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Get to know a street: Wilson Avenue

Posted by Robyn Urback / September 4, 2011

Wilson AvenueWilson Avenue between Bathurst and Dufferin is not one of Toronto's up-and-coming hotspots. In fact, many of the notable businesses in this North York area have been here for decades--and it looks like they're staying put. Wilson Avenue's restaurants, grocery stores, and other shops seem to reflect the demographics of the area, which is comprised notably of Filipino and Jewish families. In other words (and to totally play off stereotypes) Wilson Avenue is the street to pick up some Pandesal and a few quality fresh-baked bagels. Here's where to find them, and some other places to check out on Wilson Avenue.

Steves Restaurant TorontoSteve's Restaurant
Just north of Wilson on Lawrence, Steve's is one of those inexplicably popular greasy spoon-ish restaurants that's packed with families on Sunday nights. Perhaps its esteem is due to the fact Steve's has been around for more than 60 years, or else, just because of its self-professed "Incredible Omelettes," but Steve's is one of those Wilson Avenue places that's guaranteed never to be empty.

Cusina LoungeCusina Lounge
Cusina Lounge is a Filipino restaurant and Karaoke bar with delicious, delicious BBQ stick prepared fresh on the patio in the summertime. The restaurant often hosts live music and karaoke, as well as all-you-can-eat Friday through Sunday. Dishes a la carte include Sinigang Bangus, Kare-kare, Kalderetang Kambing, and Bihon noodles.

hh grocery torontoH & H Groceries Store
H & H Groceries Store has Filipino and Canadian (whatever that is) groceries, but the real draw here is its hot table. Dishes such as fried tilapia, fried tuyo, Bangus Daing, and BBQ ribs entice by the front, while canned items, dry soups, and bagged snacks surround the back tables. There's also a (very) small selection of fresh produce by the door.

Sampaguita VillageSampaguita Village
Sampaguita Village is a fusion restaurant offering a mix of Chinese and Filipino dishes--something a little different from the typical Asian fusion. Don't let the word "village" fool you; this place is pretty small. But its menu, on the other hand, is actually quite extensive, with dishes such as Kare-Kare, Lechon Kawali, and Sweet and Sour Chicken all on the list of options.

Bagel WorldBagel World
Bagel World has been on Wilson Avenue for over 45 years, serving their famous "Bagelini" (flat bagel panini) to loyal patrons. There are a couple other locations in the GTA, but this Bagel World is the original and frequented by many grey-haired breakfast special-enthusiasts. Besides bagels, of course, Bagel World makes its own soup, cookies, loaves, and venerable chocolate Mandelbrot.

Yakamoz Grill Yakamoz Grill
It seems every neighbourhood must have its resident shawarma joint, and for Wilson Avenue, Yakamoz is it. Yakamoz's menu includes typical Middle Eastern fare such as falafels, shawarma, and kebabs, but also includes a couple of out-of-the-box items including salmon shish kebabs and rainbow trout filets.

Da Best Filipino BakeryDa Best Filipino Bakery
It's not exactly hip or quaint, but Da Best Filipino Bakery smells absolutely divine. And isn't that all that matters? This shop offers Filipino treats such as Halo Halo,
Buko Pandan, Lugaw, and Pandesal (regular and whole wheat), and there's one large communal table for seating, which was likely implemented with zero regard to the growing trend.

Brooklyn FurnitureBrooklyn Furniture
Brooklyn Furniture is actually just south of Wilson on Bathurst, on a lot where it's been for the past 50 years. This isn't a King Street furniture store, so don't count on finding obtuse orange side tables here. Instead, Brooklyn offers classic, timeless pieces--mostly made of solid wood--at discounted prices for medium- and high-end.

