Compounding the matter is that the majority of Toronto's Michelin-star restaurants only offer tasting menus — comprehensive, multi-course meals, which leaves chefs largely unable to accommodate alterations or dietary requests. For example, the priciest of the bunch, Yorkville's two-star Sushi Masaki Saito, will run you back $680 per person — before tax and tip and not including drinks. (At the moment, you can literally book a one-way flight to Tokyo from Toronto this fall for less.)
Of course, the Michelin Guide also honoured 17 Toronto restaurants with the Bib Gourmand, a relatively new distinction recognizing exceptional value. However, the Bib Gourmand is decidedly not a Michelin star.
With that in mind, let's take a look at the four most accessible, in terms of price, Michelin-starred restaurants in Toronto. Just remember that the menus at many of these restaurants change with the seasons, so pricing and availability can be subject to changes. And, of course, you also have to account for taxes and gratuities on top of your bill.
Where: 57A-162 Cumberland Street (Yorkville)
What: Don't be deceived by the cocktail lounge vibes — though, yes, of course, you can get wonderful cocktails at the somewhat more laidback sister restaurant to Queen and Spadina's Alo (which also earned a Michelin star).
Alobar Yorkville's compact but varied seasonal menu offers exemplary takes on meats, seafood (including a variety of raw treats) and pasta — giving you a taste of chef and owner Patrick Kriss' French mastery at a lower price point than Alo's tasting menu ($225 per person plus $135 for wine pairings).
Drinks: While mulling over what raw seafood to slurp up, sip on a number of cocktails priced in the $15-20 range. There's not necessarily a theme spirit-wise — so there'll be something for everyone's taste. Their Pop Gun ($15), with its Bulleit Bourbon, maïs bleu, citrus, egg white and "mezcal blessing" is good value for a drink you likely have neither the ingredients, tools, nor experience to make at home.
Appetizers: There is a selection of salads, including a traditional Caesar ($18), beets with candied pecans and blood orange ($20) and a bacon and blue cheese wedge ($26). Seafood lovers will find east coast oysters ($26), salmon crudo with charred poblano ($26) and hamachi ceviche — yellowtail with crème fraîche, pear and cucumber ($34).
Entrées: Alobar's pasta dishes are priced in the $40-50 range; they're currently serving up ricotta mezzelune with smoked gouda ($42), a cavatelli with pancetta and oyster mushrooms ($42), and confit duck pappardelle ($44).
Desserts: If you're still feeling peckish, Alobar has a cheesecake with cherry compote and a chocolate tart with ice cream (both $18). There's also the puff pastry confection called mille-feuille ($20), alternatively sometimes known as a Napoleon.
Overall: If your chief concern is the "get-in" price, you won't have too much difficulty crafting a well-rounded meal for about $100 per person. Starting with a cocktail, then pairing a salad with a pasta is the most economical choice. But none of the menu items, save for the ribeye and sole, are a major stretch — especially given the quality of the experience.
Don Alfonso 1890 Toronto
Where: 1 Harbour Square, 38th floor (Harbourfront)
What: An extension of a worldwide brand and operated by the Liberty Entertainment Group (BlueBlood Steakhouse, Cibo Wine Bar), Don Alfonso 1890's white table-clothed dining room can be found high atop the Westin Harbour Castle Hotel. Come for the Michelin-starred Italian food, stay for the view.
The caveat here is that Don Alfonso 1890's main dining hall only serves its comprehensive signature tasting menu ($220 per person) and the more customizable three-course prix fixe ($140 per person). For true à la carte ordering, you'll have to specifically book seating in the lounge area, where the nosh is admittedly more of the small plate variety.
Drinks: The sprawling wine list boasts a variety of reds, whites, rosés and sparkling wines from $15-20. You could also opt for a fortified wine like a Spanish amontillado ($8 for 2 oz), perfect for daydreaming about entombing enemies inside your wine cellar.
Appetizers: Frankly, everything on the lounge menu trends toward appetizer territory. If you're trying to stick to under $100 per person, you're likely going to be peckish on the way home. Still, the pared-back lounge menu offers the most affordable entry point to the full experience, and you'll be able to get a sense of what the tasting experiences offer.
Presently, all of the savoury bites on the lounge menu are priced between $24-34. There are lamb meatballs in a tomato ragout, ($24), caprese salad ($28), mini bison burgers with blue cheese ($30) and tuna tartare ($30), as well as a selection of Italian charcuterie options ($26-30).
Desserts: All three of the desserts on the lounge menu are currently priced at $18. There's the 24-karat gold leaf-topped Il Trionfo alla Nocciola, which is a mouse and sponge cake confection that's bound to end up on your IG story. The cherry-glazed and cream-filled La Sfogliatella Napoletana pastry will reward those who attempt to pronounce "Sfogliatella." There's also a citrus-forward pistachio ravioli with sheep ricotta that will make you wonder why you've never attempted to make dessert pasta after wandering home from the bar at 3 a.m.
