An annual ranking of Canada’s 100 best restaurants and bars was released Monday, and the list’s publisher says Canadian chefs are producing world-class culinary offerings, even as the industry continues to struggle post-pandemic. 

Jacob Richler, editor-in-chief of Canada’s 100 Best, told BNN Bloomberg in a Tuesday interview that the publication tapped 150 judges from across the country and asked them to vote on their favourite dining experience in the last year. 

“I asked them to vote primarily for the quality of food, so that is what's consistent, and that's what's improved over the years,” he said.

“That's what I think is really exciting right now, especially with what the restaurant industry has been through. The quality is exceptional, but the white tablecloth sort of restaurants are falling off a little bit.”

Richler said that this year’s list demonstrated a shift towards more casual establishments, and away from traditional high-end luxury dining, which has increasingly become prohibitive for both diners and operators due to high costs and inflation. 

“(Tablecloths) appear to be passé, and it's a good area for a restaurant to save costs when food costs are going through the roof,” Richler said. 

He said the restaurants claiming the top two spots on the list – Montreal’s Mon Lapin and Toronto’s Edulis – embody this shift. 

“(Mon Lapin) is a perfect example of how food quality is driving people's choices, because that place is convivial, unpretentious, unaffected, casual, and absolutely a delight to eat in,” Richler said.

“The food is very market-driven, and a little hard to classify in terms of whether it's Italian or French or whatever… it's just uniformly delicious.”

Richler said that Edulis offers a similar laid-back atmosphere, adding that “by all appearances, it's a corner bistro. The food quality, though, is exceptional – Western European focussed, very refined, and delightful, but the room is casual.”

He said that while restaurants across the country continue to impress diners and critics alike, the industry is still grappling with inflationary pressures and the devastating impacts of the pandemic, which left thousands of operators in debt.

“(The industry) is fragile, but what's dazzling is the quality of what those chefs and restaurants are putting on the plate… our chefs are among the best in the world, but the restaurant business is teetering,” Richler said.

“Certain problems are international, like staffing, post-COVID shock and that kind of thing, but the weakness of the Canadian currency is another factor that is really hurting.”