so I can only hope that it’s just as amazing as I have always remembered it. However, according to my grapevine, the chef who made the amazing dishes at Pat’s left to start his own place, Steady’s. So while I hope Pat’s hasn’t missed a beat, I’m definitely throwing Steady’s on the top of my list of places to eat…
Drink responsibly, and enjoy your late night eating! (and if you have a place to suggest, let me know in the comments)