Previously in this series:

Sterling Road
Jane Street
Denison Street
Weston Road
O'Connor Drive
Orfus Road
The Village of Islington
Rogers Road
Lake Shore Boulevard
The Kingsway
Overlea Boulevard
Coxwell Avenue
Kingston Road
Carlaw Avenue
Donlands Avenue
Marlee Avenue

Do you have any suggestions for overlooked streets you think we should feature on this site? Please send suggestions to streets [at] blogto [dotcom]

Photos by Jesse Milns



Dave / September 4, 2011 at 09:36 am
Typo under Steve's Restaurant:

"Just north of Wilson on Lawrence" should read "Just north of Wilson on Bathurst".
RebTee / September 4, 2011 at 10:11 am
A really funky area of town - very "in process", but also charmingly unchanged since I was a baby. Stop in a couple of the shops on your way to the Costco - it's a fun adventure!
Mark Bee / September 4, 2011 at 10:28 am
After having lived on Wilson near Wilson Station, I can honestly say this was the very worst neighborhood I ever ever lived in. It is a wasteland. Armed robberies and various assaults made the area unsafe. Pancer's on Bathurst is the only decent restaurant in the area. Even Bagel World's passable bagels are easily surpassed by Griefs or Bagel House. In short, it is bleak, dull, and unsafe. I still shudder ever time I have to pass through that area.
Mark Bee / September 4, 2011 at 10:34 am
More needs to be said. The No Frills at the intersection of Bathurts and Wilson is grungy and filled with damaged produce. The Starbucks on the other corner is also always in need of a thorough cleaning (though the staff was always very friendly and helpful). Wilson is a dumping ground for a staggering number of rotten futons, old toilets, and household waste. Front lawns, such as they are, are regularly filled with decaying drywall and buckets of discarded paint. Old clothes are dumped into a festering heap to rot throughout the winter. Small construction projects simply leave their waste for the city to collect. There is no danger of this area being on anyones "up and coming" list. In the spring, the earth oozes with the refuse discarded and buried by the winter's snow.
Neptune yuck / September 4, 2011 at 10:47 am
Maggie Middleton / September 4, 2011 at 11:42 am
i have to agree with Mark Bee - i lived in this area (just west of Dufferin, actually) for a couple of years. the area boasts vast quantities of litter and no charm at all.
Jacqueline / September 4, 2011 at 11:42 am
I grew up on Wilson Ave. between Jane & Keele. It never changes. Talk about feeling isolated in the city. UGH.
Leigh / September 4, 2011 at 12:30 pm
Agree. 100%. Awful.
Petty crime and garbage.
anna / September 4, 2011 at 12:59 pm
Why do all the "get to know a street" articles profile the ugliest parts of town?
warmflash / September 4, 2011 at 01:34 pm
It's basically a slum. Why on earth would anyone want to " Get To Know Wilson Avenue? "

You should have published a map showing the quickest way to get away from the place.

Seeing as the " Get To Know " series focuses on only the most hideous streets, you could do a three part series on Yonge Street. Vast tracts of Yonge Street make Wilson Avenue look like 5th Avenue.

dj dingus / September 4, 2011 at 01:36 pm
this is a joke, right?
Elliott F. / September 4, 2011 at 01:47 pm
Some funny comments here. If you think that this column has to feature the most glamorous streets in the city, you are likely missing the point of it.

As for Brooklyn Furniture: I have always been really curious about this place! I must go in some time. Paul's Tailors just south of there is a great business.

Also just north of the intersection is Paese, which has a location down on King St. too.
W. K. Lis / September 4, 2011 at 02:46 pm
Didn't a propane tank blow up just north of Wilson, just west of Dufferin?
Fin / September 4, 2011 at 03:17 pm
I think the snobs in the comments are missing the point.
Dan Levy / September 4, 2011 at 03:23 pm
I agree with Elliot F. I have also gone to Paul's for as long as I can remember and have always had great service.

@W.K. Lis: Yes, it happened at 54 Murray Road which is north of Wilson and East of Keele.

