Where to Eat at Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ)

Versie Dortch

Canada’s busiest and largest airport is cautiously rebounding from the devastating blows of the pandemic as travelers tiptoe back into global exploration. That means more adventures, but it also means the return of long wait times at check-in, security, and gates — more and more time to build up hunger that needs to be satiated.

Thankfully, Pearson has made some strides to improve the variety and quality of pre-boarding fare. It’s offering more diverse cuisines than ever, has partnered with celebrity chefs such as Susur Lee and Lynn Crawford, and welcome a bunch of outposts from restaurants in town.

Navigating Pearson can be a bit tricky. There are two terminals: Terminal 1 and 3 (since 2007, there has been no terminal 2). Terminal 1 has three different security areas for flights within Canada, flights to the United States, and international destinations; you can’t cross between these areas. In Terminal 3, flights within Canada and international destinations are in the same area, but flights to the United States are in a separate section; you can’t cross between the U.S. and Canada/international areas.

Still, it’s worth any hassle to seek out a decent meal before your flight.

YYZ’s Seven Standouts

The Dirty Bird Chicken & Waffles Express: Not all travelers want to pregame a flight (or interminable wait for takeoff) with fried chicken and waffles, but the fiercely delicious Dirty Bird isn’t some generic spot. If you somehow missed visiting its flagship spot in Kensington Market, do yourself a favor and try the gluten-free and halal-friendly OEB (dark meat, crispy and fluffy waffle, buttered maple, and dirty sauce). Or if you prefer something less messy, you can’t go wrong with a handheld like the OG with thigh meat, pickles, and dirty aioli. (Terminal 1 after security, Canadian area, Gate D20)

Boccone Trattoria by Massimo Capra: Opened by local celebrity chef Massimo Capra (Food Network Canada) with his hallmark bushy mustache, this family-friendly trattoria features a generous menu of Italian breakfasts with signature scaccia (Sicilian folded pizza), antipasti and shareables, salads, pastas, pizzas, paninis, and hearty mains like pan-seared pickerel and roasted porchetta. The partitioned seating helps make the place feel more like a legit restaurant than an airport eatery. (Terminal 1 after security, Canadian area, Gate D41)

A flatbread pizza, salad, and fried fish tacos

Dishes at the Hearth.
Greater Toronto Airports Authority

The Hearth by Lynn Crawford: Helmed by celeb chef Lynn Crawford (Top Chef Canada, Iron Chef America), the restaurant is centered around a large hearth, where staff makes signature flatbreads with toppings like mushroom and leek with Parmesan bechamel. Many menu options are Canadian comfort classics, including Montreal-style poutine, Fogo Island fish and chips, and old-school spaghetti and meatballs. (Terminal 1 after security, American area, Gate F60)

Caplansky’s Deli: If you don’t want to be tempted by overpriced snacks while in the air, look to Zane Caplanksy to stuff you to the gills with his self-described “Jewish soul food.” Options include the leaning tower of Caplansky (high-rise challah French toast), brisket sandwiches, knish pockets, and matzo ball soup. (Terminal 3 after security, Canadian/international area, Gate B39)

Cluny Grill: This is the casual sister outpost to the original Cluny Bistro & Boulangerie in Toronto’s Distillery District. Here, dirty dogs and poutines are given a gourmet-ish makeover: Dogs can be topped with bacon lardons, smoked cheddar, sour cream, and scallions; and the Québecois classic trinity of fries, gravy, and cheese curds gets decked out with beef brisket and crispy chicharrones. (Terminal 3 after security, American area, Gate A10)

Lee Kitchen by Susur Lee: If you prefer shared snacks to a full-on meal, consider celebrity chef Susur Lee’s (Top Chef, Iron Chef America) airport offshoot. Modeled with the same Asian fusion/French-inflected philosophy as the original Lee Restaurant on King West, Lee Kitchen is a streamlined spot for some of chef’s most popular hits (like the cheeseburger spring rolls), strip steak with teriyaki sauce, and all-day dim sum. (Terminal 1 after security, international area, Gate E73/F73)

