As stated on their website, Monkey's Paw is Toronto's most idiosyncratic secondhand bookshop, specializing in uncommon and out-of-print books, ephemera, and images. On one visit, I was able to find an old Boy Scout handbook from the 1940s. This is also a great place to find an old typewriter. If you like odd books or want a good story from owner Stephen Fowler, this is your place. And the source of the store’s name? The W. W. Jacobs tale with an ominous moral: be careful what you wish for. Image courtesy of The Monkey's Paw.
Toronto, eh? Old Hog Town is an always-changing dreamscape of travel delights. Best Asian food this side of... er... Asia? Toronto. Keen on a show at one of the world's greatest music venues? Toronto (bonus points if Neil Young is in town). Want to get your libation on? You get the point. There's something for everyone in this town, whether you're keen on whetting your whistle in the Distillery District or getting your mustache and plaid on in Ossington.
At Bar Chef, owner Frankie Solarik’s mad-scientist bartenders wear porkpie hats that recall a classic speakeasy. But they mix modern potions. They inject their martinis with green olive–flavored foam and serve punch bowls such as the Jimmy Cliff, which combines thyme-infused rum, lime, vanilla syrup, and ginger beer. 472 Queen St. W., (416) 868-4800, barcheftoronto.com. This appeared in the September/October 2011 issue. Photo courtesy of Bar Chef.
The St. Lawrence Market is great. There are tons of picnic benches outside as well as stools inside. Check their website for upcoming events. A quick hit list of where I go: -Carousel Bakery for peameal bacon sandwiches. They're famous for a reason -Chris's Cheesemongers—ask for Len. He's a good friend and, well, just the best! These guys work hard. -That said, my friend who is a cook and had the apartment swears by Olympic Cheese. I like its layout—you can pick up the cheese as opposed to ordering it at the counter. -Buster's Sea Cove. Two words: Lobster Bisque. They don't sell the lobster rolls here on a regular basis. You'll have to go to their food truck for that. -Stone Mill Bakery—great bread. But for $4.95 a loaf? Show me the stone mill. -Sheffer's—they sell prosciutto for $2 here on some days. In the grocery store, it's usually $6-8! -Churrasco for chicken and soup. This guy works so hard and he pays attention to the little details, down to the way he folds your bag. It's really quite charming. The chicken is a great bang for your buck. -St. Urbain Bagels—yes!
List this under "very cool installations." The best part about the "wavedeck" is that you can slide on it (because you know you want to). It's a great, interactive gathering place at water's edge, and it plays on that theme in a whimsical way.
It's one of the most beautifully decorated places in the city. It's away from the tourist fray in the East End, but if you're lucky to have your cuppa here, you'll be rewarded with a sweeping view of the skyline from Riverdale Park. This is a neighborhood place where writers, artists, and other locals come to hang out. The owners and staff are, quite simply, so lovely and loyal to their clientele—plus, they make some mean coffee! Bring a book and cozy up for the afternoon. Also, there are quite a few star sightings here. Daniel Radcliffe filmed here in the summer. Bon Iver and Jim Cuddy have been known to come by the shop. (Note: Rooster just opened their second location on King street, just east of Sherbourne near the Distillery District.) Photo courtesy of Rooster Coffeehouse.
Do you love the tagline ("What creams are made of"), or do you love it? Ashley Jacot De Boinod—former pastry chef at Buca—has taken her doughnut creations to new heights. Tim Horton's tim bits these are not. If you want peanut butter, bacon, and marshmallow, she's got it (that's the Elvis doughnut); A beer doughnut? Yup, she's got that too. Lemon Meringue? Yes, indeed! She's also very active on Twitter with her fanbase. Go in. Support her. Her shop is super and she even crowd-funded it, too. The doughnuts aren't cheap, but I'll pay for the love and care that she puts into it. Pictured here is Nutella Puff.
I went to Toronto for the first time in the fall of 2010. I expected it to be colder, but I wasn't exactly thrilled that Toronto's fall was like New York's winter. So I was happy to spend a good amount of time indoors in galleries and museums. AGO was one of them, and as a huge Frank Gehry fan I was even happier to spend an almost ridiculous amount of time staring at the AGO building. Eventually, I walked toward the back and into the glorious Galleria Italia. All empty on a weekday, the play of wood and light was simply beautiful. It will make you smile, adore the sun, and just stay.
Toronto's beer scene is burgeoning, with new breweries, brew pubs, and watering holes popping up around town all the time. And while the Beer Bistro doesn't brew on the premises, they do go out of their way to bring in some of the world's greatest bottles—everything from La Maudite, a spicy ale out of Quebec, to the Lagunitas Olde GnarleyWine, one of the wildest barley wines that you'll ever have the pleasure of sampling. Bottles range from under $5 to more than $100, so there's something for everyone. The food experience is also top notch. The mussel bowls are brilliant, the Belgian fries a hit of salty sublimity, and the pierogies are out of this world.