This article also fails to mention the giant mural on the wall of the 401 overpass on the South East corner of Wilson & Bathurst. The thing goes for pretty much the entire length of the wall and was a nice addition to that drab wall when they painted it years ago.
Colonel Cheese / September 4, 2011 at 03:30 pm
Ii don't really get why you keep profiling some of the shittiest streets in the city. There are plenty of 'nice' streets that are relatively unknown outside their local area that could be profiled, yet you continue to show us the worst of the worst. Even people who live on Wilson Ave don't want to go there.

There is zero reason for anyone to go here for a visit. and you know this. yet you profile it.
Picard102 / September 4, 2011 at 04:09 pm
I live in this neighborhood now, just west of Bagel World. Not sure where these other commenters lived, or what bee got in Mark's bonnet, but it's not as horrible as it's made out to be.
dale / September 4, 2011 at 05:50 pm
not being a snob doesn't make the street less ugly
Mr.Smith / September 4, 2011 at 06:59 pm
I grew up in this neighborhood.

It's far from a slum.

You people are clearly sheltered to the point of extreme pussiness.
Jordan / September 4, 2011 at 07:42 pm
I think these articles are meant to apease all the people that complain BlogTO only features the downtown, South of Bloor. Though I think that's where the usefulness of these columns really go - the reviews of the businesses appear more like advertisements, than actual reviews. I've really got my doubts about Brooklyn offering 'classic, timeless pieces'.
charalique / September 4, 2011 at 07:51 pm
oh my...
i've never really hung out around this area of wilson ave. they're building a condo right next to wilson station, at tippett, any comments?
idontmind / September 4, 2011 at 07:55 pm
Who cares if it is shitty or not. I think it is great we are seeing all kinds of different streets in the city. You down town snobs get over yourselves.
El Toro replying to a comment from Mr.Smith / September 4, 2011 at 07:59 pm
100% agree.
Either everyone who's saying it's a slum grew up in some posh neighborhood, or some small town in butt**** nowhere and are scared by every minority they see walking the streets. The only area I would remotely consider 'bad' along Wilson would probably be at the Wilson-Jane intersection. Aside from that, yes the street is a bit boring, but far from a slum. Man up pussies.
Warmflash / September 4, 2011 at 10:43 pm
Why would anyone living north of Bloor St read BlogTo? If you live north of Bloor, why would you be interested in what happens in the city. Don't live here.
samuel / September 4, 2011 at 11:07 pm
as a tourist in toronto, i think this city sucks. Its urban planning, its buildings...

Wilson st. is an excellent example.
echo999 / September 4, 2011 at 11:19 pm
a lot of people haven't got a clue that the most authentic, relatively good value food exists in the suburbs of Toronto (last time I remember, Toronto extends beyond downtown).

but no, let's dismiss everyone who lives north of Bloor and we'll just keep boasting we are the most multicultural city in the world knowing full well that most immigrants, no, the majority of Toronto residents live in the inner suburbs. and guess where most of the votes for Mayor Ford came from?

At least Blogto is covering the outer reaches of the city in an attempt to be more "inclusive". Oh, another civic boosterism buzzword we use with hypocrisy.

morga replying to a comment from echo999 / September 5, 2011 at 12:16 am
Seems to me you are just as big of a snob as people who write off the inner suburbs. Almost every area of the GTA has something to offer. Since we are generalizing, in my experience, people from the burbs are far more hesitant to come downtown than downtowners are to go out to the burbs. Seems like Blog TO can't win you over no matter what they do. They clearly understand their readership mostly comes from downtowners. What's wrong with appealing to your base client?
Cyril / September 5, 2011 at 12:37 am
who is dismissing everything north of Bloor? There are lots of lovely areas of Toronto north of Bloor. And east of the DVP. And west of the Humber.

However much of the urban planning of the former suburbs of Toronto is unbelievably bad. Its indefensible. Ugly, boring architecture. Strip malls. Streetscapes that make you want to stab your eyes out. Soulless, generic, stuck in the 1970s.

