Winterlicious is coming! Which means throwing your dietary New Year’s resolutions out the window from January 25 to February 7 so that you can enjoy prix fixe meals throughout the city at participating restaurants.
Before we get to the guide, a few things to consider:
1. Tip well. Reduced bills are the reason you’re there, but for the servers that means a big cut to their weekly earnings. Just like tipping on the regular price when you get a discounted service, treat the people who serve you well!
2. In the kitchen, repetition is key. During Winterlicious, some restaurants will create new dishes to meet the lower price demands. The kitchen staff have not perfected these dishes through repetition like they have with their regular menu items. As a result, the quality of your dish MAY not be totally representative of what the kitchen is normally capable of. Go back to whichever restaurant wows you or intrigues you most for your next special occasion. Don’t consider Winterlicious a true experience of the restaurant or chef, but use it as a fun way to figure out which are most worthy of paying full price.
SOUTHERN ACCENT – 595 Markham St.
I don’t go out for creole food nearly enough, and I think this will be the perfect excuse. Southern Accent is soulful and comforting, and is situated on what is probably the most quaint little street in the whole city. If you have the opportunity to meet the owner, Frances Wood, you’ll immediately be affected by her incredible charm and want to hug her and claim her as your grandmother, I guarantee it. Plus, you and your date can cuddle up in a curtained booth, called a “snug,” for the most private dining experience out there.
Their $25 dinner-only Winterlicious menu includes fried oysters, jambalaya, and a sweet potato praline brownie.
Regular price of 3-course dinner: Approx. $33.
HABITS GASTROPUB – 928 College St.
I used to work at Habits (I’m even the voice of their View The Vibe video), so I know better than most how absolutely slam-dunk tasty their food it. For their $25 prix fixe dinner menu, I’m eyeing the rabbit terrine, pork tenderloin with dried apricot jus and sweet potato mash, and the tahitian vanilla crème brûlée. Check their website for their musical acts, and maybe you’ll even get a free concert with your meal.
Regular price of 3-course dinner: Approx. $35
SPLENDIDO – 88 Harbord St.
This is a restaurant I hear about a lot because my boss, Chef Aaron Bear Robe, worked there before he opened his solo venture, Keriwa Café. Since his time at Spendido must have had at least a little to do with his skill at making beautiful and creative dishes taste absolutely divine, I’ve got to get over there right away. Their refined $45 dinner prix fixe includes porchetta carpaccio, confit Peking duck leg, and a lime, chili and chocolate pound cake. I’m starving just thinking about it.
Regular price of a 3-course dinner: Approx. $68
THE HIGH-ROLLER RE$TAURANT$
Why not sample some dishes that are usually out of your budget range?
RUTH’S CHRIS STEAK HOUSE – 145 Richmond St. W
The $45 dinner prix fixe will make you feel like a member of high society, with the chance to try their filet and a side dish (I remember the mashed potatoes were wonderfully indulgent when I went there for my birthday last year), with a salad or butternut squash bisque and cake for dessert (cheesecake, key lime pie, or “chocolate sin”).
Regular price of a 3-course dinner: Approx. $75
SASSAFRAZ – 100 Cumberland St.
This Yorkville institution, famous for both it’s French-inspired Canadian cuisine and being a prime celebrity spotting location, will offer a lunch and dinner prix fixe ($25 and $45, respectively). Feel utterly luxurious while devouring salmon tartare with pomegranate mousse (lunch), red wine-braised octopus (dinner), braised PEI beef short ribs with horseradish pomme purée (lunch), black garlic-glazed halibut (dinner), and Sassafraz’s exclusive cheese, Gotham City (both services).
Regular price of a 3-course dinner: Approx. $60
FABBRICA – 49 Karl Fraser Rd.
Mark McEwan has essentially been elected as Toronto’s token celebrity chef, and Winterlicious is the perfect time to go find out why. Offering both lunch and dinner prix fixes ($20 vs. $35), the Italian menus feature lamb bolognese bruschetta, pancetta-wrapped striped bass and tiramisu. Earn extra credit in Mark McEwan studies by hitting up Bymark and North 44, his other participating restaurants.
Regular price of a 3-course dinner: Approx. $53
CRUSH WINE BAR – 455 King St. W
Speaking of Mark McEwan, who moonlights as a Top Chef Canada judge, you might also want to check out Top Chef Canada finalist, Trista Sheen. Executive chef at Crush, Trista was the final woman in the competition last year. With a $20 lunch and $35 dinner prix fixe, Trista’s house-made pork terrine, braised beef cheeks and sticky toffee pudding will prove to you why she was such a great competitor.
Regular price of a 3-course dinner: Approx. $54
LEE – 601 King St. W
I have such love and affection for Lee, as I went there for the first time on my first date with my boyfriend. Regardless of the romantic circumstances, if the food hadn’t knocked me off my feet with creative, original and delicious flavours, it wouldn’t have had the same impact. The $45 dinner prix fixe gives you the chance to try Susur Lee’s curried crab and butternut squash soup, Jerk-style pork ribs and the spectacular chocolate peanut butter bar. Do yourself a favour and add Susur’s famous Sinaporean-style slaw to your order. It’ll change your life (and maybe make you fall in love, too).
Regular cost of a 3-course dinner: Approx. $67
Refuse to be a Regular Winterlicious Joe, and sample something off the beaten restaurant path.
GEORGE BROWN CHEF’S HOUSE
Be ahead of the curve and discover some talented budding chefs before they’ve even graduated. The students at George Brown will be serving pâté de campagne on brioche, baked maple-glazed trout and espresso & cardamom ice cream with warm chocolate beignets during their $15 lunch prix fixe. For dinner: baked three-mushroom strudel, butternut squash & ricotta agnolotti and vanilla yoghurt panna ccotta ($25).
Regular cost of a 3-course dinner: Approx. $85 (for inclusive special event meals)
GRANITE BREWERY – 245 Eglington Ave. E
Indulge your taste buds in the same place where craft-beer is being brewed. At Toronto’s oldest brew pub you’ll find $15 lunch and $25 dinner prix fixes, but only at the dinner service can you order their entrées created with beer: a stout-braised veal osso bucco, IPA-infused chicken tikka masala or the “Hopping Mad” beef goulash.
Regular cost of a 3-course dinner: Approx. $36
CLICK HERE for the full list of participating restaurants and their full Wintericious menus, with links to their individual websites, Facebook and Twitter accounts where applicable, and a map to get you there. Remember to check individual restaurants’ hours of operation and note which do only dinner prix fixe menus. And, hey, live a little – use the money you’re saving on food to order a cocktail or a nice bottle of wine.
Enjoy a delicious Winterlicious!