Back in 2014, we stopped off in Toronto for a few days in between our weeks in New York and Chicago, squeezing in a worthwhile daytrip to Niagara Falls too. Three or four days is plenty of time for exploring this lively Canadian city, though you may need a little longer if you want to hit up all of the breweries. Loads have opened up since our trip – Burdock, Bandit, Halo, Nickel Brook, Henderson, Tooth and Nail, Left Field, Radical Road, Godspeed, Lansdowne, Duggans, Mascot, and Blood Brothers to name a few! Thanks to Sabrina from Bar Hop Brewco for the up to date tips.
We stayed in Kensington Market, possibly the most hipster neighbourhood on the planet. Everyone is vegan, and cars are turned in to plant pots, but it has a great buzz to it especially at the weekend. It’s also a top area for food and drink. Drop in to the likes of Nu Bugel, Supermarket, Cold Tea, Seven Lives Tacos Y Mariscos, Thirsty & Miserable, The Burgernator and Wanda’s Pie In The Sky to soak up some of the atmosphere.
Our favourite brunch spot, Aunties & Uncles, isn’t far away either. Grab a nearby Manic Coffee for the A&U queue (which was full of friendly Canadians, even on a weekday). Then head over to Snakes & Lagers where you might just spend the rest of the day; a brilliant board game bar with great beers (see also Snakes & Lattés) which has inspired similar concepts all over the world including Draughts in our very own Haggerston. Ask for Hanabi.
I’d also recommend People’s Eatery, 416 Snack Bar, Bar Volo, Bar Hop (x2), Canoe, Momofuku, Thoroughbred and more (see map for locations & links), though these are fairly spread out and the centre of town can get a little quiet, much like the City in London on a weekend. We tried a few spots out, after a worthwhile trip to Toronto Islands (accessible by boat) which afforded us great views of the skyline, and a first sighting of frisbee golf!
Much more fun are the hip hangouts around Ossington Ave & Dundas St. West. Queue at Bang Bang Ice Cream & Bakery for superb ice cream sandwiches; sit at the bar in the charming Bellwood’s Brewery; cram in to Communist’s Daughter for live music; have a tarot reading at The Libertine speakeasy; and hit up the arcade machines at Get Well. The best cocktails (and amusing bartender chat) came at the simply named Cocktail Bar, connected to Black Hoof and related to nearby Rhum Corner that are also very popular. Bar Isabel, Electric Mud BBQ, Chantecler, Wallflower, Glory Hole Doughnuts, Toronto Temperance Society remain on my wishlist.
Last but not least, a special mention must go to Big Crow, our top meal in Toronto which was (get this) more satisfying than anything we had over 24 days in New York, Chicago & Minneapolis. Perhaps we were just deliriously hungry after a day of eating only bagels around Niagara Falls, but there’s definitely something special going on in this fairytale backyard BBQ joint “inspired by Algonquin Park, canoe trips, cooking over an open fire, swimming in the big lakes of Ontario and Winter camping”, tucked behind Rose & Sons (both run by Anthony Rose & co.). The menu changes regularly (I still dream of our smoked mozzarella & roast garlic bread, sweet spicy bacon with peppers and a 2lb hamsteak with honey butter hot sauce and pineapple) and it always looks incredible. Put Big Crow at the top of your to-do list, and then scribble Rose & Sons, Fat Pasha and their recently opened Schmaltz Appetizing right underneath too.
If you have a couple of days to spare, drive for three hours or so to get to Algonquin Park and see what the Rose family were on about. We found ourselves there two years after our Toronto trip, and can confirm the canoes and campfires. Stay with Bongo Mike & Andrea at their retro Camp Bongopix cabins for maximum fun.
Check out all of these suggestions and more on Map The List : Toronto
P.S. Since my trip was back in 2014, there’s a high chance that some of this info is out of date, AND of course a lot of great stuff has opened since. Please get in touch with any corrections and suggestions – just email firstname.lastname@example.org. Don’t forget to make use of Eater & Thrillist amongst other sites when planning your next food and drink odyssey!