Best Things about “The Junction” district Toronto

English: Looking east down Dundas Street West ...

Encompassing the Dundas street west and stretching from DuPont west of Wallace all the way east over to High Park , this originally heavily industrialized section of Toronto was home to the massive Foundries and Factories that supported Toronto’s burgeoning turn of the century Rail network. As you would expect in an area born out of the industrial rail era, The Junction’s main artery – Dundas Street West – has antique, bric a brac and architectural salvage stores all competing in the lineup with the Victorian era red brick buildings that dominate this upcoming and hip part of town. More like an old fashioned British high street than a suburb of Toronto, the boom in church and factory loft restorations in the area has led to an influx of super cool loft dwellers that has ensured a ready market for these businesses and their support acts: the kitschy and quirky coffee shops, delis, brew pubs and restaurants.

Wallace &Co
Still has quirky store signs all over window so bizarrely the first thing you notice is the “Soda comic books” sign on the main window of the corner front of this diner/espresso bar
Full of Junction trendies in this upcoming part of the city
299 Wallace Street

Curry Twist
Tiny and designed inventively – on a shoestring, this was a hard-earned find.
Now it’s on our radar and its deliciousness etched on our taste buds we won’t be going to any other Indian restaurant on Toronto – EVER

Check out the following too:
Cafe Neon– Wallace Street – great coffee, breakfast in cool urban loft space
The Farmhouse Tavern – interesting tractor/all things farm decor: oysters a speciality : enticingly inventive cocktails and good patio. Check opening times as these vary.
The Pie Shack on Annette – pies, pies and just pies (and coffee/tea) Best home- made pie in town. Cute interior space with some board games – tiny apron of outside space for a couple of tables and a doghouse (and why not!)

Cafe Creme
Cool hand of a girl
Crema Coffee
Amani Earls

Indie Brewing company
3030 on Dundas West (Bring your creativity with you here for boardgames/drawing/quiz nights/vintage pinball machines).

Post & Beam Reclamation
Forever Interiors


Over and Out


Toronto’s Most Unusual Dining Venues Part 3 – for the Experience

Sultan's Tent

Sultan’s Tent (Photo credit: Henna Sooq)




O ‘Noir
Led by a blind host into the blanketing darkness ( were talking black and some!)” of the dining room puts all your other senses on high alert particularly when it comes to tasting food you cannot see!
This may appear to be a sort of voyeurism without vision but you can enjoy this most unique sensory culinary experience knowing that it is a dining concept with a conscience – set up to give sighted folk an insight into the world of the blind and in this respect it totally delivers.

Mysteriously Yours
How about dinner served with dash of innuendo and a hint of murder.
This is nicely done, fast-paced and lewdly witty and with minimal humiliation reserved for those set up by friends and family prior to the evening!
The food is incidental when booking a dinner venue like this; however it is surprisingly good and when coupled with the dinner- long entertainment, great value for money.

Sultans Tent and Cafe Moroc
Midnight at the Oasis in downtown Toronto. Immerse yourself in the exotic culture of North Africa and enjoy an exuberant evening of belly-dancing entertainment and exquisite delicately seasoned Moroccan fare amidst the exotic jewel and spice-coloured hues of tented lounges and Moroccan themed decor.

Guu Izakaya on Church
Shout “Guu is Guuu’d!”
Shout “Kampai” (cheers) as you raise a glass
In fact shout just about anything because shouting and noise is the hallmark of the GUU brand’s energetic version of an authentic Japanese Pub (Izakaya)
Serving an eclectic selection of Japanese dishes and a wide selection of sake – try the plum varieties

> 3030 Dundas West
Slated to become one of Toronto’s next landmark venues this vast warehouse space houses a stellar dining and entertainment concept. Order your drink and/or your food – small plate tapas-style food freshly prepared from $5 a dish – then choose a board game or puzzle; play pinball on the vintage machines or watch VHS tapes playing on a “true vision” set. Fancy drawing something -knock yourself out!
Check the website for the many events (DJ/live music/quiz nights)


Over and Out

Toronto’s most unusual dining venue – Part 2 – For Location

So in the last blog I chose to feature dining experiences set apart by their access to spectacular views of Toronto

This article features restaurants categorized according to their out-of -the-ordinary locations:

• The Rectory Cafe on Toronto Island
A slice of cottage country on the City’s doorstep, The secluded oasis that is Rectory Cafe is located on Ward island within a shady sun- dappled copse scooched up to The Island’s tree lined board walk.
With interesting menu options and cocktails this is a delightful place to dine at any time of day but an especially beguiling venue in the evening when most of the day trippers have returned home as it is open till 10pm in the summer.

