A few weeks ago, I had the huge honour to go to Toronto to attend CAFA, the annual award ceremony for Canadian fashion. “Why was I invited?”, you may ask? Well, I was part of their nominating committee this year which doubled up as the perfect excuse to hop on a train with my fave friend à la Sex and the City, dress up even more than at my own prom, and wander around Toronto like a tourist for 72 hours.
At the Broadview Hotel right before CAFA, wearing my gorgeous dress by Eliza Faulkner.
Truth is that every time I travel there, I always end up in the West part of the city, commonly known as coolness central: Queen W., Dundas W., Ossington, blah blah blah. But this time around, I went east. And guess what? The East end is just as cool, if not more. I spent my weekend around Riverside and Leslieville where there’s no shortage of amazing restaurants, bars, and boutiques. The main upside for me was that it still had that cool factor without the too-cool-for-school vibe you often get in the west part of the city. (Last time I say “cool” in this post, I swear.)
Determined like a photoreporter working for National Geographic, I meticulously combed through the area to put together an extensive list of must-sees. Are you ready to discover and fall in love with a whole new side of Toronto?
Where to Stay
If The Grand Budapest hotel had been shot in Toronto, Wes Anderson would definitely have gone for the Broadview Hotel.
The Building: A Little Story
Built in 1891 by a wealthy entrepreneur, the building first served as a commercial center before turning into a hotel to then switch to a boarding house with a strip club on the first floor. In 2014, it changed owners and became the Broadview Hotel as we know it today. Before you ask, the strip club is long gone.
When you wish you could move into your hotel at the end of a vacay, it’s usually a pretty good sign.
Reason #1: The fact that there’s not one, not two, but three restaurants. My first culinary venture was at their bistro on the first floor, the morning after CAFA. I took a seat amongst their softly coloured furniture and an ocean of natural light, and did a bit of work with an americano and avocado toast by my side, thinking to myself “Giiirl, you could get used to this.”
In the evening, I took the elevator up to their last floor for apéro hour with my second favourite date after my boyfriend, my friend Élé. You should know that, whether you’re staying at the Broadview Hotel or not, this is an absolute must. Lush velour couches, darkly painted walls, 360º windows and a terrace with a breathtaking view, let’s just say that if I had wanted to confess my love to Élé, this would have been THE place. As for my menu recommendations, I suggest you go with the Basil Elderflower Smash with a side of duck fat popcorn and spinach dip.
I mean, how gorgeous was my date? <3
The most beautiful terrace ever.
Lastly, The Civic, the hotel’s third restaurant, which I sadly didn’t have time to try, but from what I hear, it’s supposed to be really good!
Reason #2: Every floor has its little je-ne-sais-quoi. Let me explain. Two floors have all-you-can-drink sparkling water on tap (in other words, my version of heaven on earth). On one floor, there’s a little library from which you can borrow any books you want and on another, there’s a tiny desk with a printer for freelancers on-the-go. Wait, there’s more. The walls on every floor are covered with artwork by local artists. FYI: they’re all for sale.
Once again, every detail is carefully curated. All skincare and haircare found in my beautiful black and white bathroom is by natural beauty company Graydon Skincare. The mini bar is full of organic snacks, next to an assortment of interesting knick-knacks, such as sequin nipple tassels (always convenient if you forgot yours at home). It’s obvious that the hotel wants to cater to a curious, modern, and open-minded clientele and, it’s clearly working, because I already want to go back.
*My stay was generously offered to me by The Broadview Hotel.
Where to Eat
If you’re a brunch aficionado, those two places are absolute go-tos. First stop: the White Lily Diner, which serves delicious food mostly prepared with local ingredients in a diner vibe (thus the name). A couple of friends of mine also recommended going to Lady Marmalade and I’m so glad I did, both for the elaborate dishes and the modern yet homey design of the place, spreading out on two floors.
White Lily Diner
For an afternoon caffeinated pick-me-up, head over to Te Aro . The coffee shop boasts a huge terrace in the front, which means it’s the perfect place to sip on your iced coffee (roasted by Pilot Coffee) and do some people watching and/or pet a stranger’s dog. For all the sweet tooth out there, you absolutely have to go to Wong’s Ice Cream & Store and try one of their super funky ice cream flavours. From Roasted Ramen Miso to Buttered Popcorn and Sriracha, you’re miles away for the good old Oreo McFlurry. My personal favourite? The vegan coconut, mango and sticky rice ice cream.
