Editor-in-chief Jacob Richler on the 2019 List
One afternoon in the fall of 2014, while out for drinks with my old friend Geoff Dawe, I told him about an idea I had for a magazine that would pivot on producing an annual ranking of Canada’s best restaurants.
Not a ranking composed by me or some other qualified critic, but something of broader significance and greater relevance, drawn from the opinions of experts across the country.
We’d start with the people who know the industry and its particulars best: chefs and restaurateurs. I’d add in another valid viewpoint by including some food writers and critics. And finally, we’d ask a few others whose opinion matters more than anyone else’s. People who, unlike bloggers and “influencers,” don’t post Instagram pictures for their supper—but actually pay for it. Yes: real, discriminating, big-spending restaurant customers.
Geoff thought it all sounded like a great idea. And so he did exactly what he always does when he hears an idea he likes: he went out and sold it.
Again and again, as luck had it. So three months later, the first issue of Canada’s 100 Best Restaurants was being shipped off to the printer. And—in a bit of a shock to all of us—what you’re looking at now is our fifth-anniversary edition.
The difference between those two magazines are too numerous to enumerate here. But the short of it is that this new edition is a whole lot bigger and better.
The restaurant scene has also changed immeasurably. No fewer than 33 of the restaurants on our 2015 top 50 are no longer part of that elite club, and more than a few are out of business altogether. One of them—No. 9 on that inaugural list—was for years my go-to Toronto favourite, for lunch, dinner and happy hour alike. But I ate my last ever soy-glazed grilled hamachi collar and white truffle tagliolini at Nota Bene in December; this spring, David Lee is relaunching it as an Asian version of Planta, the vegan concept restaurant he launched in 2016 with the Chase Hospitality Group.
The industry we cover and celebrate changes fast everywhere, and we and our ever-increasing roster of judges do our best to keep up. The changes In our new list reflect that.
Three of the restaurants in this year’s top 10 have never been ranked that high before—so congratulations are due to St. Lawrence in Vancouver, Le Mousso in Montreal and Giulietta in Toronto. Actually, doubly so for Giulietta, which debuts on our list at number 9–the highest placement for a new restaurant since Alo opened at number 7 in 2016. Needless to say Giulietta is our 2019 Best New Restaurant.
All told, 24 restaurants on our 2019 list were not part of it last year, and 16 of those—like Giulietta—are new restaurants. Congratulations and welcome aboard to the over-performing, first-time restaurateurs among you (whose establishments include The Restaurant at Pearl Morissette, in Jordan, Ont., and Bar Kismet in Halifax). And also to all you well-practised old hands who gave us such enviably well-realized new concepts as Quetzal in Toronto and Elena, Monarque and Vin Mon Lapin in Montreal, to name just a few.
Above all, congratulations to the dazzlingly talented Patrick Kriss, whose wonderful restaurant Alo has set a record by finishing No. 1 on our list for the third year running, and who now has two other restaurants (Aloette and the new Alobar) on our list. Kriss is a chef-restaurateur at the top of his formidable game. Well done, Patrick.
List aside, we hope you enjoy the improved coverage in the rest of our fifth-anniversary issue–our biggest yet. We hope you enjoy Dick Snyder’s coast-to-coast feature on Canada’s best sommeliers, along with the rest of our burgeoning awards section, our expanded travel coverage (Basque Country, Lyon, Burgundy, Singapore, etc.) and above all our second annual Best Bars issue, now edited by our long-time restaurant judge and valued contributor Alexandra Gill.