Gluten-Free Toronto Travel Guide

Dubbed “The 6ix” because it formed when six cities merged to become the fourth largest metropolis in North America, Toronto is a patchwork of distinct neighborhoods and vibrant street life. It’s also one of the most culturally and culinarily diverse cities in the world. Native and Gluten Free Garage pop-up market founder RonniLyn Pustil leads the way to gluten-free Toronto restaurants and much, much more.

Photography Julia Vandenoever

DO THIS
Kensington Market

Toronto’s most eclectic downtown ‘hood is a bohemian mix of vintage boutiques (check out Courage My Love), indie shops, record stores, graffiti, and watering holes. The specialty grocers, restaurants, cheese and meat shops, cafés, and bakeries lining the streets make it a food lovers’ favorite. GF options abound: Try Bunner’s Bakeshop (page 92), Hibiscus (page 90), Seven Lives (sevenlives.restaurantsnapshot. com), and The Dirty Bird Chicken + Waffles (page 90). On the last Sunday of the month from May through October, when the area is car-free, the market turns into one big street party. kensington-market.ca

Distillery District
Loaded with cafés, performance venues, galleries, and design and artisan shops, this pedestrian-only cobblestone-laned district—and the former site of one of the world’s oldest distilleries—hosts 80-plus cultural and retail spots and restaurants worth exploring (Mexican cantina El Catrin, elcatrin.ca, is GFfriendly). From mid-November until Christmas, the epic Toronto Christmas Market (torontochristmasmarket.com) decks the district and takes over the streets. thedistillerydistrict.com

Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO)
AGO houses 90,000-plus works from Canada and around the world, spanning the first century to the present day. But the real reason to visit is Torontoborn Frank Gehry’s architectural transformation. Don’t miss the Galleria Italia, a lustrous display of wood and glass that runs the length of an entire city block, and the often-Instagrammed, Douglas fir–clad spiral staircase. ago.ca

Evergreen Brick Works

An abandoned brick factory turned community environmental hub, the Evergreen Brick Works in Toronto’s Don River Valley Park has a year-round weekend farmers’ market with lots of local GF vendors, nature trails for hiking and biking, an ice rink for skating under the stars, a children’s garden, an eco store, and so much more. The top of the Lookout Trail has a rad Toronto skyline view.
evergreen.ca/evergreen-brick-works

Toronto Islands
This three-mile chain of small islands in Lake Ontario south of mainland T.O. is a short ferry ride from the terminal at Queens Quay to Centre Island, Ward’s Island, or Hanlan’s Point. The islands, interconnected by bridges and pathways, are car-free, so you can walk from one end to the other or canoe, kayak, or bike (rentals available); visit swimming beaches (including clothingoptional Hanlan’s Point); or enjoy the quaint Centreville amusement park. torontoisland.com

Queen Street West
Dubbed the second-hippest district in the world by Vogue magazine in 2014, the strip of Queen between Bathurst and Dufferin streets is indeed “a verifiable artery of indie patisseries, homegrown labels and hidden-fromview galleries.” It’s also home to the picturesque and picnic-popular Trinity Bellwoods Park, one of T.O.’s largest downtown green spaces. Spots to hit up: Type Books, Meg, Gravitypope, Kol Kid, Crown Flora Studio, Greenhouse Juice Co. (greenhousejuice.com), and The Paper Place. Don’t miss the street art of Graffiti Alley (a.k.a. Rush Lane) just south of Queen and a bit further west (between Portland and Spadina). westqueenwest.ca

The Beaches
People don’t necessarily think “beach” when they think of Toronto, but The Beaches is a top summer destination. This laid-back ‘hood with a small-town vibe is known for its lakefront beaches, three-mile boardwalk, volleyball courts, and vibrant Queen East strip, which is lined with fun shops, intimate bistros, and funky cafés and bars, including GF-friendly Tori’s Bakeshop (page 89) and Brett’s Ice Cream (brettsicecream.com), which has gluten-free waffle cones. Most of the beaches have the internationally recognized Blue Flag seal of approval for safe swimming, or you can take a dip in the Olympic pool at Woodbine Beach. The Beaches International Jazz Festival (beachesjazz.com) takes place every July.