On one of those (far too many for my taste) freezing days, nothing warms me up more than a cup of hot and spicy Mayan chocolate. Delicious! I also would suggest the Bicerin (pictured above) when they happen to have it on their menu. Heaven!
In the Junction, an emerging design neighborhood, Russet & Empire specializes in cheeky riffs on old-school Canadian icons. Porcelain cups from Toronto designer Rob Southcott (shown) stack to form a totem pole, while National Design Collective produces laser-cut coasters of Toronto’s street plan. You’ll also find nostalgic gear from Red Canoe, including bags featuring the retro logo of the Canadian Broadcasting Company. —Charlene Rooke Photo by Stefan Siwinski.
Former Toronto food truck superstar, Banh Mi Boys, opened up a shop at the buzzy intersection of Queen and Spadina (ironically, it's beside a McDonald's). In addition to their popular banh mi sandwiches and steam bao is one unusual dish: Kimchi Fries. It's not quite a poutine but could very well be a multicultural version of the Quebecois dish. Pickled, spicy kimchi is topped on hot, crispy fries. Add some mayo and green onions and voila! Kimchi Fries. I'm pretty sure there is no other dish quite like this in the world. It is delicious and addictive!
Frank Gehry was born in Toronto, but his dramatic 2008 renovation and expansion of this Beaux-Arts museum was his first Canadian commission. He first discovered art on childhood visits to its vast collection, which spans the world. Now the museum features a restaurant, Frank, in his honor. —Charlene Rooke Art Gallery of Ontario. 317 Dundas St. W., (416) 979- 6648. Photo by P. Spiro/Alamy.
The best meal of my weekend in Toronto was at The Black Hoof. We started off with deliciously unique libations across the street from the restaurant at The Black Hoof's cocktail bar, and then shared quite a few of the tapas-style dishes. They were all excellent, from the house-cured prosciutto to the smoked sweetbreads to the absolutely addictive pork carnitas tacos. The Black Hoof is definitely a must when visiting Toronto!
...and I'm not the only one who thinks so, so make sure to make a reservation to enjoy one. In warm weather the backyard patio is a nice getaway. Also good to note is that the cocktails here are some of the best in Toronto. Double Win! image: http://www.torontolife.com/daily/daily-dish/from-the-print-edition-daily-dish/2012/05/16/25-best-burgers/attachment/tlburgers2012_1/
The Thompson Toronto’s rooftop lounge and pool both offer a broad view of the skyline and Lake Ontario. The lobby welcomes with modern furnishings. The Counter, a 24-hour diner, serves poutine, the Canadian greasy-spoon favorite made of French fries, cheese curds, and gravy. —Charlene Rooke From $180. 550 Wellington St. W., (416) 640-7778, thompsonhotels.com. This appeared in the September/October 2011 issue. Photo by Michael Weber.
If you ask any fashion editor or blogger what the best vintage shop is in Toronto, chances are they're going to tell you that it's Courage My Love in Kensington Market. It's hard not to miss this shop, which has been in business since 1975. If you look up, you'll see these mannequins on the top of the roof, which have been there for the longest time. You can buy beads to make your own jewelry here as well as find some fun accessories. (I've also scored a Banana Republic trench coat for $30.) And just in case you need some incense, they have that too!
Bellwoods hasn't been open long, but it has already made an impression on the Toronto craft beer and food scene. Bellwoods and the Group of Seven Chefs put on a brilliant seafood feast that I was lucky enough to be in attendance for; it was the first time I tried raw halibut, geoduck, and a host of other funky sea dwellers. The five-course tasting menu resulted in one of the best meals I've ever had—and that's not even touching on the beers. I still can't decide which of their funky brews I like best. It could be the barnyard brilliance of their Farmhouse Saison, the cheek-puckering sour punch of the Muggleweisse, or the just-like-licking-a-pine-tree goodness of the Witchark IPA. I tried every beer on the menu, and a few that weren't, and loved every one of them. I'm amazed I can remember any of it. Located in the heart of the Land of Os, Bellwoods, with its fantastic streetside patio, is a place I'm going to visit more often.
I’ve visited more than 30 countries in the past five years; my adventures abroad have taught me a few lessons about how I should explore my own back yard. The desire to find something new in a place I knew well led me to this little restaurant, in an alley off a major street I had passed hundreds of times before. Toronto is one of the world's most underrated foodie towns, with Kensington Market serving as one heck of a place for Peking Duck. If you can't catch a Red Eye to Beijing, this will do.
