Eating & Drinking

Best Restaurants 2008

The top 10 places to eat right now. Plus, an insider’s look at all the up-and-comers poised to knock them down a peg or two next year

Welcome to the top 10 restaurant list for 2008. Dinner for you and yours at any one of these places will be money well spent and an evening well enjoyed. A recent national poll found that 72 per cent of Canadians feel we’re in for tougher times in ’09. That means we’re all hunkering down and your dining-out dollar is going to get stretched even tighter — you deserve quality when you step out for the night. Next to tantric sex and a rousing game of charades (preferably not at the same time), dinner in a great restaurant remains one of life’s most pleasurable and satisfying ways to do something nice for yourself.

Since this is Edition Number Three, we’ve been around long enough that I get some — what’s the best word? — interesting and opinionated e-mails. The question most often asked is how we (and I do mean we) go about rating a restaurant. Well, a lot of it is gut feeling — get it? GUT feeling! Har, I slay myself. But seriously, folks, if I had to assign a number value, it would be as follows: Food – 50, Service – 30, Ambience/Buzz – 20. You need all three for a great night out. And remember — this is a list of great restaurants, not great chefs (if I were just grading the chefs, it would be a whole different list). And so a quick word to all the chefs out there who think they walk on water: arrogance does not become you. Cooking, when executed with love and passion, can be elevated to art, fleeting and ethereal. But it’s still just cooking, as wonderful as it may be. You don’t have the launch codes, you’re not curing cancer, and you’re not building schools in Africa. Get a grip.

Now, back to your regular program. The food, of course, is paramount, but wait staff who phone it in every night or a bathroom better suited to a hockey locker room can leave you feeling less than satisfied.

There is an inviolable rule here at Top Ten World Headquarters that a restaurant must be open at least a year before being eligible for The List. Seems to me you need to be dishing it out for 12 months so that you a) have time to settle into a groove and b) demonstrate consistency. It is my pleasure to inform you that many new places have opened their doors this year (flip to page 50 for the ones to watch), and I can already confidently predict that the 2009 edition of The List will look quite different from today’s. In fact, I would really, really like to see Beckta’s not be number one next year. Seriously, somebody please step up and kick Mike’s and Steve’s excellent butts. Um, I didn’t mean their butts were excellent; I mean their food — oh, never mind.

Friends, your hard-earned folding money will be well spent at any of these places. And by the way, if you go and dinner isn’t all that and a ham sandwich too, then tell them. Please. I can say without reservation that these restaurants are run with pride and love, and if you catch them on an off night, then they want to know.

And now, without further Mountain Dew, why the Top 10 made the list: