Once again scoring top marks in Mercer’s Quality of Living Ranking and having the second coolest neighbourhood (West Queen West) in the world as per Vogue, Toronto is quite the media darling of late but it’s no surprise to the many who lovingly call “the 6ix” home. Having lived in the city for most of my life now, I constantly find myself discovering amazing spots to eat, drink, shop, and sleep. Here’s a morning-to-night rundown of some of my old standbys and new favourites for your weekend in Toronto.
Drop Off Your Bags
The Thompson Hotel is an ideal home base as it’s walking distance to the incredible restaurants on King West like Buca and super convenient to the coffee shops and bars in Parkdale and Queen West. Also nearby is the Art Gallery of Ontario with an impressive collection of Canadian art and world-class visiting exhibitions all housed in a Frank Gehry reno. While you’re at the Thompson, make sure to take in the sweeping views of Toronto’s skyline and the city’s only rooftop lounge with a gigantic infinity pool.Book me in!
Start With Brunch
I’ve always been a sucker for delicious cross-cultural concoctions and Patois’ fun family-style Caribbean-Asian soul food is no exception. Playful brunch items include the Hong “King” Kong Waffle, which is a Hong Kong-style egg waffle, topped with macerated strawberries, whipped cream, drizzled Nutella and crispy plantain chips, and the Patois Eggs Benny with two spicy Jamaican beef patties, poached eggs, jerk Mortadella and the smoothest Hollandaise. This is definitely not your ordinary scrambled eggs with bacon and hash browns.
For a fresh farm-driven breakfast, head a little more west to Farmhouse Tavern located in the Junction Triangle. This spot posts their brunch menus every weekend on Facebook but expect their impeccably done staples like the Eggs Benedict with bacon, kale, or gravlax and the Barnyard Burger topped with a perfect sunnyside egg. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to experience seasonal surprises like the fried green tomatoes that I still think of and salivate about to this day.
Bonus: If there’s one thing that makes the sometimes 2-hour lineup (yes, Torontonians love their weekend brunch) all worth it, is the Super Cheesy Bacon French Toast at School. Imagine gooey cheddar-jack cheese oozing to perfection.
Born in Vancouver, OAK+FORT is all about classic, clean designs and to top it off, the price point is insanely affordable. Their Toronto shop on Queen West features slouchy sweaters, well-constructed pants, and generous scarves for men and women in comfy shades of grey, camel, white, and black. These are pieces you’ll want to live in and wear every day.
For a well-curated selection of labels like Acne, Rag & Bone, and Isabel Marant, head over to Ossington’s Jonathan+Olivia. Don’t forget to stop next door and hit up my favourite spot in the city for vintage designer pieces, I Miss You. There is no better place to find the perfect vintage blouse to pair with your new classic Acne jeans.
Take A Break
For a necessary caffeine fix, pop by any one of four Sam James Coffee Bar locations or the charming Louie Craft Coffee in Liberty Village. If coffee isn’t really your thing, an authentic yerba mate at El Almacen always does the trick.
If fancy spas and facials are a bit too intimidating but you still want to pamper your skin, a healthy Dermalogica skin treatment at their International Dermal Institute is the way to go. To continue your body prep for the evening ahead, there’s only one place to go to for all your waxing needs, The Ten Spot (several locations in the city).
Wrap It Up
Bar Fancy is just the right place to get your snack game on. With crispy fried chicken (served with white sliced bread and a pickle, no less) at $2 and half-price oysters, this happy hour can’t be beat. A few minutes walk away is OddSeoul where you can indulge in Korean-flared bites like bulgogi cheesesteak and spicy Korean chicken wings.
For a pre-dinner cocktail or two, head to the cosy Montauk bar on Dundas West. A gigantic chalkboard wall lists unique creations as well as every classic cocktail you crave of, like delicious Negronis, Manhattans, and French75s.
Time For Dinner
The warm woods of the interior and nightly fun crowd at Bar Isabel on College Street make for an inviting vibe. Mix that with the creative Spanish fare—shared family-style—which includes a perfectly grilled half or full octopus, jamon croquetas, whole sea bream ceviche, and the incredibly delicious cocktails, like the Baraganna with charred pineapple-infused 1800 tequila, Cointreau, padron pepper and sage simple syrup and lime juice, make it pretty common to want to spend the entire night here.
Another favourite is the DaiLo. There is so much love and innovation poured into each dish at DaiLo where old-school Chinese staples meet French tradition with a modern Asian twist. It’s an irresistible combination that results in menu highlights like Hakka Brown Wontons with toasted sesame oil, house XO sauce and almond crumble and Ponzu Beef Carpaccio consisting of 90-day Olliffe rib cap, yuzu soy caramel, truffle dwarf peach, pickled chili and fried garlic. While you’re at it, try the inventive cocktails at the LoPan bar downstairs, like the Ansei Treaty with sake, white tea and Dolin dry vermouth.
Hit the Hotel Party
Some of Toronto’s best parties are tucked away not so far from the eyes of visitors. On West Queen West, local and Canadian musical talent rock the hotel lounge at The Drake while downstairs The Underground wrangles together an impressive schedule of DJ dance parties, poetry slams and even film screenings.
Down the block, The Gladstone Hotel also publishes a happening calendar of events with a major edgy and artistic slant. Think: Life drawing, music bingo and “Fameless Karaoke”. If you have the chance to befriend some of the hotel guests, the rooms upstairs are pretty insane.
Satisfy those Munchies
Chinatown is basically a hop, skip and a jump away from Kensington Market and after the bars have closed and feeling of “hangry” eventually ensues, making a visit to Rol San for some greasy/amazing dim sum is a must. For run and go munchies, join the line-up at Poutini’s for poutine that always hits the spot. You will thank yourself tomorrow.
Book it in!
Make a weekend in Toronto a reality with the hotels mentioned in this article…
★★★★★ The Thompson Hotel
Luxury digs with a killer rooftop lounge
550 Wellington Street West (at Bathurst Street)
★★★ The Gladstone
A neighbourhood arts hub with rooms to rent
1214 Queen Street West (at Dufferin Street)
★★★ The Drake Hotel
A flagship hotel for a Canadiana tastemaker
1150 Queen Street West (at Ossington Avenue)
Article adapted from a piece originally published on trivago magazine US.