163 Spadina Ave., Chinatown
A new French-American brasserie just south of Chinatown, Aloette is the creation of chef Patrick Kriss, better known for his fine-dining restaurant, Alo, which is right upstairs. Think of it as Alo’s more laid-back, free-spirited sister, where the music is a little louder and you can roll into dinner in a T-shirt and jeans but still get an exceptional meal and some excellent glasses of Syrah, Grüner Veltliner, and Chardonnay. The menu is generally seafood-heavy (tuna tartare with yuzu and lime, torched scallops with green peas and wasabi), but the meat dishes are great, too. Go for the lamb sirloin with shishito peppers, chimichurri, shallots, and parsley, or the burger, which comes with a side of perfectly crispy fries.
Dark Horse Espresso Bar
215 Spadina Ave., Chinatown
Big communal tables laden with newspapers and magazines make Dark Horse Espresso an equally ideal match for the solo coffee drinker as it is for a group of friends catching up over espresso and baked treats. The pared-back industrial café is soaked in light and a great spot to work from for the day.
421 Spadina Ave., Chinatown
Mother's Dumplings is, as the name suggests, a family business serving up Chinese comfort food. The main body of the menu comprises hearty whole-wheat handmade dumplings stuffed with combinations like pork, ginger, and pickled cabbage, or winter melon and tofu. One of the most authentic Chinese restaurants in Toronto, the space is small and unpretentious, with only eight tables illuminated by festive Chinese lanterns. Order the dumplings of your choice boiled, steamed, or pan-fried or go for the equally excellent noodles, stews, and soups.