Overall: You may start to wonder why you didn't just opt for the $140 per person option in the main dining room. Again, it's probably better to think of Don Alfonso 1890's lounge as more of a cool spot to have some sips and a few small bites rather than a stomach-filling meal.
Where: 419 College Street (College West)
What: The College West area is home to many of Toronto's best Mexican restaurants. With respect to Kensington Market's fantastic street-style taco stands, there isn't an experience quite like Quetzal — where Central American delicacies like maize-dough tortillas are prepared over a 26-foot wood-burning grill.
If your Taco Bell-poisoned brain finds the thought of authentic Mexican food intimidating, you'll find safe harbour with dishes like the Empanada Oaxaqueña ($29), a lamb-stuffed half-moon of blue-corn masa. Then again, you could always look to Quetzal's extensive tequila menu for some liquid courage before expanding your palate.
Drinks: You'll be in good hands with Quetzal's bartenders, whether you're opting for a cocktail — like the Burro Borracho ($19), a mixture of blanco tequila, grapefruit, chili and ginger that will set a spicy tone to the night — or any of their red, white or orange wines by the glass ($17-32). Of course, you could also opt for an Ontario-brewed beer or cider for as low as $12 (though if cost is your primary concern, maybe just opt for agua del grifo — tap water).
Appetizers: Veggies can sometimes feel boring in comparison to some of the more out-there appetizers in fine dining; Quetzal's are decidedly not boring. The ensalada verde ($23) packs in chilies, toasted seeds, cabbage and big pearls of trout roe onto traditional greens. The deceptively blunt mushroom ($25) dish is also a showstopper, combining shogun maitake and oyster mushrooms with a poblana crema and ancho chilies.
Additionally, you really should try out the selection of masa appetizers, like the aforementioned Empanada Oaxaqueña; you'll quickly realize all we've lost in embracing the starch-white, mass-produced grocery store tortillas.
Entrées: The octopus ($44) is so good that you'll struggle to remember that Netflix doc about how friendly those damn mollusks are. The pork secreto al pastor ($46) is your starting point for meat-forward entrées; it's served up with charred pineapple and caramelized onion salsa. There is also a selection of beef dishes, including a pair of wagyu steaks that go for $151 each.
Desserts: Finish off your night with a sweet treat like the avocado leaf ice cream ($15) or the tres leches cake ($18). Or reach for the mezcal; if the agave-based spirit is what you seek, Quetzal offers a variety for under $20 for 1.5 oz.
Overall: If Quetzal's menu is triggering paralysis-by-analysis, opt for their $105 per person tasting menu. Unlike many of the city's top restaurants, dietary accommodations are practically encouraged, giving you an opportunity to work with your server to craft a uniquely personal dining experience.
Where: 134 Avenue Road (Yorkville)
What: With this other Italian restaurant to earn a Michelin star in Toronto's first guide, expect more of a complete meal experience at chef Rob Rossi's Osteria Giulia. Open Monday through Saturday at the corner of "Av and Dav" — Avenue Road and Davenport Road — you'll find dishes inspired by Liguria, the coastal region of northwest Italy.
Drinks: Expect to pay north of $20 for one of Giulia's cocktails, including Italian staples like the classic Negroni and the Mezzo e Mezzo (both $22). Most wine by the glass is priced similarly within the $20-35 range. Beer starts at $12 — so it goes.
Appetizers: If you're looking for something more substantial than bread and Ligurian olive oil ($7) or Castelvetrano olives ($10), there's a pear and endive salad with burnt honey vinaigrette, toasted almonds and ricotta, or a radicchio and blood orange combo with fennel and hazelnuts (both $27). Or carb up with pesto trofie ($28), the signature pasta dish of Liguria.
Entrées: The Ligurian pesto trofie might be enough of a main for some diners. Otherwise, consider the branzino ($60), accompanied by artichokes, runner beans and tomato. Meat-lovers will find it hard to stick to a modest budget; the grilled rack of lamb ($85) and 28 oz bone-in striploin ($145) will likely have the cost-conscious tapping out.
Desserts: Giulia's house-made gelato ($16) is a nice send-off. They also serve a white chocolate and coconut mille-feuille and a Sicilian pistachio cake (both $19), if you have your heart set on more of a pastry dessert.
Overall: You're obviously getting incredible quality and service across the board at Osteria Giulia. Sharing dishes with an accomplice is your best way to experience all corners of the menu for a little over $100 per person — though you'll need to stretch a bit if you want to experience a few of the menu's signature items.
The restaurants are listed in alphabetical order.