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How to get the most out of Winterlicious

Watt via Instagram

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Winterlicious 2017 (a.k.a. the only reason to abandon your warm room) is almost here!

The annual Toronto prix fixe celebration runs from January 27 to February 9, giving you affordable meal options at some of the city’s best restaurants. Each three-course lunch is priced at $18, $23 or $28, while the dinner menus range from $28 to $48. And with over 220 popular restaurants participating in the food festival and reservations starting tomorrow, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the choices — but don’t get too freaked out, we’re here to help! Here’s how to navigate Winterlicious like a pro:

Use the app.

This year, the fine folks at YP Dine, a phone app launched by Yellow Pages, have sponsored the event and provided an invaluable tool to those looking for an easy way to access all the yummy offerings. The app lets users read restaurant and food reviews, make lists, book a table and order in — not to mention it’s free to download. Great for anyone and everyone who’s new to Toronto’s foodie scene. Plus, the app makes it super simple to book quick reservations. This is one tool you’ll want to have on hand at all times.

Book early.

We spoke to a number of hostesses at some of Toronto’s busiest restaurants (including Lee, Los Colibris and Cluny) and they all agreed that the earlier you make a reservation, the better chance you have of getting the time slot you want. Weekend (both lunch and dinner) tables are usually in high demand, so if you’re planning on coming in a group of more than three, be prepared with at least a few time frames, just in case the one you were hoping for is fully booked. Start looking at your calendar ASAP!

Dare to eat differently.

It’s your cheat day and your mouth has been watering all week for that juicy steak, but why not try something a little out of your comfort zone? While most dining establishments offer their take on the good ol’ standbys of steak, roasted chicken or salmon, we assure you that the other options are just as delicious and filling. We recommend the delectable aburi sushi at Miku, the savory jambalaya at Southern Accent, and the grilled octopus at Bent.

Grilled octopus with squid ink sauce and some potato things 🐙🐙🐙 #tentacles

A photo posted by 🐇Sylvia. (@tarochipz) on

Treat Yourself.

You work hard for your money and you just paid off your Christmas bills, so it’s officially time to splurge on yourself. Most of the top rated restaurants on Trip Advisor are taking part in Winterlicious, which means that you won’t break the bank trying out some of their (usually pricey) meals. And as an added bonus, you may be able to spot a celebrity or two. Meghan Markle has been known to frequent Café Boulud, while Laurence Fishburne and Keanu Reeves had a Matrix reunion at Momofuku Noodle Bar. The elusive Dave Chappelle also gave his stamp of approval to Italian eatery Bar Buca.

Chef Ryan’s dream came true! ✨✨✨✨@ryancampbellbuca @davechapelle

A photo posted by Rob Gentile (@rob_gentile) on

Eat local.

No, we don’t mean that you should try new restaurants in your area (although, you should definitely do that if you haven’t already). Try eateries where the menu items are locally sourced and grown, such as Nota Bene and Thoroughbred Food and Drink. Not only are you supporting local farmers and businesses, but you’ll get all the added health benefits as well.

In addition, this year’s festival is celebrating Canada’s 150th birthday with nine culinary events that highlight our country’s diverse food culture. The ticketed events range in price from $55 (for Martinis, Manhattans and Old Fashioneds: Time Honored Classics from the Golden Age of Bartending) to $105 (for Syria: A Living History, featuring renowned chef Mark McEwan).

Drink up!

Sure, there are a lot of deals to be had on the best food in the city, but there are also lots of cocktail bargains too. Don’t be shy to ask your server about specialty drink menu items — many restaurants also lower their prices on alcoholic beverages for Winterlicious.

Bon appétit!

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