The Insider’s Guide to Toronto

Toronto has it all: an unstoppable creative scene, bustling neighborhoods that span from one end of the map to the other, and it is one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world. You can experience different foods and cultures literally within blocks of one another. One stop on the TTC and you’re in Little Italy, next you’re in Greektown. Plus, there are over 140 languages spoken within the city limits. With so much to do and see, we knew a proper edit of the best had to come straight to the source: our boutiques and designers. We asked them to reveal THE best places to eat, drink and people watch in the Six right now. Get your woes ready. (Sorry, we had to).

WHERE TO EAT

Grey Gardens

“The simple ask of ‘where should we eat?’ when you live in Toronto is a question that could go unanswered for a long, long while; not unlike some of the most complex philosophical questions of our time. The options are plentiful, vast and one could quite feasibly travel their way around the planet on a plate – just eating their way around the city,” explains Bianca Goldman, founder of lifestyle boutique Bibelot & Token. She did narrow down a couple of her favorites though: Superpoint, “for a most fantastic buttery tomato sauce slice”, and Grey Gardens (above) a “new spot that’s a little bit of sunshine on the grayest of days.”

Superpoint, 184 Ossington Ave

Grey Gardens, 199 Augusta Ave

Anne Seally, owner of Task, is all about Bugigattolo Kitchen. A “cozy-tiny place in Liberty Village with an open kitchen and an outdoor patio. They serve Southern Italian food and do all-day breakfasts, lunch, and dinner. The menu changes daily, the food is very fresh, simple and tasty, the decor is laid back and unpretentious, and the service is warm and personal.” She also adds Tori’s Bakeshop (below) to her list of musts. “They have a half dozen tables (the best one being in the front bay window). Along with delicious baked goods and good coffee they also serve light lunch fare (soups, sandwiches, biscuits, etc).”

Bugigattolo Kitchen, 54 Fraser Ave

Tori’s Bakeshop, 188 Queen St E

Lindsay Reeve, co-founder of Undone, narrowed it down to her top three. “I love Bar Isabel. Their sister-shop Raval is sleeker (and the place to go for mid-morning coffee and refined snacks), but there’s something homey about Isabel that just feels right to me. The food is both light and a bit rugged. Then there’s Côte de Boeuf, which opened as a butcher shop but has fully morphed into a local cave à manger. Cheese and charcuterie are the things to get, but they also do a few bistro classics very well. Thirdly, you’ll want to hit up I Love Pho Forever – the place with pink walls and all the plants in the window. Don’t be deterred if there’s a line, it moves fast.”

Bar Isabel, 797 College St

Bar Raval, 505 College St

Côte de Boeuf, 130 Ossington Ave

I Love Pho Forever, 57 Ossington Ave

Photo by Patrick Murphy for Tori’s Bakeshop

“If I’m looking for something laid back (or slightly hungover), all day dim sum at Noble on Spadina is my go-to,” admits Elizabeth Arlow owner of Bodega Thirteen“It’s super inexpensive and in my opinion the best dim sum in Toronto. Definitely get the wonton soup.” We’ll meet you there.

Noble Seafood, 530 Dundas St W

Altaf Baksh owner of the contemporary men’s clothing shop Muddy George swears by Seven Numbers. He promises that, “Mama Rosa will take good care of you” when you go. Bonus: they are on Toronto’s 25 best bowls of pasta list!

7 Numbers, 307 Danforth Ave

Brittany Haavaldsrud founder of Fjordlife loves to hit up La Cubana (below) in Roncesvalles for a Cuban breakfast. She also recommends “Montgomery’s on Queen Street West, Bodega Henriette for brunch, and Figo for the decor.” 

La Cubana, 392 Roncesvalles Ave

Montgomery’s Restaurant, 996 Queen St W

Bodega Henriette, 1801 Gerrard St E

Figo, 295 Adelaide St W

Photo via @lacubana_to

Our pals over at LivestockKevin Pham and Adrian Campana, gave us a handful of go-to spots based off of various cravings (you’re welcome in advance): Odd Seoul (Korean tapas style), Kingyo (Japanese), Norling (Tibetan), Big Crow (BBQ),  Mamakas (Greek) and Milagros (Mexican).