Vinifera: The primary draw here is the nearly 100 wines and 20 craft beers on offer, which are complemented with a mishmash of mains and handhelds that include flatbreads, sandwiches, pizza, pasta, and quesadillas. Flavor combinations in dishes like the masala rose pasta are engaging enough to keep your palate piqued, though the simpler lemon rosemary chicken panini is a solid choice too. (Terminal 3 after security, Canadian/international area, Gate C32)

Bolding denotes the better eating options beyond the above highlights.

Terminal 1

Before security

  • Booster Juice: Canadian juice and smoothie chain (primarily found in malls) that offers meals in liquid format. (Level 2 parking and Link Train)
  • Starbucks: Multinational corporation offering overpriced coffee and fancy espresso-based drinks that are even more pricey. (Level 1 arrivals and Level 3 check in)
  • Subway: The one with the funky synthetic yeast smell. This is another American mega-chain that offers “healthy” (not really) foot-long subs for any mealtime. (Level 2 mezzanine)
  • Tim Hortons: Cheap Canadian doughnut chain (bought out by an American multinational) that offers doughnuts, sandwiches, basic coffee, and sugary espresso-based drinks. (Level 1 arrivals)

After security (flights within Canada)

  • A&W: Middle-of-the-road burger chain distinguished by its root beer pairing. (Gate D37)
  • Bar 120: Cuisine transformed: Pared back molecular gastronomy by chef John Placko, with less gimmick and more practicality (think dome-smoked chicken wings). (Gate D20)
  • Bento Sushi: Generic mall sushi, but at the airport. (Gate D22)
  • Boccone Trattoria by Massimo Capra: Local celebrity chef’s rustic Italian fare, including breakfast, pasta, pizzas, antipasti, and bar snacks. (Gate D41)
  • Camden Food Company: An airport chain that attempts organic, fair-trade, and local fare — that all tastes subpar, especially for the price and portion sizes. (Gate D31)
  • Farmer’s Market: (Un)surprisingly, there are no farmers to be found here. Instead, you’ll find packaged wraps, salad, snacks, and the usual suspects of grab-and-go fare. It’s minimally a step up from what’s sold on the plane. (Gate D4)
  • Mill Street Brewery Pub: This pub offshoot at Pearson delivers the convivial vibes found in Mill Street’s Distillery District location, thanks to locally brewed suds on tap along with a combination of typical and atypical pub fare that keeps the taste buds interested. (Gate D20)
  • Starbucks: Exceptionally long lines for expensive coffee and insulin-spiking pastries. (Gates D42, D20)
  • Thai Express: Quick service eatery that allegedly offers Thai creations where the pad thai is gloopy and greasy. (Gate D45)
  • The Dirty Bird Chicken & Waffles Express: Homegrown Toronto joint with a condensed menu at this Pearson offshoot. (Gate D20)
  • Tim Hortons: Sludgy coffee paired with flash-frozen and reheated doughnuts. (Gate D42)
  • Twist by Roger Mooking: Toronto chef Roger Mooking offers a disjointed menu of international dishes, but there are bold flavors and ingredient combinations here, especially for otherwise dull staple airport items (burgers, wraps, salads). (Gate D36)

From above, a meat and cheese board including three glasses of wine

Wine and charcuterie flight at Boccone.
Greater Toronto Airports Authority

After security (flights to the U.S.)

