Toronto is a city where something wacky is lurking around every corner. The city is full of hidden gems, and there is never a shortage of unique (and sometimes strange) places to eat. We’ve scoured the city for Toronto’s most outrageous restaurants that live and die by their themes. Whether trying to impress a date or host a family event that gran and gramps will never forget, there’s something for everyone. Also get the tips and tricks about who to bring, when to go and what to expect in order to have a one-of-a-kind experience.
Snakes and Lattes
This popular board game café is Toronto’s first of its kind. From outside the café, you could just as easily walk past it. A quirky but otherwise neutral banner doesn’t let on to the mind games, drawing against the clock and all-out (yet all in good fun) war games taking place behind the doors. Once inside, it’s like no other café in Toronto and will leave you bringing your parents, your siblings and your date back for a rematch. Wall-to-wall board games coupled with a clean, rustic design gives this hot spot a comforting feel. A knowledgeable staff that can teach you to play any game and leave you turning on your best pals in no time. Unfortunately Snakes and Lattes does not take phone reservations. You’re required to leave your name with the host, and you’ll receive a phone call when your table is ready. This can be troublesome for the anxious diners that can’t get there before 8:00 p.m., especially with the café’s rising popularity. It would be best to leave your name on a day that you’re already planning to be downtown so you’re not left waiting outside, since wait times can reach up to two hours during the dinner rush. The café offers an average selection of food, but nothing on the menu is over $10.00. You will never wear out your welcome with access to unlimited games for just $5.00. The $5.00 charge is a game fee that does not cover food but allows guests to play as many games as it takes to avenge their losses or collect their winnings. With a wide selection of board games to choose from, it’s always more fun to go with a large group. Cafés in the city that are similar to Snakes and Lattes include Castle, Roll Play Café, Go Lounge and Snakes and Lagers Board Game Bar (owned by Snakes and Lattes). Get your game on at 600 Bloor St. Dibs on Cards Against Humanity!
The Sultan’s Tent
The romantic atmosphere and the bright, creative design makes the Sultan’s Tent ideal for an intimate night out or if you’d like to treat your guests to something seductively out of the ordinary. This French Moroccan themed restaurant encompasses the best of fine dining and Moroccan tradition. The outside of the restaurant displays a muted yet endearing stone entrance with flecks of colour that offer clues to what awaits inside. Once through the doors, a hand woven rug sits on the wall near the entrance that once belonged to Hassan II, a gift from the King of Morocco. Reviews of the restaurant are mixed, varying from the 5-star, “would definitely go back” to the 1-star, “don’t bother.” Décor is unarguably beautiful, and service is consistently friendly, though there is some disputing about the quality of the food, their most expensive dish being $23.00 as listed on their website. The theme and overall experience of the restaurant overshadows the quality of the food for the majority of guests. There’s no doubt that the theme is a winner, but head on over to 49 Front. St. E to check out the cuisine for yourself.
Medieval Times is probably the furthest from a traditional dining experience one can find in Toronto. A night out at Medieval Times is like entering King Arthur’s world of jousting, horses and fair maidens. Families with kids absolutely love this place, which offers a four-course meal and an action-packed jousting tournament. Students learning about medieval history also come here on class trips with teachers who vouch that it’s an amazing learning experience year after year. As for the food, as long as you don’t mind eating with your hands, you’ll leave satisfied. If not, maybe the medieval experience isn’t for you. This venue truly encompasses the good and the bad of medieval life. Until the show starts, you’re welcome to browse the medieval torture chamber or the horse ranch. However, these extras are not part of the base ticket price. The Ticket costs are $69.95 per adult, $42.95 for children 12 years and under and free for children under the age of three. King’s Court also offers three ad-on packages. The King’s Royalty Package, the Royalty Package and the Celebration Package. What most guests don’t realize is that you almost never have to pay full price, as Medieval Times often offers promotional codes and discount packages to those deal-savvy enough to find them. Look for offers on special occasions like Valentine’s Day, which cater mostly to adults. Last but not least, on your way out, don’t forget to visit the gift shop. Medieval Times is located on 10 Dufferin St., Exhibition Place, M6K 3C3.
