[Toronto] Pearson Airport dining

For years I have lamented the lack of decent food options at Toronto Pearson Airport, especially when compared to many other airports. Gradually the situation has improved a bit, though there is still lots of room for improvement.

For Terminal 1 on the Canadian side, perhaps the best sit-down option is Boccone Trattoria by Massimo Capra. While very straightforward, the cooking is well-executed and tasty. On a recent trip we had:


Spaghetti con Polpetti di Carne - yes, spaghetti and meatballs. But before you roll your eyes, the noodles are usually nicely al dente, the tomato sauce light and tangy, and the meatballs moist and well-flavoured.


Parmigiana pizza - the same great tomato sauce, fior di latte, mozzarella, parmesan, prosciutto, and fresh basil. Crust is good - haven’t had many better in airports. Skimpy on the prosciutto and basil though.

We tried Twist several years ago and were underwhelmed in terms of the price and quantity, so we haven’t been back. The various chains are, well, chains. We haven’t tried Dirty Bird, so would like to hear if anyone has.

For Terminal 1 on the U.S. side, pickings are slimmer. Hearth by Lynn Crawford is underwhelming. Apropos gives you bland overpriced offerings. Upper Crust has sandwiches that are mostly boring baguette with slim amounts of meats and cheeses. The panini and pizza slices at Boccone Pronto are decent.

We haven’t been through the International section of Terminal 1 in awhile and haven’t been through Terminal 3 in ages, so we would like to hear your recs about those options.

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Yes, Boccone is very good. The folded Sicilian is very noteworthy. Sometimes I’ll book an early flight just so I have an excuse to have the Sicilian. It’s that good.

Another option in Terminal 1 after security, but in the American side, is Hearth. Not earth-shattering food, but good takes on classics like poutine and Fish N Chips.

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Thanks. Maybe we should give Hearth another try.

The frittata sandwich to-go at Boccone, available at the counter, was the best quick value and relatively healthy quick bite before a plane.

I also liked the McEwan lentil, bacon and blue cheese salad that was available to go from the take-out spot with the packaged sandwiches and salads around 2016- Feb 2020.

The A&W breakfast sandwich and an iced latte from
Starbucks was my morning ritual for a while.

My last flight was in Feb 2020. I don’t have any recent experiences.

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I’ve flown out of ALL terminals/venues in the past couple of years - and am appalled by the choices. Pre-prepared food (mostly) reheated and expensive.
Can’t comment on Capra/Boccone as I have a tomato allergy so I avoid.

At Terminal 3 I’ve had adequate food at Swiss Chalet (but lesser quality than other outlets) - but it’s before security so I no longer risk the delay.
At Terminal 1, the ONLY place I still visit (before 11 am) is Wahlburger (US) - it has a decent breakfast - don’t recommend the Burgers.

The Hearth promises ‘fresh, seasonal’ and delivers neither! But still possibly the best of a poor selection.

Banh Shop (International) was an oasis of excellence when it opened - but no longer! Despite its name it no longer serves Banh Mi - too labour intensive (I guess) - they dropped it during COVID and now only serve pre-prepared bowls & salads.

Even the Tim Hortons don’t serve warm food - you can get a toasted bagel but beware the butter - it’s NOT the same as is served in off-airport locations - which makes no sense to me.

Starbucks is…well, Starbucks - maybe your best choice if that’s your thing.

Or start your trip on a diet - you may offset the extra kilos from eating out on your vacation!

Gee - now I’m hungry - time for breakfast!

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I was wondering about the Banh Shop, so that’s disappointing to hear that they don’t actually serve banh mi. For years, our standard in-flight meal was bringing some banh mi from Rose’s on Gerrard (now closed).

The Globe & Mail recently published a (paywalled) story about dining at Canada’s airports : https://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/travel/article-yes-you-can-find-a-decent-meal-and-avoid-sky-high-prices-at-the/
Boccone and Caplansky’s in T3 are mentioned as the recommended spots at YYZ. I personally avoid YYZ’s restaurants, apart from the occasional pint of ale at the Mill Street in T1’s domestic section.

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I haven’t done this much from Toronto going to the States, but for trips from the States back to Toronto, which tend to leave midday, part of my morning ritual is to find a good sandwich and pastry to go, before leaving Boston, Manhattan, wherever, so I can enjoy good food while waiting for the flight and on the flight . Also, I buy these sandwiches, I won’t buy pretzels at LaGuardia if I’m hungry.

I usually take flights from Pearson that leave in the morning before anything is open, so I have to buy the takeout the day before if I’m heading out of Pearson.
I do remember eating cookies from the Danish Pastry House that I bought at Union Station before grabbing the UP Express, while waiting for a lb evening flight to Italy.

I used to have a thread for take-out sandwiches on Chowhound. I have bought a lot of Forno Cultural sandwiches in the PATH for VIA trains.

I have learned to avoid having salty fast food at the airport, the hard way.

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If you’re in T3 down at the C gates there’s a Paramount. Never my first choice for middle eastern food but you can get a filling vegetarian meal, which i usually do, because the “food” in the KLM lounge is beyond atrocious.

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Tried the Cubano from San Cosme:


Small slices of roast pork, bacon, 1 slice of ham, avocado, non-descript cheese, jalapeño slices, yellow mustard, and a mayo-y sauce, on a decent bun. Unlike the tortas at the original Kensington location and not that reminiscent of a Cubano. Kinda skimpy too. But if you ignore all those reference points, it was fairly tasty.

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Heading out on a trip to the U.S., we finally tried Hearth, based on the some of the notes above. Overall OK, though pricey (as is everything at the airport).

We sampled the Dark and Stormy - dark rum, five-spiced agave nectar, ginger beer - aside from being incompletely mixed (nectar at the bottom), this wasn’t bad with a good kick.

Chipotle pulled pork taco featured fairly tasty pulled pork in a flour tortilla with pico de gallo, avocado crema, pork rinds, and cilantro - messy eating.

We ordered Lynn’s meatballs, figuring something with her name attached might be a notch up. The meatballs themselves were OK and came with ricotta whipped with dill (oddly). However the tomato sauce was bland and the garlic toast was hard and dried out, as if they had used leftover stale bread to make it.

To get our veggies, we tried the spinach, beet, and quinoa salad: baby spinach, leaf lettuce, radicchio, pickled beets, red quinoa, feta, radish, cucumber, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries, and Hearth balsamic dressing - pretty good, quite fresh if not that flavourful.

The breaded crispy chicken sandwich featured a slightly over-fried flattened chicken breast, with lettuce, pickle, and house sauce on a brioche bun. The chicken was bland and the house sauce was innocuous, but a request for hot sauce led to some Tabasco enhancing the experience. It normally comes with fries, but we subbed a side salad that had more flavour than the salad above.

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Dang, these posts/photos are making me reconsider my current airport approach which is just to head to whichever airport lounge I can get into (I do credit card churning as a side hobby) and load up on whatever buffet-style food they have, as I always think airport is equally dreadful everything.

This is making me reconsider!

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