Wong’s Ice Cream & Shop
Take a few hours to digest all that food and then book a table at Frankie’s Italian. The decor is authentic while modern, our waiter was extremely funny (hey Ben!), and the burrata, ragù pasta, and tiramisu have been monopolizing of all of my food fantasies since. Buon appetito!
Where to Shop
Clothes and accessories
To all the vintage fans, this one is for you! Start your shopping venture at Common Sort, where you can find all kinds of thrifted treasures, from a $10 top to a $100 dress by Oscar de la Renta. (It’s a bit like New York’s Beacon’s Closet, but 20 times smaller.) The racks are packed, there’s a bit of elbowing going on, but it only makes the hunt all the more exciting. Two streets north, there’s another shop called Coffee & Clothing, run by a charming couple from San Francisco who recently moved to Toronto. The front of the store is devoted to a selection of genderless, thrifted clothes, accessories, and ceramic objects. As for the back, it’s ***DRUM ROLL*** the coffee shop area.
Coffee & Clothing
Time to switch gear. What do Wolf Circus jewelry, Fortnight precious lingerie, and Nisolo ethical shoes have in common? You can all find them at Good Neighbour, a store filled to the brim with goods form men, women, and children. Yes, you have to filter through some Adidas sneakers and Levi’s jeans to find the indie brands, but there’s many and they’re definitely worth it.
Last stop on my fashion itinerary: Park & Fifth. I have to warn you, going to that store calls for a bit of determination—it’s hidden in an office building and you have to book an appointment before going—but it’s worth the extra effort, I promise. The Vancouver-based brand specializes in dressy attire, mostly dresses, from cocktail party to wedding-worthy, ethically made in British Columbia with deadstock fabrics. The designs are stunning, there’s a curve and maternity division, and the prices are surprisingly wallet-friendly. Didn’t I tell you it was worth it?
Park & Fifth
Buying stuff for your home while traveling is pretty much limited to objects that fit in your suitcase and that don’t weigh a hundred pounds (so forget about that couch, will you?). Great news: those three places are full of luggage appropriate finds.
First and foremost, Bettencourt Manor, also known as the store where I could have literally bought everything. The selection is so flawless that even after walking around the boutique for 10 minutes, I still hadn’t noticed that everything was vintage. The only exception: the owners reupholster all the fabric-covered objects (couches, cushions, etc.) with their bespoke printed fabrics. Wrap up your second-hand quest with The Apartment, the ideal place to satisfy all of your rattan chair and 70s vase cravings. The space is tiny, which means that only the best stuff makes the cut.
On a more streamlined note (and where, I think, Gwyneth Paltrow would shop if she lived in Toronto), let me introduce you to Black Rooster. Here, neutral colours and raw materials are the norm and, how could I say this… Riiight, EVERYTHING looks stunning! Two objects that prove my point: this amazing straw parasol and this coffee table on which I could spread all my beautiful books AND take a nap (might as well maximize that investment). Good news for me, bad news for my savings: they ship all across Canada.
Beauty, Culture, and More
The owners of Common Sort (mentioned above) also run another store on the other side of the street called Token Gift Shop. Its name is pretty straightforward: from a card by a local artist to an organic face oil, every item would be great as a gift to a loved one and/or yourself. While you’re there, take a few steps toward the back of the room to shop for some vinyles at the Tiny Record Shop, from oldies to newer releases.
Token Gift Shop
Tiny Record Shop
Tiny House Mama is another multidisciplinary destination: it’s a lifestyle boutique, a hair salon, and a furniture store. The owner, Stacey Lipstein, hair stylist and Instagram sensation, cuts her clients’ hair surrounded by a hand-picked selection of fashion accessories and beauty products that fall perfectly within her laid-back yet perfectly curated aesthetic spectrum. On the other side of the store, you’ll find gorgeous wooden furniture by Heri Furniture Design.
Tiny House Mama
How about wrapping up that trip on a literary note at Queen Books? For my Montreal friends, it feels a bit like Drawn & Quaterly, but with more room to wander around. With plenty of stunning books, hard-to-find magazines, and great fiction (I went for Conversations with Friends: A Novel by Sally Rooney), there’s just no way you’re leaving that store empty-handed.
So that’s it for my Toronto’s East end city guide! If you’ve been there already and have any recommendations, let me know in the comments! I will for sure be back one day or the other.
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