Toronto, ON M6G 1C7
When Grant van Gameren debuted his Bar Isabel back in 2013, he was relatively green. After forging a name for himself at the Black Hoof (RIP), the chef departed, causing many a foodie to question his next move. A stint at Enoteca Sociale resulted in a partnership with Max Rimaldi and the birth of the original restaurant in an ever-growing empire. Tiles were flown in from Mexico and chef Brandon Olsen was recruited. Since then, the eatery has matured beautifully. Long wood tables are filled with share-happy diners who travel to Barcelona via pan con tomate, spiffy Marcona almonds and blistered shishito peppers. Those hunting for the extra-special should look out for gooseneck barnacles from B.C. (or occasionally Catalonia). The delicacy is only in season for about a month. Bread is made in-house (upstairs) and is for sale daily after 2 p.m. If you can’t get a table, just grab a loaf for home. Oenophiles should also stay tuned for Cuvée Lila — a red wine collab with Pearl Morissette made exclusively from Ontario Lemberger grapes. This is why people keep coming back.
JUDGE ANGELA VILLALTA, L’UNITÀ
"My favourite thing is the little Spanish fix I get when I go there. The room, the drink and the food make me nostalgic about Spain."