Odd Seoul, 90 Ossington Ave

Kingyo, 51B Winchester St

Norling, 1512 Queen St W

Big Crow, 176 Dupont St

Mamakas, 80 Ossington Ave

Milagro, 5 Mercer St

Michelle Wilson of Chance & Fate has her heart set on Buca Yorkville. “Make sure you get the Branzino Crudi!!”

Buca Yorkville, 53 Scollard St

WHERE TO DRINK

Photo via @rhumcorner

The design duo behind the jewelry line Alynne LavigneEve Tobolka and Alynne Lavigne, love heading to the Rhum Corner (above) for a quick drink (or five). They also admit that when it comes to having a drink they love, “any sunny balcony, front porch, backyard… or park, but that would be illegal (wink!).”

Rhum Corner, 926 Dundas St W

It’s round two for Grey Gardens. Allison Skinner from Distill loves to go there for both their food and drinks. “I love the room – palm print painted cinder block wall, pretty linen towels, farmhouse sinks, pink cookware and brass details. Good crowd too, not douchey.” Well, that’s always a bonus.

Zai Rajkotwala, owner of the dreamy lifestyle shop Easy Tiger Goods, has a solid list of drinks spots: Midfields Wine Bar, Pharmacy, Pretty Ugly, Communist’s Daughter, and Unlovable. Owner of Room 2046, Kumala Nio, also chose Unlovable as her favorite place to kick back and have a drink. It must be good.

We love Midfield Wine Bar,” reveals the team at Mary Young. “They have a great patio (which Torontonians love to take advantage of when we can), a robust wine selection and super friendly, knowledgeable staff.”

Midfields Wine Bar, 1434 Dundas St W

Pharmacy, 1318 King St W

Pretty Ugly, 1237 Queen St W

Communists Daughter, 1149 Dundas St W

Unlovable, 1415 Dundas St W

Photo via @gypsywolfe

 The Slip (above) sits on Toronto’s beautiful waterfront at Harbourfront Centre and is one of Adrian’s favorite places to go when craving a good drink. Also on his list are: 416 Snack Bar, Cold Tea and Mascot Brewery – especially the rooftop patio (so good it’s the first photo at the top of our story).

The Slip, 235 Queens Quay W

416 Snack Bar, 181 Bathurst St

Cold Tea, 60 Kensington Ave

Mascot Brewery, 31 Mercer St

“Black Dice on Dundas West has a great drink selection – my fave is the ‘Cherry Jerry’, Sailor Jerry and cherry coke,” reveals Elizabeth. “They also have an extensive selection of Sake if you’re into that. It’s a smaller spot, self-identified as a ‘Japanese Rockabilly Bar’ but super laidback.”

Black Dice Cafe, 1574 Dundas St W

Michelle’s go-to is Pretty Ugly—a mysterious mezcal-based bar where you enter through a carpeted door on Queen Street.

Pretty Ugly, 1237 Queen St

Brittney has two recommendations: “The Local in Roncesvalles for live music and Hole In The Wall.” If you’re into exposed brick, classic cocktails and a rotating list of craft beers then Hole In The Wall is for you. Plus, they have a small stage at the back of the bar where music starts every night at 10pm. Oh, and delicious eats with a menu that changes weekly.

The Local, 396 Roncesvalles Av

Hole In The Wall, 2867 Dundas St W

WHERE TO PEOPLE WATCH

Photo via @tucanacoffee

“Dundas West has a great mix of newer bars, restaurants and shops, but has retained its Portuguese roots – good mix of characters to watch with a coffee,” explains Brittney. She adds, “in the warmer months I’m partial to an iced coffee and a good stoop session. Tucana (above) on Dundas West hits all the marks – female owned (!), staff is super cool, coffee is high quality but affordable, and they have a bench outside.” Bonus: dogs love it too! Altaf also loves a coffee shop for people watching. He often heads to Casa Coffee in Kensington Market.