The famed Drake Hotel's motto is that they are a "hotbed of culture." This extends to their General Store but the items in here are anything but general. There's lots of curiosities here like those fun scratch maps, New York vs. Paris postcard sets, and bird bingo. There's also lots of Canadiana kitch and Shared tees for the ladies and gents. If you're looking for the perfect present for someone who is difficult to shop for, this is your place. There are three locations in the city, including their recently renovated store beside the hotel.
The CN Tower’s latest attraction, EdgeWalk, takes thrill seekers to new heights. The first of its kind in North America, EdgeWalk is the world’s highest full circle hands-free walk encircling the top of the CN Tower’s main pod, 356 metres, (1168 feet, 116 stories) above the ground. The half-hour experience, which includes re-admission into the CN Tower’s other attractions (Look Out, Glass Floor, Sky Pod Levels, movie and ride) costs $175. For those of you who want to test your adventurous limits, this is one vertical challenge you won't forget! After seeing the CN Tower from many vantage points in the city, I can honestly say there is no view of the city like this -- or experience for that matter. Just do it! The staff take great care of you and ease you into the "leaning out" process. I can guarantee even if you're scared, afterwards, it's something you won't stop talking about!
If you ask someone in Toronto where to get great poutine in Toronto, there's going to be a debate. It doesn't matter if it originated in Quebec, Torontonians love their cheese curd, gravy and fries mash-up. So where to go? Some will say Smoke's Poutinerie (I approve); others will say Poutini's House of Poutine (great name with the subtitle of "Om Nom Nom" on their sign but I'm not overly impressed). My pick is The Lakeview. Located in the heart of new nightlife central spot, Ossington and Dundas, you can get a few different options of poutine here. My go-to is the pulled pork poutine. The gravy is thick. The fries are hot. And the pulled pork is plentiful. The best part? It's open 24-7. Photo credit: http://thedailymenh.com/
It doesn't get more laid back and cool than this new drinking spot from a group of Toronto bar veterans. Taking over a cheesy, 'skeezy' bar in Kensington Market, the light renovation here kept the charm and dropped the cheese. This is the place to chill with your friends on a weekday. A bonus is that the music selection here is pretty solid (not always the case in Toronto).
One of the things I liked about Toronto is the different neighborhoods and that each of them had its own open market. I was also pleasantly surprised at the abundance of street art. The photo above was taken on one of the surrounding streets near Kensington Market. The house isn't a museum or a shop or anything. The painting was just there for any passersby to enjoy.
Toronto’s international film festival, held every September, drew half a million attendees last year. Dozens of movies have been shot here. But the cinema isn’t the only reason to visit “Hollywood North” this fall. Modern buildings by architects Frank Gehry and Daniel Libeskind stand out against the city’s Victorian brick architecture. Boutiques crowd Kensington Market and King and Queen streets. And you can play outside: September temperatures average 70 degrees, and parks make up 18 percent of city land. —Charlene Rooke This appeared in the September/October 2011 issue. Photo by Paul Lapid.
Built in 1894, Massey Hall is a Canadian institution. This music venue has played host to iconic acts such as Neil Young, Charlie Parker, Rush, and Jeff Healey. Designed by famed architect Sidney Badgley, the building in and of itself is a masterwork of 19th-century art, and it's worth checking out even when a show isn't going on. Besides, Massey Hall is just one more reason to make your way to Toronto's incredible Garden District.
A testament to any restaurant, no matter how big or small, is the ability to transform your senses. And when you’re eating their food to not make any sense. This is how I always feel after I eat at Porchetta. I’m literally sitting there—there’s three stools and in fall, for some reason, there’s usually a seat available and I stay to people watch—and I can’t speak. It kind of sounds like this: “ArrrghghghgMmmmmmNoommmmmm.” Like, OMG, it’s SO GOOD. I’ve brought a few visitors from out of town and have made them converts. The crackling pig parts crunching in your mouth or the option of that sweet, sweet truffle oil on your prosciutto wrapped porchetta? It’s over. It’s so over. And their daily soup is not to miss. You will be very lucky if you eat their mushroom truffle soup. These guys know how much I love it. Plus, they're tech-savvy! Follow them on Twitter where they post their specials. Just a note: run, don't walk! These guys are going to be featured on Anthony Bourdain's "No Reservations."
Home to the largest white squirrel population in the world is our beloved park, Trinity Bellwoods. It was formerly the site of the college, now situated at the University of Toronto (and my alma matter!). Year round, this is a fantastic place to visit. Whether you want to run, play tennis, some croquet (and you can get the equipment at the local Trinity Tuck Shop open seasonally -- http://trinitytuckshop.tumblr.com/) or picnic, you can do it here. Tons of events are held here too including Nuit Blanche and the Art Crawl in September. PS There's a coffee shop called White Squirrel across the street. There's also a fish and chip shop called Chippy's and Nadege, a french pastry shop that also sells sandwiches and has a sweet patio view of the park.
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