Get to know a street: Donlands Avenue
Donlands is not an exceptionally beautiful street. I've phrased that kindly. But what it lacks in aesthetic, it makes up in character. Neighboured by bungalow homes, a school, and a soon-to-be new condo, Donlands between O'Connor Drive and Cosburn Avenue hosts a fleet of small businesses, offering a sense of community on a busy street. That's not to say it emits a warm and homey aura, per se. Rather, it's the type of place where a familiar face might ask you if you caught the game last night before tossing you a beer. Handshakes over hugs.
Here are some notable spots on Donlands:
Not exactly what its name suggests. Less swank and more sit-down-diner, Ritz Restaurant offers an interesting mix of Filipino and Canadian (?) food advertised on a big menu behind the bar. Patrons can enjoy a tapsilog ($6.00) breakfast, kare-kare and rice dinner ($8.90), or else a Ritz home burger ($4.90) with onion rings ($3.00). Mini jukeboxes are fixed to the booths, some of which may sport duct-tape upholstery repairs.
A sausage fest at its finest, I walked into Wally around 2 p.m. to find a bar of middle-aged men and a stray pair at a billiards table. The waitress (ah, another female!) was exceptionally friendly, and filled me in on The Wally's Friday and Saturday karaoke and $4.95 lunch special. But it was the 90's arcade games that really caught my eye. The Wally is right across the street from The Beer Store. Interpret as you wish.
This is the place to work off all of that Donlands comfort food. A martial arts studio and gym, one of the staff tells me they offer great women's self-defense classes and other instruction of the sort. The focus here is less on belts (actually, not at all on belts as Fight Club doesn't use a belt system) and more on developing skills and techniques.
S Caffe is the closest you'll get to sleek on this street, with stone walls, black furniture, and dim lighting sucking you in. A bit of a sausage fest here too, the patrons sipping beers rather than lattés when I walked in, contrary to what I expected from the name. As for food? "We have three types of pie," the bartender noted. "That's it."
Captain John's Fish and Chips
Totally what you'd expect, and totally awesome because of it. A sea (pun intended) of blue, complete with marine décor, exposed brick, and open cooking area. The cook, who was wearing the stereotypical while apron with grease stains, was listening to a customer's rant about his grandkids when I walked in, all to the cackle of deep-frying fish. Captain John offers halibut and chips ($10.85) and more, including shrimp, calamari, scallops and--gyro?
Select Bakery is, simply, massive. Fitting, then, that it's actually part grocery store and part bakery. Family-owned and Greek, the grocery section offers Krinos coffee, Ktyma olive oil, and frozen spanakopita. There's also room for milk, jams, cheeses meats, pastas, sauces, and more. The bakery offers Greek treats such as baklava, galaktoboureko and loukoumades, as well as other breads, cookies, cakes and pies. Oh yeah, and there are wedding cakes, several, all on display.
Fresh from the Farm
Fresh from the Farm is Donlands' answer to hormone-free, drug-free meats. "From Ontario Amish and Mennonite farmers," the woman at the register tells me. Along with beef, pork, chicken, and lamb, Fresh from the Farm often also has goat in stock, with all the prices displayed on its website. You can also pick up other grocery items including frozen gluten free lasagna, organic nuts, and pasta, as well as hormone- and drug-free dog and cat food.
Little London Barber Shop
Complete with Union Jack and all, Little London strikes me as the barbershop where Donlanders come to spill their secrets. Owner Nigel was born and raised in London and came to Toronto to open his no-frills shop. Little London offer men's cuts at $15, women's cuts and style at $40, and peanuts from a dispenser near the front door. Glad to report: no signs of Royal Wedding memorabilia.
Previously in this series:
Do you have any suggestions for overlooked streets you think we should feature on this site? Please send suggestions to streets [at] blogto [dotcom].