Kensington Market is a actually a top spot for many. Anne loves the area for “its eccentricity and quirkiness.” Kevin and Adrian recommend heading there on the weekend. “It’s the best since you get such a variety of people walking through all day and there is live music usually playing.”

Tucana Coffee, 1413 Dundas St W

Casa Coffee, 235 Augusta Ave

“Hard to believe, but I’m recommending the Toronto Reference Library, because everyone now goes there to soak in its post-modern aesthetic,” explains Lindsay. “It was designed in 1977 and supposedly influenced by the hanging gardens of Babylon, but to me it’s pure retro-futuristic paradise. I’m also a bookworm, though!”

Toronto Reference Library, 789 Yonge St

Photo via @samjamescoffeebar

“It’s the most obvious answer, but once the sun comes out, even just a little bit, Trinity Bellwoods Park is where a most satisfying cross-section of Toronto is on display at all times,” says Bianca. “Claim a patch of grass, a picnic lunch from Sud Forno, gather a group of friends – and you’ll catch a glimpse of everyone and everything that’s best about this city.” Fun fact: Sud Forno is one of the top 10 most Instagrammable spots in Toronto.

Alynne, Eva, Brittney, and Zai also suggest Trinity as the best place to people watch. Zai particularly loves “a coffee shop near it: Sam James (above).”

Sud Forno, 716 Queen St W

Sam James, 917 Queen St W

Two of Toronto’s busiest spots are also great for people watching. Kumala goes for the Pearson Airport and Allison loves the ferry terminal. “You see all walks of life while waiting for the ferry in the summer—hippies, hipsters, families, couples, loners—all gathered together to take a trip to the Toronto Islands,” she explains.

Pearson Airport, 6301 Silver Dart Dr

Jake Layton Ferry Terminal, 9 Queens Quay W

Fieldguided goes monochrome for the holidays

In the spirit of our holiday collaboration collection, The No Filter Series, Anabela Piersol of Fieldguided went monochrome for her inspiration mood board this month.

“It’s not always bold and vibrant colors that can create drama. Sometimes the very absence of color can be just as striking, as this black and white imagery shows.”

Meet the Boutique: Bibelot & Token

Outfitting your home is just as important as outfitting your person, so we’ve recruited some amazing home goods boutiques to help you do just that. Toronto’s Bibelot & Token is one of them. Run by Bianca Goldman, a hilarious former copywriter who took a career right turn when she became a mother, the online boutique has all the minimalist accessories, apothecary finds and home goods of our dreams. We caught up with her to talk all things decor and find out about a few of her favorite things.

 

Shop Bibelot & Token >

 

TELL US HOW YOUR BOUTIQUE STARTED. I had been secretly creative and trying to find a way to bust out of an office-rut, in my own slow and quiet way, for years. I had been writing copy and sitting behind a computer for the brunt of my adult working life, so after I had my daughter, I wanted to figure out a way to re-jig and revamp my life in a way that would allow me to work, but not be bound by a 9-5. And I wanted to be around for the moppet. I had a good, long think on it, and decided to throw caution to the wind and combine my love of all things design — fashion (I’ve been writing my blog, A Wee Bit Skint, for roughly nine years now), textile, decor, jewelry, etc. — and open up a little online shop.

Fieldguided’s October mood board is all about getting cozy

For October, Anabela Piersol of Fieldguided has all the cozy feels on her inspiration mood board.

“Now that we’ve said goodbye for sticky, sun-kissed skin, it’s time for all the things that make autumn so cozy: chunky knits, endless pots of tea, pulling the camel wool lapel of a perfect jacket close against your face, and snuggling up with a good book. And a fire in the fireplace, should we be so lucky.”