CN Tower
Toronto’s most iconic landmark held the record for the world’s tallest tower (at 1,815 feet) for more than three decades. For crazy panoramic views of The 6ix, head to the lookout (at 1,136 feet). Descend one level, and you can stare straight down 1,122 feet from the glass floor. For adrenaline junkies, there’s the Edge-Walk—a full-circle, hands-free walk along the outdoor ledge that circles the tower’s main pod at 116 stories above ground. cntower.ca

Choir! Choir! Choir!
You don’t need to belt it out like Whitney to be a part of the coolest club in town. This twice-weekly drop-in choir at Clinton’s Tavern on Bloor Street is one of the most uplifting things to do in T.O. Five bucks buys a lyrics sheet. Then you learn the vocal arrangement and sing with hundreds of other people. Each session is recorded and posted on Facebook. choirchoirchoir.com

Gluten Free Garage
Featuring 65-plus vendors (mostly food, mostly local), guest speakers, food trucks, swag bags, and a booze garden, Toronto’s annual pop-up GF market takes place every May. Did we mention everything there is safe for people with celiac disease? glutenfreegarage.ca

Ste. Anne’s Spa
This rustic rural retreat is worth the 90-minute drive to Grafton, Ontario. Set in an 1858 stone farmhouse surrounded by 400 acres of countryside, this all-inclusive getaway with old-world charm has all the modern-day amenities: spa treatments, gym, sauna, eucalyptus steam, wellness classes, an outdoor pool, walking trails, stables, and a grotto with hot tub, plunge pool, and lap pool. Many ingredients for the upscale country cuisine are grown on-site (bring your own wine) and are gluten free. GF-certified Ste. Anne’s Bakery offers delicious sweet and savory options. steannes.com

SLEEP HERE
The Drake Hotel
This artsy three-story boutique hotel/ cultural hub on Queen Street West (page 84) has 19 stylish, individually decorated guest rooms, a cozy restaurant lounge, a hotspot café, the bumpin’ all-season Sky Yard rooftop patio with award-winning cocktails, and the Underground nightclub and live music venue. Across the street, the Drake General Store houses the ultimate curated collection of kitschy Canadiana. thedrakehotel.ca

Hotel Ocho
Steps away from Kensington Market (page 84) and Queen West, this former 1902 textile factory in Chinatown has an unassuming exterior, but the heritage building’s lobby and lounge/ café are industrial-chic. The 12 suites are modern-minimalist with large windows, local art, luxurious bathrooms, and interestingly, beds in the middle of the rooms. Note: Hair dryers are not included. hotelocho.com

The Broadview Hotel

This 126-year-old Romanesque Revival– style Riverside District building was once a notorious strip club. Today, it has 58 swank guest rooms with mid-century modern–inspired decor (plus turntables and vinyl albums), a café and bar, and two restaurants. One of the latter includes a rooftop bar with 360-degree views of the city. thebroadviewhotel.ca

The Gladstone Hotel
Across from The Drake (above), this affordable, remodeled Victorian boutique hotel offers 37 unique, artist-designed abodes and revolving exhibitions in its three gallery spaces. Perks include a restaurant and a bar that regularly features live music. gladstonehotel.com

Bisha Hotel
Sleek and new, this 44-story Entertainment District luxury hotel welcomes guests with its crushed velvet walls and mosaic marble floors. The seventh-floor suites were designed by rocker Lenny Kravitz, and the roof is home to a bright and airy Bajainspired restaurant, a sundeck, and an infinity pool with panoramic city views. bishahoteltoronto.com

Four Seasons Hotel Toronto
You can’t miss this 55-story glass tower in the heart of Yorkville, Toronto’s tony shopping district. Steps from Canada’s largest luxury retailer, Holt Renfrew, and the upscale stretch of Bloor Street known as “Mink Mile,” it features contemporary-chic rooms, a 30,000-square-foot spa and lap pool, and two restaurants by Michelin-starred chef Daniel Boulud. fourseasons.com/toronto/