  • Booster Juice: Highly caloric smoothies, shakes, and food in bowls; there are also unmemorable wraps and paninis on offer. (Gate F57)
  • Apropos: Standard airport bar with cocktails and small bites. (Gate F62/F65)
  • Cibo Express Gourmet Market: Not to be confused with Via Cibo and Cibo Wine Bar (two other restaurant chains in the city), this airport-specific entity stockpiles sandwiches, drinks, and plenty of other non-edible goods fit for travel. (Gate F61)
  • Starbucks: If you’ve downloaded their app and have star rewards, now is a good time to use them to redeem for free food/drinks. (Gate F60)
  • The Burger Federation: Eatery for those who eat burgers for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (with major Donald Gorske vibes). (Gate F87)
  • The Hearth by Lynn Crawford: One of celebrity chef Lynn Crawford’s last freestanding restaurants (her popular restaurant, Ruby Watchco, was shuttered in 2020). (Gate F60)
  • Tim Hortons: Doughnuts, with or without the blessing of Justin Bieber. (Gate F66)
  • Upper Crust: Pizzas, baguettes, sandwiches, and pastries on offer here. (Gate F57)
  • Wahlburgers: Burgers slightly a cut above their fast-food counterparts, backed by movie star Marky Mark Wahlberg and his brothers. While meat between buns comprises about 90 percent of the menu, they do also offer non-burger-ish fare that include salads and breakfast scrambles. (Gate F67)

After security (international flights)

  • Built Custom Burgers: Burgers, burgers, and more burgers for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You may question your life choices afterwards. (Gate E74)
  • Banh Shop: As the name implies, banh mi sandwiches are their primary focus, but they also offer Saigon street food such as spring rolls, soups, and noodles. (Gate E74)
  • Heirloom Bakery Cafe: Food Network Canada personality and This Is Crumb blogger Devin Connell has her name and brand tied to this space, but aside from that, it’s another basic sandwich and snack spot. (Gate E75)
  • Lee Kitchen by Susur Lee: You won’t find Susur Lee’s 20-plus-ingredient, fancy schmancy salad here, but rather more mainstream options with a few Asian fusion dishes (hoisin chicken, jerk barbecue ribs). (Gate E73/F73)
  • Marathi: One of the few airport spots that can actually tickle your taste buds. A pretty robust display of Indian street food is on offer here with dishes that are acutely accentuated with heady spices: mains like coconut prawn curry, jackfruit and chicken, khurma, and masala scrambled eggs for early risers. (Gate E78)
  • Rock Squeeze: Top-shelf whiskies (over 20) are available here, along with a few snacks to accompany them. (Gate E74)
  • Starbucks: Where drinks can easily cost more than the food. And where the food (sandwiches, wraps, bakery goods) is nuked in a microwave. (Gate E75)
  • Tim Hortons: The cheapest place to eat at the airport; it’s actually possible for two people to “dine” (two sandwiches, two drinks) for $10 CAD and under. (Gates E81 and E66)
  • Wahlburgers: The only eatery where you can order an out-of-season cranberry-turkey Thanksgiving burger in the middle of summer. (Gate E67)

A passanger walks in front of an airport restaurant

Outside Lee Kitchen.
Greater Toronto Airports Authority

Terminal 3

Before security

  • Freshii: Health-conscious meals sold in the form of burritos, tacos, bowls, super smoothies, salads, snacks, and frozen yogurt. (Departures level)
  • Starbucks: The only place left in Toronto where the coffee shops outnumber the weed shops in the city. (Departures level)
  • Subway: Canadian professional snowboarder Mark Lee McMorris is currently the Great North’s spokesperson for Subway, but the subs still taste the same as when Jared Fogel was touting his weight-loss journey with the company. (Domestic arrivals)
  • Tim Hortons: Stereotyped as “Canadian as maple syrup” food icon where you order a “double double” (double cream and double sugar in a coffee) and servers know (for better or worse) exactly what you’re asking for. (Arrivals level)
  • Wendy’s: Square patties, chili, and Frosties are the primary distinguishing features to an otherwise standard fast-food burger chain. (Arrivals level)

After security (USA flights)