Ring stacking and tequila stocking with Tarin Thomas

Kylie Nakao has had a life long romance with adornment, so starting her own jewelry line seemed as natural as Kim Kardashian publishing a book of selfies. After growing up in Toronto, Kylie headed to NYC to study design at Parsons and went on to get some serious industry experience working as a buyer for trendy upscale boutiques. When buying for others, Kylie saw a lack of cool, easy to wear, sophisticated jewelry at a reasonable price point, so she filled the gap by creating Tarin Thomas. The line is the perfect balance of old world craftsmanship and modern awareness. Each and every design explores dualities like masculine and feminine; delicate and bold; and modern and traditional. We caught up with her to talk unisex style, stack stories, grapefruit margaritas and more.

Shop Tarin Thomas >

Meet the couple behind Toronto style blog Fieldguided

Anabela and Geoff Piersol are a constant source of inspiration. Their Toronto-based style blog, Fieldguided, is so rad we can’t even begin to explain it. Follow them on Instagram, you’ll see what we mean. Anabela won us over first with her beautiful tote bags and we teamed up with her last year for a special download for Spring. Obviously, we had to do it again.

Click to download our exclusive Fieldguided x Garmentory wallpaper for your Apple device now: iPad, iPad Mini, iPhone 4, iPhone 5, iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.

We caught up with the talented couple to find out how they met, what they love about Toronto and what’s on their shopping wish lists.

 

ANABELA

HOW DID YOU GUYS MEET? We actually met online! But quickly realized we had a friend in common, which made it feel a little more natural.

WHAT’S THE BEST THING ABOUT WORKING TOGETHER? Geoff is the most supportive person I know, and has always encouraged me creatively, telling me there’s nothing I can’t do if I set my mind to do it. He’s a natural teacher and taught me everything I know about photography. He’s also not afraid to tell me if something I’ve worked on isn’t quite right.

WHAT ARE YOUR TOP THREE FAVORITE SPOTS IN TORONTO?
1. Allan Gardens Conservatory: I love this place because it’s open to everyone and it’s free, and it smells so good! Such a nice place to visit, especially in winter.
2. The University of Toronto campus: Many of the downtown buildings are from the nineteenth century and they’re beautifully ornate. You don’t get a lot of older buildings in Toronto so I take a lot of delight in the carved statues and stone details.
3. The Toronto Islands: Summer means hopping on the ferry and heading to the islands for a picnic.

WHAT’S ON YOUR SHOPPING LIST RIGHT NOW? I never thought I’d see THIS day, but I’ve been trying to hit the gym a lot lately so I’ve been really interested in nice workout gear! I’ve been coming across a lot of amazing local companies who make really beautiful printed leggings, such as Paprika and Fellow Citizens.

Meet the Designers: Minnow Bathers

Toronto-based Minnow Bathers makes swimsuits for real women without sacrificing a bit of edge.

Swimsuit season should be all about fun in the sun and summer vacation, but so many of us go into panic mode because the idea of being in a bikini feels like apocalypse now. Karen Donaldson and Vanessa Warrack and their awesome Toronto-based swimsuit line, Minnow Bathers, are here to change that with designs that have real women and functionality in mind. The creative duo said forget about the string bikini and created cool and comfortable pieces that involve ’70s silhouettes, cutouts, bandeaus, suspender straps, high waisted bottoms, and grungy vintage prints. Minnow Bathers is dedicated to making a summer uniform that girls can hike, camp, lounge, beach and feel confident in. We had the opportunity to speak to the dream team who are all about making women of all shapes feel good half-naked.

 

Shop Minnow Bathers >

 

 

Meet the Boutique: Room 2046

With a shop, cafe and studio all in one contemporary space, Toronto’s Room 2046 is one multitasking lifestyle boutique.

It’s not just the sweet service that will make you want to stay awhile, Room 2046 has everything you need to make your afternoon. Sip their signature drink the Valmonte (a vanilla almond milk latte), peruse their selection of clothing, housewares and apothecary, then stop to check out the screen prints in their studio. The whimsical feel is all thanks to the pretty lady behind it all, Kumala Nio, who opened the boutique in 2012. We caught up with her to quiz her on inspiration and a few of her favorite things.

