There are a number of things Canada is known for, and one of them is multiculturalism. From a quick exploration down the bustling streets of downtown Toronto, you’re bound to come across storefronts and organizations and restaurants catered to specific ethnicities; we’re certainly a country that encourages cultural growth and spread.

Chinatown, like other little cultural pockets across downtown Toronto, is one hotspot for its represented group. Spanning out from the intersection Dundas Street West and Spadina Avenue, this 19th century enclave is actually one of the largest Chinatowns located in North America.

Despite the main focus of this article being on the main Chinatown, a little known fact is that there exists a second, smaller and more grocer-centric East Chinatown, centred on Gerrard Street East between Broadview Avenue and Carlaw Avenue.

With the prelude out of the way, let me lead you through my personal highlights from Toronto’s glimpse of China.

Dragon City


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Smack in the middle of the heart of Chinatown, located right in the intersection of Spadina and Dundas, Dragon City is a small mall of storefronts, restaurants, and novelty knickknacks.

Inside, the building has a pet shop, a collection of restaurants, a karaoke bar, a convenience store, and much more. My personal favourites are the two stands selling fish balls and egg waffles opposite each other.

Specifically, the restaurants you’ll find are Owl Minerva for Korean food, Canteen for Hong Kong style brunch/lunch, and Sky Dragon Restaurant at the very top floor via the tower; it’s a large Chinese banquet hall for dim sum by day and other Cantonese dishes by night.

I will warn you, though: if you’re expecting a true-to-name mall, then this mall is not for you as it does not have much by way of retail shops. Best head off to Eaton Centre for the full shopping experience.

Likewise, I will not be putting Chinatown Centre in this article for the same reason: mostly you’ll find older people milling around and hardly any storefronts worth a visit.

Lamb Kebab—Savoury Crepes


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This little hole in the wall steps away from Spadina and Dundas is a blessing in disguise.

While it also offers delectable kebabs, I’m here to rave about its savoury Chinese crepes, also called jian bing, for $4 flat with additional charges for extra fillings. This streetfood brought from Northern China is well worth the two toonies as it is absolutely massive, prepared in front of you, and is packed with flavour courtesy of their special sauce.

Just be prepared to wait in line as they don’t have the equipment to keep up with the demand during busier hours.

R&D Restaurant


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Eric Chong and Alvin Leung run this restaurant situated on Spadina, in the direction of Queen. If you don’t know who they are, the two met on Masterchef Canada in a season which concluded with Eric being crowned season winner. With that, they together brought Eric’s dreams to life in the form this R&D.

I mention this because it’s an atmospheric restaurant that stands out from the usual restaurants packed in Chinatown—the only thing is, so does the price. This establishment charges quite a fair amount more than your average Chinatown restaurant. You’ll have to be the judge of whether it’s the reputation that precedes its quality.

Fun fact: R&D stands for Rebel and Demon, referencing Eric for going against his parent’s wishes and pursuing his culinary dreams, and Alvin for his usual moniker as the Demon Chef.

Asian Legend


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If R&D’s price tags are slightly too high for you, another option is Asian Legend, a more affordable alternative restaurant that I would say has one of the better interior atmospheres—of course, the unassuming, too-loud vibe is what’s characteristic of Chinese restaurants, so you’ll be missing out on the experience.



Photo courtesy of @presoteacanada on Instagram

When you’re in Chinatown, you have to give a shoutout to bubble tea. Now, Chinatown is home to numerous chains of bubble tea, from 168 Tea Shop to Easy Drink Easy Go to the well-known Ten Ren’s chain.

As a bubble tea enthusiast, I have to mention Presotea. Their most popular drink—and my favourite, too—is their panda milk tea, which is original black milk tea with white and black tapioca pearls.

However, if you want to test the waters, their menu is vast. There’s over 20 options for milk tea alone, including matcha, red bean, and hokkaido milk tea.

House of Gourmet


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Scattered across Chinatown are these BBQ restaurants that hang their meat all (or mostly) intact by the front window. This can be an unsettling sight, but I urge you to try out Asian BBQ for a taste of a different style to your backyard variety.

House of Gourmet is one such BBQ joint. The fact that this restaurant is usually packed says something about its quality and attractive pricing. It offers some standards in Chinese cuisine, like noodles, rice, soups, among main dishes like meats and fish.

Bonus: 8090 KTV Karaoke Bar


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Not necessarily a food-related place, but this is one of the karaoke bars I swear by when I need to belt out a few tunes. Located diagonally across from Dragon City, this bar may appear slightly daunting with its narrow steps up to its second-storey lobby. Rest assured though, as the place is on this list for a reason.

8090 KTV has an updated computer system that boasts reasonably updated tracks and, surprisingly, obscure artists that range even to Youtubers. The system operates in Chinese, so you may need to request some help with navigation at first; there’s hardly a learning curve, though, so don’t you worry.

With food and booze and karaoke sessions at dead o’clock in the morning, it can be insanely pricey.

However, this particular bar offers a happy hour every day from 3:00PM to 8:30PM, during which your entire stay will cost a grand total of $11.99 plus tax. That’s right, I’m talking all you can sing karaoke. They even (rather inconsistently) offer you a free jug of pop, haha.