Arriba Restaurant – Renaissance Hotel
From its magnificent vantage point high up in the Rogers Skydome a meal at Arriba combines dynamic dining with an opportunity to catch a Blue Jays game. A window-on-the-game meal is served with a side of baseball snippets by enthusiastic serving staff.

Auberge du Pommier
One wouldn’t just come across this Oliver and Bonacini owned gem, as this tiny French restaurant – carefully restored around two 1860’s woodcutters cottages – is tucked away off the beaten track, and shrouded amongst the densely packed skyscrapers of one of North York’s busy financial and business districts
Serving the most delectable and much lauded French food in a atmospheric wood- smoke drenched space complete with a huge wood burning fireplace.

• Gallery Grill at Hart House
Shades of Harry Potter’s Hogwarts: dine in this intimate gallery overlooking the gothic Great Hall with its vaulted ceiling and oak panelling or choose a table overlooking the sculpture garden. Sumptuous well served food and look out for the innovative cocktails -which also appear evening-side from 7pm Wednesday to Fridays.

The Old Mill Hotel is a quaint and historic setting for afternoon tea – There has been a tea garden here since 1914. A restored black and white timber framed hotel in a leafy enclave of West Toronto; its motto is “In the valley of the Humber, a bit of England, far from England”. And a taste of old England is exactly what you’ll get:
Afternoon Tea is served
Monday – Friday from 3:00 -5pm, 2-4pm on Saturdays and 3:30-5pm on Sundays.
You’ll need to book ahead

Osgoode Hall Dining Room
The restaurant in this grand circa 1840 building, and home of the Law Society of Upper Canada is the haunt of the legal eagles and those in the know. Have lunch amidst the wood panelled pomp of the Great Hall with its book lined shelves, monster chandeliers, stained glass and mezzanine gallery.
A fabulous crisp fresh menu is served on weekday lunchtimes from September until June. You can opt for either prix fix at around $25 for 2 courses or you can go “off -piste” with a la carte look out for the range of E Lustau sherries

Over and Out



Toronto’s most unusual dining venue – Part 1 – Dining with a view

Toronto is the most multicultural city on the planet and as such dining adventures that take you round the globe are easy to find. But hidden amongst the usual contingent of multicultural culinary cuisines are a number of more off-the-wall unexpected dining venues as defined by view, location and food. In the first of this 3 part blog the following places to eat top the list as having the most spectacular views of Toronto

360 Restaurant
Make no mistake, whilst the CN Tower IS a top tourist destination. the food and service in the stunning “360” restaurant is not your usual revolving restaurant “get em in and get em out” location. The spectacular gently rotating 360 degree kaleidoscope views of Toronto perspectives is supported by a top notch great value menu; classy ambience and professionally executed service. A quintessential Toronto “must do”
Phone: (416) 362-5411

Mariposa Dinner Cruise
Watch the setting sun bathe Toronto’s spectacular skyline in a reflected glow as you cruise, dine and dance the night away (with a live DJ) aboard one of the Mariposa Cruise Lines fleet of 7 vessels.
More of an overall entertainment experience (over 3 hours on board) than a gourmet foodie destination as dinner is served buffet style

Palais Royal
Waterfront Wednesdays at the recently restored and revived Palais Royale
Immerse yourself in the ambience of a bygone era on the waterfront patio of Toronto’s original 1920’s jazz/swing venue.
Every Wednesday evening from July 3 -September 4, the 4000 sq foot patio is transformed into a glittering canopied al fresco jazz, dining and dancing space – cool lake breezes; stunning views of the city to the east; the sun setting over the lake to the west ……
Dress up!
see website for details




Next – Dining – Location, Location, Location

Mothers Day Treat

The following is a selection of Mother-friendly Toronto destinations that have been rigorously tried and tested by a member of this very important target audience – My Mother

Warning: You won’t get to do all of these in one day of course –
Perfect excuse to take her out again.
And again……

No self respecting day out with your mother can even get off the ground without a decent breakfast.
Stratus at the top of the TD Waterhouse Building in The Toronto Athletic Club serves breakfast with a skyline view. Nestled amongst the gleaming towers of the city core, the restaurant is stylishly minimalist but good value with great breakfast choices overseen by chef David Ross (Auberge du Pommier), Open for weekday breakfast and lunch it’s best to make a reservation on 4168651924

Over in Toronto’s west end, a different style of breakfast option is available at “Nadege” The brainchild of fourth generation pastry chef Nadege Nourian, this patisserie is especially delightful from spring through fall when – after you’ve made your choice of scrumptious made-on-site filled croissants or agonised over the melt-in-your-mouth macaron selection – you can sit on the shaded patio overlooking the park.