The Hard Rock Café
A place for rockers and spectators alike, the Hard Rock Café is the living embodiment of rock culture – with a side of fries – seasoned French fries to be exact. Before you set foot in the front doors, the theme is evident. Nothing says rock like a huge, glowing, neon guitar. Once inside, walls lined with vintage guitars and legendary rock memorabilia mounted above the bar will leave you with the urge to fist pump your way through dinner. Though known for a rocking vibe that hits home and iconic references to rock legends, the experience overshadows the food, which is commonly described as good but not great. The menu can be described as fairly predictable and slightly pricey, though food is often prepared well. The service is often complimented, as well as the waiters’ dedication to the overall theme. The Hard Rock Café definitely is at the top of the charts in terms of overall experience but sometimes hits a low note on food variety and timeliness of service. The gift shop is definitely a key part of the establishment and does not disappoint, with a wide variety of souvenirs to choose from. The Hard Rock is also well known as one of Toronto’s biggest tourist traps, while native Torontonians tend to shrug as they walk by the huge neon guitar on 279 Yonge St., M5B 1N8.
The concept behind this uniquely-themed restaurant is that once you’ve lost your sight, all your other senses are stimulated. The food is better, the conversation is better and the experience is one-of-a-kind. A unique, descending entrance to the darkened restaurant enhances the already eerie atmosphere. A patient wait staff and accommodating layout helps the guests through the many challenges a theme like this could present to the diners. The goal is to provide guests with a chance to experience a meal in a way they never have before; in pitch black. The owner is blind, as is the entire wait staff, and started this restaurant wanting to show the world how he has always enjoyed his meals. The restaurant definitely delivers on a unique experience and the majority of guests recommend going at least once. The food, though tasty and well-prepared, does not add much to the experience. Prices that range from $32 to $40 per person and do not include drinks can seem slightly overpriced for the variety of food offered. On a side note, the possibilities for the joker in your circle are endless when no one can see whodunit. The restaurant is located on 620 Church St. and will leave you with unforgettable memories and a fresh perspective.
Speaking of whodunit, if you want to satisfy your hunger and your artistic side all at once, the Mysteriously Yours Dinner Theatre is just the ticket. Founded by Lili and Brian Caws in 1987, Mysteriously Yours entertains their dinner guests with interactive murder mysteries at the Royal York Hotel. With simple décor and mediocre food, the attraction here is the interactive murder mystery that has guests chuckling their way through dinner. Want to watch while you sit back and enjoy a relaxing meal? Tickets will be $66 on Thursdays/Fridays and $71 on Saturday. Want to focus your creative juices and forget the food? Tickets are $40 on Thursdays/Fridays and $45 on Saturday. However, we’d recommend attending a matinee show, where you’ll pay only $55 for dinner and a show and $37 for just the show. Why not check it out on a Saturday afternoon? Though the actors are notorious for getting a few laughs, the food is often described as average and overpriced. If Mysteriously Yours Dinner Theatre is your next big Friday night, Torontofy would recommend skipping an expensive dinner and enjoying a reasonably priced show. The Mysteriously Yours Dinner Theatre is located at 2 026 Yonge Street, M4S 1Z9.
A distant cousin to O’Noir, Signs is the first restaurant in Toronto sporting an American Sign Language theme. The waiters are deaf, and instructions are provided on how to sign your order. Signs is definitely a unique experience for the hearing and the hearing impaired alike. For one, it’s a chance to learn and experience something new and for the latter it’s an opportunity to feel at home in a place that’s catered to your specific needs. Even if you’re on a special diet, instructions are given on how to sign this to your server. Signs’ greatest appeal is that no one is left out. Everyone is given the means to enjoy their meal, whereas the deaf community is often are not given that luxury at a typical restaurant. The hearing impaired servers are dressed in green, while the hearing hosts are dressed in black. In case a complex problem arises that cannot be communicated through the samples of ASL given to the guests, the hosts are able to address these issues. Make your way over to 558 Yonge St., M4Y 1Z1 check it out for yourself!
Want to take in a Jays game while enjoying a relaxing dinner? Arriba is the ideal sports lounge where instead of the typical flat screen, fans indulge while looking out at the Rogers Stadium. Arriba is an upscale restaurant that attracts guests from all over Toronto with their magnificent view. The food is prepared in a fancier lounge style that has the spirit of a sports bar but the preparation (and price) of a higher-class place. With a colourful décor and visually interesting design, Arriba is one of Toronto’s main tourist attractions. The view of the Rogers Stadium means this place can be a little pricy. For this reason, we wouldn’t recommend coming here casually with a large group of friends. However, the relaxed atmosphere and the simply yet sophisticated food makes Arriba crowd pleaser for events and parties. Although the food sometimes strikes out on flavour, the overall experience definitely runs at least three bases. Arriba is located in the Renaissance Downtown Toronto Hotel at 1 Blue Jays Way.
