Whether you’re trying a new restaurant or chowing down at your go-to place, it’s hard to resist the appetizer menu. Small bites and finger foods are arguably the best part of dining out, and they seem so harmless — until you wind up full before your entrée ever makes its appearance.
If that sounds like the perfect dining experience, then Toronto’s restaurant scene may have a solution. There’s a crop of restaurants known just for appetizers and tapas, and they provide a whole new kind of dining adventure. Here are five appetizers I recommend at various Toronto restaurants:
The name of this place says it all. 416 Snack Bar serves up all kinds of snack foods and small plates that celebrate Toronto’s diversity. From the fan-favorite Korean fried chicken to steak tartare, there’s always something delicious to try. And just as Toronto is constantly changing, 416 Snack Bar likes to mix up the menu frequently, so get these apps before they’re gone. Individual snacks start at $4 Canadian dollars ($3), or party boards range from $28 to $30 Canadian dollars ($21 to $23).
If you’re looking for a taste of Spain, go no further than Carmen. The crispy fried artichokes come with aioli, lemon, and Maldon salt. The rest of the menu is made up of other Spanish-style tapas like bacon-wrapped dates, grilled shrimp served with garlic and serrano chili oil, and jicama served with avocado puree and pico de gallo. This place is all about expressing Spanish values in a cool, casual environment, making it perfect for social gatherings. Overall pricing ranges from CA$8 to CA$15 ($6 to $11) a dish.
Mamakas Taverna’s menu is all about traditional Greek cuisine, and it’s designed to share. The xifias, or cured swordfish, is served with sea asparagus, fennel, dill, radish, and lemon. You can also dine on spanakopita (a spinach- and feta-filled phyllo pie), as well as keftedes (fried pork meatballs that come with hummus and parsley sauce). For CA$6 to CA$16 ($4 to $12) per appetizer, you’ll get an authentic Greek food experience with a modern twist.
Straight off Nota Bene’s NB Bar menu, these sliders are packed with tasty kimchi, smoked bacon, and miso mayo. Cod fritters and fried chicken also have a home on the NB Bar menu. Nota Bene even has a special pre-theater menu whenever there’s a performance at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, which is right down the street. The NB Bar dishes range from CA$8 to CA$12 ($6 to $9) each, or you can splurge on the charcuterie board for CA$26 ($19).
Located in the financial district, REDS Wine Tavern has made a skill out of drawing in business men and women to chow down on its famous made-from-scratch small bites. The Bangkok nachos are a crowd favorite, served with crispy wontons, roasted chicken, sweet chili, cheese, and a lime crema. You’ll also be tempted by the truffle fries and ravioli with garlic shrimp. The small plates range from CA$9 to CA$20 ($7 to $15). You won’t even need to look at the entrées, but by all means, be our guest.
So go ahead and ignore your mom’s advice: Spoil your dinner. The appetizers at any of these five restaurants won’t leave you with any regrets.
Tony Tie is a numbers-obsessed marketer, life hacker, and public speaker who has helped various Fortune 500 companies grow their online presence. Located in Toronto, he is currently the senior search marketer at Expedia Canada, the leading travel booking platform for flights, hotels, car rentals, cruises, and local activities. Connect with Tony on Twitter @tonytie.