If museums could be given a gender then both “The Bata shoe museum” and The Gardiner museum would be female and on that basis perfect for our Mothers.
The Gardiner whilst small but perfectly formed is the only museum in Canada devoted exclusively to ceramics. A gleaming glass confection of beautifully displayed ceramics spanning 3 floors topped by the Jamie Kennedy restaurant. There are always has myriad temporary thought-provoking exhibitions passing through, in addition to genre related classes and talks, plus it hosts the exquisite Twelve Trees” exhibit at Christmas. Bonus: if your Mother fancies throwing a pot or two, herself, make sure you are in the lobby on Wednesday or Friday evenings a for first-come, first- serve access to the studio beginning at 6pm. They also run on Sundays at 1pm

The Bata shoe Museum
Question: which fictitious secret agent had a telephone built into his shoe?
You can find out at this one-of-a-kind museum. If I were a shoe I’d leave instructions to be buried here. Shoe-heaven spanning 4.500 years over 4 floors in an award winning building. From chestnut-crushing clogs to celebrity shoes bequeathed by John Lennon, Marilyn Munroe and Madonna (to name but a few), oh and curiously a pair of Napolean Bonaparte’s silk socks.

Spa experience
Nothing screams “Spoil Her” as much as a couple of hours of lounging and treatments at one of Toronto’s world class hotel spas.
Both these below are covered separately in previous blogs, so if you need more info scroll back through my posts.

Caudalie Miraj Hammam Spa at the Shangri-La – a wildly exotic experience where you can book a private hamman for just the two of you. What makes this a really special treat is the tented opulence of the Hammam lounge – all “Arabian nights” draped chiffon, Persian rugs and jewel colored raffia “pouffes” strewn with mags, and reeking decadence.
A nice touch after your treatment/s is the baklava, grapes and sweet mint tea served on brassware to your little “nook

More down to earth but just a blissful in terms of treatment options (and price) is “The Aveda Concept spa” at the “Intercontinental” Hotel on Front Street.
The Spa area whilst lined with glass framed views of the Toronto skyline has an intimate ambiance and an inviting waiting area complete with Aveda tea, fresh fruit and infused waters on –tap. It always houses a decent sized pool (complete with tiny waterfall) fringed with cheerful and inviting reclining loungers, and a hot tub.

Afternoon Tea
Forget all the formula high-teas of the high-end Hotels down town, your Mother will be charmed by an afternoon tea in any of the more unusually feminine offerings below:
First up the delightful and always surprising “Red Tea Box” that hides out on Queen Street West. One of Toronto’s best kept secrets comprising 2 indoor shabby-chic tea rooms sandwiching a “secret garden” summer patio shaded by pear trees and Indian

screens. Open the tiny door and your view is barred by the huge display of “trade secret” crazy -pretty cakes: iced to perfection and almost too beautiful to eat, these are light-as-a-feather sponge and cream delectations in wildly yummy flavors. Also available are imaginative sweet and savory Bento boxes, sandwiches and soups.
This is not a place to be rushing through – the service pace should be your guide. Closed Tuesdays – check for hours. 416 203 8882

MoRoCo – a lexicon: Mo for Montana, Ro for Rory and Co for Cocoa. Montana and Rory are the inspiration behind MoRoCo Chocolate’s delectable offering on Yorkville Avenue. The interior, with its enticing “come hither” chocolate aura is a striking marriage of tasteful Parisian boudoir and a hat box –dark paint, white moulded walls, chandeliers and plush seating. This is high tea with a twist; a chocolate twist plus a chance to sample the house-made chocolate finery. You must book ahead for “High Teas”

The Old Mill Hotel is a quaint and historic setting for afternoon tea – There has been a tea garden here since 1914. A restored black and white timber framed hotel in the leafy enclave of Old Mills West Toronto, its motto is “In the valley of the Humber, a bit of England, far from England”. And a taste of old England is exactly what you’ll get: dark beamed spaces; flagstone floors and the glorious smell of wood smoke from the wood burning fires dotted around the place. You will need to book ahead: Teas are served
Monday – Friday from 3:00 -5pm, 2-4pm on Saturdays and 3:30-5pm on Sundays.