Shop Room 2046 >

 

 

Lauren Toyota on going vegan and food blogging with her BF

When she’s not interviewing celebrities for MTV Canada, Much Music and eTalk, Lauren Toyota is in the kitchen, literally “cooking up vegan love”. She started her blog, hot for food, in 2009 when she began to transition into being a full-time vegan and wanted to share her journey, and some seriously delicious recipes, along the way. (We recommend trying her vegan buffalo wings, they are no joke.) A few years later she sat next to John Diemer on a cross-country tour bus and found her foodie equal. The adorable couple has been blogging together ever since. We had to find out more so we quizzed both of them on their story.

LAUREN

TELL US ABOUT HOT FOR FOOD. I started hot for food blog in late 2009 when I started to transition into veganism. I was getting really into eating this way and I had a lot of time to cook, test recipes, and take photos. Blogging was a good motivation to stick with veganism and share my story, recipe ideas, and even the struggles at the beginning. The blog didn’t get serious though until I met John. It was amazing to have someone around who was as in love with food as I am! It only made sense for us to go on this journey together, share our travels with people, and spread more vegan love.

ANY TIPS YOU CAN GIVE FOR SOMEONE WHO WANTS TO GO VEGAN? If you’re interested definitely try it one meal at a time. Then go for a week, maybe even two. You will notice a huge difference in the way you feel in only one to two weeks. And I urge you to try some of the vegan products on the market right now, especially those from Daiya, Gardein, Sol Cuisine, and Earth Balance. Things have come a long way and I promise that you won’t feel like you’re missing out on anything.

YOU TRAVEL TO TRY OUT VEGAN RESTAURANTS ACROSS NORTH AMERICA. WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR FAVORITE SO FAR? The best meals we’ve eaten on a trip have been in Las Vegas. It’s also the city that surprised us the most with being so vegan friendly. I never would have thought I could eat whatever I wanted in a city like that, but they have everything! The Wynn Hotel on the strip has 14 to 16 restaurants all of which have their own custom vegan menus. We ate like kings while we were there.

HAVE YOU INTERVIEWED ANY VEGAN CELEBRITIES? Unfortunately I have yet to bond with any vegan celebrities. Kermit The Frog might be the closest I’ve come though, since he’s against eating pigs! But I hope I can meet some true vegan ambassadors one day soon. I would love to meet Ellen DeGeneres or even this high profile vegan chef, Tal Ronnen. But out of all the celebs I’ve met my favorite interviews were with Regis Philbin, Will Ferrell, Lady Gaga, Kendrick Lamar, and One Direction.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE VEGAN MEAL?
I am a sucker for some vegan “chicken”. My fave meal is the southern combo from The Hogtown Vegan in Toronto. It’s fried vegan chicken with sides of sautéed collard greens and vegan mac and cheese.

JOHN

TELL US ABOUT HOW YOU MET. Lauren and I met on set while filming the Much VJ Search last year. She was hosting and I was hired as a freelance sound mixer. It was a cross-country bus tour with stops in all major cities along the way. We sat together everyday on the bus and used the 12-hour bus rides to get to know one another; it was the longest first date ever!

HOW DID YOU MAKE THE SWITCH TO BEING VEGAN? I would like to say that I quit meat and dairy cold turkey but I feel like that’s a bad euphemism for a vegan to use! But actually it was a very fast transition and both my love for Lauren and food made it a really exciting time for me. I would spend most of my nights trying to cook up veganized versions of my favourite dishes for Lauren to try. If anyone is having trouble making the switch, just do what I did and fall in love with a vegan.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE VEGAN MEAL? If I know Lauren she’s probably going to say the southern combo from The Hogtown Vegan which is a close second next to Lauren’s famous mac and cheese. It’s the perfect combo of creamy, rich and tasty!

hotforfoodblog.com