DRINK IT IN
Bar Isabel

Red ambient lighting, mosaic floors, wooden arches, and a long cherrywood bar give Little Italy’s Spanish-influenced bar and restaurant a cozy, Old World–tavern feel. The long list of house and classic cocktails (plus cider, wine, and absinthe) can be paired with a creative, mostly gluten-free Mediterranean tapas menu. Don’t miss its Gaudí-inspired sister spot, Bar Raval, a few blocks away. barisabel.com

Reposado Bar & Lounge

Toronto’s go-to tequila bar on the hip Ossington strip is the perfect place to get all warm and fuzzy. Expect dim lighting, exposed-brick walls, Toronto’s largest selection of top-shelf tequila and mezcal, live tunes Wednesday through Friday night, and prime back-patio seating during summer. reposadobar.com

Her Father’s Cider Bar + Kitchen

In Harbord Village, the city’s first craft-cider bar has 100-plus selections from Ontario and around the world, rustic-chic ambiance, and a cider-packed fridge that spans an entire wall. Toss your pick back with brunch, lunch, or dinner, ideally on the 40-seat patio during summer. herfathers.ca

Archive Wine Bar & Small Plates
This cozy, casual wine bar on Dundas West offers an affordable, substantial wine list with a focus on Ontario offerings and small bites without pretension. A chalkboard menu features by-the-glass options in three- and five-ounce servings. archive909.com

The Piston
With a homey bar up front and a dance hall in the back, this cool Bloorcourt hangout is the dance spot on Friday nights thanks to “Beam Me Up,” a disco jam that “celebrates the underrated and the obscure of funk, jazz, soul, boogie, rare groove, reggae, gospel, and proto-house.” Live music and DJs keep the house jumping the rest of the week. thepiston.ca

EAT HERE
Riz on Yonge

Didn’t think you’d ever eat dim sum? Think again! This upscale pan-Asian restaurant in midtown boasts extensive, certified-GF, all-you-can-eat or à la carte menus of traditional Asian food. What’s more, your GF noodles, tempura, spring rolls, and dumplings are served on plates labeled “gluten free.” Must-tries: shrimp or veggie tempura; dim sum; Szechuan crispy beef; drunken garlic shrimp; sweet-and-sour chicken; deep-fried banana spring roll. rizonyonge.com

Pizzeria Libretto


You’d never guess that this beloved pizzeria’s gluten-free version of its traditional Neapolitan pizza is indeed GF—and celiac-friendly. At the chain’s bustling King West location in a 100-year-old brick-and-beam building, the GF pizza dough is made in-house and baked to charred and blistered perfection in a dedicated gluten-free, wood-fired oven. Must-tries: pizza (most of the toppings are GF); beet caprese salad; warm marinated olives. pizzerialibretto.com

Tabule

A modern take on Middle Eastern cuisine means vegans, meat eaters, and gluten-free diners are well accommodated at this richly textured Riverside restaurant with three sister restaurants around town. Expect warm GF and vegan laffa flatbread and grilled items. Must-tries: falafel entrée; laffa; tabülé (made with quinoa); müjadarra (rice and lentil appetizer); hallüm salad (arugula, onion, and seared hallüm cheese with pomegranate dressing); fried eggplant. tabulequeen.com

Tori’s Bakeshop
Both The Beach and Canary District East End locations feature all-natural, organic, vegan, and refined-sugarfree sweet and savory baked goods.
Must-tries: vanilla donut with pink icing and sprinkles; oatmeal–chocolate chip cookie; campfire corn loaf. torisbakeshop.ca

Hibiscus


This cute family-run vegetarian, GF café in Kensington Market (page 84) is best known for its array of sweet and savory crepes, all made with homemade vegan buckwheat batter. The lone salad on the menu is the real winner here: Made with 42 ingredients, it radiates goodness and health and tastes even better. Must-tries: salad; brie-cheese pear crepe; apple cinnamon crepe; chocolate-hazelnut-spread banana crepe; dairy-free ice cream with a GF cone. hibiscuscafe.ca