  • Acer: Not to be confused with the Taiwainese electronics brand of the same name, this Acer is named after the country’s famous Japanese maple trees. The eatery serves rice bowls, rolls, curry rice, and ramen. Also American/Continental (not Japanese) breakfast is offered here. (Gate C36)
  • Archeo Pizzeria: Another sibling spot modeled after a restaurant, this time Archeo, which offers trattoria fare in the Distillery District. The airport eatery is focused on just its focaccia-style pizzas. (Gate A10)
  • Cluny Grille: Top-tier dogs and decadent poutine. (Gate A10)
  • Distillery Bar: An attempt at recreating the sociable vibes of Toronto’s historic Distillery District with a menu of beers, both draft and bottled available, as well a few wines. A limited number of snack options are here too. (Gate A10)
  • Nobel Burger: Celebrity chef Mark McEwan (Iron Chef America, Top Chef Canada) signed off on this upscale/gourmet burger bar whose options (patty slapped with Brie, truffle oil, and oyster mushrooms) are more interesting than your average humdrum toppings. (Gate A13)
  • Starbucks: Once a quaint Seattle-based coffee shop, it is now found in all corners of the world, including this Toronto airport. (Gate A14)
  • Urban Crave: Described as “global street food,” the menu actually reads more like a Denny’s, with items like an egg breakfast bucket and the chicken chop chop bowl. (Gate A12)
  • Urban Market: 7-Eleven meets Panera Bread with a lot of pre-packaged food. (Gate A9)

After security (flights within Canada or international)

  • Beerhive: A hub for local and international craft beer, paired with pub grub (burgers, wraps, pizza). (Gate B41)
  • Booster juice: Pricey health food chain but ideal for those who prefer to drink their diet than waste their precious time chewing. (Gate B41)
  • Caplanksy’s Deli: Chef Zane Caplanky’s beloved College Street restaurant was shuttered due to landlord issues, but his Jewish deli spirit perseveres inside this airport location. (Gate B39)
  • Corso Pizza and Pasta: Neapolitan style pizza that’s actually cooked in a wood-fired oven. (Gate B29)
  • Fionn MacCool’s: One of the few eateries inside Pearson that actually feels like you’re stepping into a restaurant (it’s walled off and not open-concept). Aside from that, it offers your typical Irish pub grub (pot pie, fish and chips, burgers, shepherd’s pie). (Gate B24)
  • Heirloom Bakery Cafe: The “heirloom” aspect of the name implies that food personality Devin Connell’s recipes have been in the family for generations (and used for dishes here). Ultimately, it’s just another airport eatery with plenty of between-the-buns items, along with packaged sweets and snacks. (Gate E75)
  • Paramount Fine Foods: Lebanese-Canadian Mohamad Fakih’s restaurant chain offers Middle Eastern (such as shish tawouk platters) and Lebanese dishes (fried kibbeh and kafta kebabs). Meals are reasonably priced with generous portion sizes. (Gate C36)
  • Smashburger: Yet another burger chain at the airport. This time, it’s a Denver based-brand whose only Toronto location is at Pearson. This one focuses on smash-griddled burgers. (Gate B26)
  • Starbucks: Although 33 locations swiftly closed in Toronto this year (due to the company’s self-described desire for “business transformation” and internal “restructuring”), none of the locations at the airport were affected (all nine locations remain intact). (Gate B39)
  • Subway: The brand claims to offer over 2 million iterations of their sandwiches but the common denominator is that they all taste like sadness (and sometimes, mystery meat). (Gate B22)
  • Tap & Pour: A pub that also offers local Mill Street brews; the food is exactly what you’d expect from a pub (fish and chips, burgers, wraps). (Gate B3)
  • Tim Hortons: Canadians have a love/hate relationship with Timmies; we’ll shame it, but God help any non-Canadian who bad mouths it. (Gates B22, B3, and B26)
  • Vinifera: Vinifera is open when you need a bar at 4 a.m. because your body is in another time zone where it’s happy hour. (Gate C32)
  • Vino Volo Wine Bar: There are over 30 wine varieties to choose from here, along with snacky options (marcona almonds, charcuterie boards) for those in between meals or stuck on a layover. (Gate B22)
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