Vancouver’s recent restaurant exports to Toronto

For me, the world revolves around Toronto… and Vancouver. Hey, if I don’t pay attention to stuff going on in Toronto, it’s my disadvantage. How many things go to Toronto first?

At the rate that American companies are expanding into Canada, it’s exciting to see Canadian businesses succeeding and crossing the great prairie divide. Recently, I was listing to NPY Vancouver restaurants that I know of that have started up shop in Toronto. Not that he needs any kind of addition affirmations about his hometown. I just have to keep reminding him that the world doesn’t end at the Alberta-Saskatchewan border.

I did a bit of digging but this is by far not a complete list.

Long ago, Vancouver exported The Keg, the steakhouse chain. Not bad.

More recently, upscale casual dining chains Earls (which isn’t really that recent and its head office is in Vancouver while it was founded in Edmonton), Joey and Cactus Club Cafe have joined the fray. In the articles listed at the end of this post, I found that they are all actually related to each other.

But of course the interesting exports are the Asian restaurants.

  • Guu, the original izakaya concept in Vancouver, has expanded the most in Toronto with Guu Izakaya, Guu Sakabar and 4 locations of Kinton Ramen – I’ve visited the Izakaya and Kinton’s first location.
  • Kingyo, another izakaya with two locations in Vancouver (we go to Suika partly because it’s not downtown), opened under their main name
  • Hapa Izakaya, our favourite izakaya in town, was the latest to go over – since I’ve been to all Vancouver locations except for one, I made a point of hitting up the Toronto one. The Toronto website is frank about disclosing they had some problems in the beginning (when I went to dine there), closed and reopened severl months later!
  • Deer Garden Signatures, our favourite DYO noodle soup spot with three locations in Vancouver has two locations in Toronto, Richmond Hill and Scarborough
  • Zakkushi – we dined at a restaurant next to Zakkushi often but never tried this one. They have two Zakkushi concepts on Carleton and Ramen Raijin – I’ve tried Ramen Raijin.
  • Miku Restaurant, serving fine Japanese sushi and specializing in seared aburi creations, I’m most excited about. They have three restaurants in Vancouver and I hope they do well in Toronto.

And while coffee isn’t Asian, I was pleased as punch to learn recently Milano Espresso Bar is opening in Toronto. It’s kind of my neighbourhood roastery while not being exactly only a stone’s throw away. And that reminds me that earlier this year, I think, I heard that Caffe Artigiano just opened in Toronto. Mmm, Spanish latte… On the coffee note, what I would like to see from Toronto is Dark Horse Espresso Bar and Rooster Coffee House.

One of Vancouver’s cutest exports (to LA, not Toronto) is Japadog. Some fusion hot dog vendors exist in Toronto but I know the price point is lower so I’m not sure how Japadog would fare. Somehow, Vancouverites got conditioned to thinking a $6 hot dog was average!

My main source of news is Vancouver-based Scout Magazine that informs me of exports, particularly of restaurants in their network. I’d love to know what cool restaurants Vancouver has imported from Toronto that it can’t take credit for. I’m sure it’s not a one-way street!

Interesting reading about the export of Cactus Club/Earls/Joey

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