Impact Kitchen
Hearty, ultraclean eats star at this bright and massive 100% gluten-free Corktown café and commissary. With a juice bar, espresso bar with GF baked goods, and an all-day menu featuring seasonal, minimally processed, nutrient-rich food, there’s something for everyone, including paleo and vegan diners. There’s a new second location downtown.
Must-tries: paleo waffles; kale Caesar; harvest bowl; detox bowl. impactkitchen.ca

El Pocho
The menu is limited, but everything at this cozy Mexi-Cali antojitos bar in the Annex is gluten free, including the battered and fried tacos de pescado and churros with dulce de leche. Mexican-inspired brunch classics are served on weekends, and if you’re lucky you’ll get a seat on the patio. Must-tries: pocho fries; tacos de pescado; churros. elpocho.ca

The Dirty Bird Chicken + Waffles

gluten free chicken and waffles in Toronto

Canada’s GF answer to KFC, this ultracasual eatery with locales in Kensington Market (page 84) and the Annex dredges chicken in its GF-signature-flour blend, then fries and sprinkles it with “maple dust,” making it distinctively “northern fried.” All five signature chicken dishes are gluten free (as are the fries), and the fluffy GF waffles (an extra $2) are made in a dedicated waffle maker, so celiacs are good to go. Must-tries: the ODB (Original Dirty Bird); the Great White North; buttermilk waffle. thedirtybird.ca

Bangkok Garden
This award-winning restaurant in downtown Toronto transports you to Thailand with a warm teak interior, hanging lanterns, Buddhas, and statues. Its gluten-free menu features a variety of dishes, from mild to fiery, with vegetarian and vegan options. Even the majority of the lunch buffet is gluten free. Must-tries: mango salad; pad Thai; toasted-cashew chicken; emerald curry; sriracha chocolate mousse. bangkokgarden.ca

Off the Hook
There’s no other way to put it: This fish-fry joint is off the hook. Not only does this Riverdale restaurant offer a gluten-free batter, it also has a dedicated fryer for the deep-fried GF fish and chips to avoid cross contamination. Fish also comes grilled, if you like, with homemade coleslaw and tartar sauce and can be washed down with gluten-free beer or cider. Must-tries: fish and chips; fish tacos; onion rings; poutine. offthehookfishandchips.com

Kupfert & Kim
This entirely GF, health-minded, quick-service eatery has various takeout and eat-in locations around town. Self-proclaimed as “wheatless and meatless,” it offers delicious salads and bowls in a bright, modern setting.
Must-tries: Oaxaca bowl; First Canadian Place bowl; Miyeokguk soup bowl; K&K waffles; kombucha on tap. kupfertandkim.com

Barque Smokehouse

Barque gluten free Toronto barbecue
barque gluten free restaurant brisket

Low ’n’ slow is the motto at this lively, casual smokehouse in Toronto’s west-end Roncesvalles ‘hood. Expect an assortment of classic southern “refined BBQ” (flavorful chicken, ribs, and brisket), a fun family-style atmosphere, and adherence to scratch cooking. Bonus for celiac carnivores: All the sauces, rubs, and dips are gluten free, and crispy, seasoned fries are cooked in a dedicated GF fryer. Must-tries: Barque Caesar (hold the croutons); baby back ribs; beef brisket. barque.ca/smokehouse

The Basil Box
This casual Southeast Asian place dishes up super-tasty, authentic, healthy street food, including boxed meals featuring a choice of one protein, grain or lettuce, two veggies, a sauce, and toppings. Everything at all locations is gluten free. Must-tries: coconut curry tofu; lemongrass chicken with classic peanut sauce. thebasilbox.com

Playa Cabana
Tucked away on a quiet residential stretch of Dupont Street, this tiny taqueria and tequila bar is anything but quiet. The first of the area’s Playa family of Mexican restaurants, it features delicious, authentic guacamole, enchiladas, tacos on homemade corn tortillas, and margaritas, of course.
Must-tries: guaca fresca with tortilla chips; elotes a la parilla (grilled corn on the cob rubbed with chili, lime, and queso fresco); ancho-braised short rib– brisket crispy tacos; chicken enchiladas. playacabana.ca/playa/