Bampot Bohemian House of Tea and Board Games
Coming up close behind Snakes and Lattes is the Bampot Bohemian House of Tea and Board Games. All meals are vegetarian with a large selection of exotic and local teas to choose from. Along with the go-with-the-flow atmosphere, Bampot hosts various events that contribute to the ambience of the tea shop. Bampot will be hosting Life Drawing on Sunday, September 28th from 2:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., Terrarium Class on Monday September 29th from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., and the Board Game Social on Tuesday September 30th from 6:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. and also has a constantly changing art gallery of thought-provoking pieces. The menu is fairly light, so we wouldn’t recommend planning a whole meal around it, but is definitely suited for grabbing a quick bite after work or on a Saturday afternoon. Bampot isn’t just a tea-shop, but a place to get away from a fast-paced city life. Patrons describe the hours flying by as they enjoy the games, the gallery or endless supply of tea. Chill out at 201 Harbord Street M5S 1H6.
3030 Dundas West
The rustic ambience and relaxed space definitely gives 3030 Dundas West a unique feel. The industrial loft-style restaurant is a large, funky space that’s divided into a few different areas including the bar, the eatery and the lounge. A few pinball tables are also set up in the restaurant, giving the place a playful edge. 3030 likes to experiment with local beer, and has 16 taps dedicated to selling the best and most interesting Ontario-brewed beverages. However, guests have described the food as falling short in the midst of everything 3030 offers. However, the cuisine is reasonably priced and does contribute to the down-to-earth vibe of the restaurant. It’s definitely a trendy spot to grab some drinks with a few friends, but we wouldn’t recommend going there for a formal event. You can also enjoy live theatre, local and international music and 3030 Trivia (every Wednesday night at 8 p.m.). Located on 3030 Dundas St. West, this intimate, rustic hang out is something you’ll want to try at least once.
The Smitten Kitten, though still in the planning stages, has elicited a great response from eager Toronto cat-lovers already. The café will be a hub for cat enthusiasts to enjoy board games, books and light pastries and beverages. Cats will be given high shelving and hiding nooks throughout the restaurant, but will mainly be housed in another room, completely separate from food preparation. However, guests will be free to enjoy their food while enjoying the company of the cats. The cats will all be donated from shelters around Toronto and will wander through the café in the hopes of being adopted by eager pet lovers. The café is meant to be a haven for both cats and cat lovers to get away from the mentality of the “crazy cat lady.” Even more so, this concept is meant to promote a commitment to animal refuge and safety and aims to help out animal shelters in the community by taking some of the animals off their hands. Though the restaurant hasn’t opened yet, Torontonians seem pleased so far. The proposed location is around Bloor and Christie.
The Lula Lounge is Toronto’s home for jazz, salsa, Brazilian, African and world music. A lively, upbeat atmosphere is complimented by ethnic food and friendly service. The Lula Lounge also offers a variety of theme days, events and field trips to initiate guests into a diverse community. Salsa lessons are offered whenever the day’s theme requires salsa dancing. Informal lessons are given by dance instructor Miko Sobreira to ensure that when the music starts playing, everyone is comfortable with some basic salsa moves. Teachers elementary, intermediate and secondary school can also bring their classes here to learn about French and Spanish culture. The Lula Lounge offers a $49.00 package on Fridays and Saturdays which includes food, dancing and entertainment. Appetizers, tips and beverages are additional, which is where the costs can really add up. However, if you’d rather just dance, you’ll pay a flat fee of $15.00. Guests fall in love with live performances and interactive service that keeps you on your feet all night. Head on over to 1585 Dundas St. West to dance the night away, and don’t forget your salsa shoes!
Imagine eating lunch towering above the city of Toronto. CN 360 is right up there with Arriba for its magnificent view, but with a twist. The restaurant rotates slowly throughout the evening, allowing guests to see the city from every angle. This gem in the sky is a great place to have lunch with a friend from out of town. They’ll have a unique experience in on of Toronto’s greatest tourist attractions. The meal can be expensive, but guests have described the food as being mediocre despite the price. What guests really pay for is the overall experience and the amazing view, which is worth sampling at least once. Though great for a home-style meal, we wouldn’t recommend CN 360 for formal events. Luckily, the glass windows that allow you to peer down at the city as you dine make up for this. Also, make sure you visit the restaurant on a day with clear skies, or you won’t be able to take advantage of the restaurant’s main attraction. Head on over to 301 Front St. West to dine in the sky.
Well there you have it! Some of Toronto’s most famous, outrageous and just plain weird eateries, all with unique charms and flavours. Each one has a distinct place in Toronto dining and definitely adds to the city’s creative flare. Bon appétit!