Canada offers up unique experiences that you won’t find in any guidebook — you just have to know where to find them. To help you explore like a local, we’ve asked friends from across the country to share their top spots and experiences from the cities they call home. Bundled by interest or passion, consider this your local’s guide to traveling through the country’s vibrant cities and boundless wilderness.

 

Thanks to Joann Pai, Tamara Elliott, Jason Fitz, Jeff Frenette, Callum Snape, Kael Rebick, Stoked for Saturday, and Ali Inay for their local tips.

Eating well is a national pastime all Canadians take pride in. And nothing beats eating out with your favorite people. Canada’s abundant cafe and restaurant culture is perfect for hanging with old friends or making new ones.

Cafe Sfouf - Montreal

Unparalleled French toast

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French toast is a sort of sacred dish in Montreal. It’s one of those only-in-Quebec things that make you part of the community. Few places do it better than Cafe Sfouf, one of the Centre Sud’s best spots. Locals say the labneh, zaatar, and mint toast is simply sublime. Stop by in the late afternoon for a sunset view from the island.

Half Moon Drive-in - Manitoba

A classic hangout 

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About 30 minutes outside of Winnipeg, this diner is a throwback in the best way possible. Treating locals and travelers alike since 1938, you know Half Moon Drive-in is doing something right. Take the drive along the Red River and end up at the best place in the prairies for diner classics like their Saturn Burger (with double cheese and bacon) and soft serve. Look for the neon moon and you’ll know you’re in the right place!

NUNU - Toronto

Ethiopian fusion in the unlikeliest of places

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Toronto’s diverse population yields some simply delightful international treats. Where else can you find a vegetarian-friendly Ethiopian fusion restaurant? (Nowhere else. That’s where.) NUNU’s cocktails, fresh ingredients, and singular cuisine lend to an unforgettable night out.

Anejo - Calgary

Mind-blowing modern Mexican cuisine

Good food and good friends are the mainstays of Calgary bar and restaurant Anejo. The multi-story watering hole serves some of Calgary’s most ingenious margaritas, including bold infusions like chili coconut and cucumber, cilantro, and mango. Start off the evening with an order of guacamole prepared fresh, right in front of you.

Have some food, then it's time for a drink. Check out one of these awesome pubs and breweries.

Heirloom Restaurant - Vancouver

A vegetarian revolution

Heirloom is a contemporary vegetarian and vegan restaurant that’s absolutely revolutionized the food scene in Vancouver. From the delicious cocktails to the quaint interior and ridiculously addictive plates — avocado frites, lettuce wraps, and crispy cauliflower, anyone? — Heirloom has set a precedent for food and atmosphere in Vancouver. Local tipsters say the pineapple coconut curry is not to be missed.

Greenwood Smokehouse - Toronto

Not your ordinary BBQ joint

Toronto might be a little far north of the American South, but the city boasts serious world-class barbecue. Case in point: Greenwood Smokehouse, Toronto’s most authentic BBQ joint. The pulled pork and brisket are best enjoyed alongside craft beers or Canada’s most whimsical drink, the Caesar. Fear not, veg heads, they have vegetarian options too!

Sushi Village - Whistler

Where sushi meets the slopes

After a day on the hill, sushi is always a good choice. Head to Sushi Village — a Whistler institution — for fresh nigiri washed down with a sake margarita. If you’re looking for a place with a vibe as tasty as its food, you’ll find it here. We recommend trying the melt-in-your-mouth sashimi, but really you can’t go wrong with anything at this spot. 

Kingyo - Vancouver

Legendary Japanese fusion

Kingyo’s near-mythical lunch bento box is our local insider’s very favorite thing to eat in Vancouver. That might seem like a bold claim, but 12 dishes and a mix of fish, chicken, and vegetables is like a greatest hits album for your stomach. They only make 10 a day so be sure to show up early or reserve yours ahead of time.

El Catrin - Toronto

Award-winning tacos

El Catrin is a colorful Mexican eatery where the beautiful interior is only eclipsed by the nationally famous tacos. An outdoor fire pit adds to the vibe in the Distillery District, one of Toronto’s most photogenic neighborhoods.

Take your appetite to the streets at one of these delish food trucks and markets across the country.

Drake Devonshire - Prince Edward County

If the stunning dining room doesn’t convince you to stop and stay awhile, we’re sure the menu will. The simple luxury of the food at the Drake Devonshire comes from the fact that everything is seasonal. And the fact that it’s paired with the best wines from the region helps too. Sit at the bar with friends (try the Drake G+T) and enjoy the food (the Drake frites with pecorino and truffle butter are delish) with a side of lakeside views.

Satay Brothers - Montreal

Sizzling Singaporean spices

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A hidden destination tucked within the Atwater Market, Satay Brothers attracts a long line of customers every time it opens its temporary stand of Singaporean meals. Trust us, the stand’s aroma of spices and boiling laksa are sure to help you find this gem. If you visit in winter, Satay Brothers’ year-round brick-and-mortar restaurant down the street is always serving up the best of Singaporean cuisine. Fans say the pork buns and papaya salad will never let you down.

Banu - Toronto

Where community, kebabs, and vodka cohabitate

Banu is a rare Persian restaurant where the flavors do all the talking. The kebab and vodka bar is a simple concept with exotic dishes and distinctly Persian decor. The pomegranate wine and sour cherry juice is a unique treat.

Darrell’s Restaurant - Halifax

Diner atmosphere, savory burgers

If you’re looking for genuine food and local color, Darrell’s Restaurant in Halifax is famous for its unique and sloppily delectable burgers. The famous Peanut Butter Burger is divine (really), but locals also recommend pairing their chocolate peanut butter milkshake with the Cajun chicken burger.

Tacofino - Vancouver

From food truck to local institution

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Tacofino started as a simple food truck back in the day and now operates three exceptional brick-and-mortar storefronts (don’t worry, they still have the food truck too!) in Vancouver – with other locations in BC. They kind of, you know, just collectively blew the lid off the local taco game. Tacofino’s fish tacos made them famous, but the vegetarian cauliflower taco is an inventive challenge to how far you can go with Mexican cuisine.

Le Butterblume - Montreal

Vive la brunch

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Le Butterblume may look like an Instagrammed dream, but the coffee and brunch spot is very real and very good. Besides the kitchen’s repertoire, you can peruse handcrafted goods and locally-grown flowers after your meal.

 

If there’s one trend in Canada’s ever-evolving food scene, it’s the sheer originality and diversity of restaurants and bars. The country’s international flair and inventive takes on dining make for countless options and many a memorable night with friends.

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