Kanpai Snack Bar
Taiwanese street food meets old-school hip hop in this cool Cabbagetown snack bar and cocktail lounge. Inspired by the night markets of Taipei, the sweet-salty-sour-spicy adventure includes handcrafted cocktails and sake backed by GF-friendly dishes. Must-tries: “TFC” (Taiwanese fried chicken). kanpaisnackbar.com

Live Organic Food Bar
Actor Woody Harrelson calls the cutting-edge offerings at Toronto’s original purveyor of raw, organic, plant-based cuisine “delicious, nutritious, enzymatic, love-filled food.” The restaurant is also gluten free and refined-sugar free and now features some cooked items. The laid-back dining room in its Annex location is welcoming, and in warmer weather the patio is a calm oasis. Must-tries: avo toast; kale crunch Caesar; kimchi pancakes; pulled burdock burrito; raw combo plate. liveorganicfood.ca

Toronto’s Top Gluten-Free Bakeries
All of the following establishments are 100% GF.

Almond Butterfly Gluten Free Cafe & Bakeshop


Get your fill of cupcakes, scones, cinnamon buns, cookies, and brownies—with dairy-free, vegan, and paleo-friendly options—at this Harbord Village café. Bonus: Its toasted breakfast sandwiches and grilled lunch melts are served on the city’s best GF bagels. Must-tries: cream cheese veggie sandwich; the “GFT” (turkey pesto cheddar melt); chocolate-chunk cookie; any of the cupcakes. almondbutterfly.com

Bunner’s Bakeshop
This 100% GF and vegan bakery puts a playful, yummy twist on traditional baked goods, such as the Josephine Louise, Fauxstess cupcakes, and Pophearts. Sweet and savory options abound at its grab-and-go locations in The Junction and Kensington Market (page 84). Must-tries: supersonic cookie; cinnamon bun; butter tart; softserve ice cream cone (summer only). bunners.ca

Cock-A-Doodle-Doo Gluten-Free Bakeshop


This Bloor West bakery’s gorgeous GF pastries are also free from refined sugar, dairy, corn, and soy. Must-tries: sourdough bread (vegan and yeast free); fougasse (flatbread with herbs, olive oil, and pink salt); any mini pie or mini pizza; tahini cookies. http://cockadoodledoo.ca 

de Floured
Take a walk on the savory side at this hidden gem in the College West neighborhood. It makes exquisite quiches, galettes, and savory and sweet pies (including pot pies and hand pies) crafted from mostly organic, local, and seasonal ingredients. Must-tries: quiches; galettes; eclairs. No website

Sweet Hart Kitchen
This Kensington Market (page 84) spot serves plant-based, GF, and refinedsugar-free raw and baked sweet and savory goodies. Must-tries: “Snickers” bite; seasonal fruit crumbles; savory galettes. sweethartkitchen.com

The Butternut Baking Co.
All-natural, grainless, and paleoinspired, this bakery in The Junction features low-carb baked goods that are also dairy free and sweetened with honey or maple syrup. Must-tries: mini carnival donuts; paleo “Twix” bars; lemon tart; savory tarts. thebutternut.ca

Sorelle and Co.
The menus at Sorelle’s elegant cafés (in Yorkville and Vaughn) and Saks Food Hall stand downtown are vegan and free from gluten, soy, dairy, nuts, and preservatives. Expect beautiful baked goods, artisan breads, panini, sandwiches, salads, and high tea on weekends. Must-tries: Nanaimo bar; challah; scones; donuts. sorelleandco.com


Toronto’s Memorable GF Markets

Goodbye Gluten
This 100% gluten-free boutique in midtown caters to all types of dietary needs and food allergies and is packed with pantry items, baked goods, and a huge range of house-made, fresh-frozen meals and prepared foods (best GF chicken fingers!). Choose from hundreds of GF products sourced from around the globe, including many specialty items not available anywhere else in Canada. goodbyegluten.com

Sunshine Wholesome Market
This small College Street community shop and juice bar offers a variety of organic and gluten-free products. But the real treat here is the gourmet fresh-sandwich bar, with 100% GF sandwiches and wraps. The roast chicken sandwich, avocado sub, and breakfast burrito are delicious grab-and-go options. sunshinewholesomemarket.ca

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