Cocktails with a view:

Cocktails at the top of one of the world’s tallest structures, “The CN Tower” wins the prize here –either as part of a meal in the spectacular 360 revolving restaurant or just a twilight visit to the Horizon Restaurant Bar just below. Be sure to visit at twilight so you can watch the sun go down over the city around 350 metres below!

“The Panorama lounge” in the Manu-Life Centre on Bloor – sit on the balcony 55 floors up for a no-holds-barred “Panoramic” view of the city and Lake. Though High-heel worthy, this chic venue is not so snotty as to turn its nose up at end-of-long-day smart

In the heart of Toronto’s impressive glass and steel financial district and under the watchful eye of the CN Tower, Canoe is one of Toronto’s high end restaurants with a view. The prize stallion of the Oliver and Bonacini stable of restaurants, you don’t need a reservation if you are simply stopping by for a cocktail in the window lined bar. – Tel:4163640054

A night on the town
Toronto is the third largest theatre venue in the world after London and New York, so expect to be able to treat your Mother to a spectacular west end or Broadway show. It’s easy to pick up tickets for same day shows at the the Totix booth in Dundas Square. Or subscribe to to nab great deals on tickets in advance.
Look out for theatre events occurring in heritage properties such
as the faux gothic Casa Loma or the century old Montgomery’s Inn which frequently host imaginatively interpreted performances of Shakespeare, Bram stoker and Dickens plays adapted to make use of these amazing spaces. Check or
Can’t leave this category without mentioning the world class architecturally and acoustically advanced “Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts”, home of the
National Ballet of Canada and the Canadian Opera Company. Contact the centre at

With a phenomenal number of jazz and blues bars many of which are just that – bars hosting great talent, there are two that are a bit special:
The newly opened and Chicago-esque “Jazz Bistro” downtown on Victoria Street. Resurrected from the ashes of the “Top of the Senator” jazz club this has taken the business of jazz supper to new levels in Toronto. You need to reserve a dining slot in order to eat and watch the show as supper is served before the performer comes on. Not your average jazz club food here. More of a “Ronnie Scotts” in Londond or a “Birdland” New York experience.

“The Reservoir Lounge” on Front Street. Their tag line – “Cool Jazz. Hot Swing. Great People. Smart Cocktails. Good Eats” – just about sums this place up. A nice understated stone walled basement jazz club – There is usually a cover to be paid at the door



Tailor-made Toronto – Girls morning out (Eating)

Iphone summer 2012 177Butter Avenue 2 - Copy (2)

Spending the day with girl friends, sisters or Mum?
Whilst some of the following are definitely male-friendly there is a girl bias so leave the chaps behind this time…..

For summer mornings; delicious breakfast/melt-in-your mouth breakfast croissants, pastries and espresso at Nadege on Queen street West adjacent to Trinity Bellwoods park. Sun drenched summer patio on the side.

Stratus at the top of the Toronto Athletic Club – 36 floors up with an up-front and personal view of the CN Tower and the Lake shoreline. Open for breakfast only Monday – Friday

A Bluegrass brunch at the Dakota Tavern!

Sunday brunch in the Harry Potter gothic atmosphere of The Hart House Gallery Grill –

On Queen Street East at “Bonjour Brioche” the best French breakfast pastries – zesty lemon twisty croissants is a speciality you won’t find anywhere else – this is also a summer patio cafe.

Sunday brunch in the Lee Chin Crystal at C5 in the ROM – now headed up by TV Chef Corbin Tomaski (who used to be at Holts and who amingst other tv credits hosted “Dinner Party Wars” with Anthea Turner).

A Bluegrass brunch at the Dakota Tavern!

A little further out and combined with a wonderful walk in the wetlands conservation area that is the Brickworks, visit Cafe Belong for delicious feather-light buttery breakfast biscuits bursting with sausage,eggs and bacon – more filling than biscuit.
Worth the tedious queuing at the weekends!

The Grenadier Cafe in High Park does a damn good breakfast and has a huge patio for the summer and you can make your day out about walks in High Park, Toronto’s largest park – lots of trails, a zoo, allotments area, fishing, Shakespeare in the Park venue.

“ELEVENSES” break (anytime)

Google Curbside Bliss mobile cupcakes for the MOST divine cupcakes in town. Seriously find out where they are parking for he morning and plan your trip around them – best cupcakes in town
Cupcakes at Dlish on Queen street west.
Prairie girl on King Street East.
The Cupcake Shoppe on Yonge north of Eglinton – claims to be Toronto’s first cupcake speciality shop – 28 but free varieties with 11 rotating flavours served daily.

Crema coffee
This burgeoning coffee chain uses some type of whizzy highly pressurized milk- frothing technology to concentrate the size of the bubbles in the cappuccino cream. I am so addicted to the macchiatos/lemon and ginger scones/lemon poppyseed scones/ cheese and bacon breakfast corn bread/coconut macaroons etcetera, etcetera that I make detours to fit a visit into my days!

French pastries and wicked espresso at Jules or Thurbors on Mount Pleasant or La Cigogne on The Danforth or Bayview.

Thuet on King West – mouthwatering croissants in shabby chic loft store.

At the point where the Lawrence/Yonge pish-posh shops virtually run out “Butter Avenue”- just south of Loblaws – has attracted rave reviews from foodie and city papers since it opened at the back end of 2011.
This sort of patisserie shop has been a long time coming to the area. It boasts a simple minimalist desgign – teeny tiny round tables, Philip Stark style white cafe chairs, a stunning stand-alone window display comprising a huge conical tree of macaroons – the cafe’s speciality. Great espresso reasonably priced and “special” tarts and macaroons sparingly displayed for maximum visual impact can be purchased.

Spend a morning in “The Distillery” heritage area:
Have a cup of thick Spicy Chocolate plus lots of other naughty chocolate creations at Soma and watch them make their chocolate through glass walls through to the kitchen.
Balzacs coffee also have a beguiling and unusual space here. Just expensive and slow but the tables spill onto the cobblestones in the summer making it a wonderful place to toast in the sun and people watch. Plenty of shi shi boutiques and Galleries in this area too.

The Art Cafe is one of the nicest of the cafes lining the street opposite the AGO as they serve a huge array of sweet and savoury crepesin the midst of its tiny art gallery, oh AND a great espresso – During summer one of those darling patios that pop up in the city in the shape of a couple of tables outside in the “secret garden” shady courtyard; also a couple of seats on the entrance patio that seem to be positioned so as to capture any sun going.

The best most eclectic boutique Shopping on Queen Street West including vintage and one-off unique designer spaces.

Coming up next “Girls Afternoon Out” yep more eating up be done!

Tailor-made Toronto – Girls Afternoon Out (Eating)

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So continuing along the eating theme of the last blog – Tailor- made Toronto -Girls morning Out
We move to Lunches:
The following have been my go to spots
over the last few years

Osgoode Hall – Mainly the lunch domain of barristers and lawyers, the refectory in Osgoode Hall – just off Queen and University serves up a stupendous 3 course lunch. great value. Tel: 4169473300 for reservations. Opens again after Labour day.
“Holts Restaurant” (not the basement cafe) – amidst the indulgence and excess that is Holt Renfrew, is a little oasis of normality; great value huge equisitely rendered tartines (open faced sandwiches); imaginative cocktails and the best attentive service you’ll get anywhere in this store.
A little further out at the Don Valley Brickworks is “Cafe Belong”
Wonderful homey comfort food served in the most interesting environmental project in town.
“The Red Tea Box” on
Queen street west – Gorgeously feminine tea room winter or summer (on terrace) crazy pretty individual cakes – almost to beautiful to eat – light as feather sponge and cream fillings in wildly yummy flavours and iced to perfection. Also imaginative sweet and savoury Bento boxes, sandwiches and soups.
This is not a place to be rushing through – the service pace should be your guide. Tel: 416 203 3882

“Madeleine’s Cherry Pie & Icecream”
Book the very pretty parlour for an elegant “party” tea – best meringues ever. Quirky surroundings full of bits and bobs to feast your eyes on.

“Campbell House” – on Queen street west – heritage house / tours and lunch (check website)

High tea at the Windsor Arms
The library room at The Royal Fairmont
“The King Edward”
“The Four seasons”
Or for crepes on Lawrence north of Yonge, “T-buds” which serves a million tea varieties and afternoon tea in an unassuming corner location off Yonge Great service and incredibly good value for money (pot of tea, complimentary almond biscotti and a delicious savoury scone for around 5 bucks). It also hosts tea tasting sessions in its substantial premises and does a very delicate looking afternoon tea most weekday afternoons (you need to book these).

“MoRoCo Chocolate” on Yorkville Avenue for chocolate based high tea –

“Montgomery’s” Inn at the weekends – a city heritage property (old rooming Inn) which serves home-made baked goodies in a sweet little tea room with a wood fire! Excellent shortbread and oatcakes – selections depend upon who’s baking that day!