Nobody is dismissing the people that live there. Many have no choice. They are sadly stuck with bad transit, brutal traffic, and not much to do. That doesn't mean the areas cannot be called the shit holes that they are. Mentioning that many of the votes for Rob Ford came from the suburbs is supposed to what? endear us to them?

jesus christ.
Daniel / September 5, 2011 at 01:56 am
oh yeah...those $2million plus homes within the side streets are real slums.

downtowners will never understand; unless of course there are cupcake shops and $900 per square foot closets they like to call home.

sure, wilson is not glamorous, but neither is chinatown, regent park, the harbourfront or bedbugs.
Jim / September 5, 2011 at 07:36 am
I think the definition of the term 'suburbs' is outdated especially since the amalgamation. Toronto to me has always been everything that's not in Durham, York and Peel Region. Suburbs are Markham, Vaughan, Pickering, etc. Downtowners who never venture north of Bloor should really get with 2011. Wilson certainly isn't a street I would like to know better. It's a street I drive by to get to Yorkdale. It may just be a backhanded way of pandering to those who always complain that blogTO only covers that which is south of Bloor...but Wilson St. and Jane St. are by no means a true representation of what is typical outside of the downtown area. You should probably balance a slummy area with a more trendy or posh area.
gadfly replying to a comment from Cyril / September 5, 2011 at 09:05 am
You needn't center out the 'suburbs' for 'unbelievably bad' urban planning. I recently helped a friend move to St. Clair/Runnymede - what a hodgepodge of ugly houses, mixed architecture and streets that go nowhere thanks to railroad tracks.
There was no planning in this city until the late '40s. Before that, the city was literally thrown together, that's why streets often go nowhere, merge, twist and turn.
While some people consider the jammed together Victorian homes along Dundas St or Queen St 'charming,' some people consider them falling apart slums, too.
Wilson may not be the most charming street, but I've seen worse -and many of those are downtown.
Don Mondragon / September 5, 2011 at 12:05 pm
I once worked years ago for Bell store inside Sheridan Mall and my car was stolen in broad daylight. I still wouldn't trust all the people that live in that area. Jane/Wilson is filled with the rejects of Toronto. Fck em! Get an education and get a job! But the Wilson/Bathurst area are a different breed. Filled with Filipinos and Jewish families. Yes, the $$$ on their tax returns might be different but I will not call that area a "slum". They're not pretty to look at but they're unlike my business partner who bought a 2 bedroom condo around Casa Loma and Davenport for $700K. I call them the aspiring purchasers who can't afford their homes but is driving the Porsche with Prada shoes. People are just too funny.
Don Mondragon / September 5, 2011 at 12:06 pm
I once worked years ago for Bell store inside Sheridan Mall and my car was stolen in broad daylight. I still wouldn't trust all the people that live in that area. Jane/Wilson is filled with the rejects of Toronto. Fck em! Get an education and get a job! But the Wilson/Bathurst area are a different breed. Filled with Filipinos and Jewish families. Yes, the $$$ on their tax returns might be different but I will not call that area a "slum". They're not pretty to look at but they're unlike my business partner who bought a 2 bedroom condo around Casa Loma and Davenport for $700K. I call them the aspiring purchasers who can't afford their homes but is driving the Porsche with Prada shoes. People are just too funny.
Mark Bee / September 6, 2011 at 09:01 am
The area is not a slum - but I did identify the issues I had with the neighborhood after living there, on Wilson, for almost two years. It is plagued by the blight of dullness. I am glad that BlogTO does run this better know a street feature. And hopefully by highlighting some of the problems we can foment some kind of change there. I'm not suggesting the place be turned into Yorkville or the Market, but it is simply a dead area. For the record, I live north of Bloor and always have. Usually in midtown.
steve / September 6, 2011 at 10:43 am
They've been wanting to clean up this stretch of Wilson for years now, but the city never seems to get to it. A few of the older, brick storefronts have been stuccoed over and given a shine, but the rest are pretty dirty. The road and sidewalks are poorly maintained, but there certainly is a 'diamond in the rough' feel to the neighbourhood.

There is a mix of housing (apartments, triplexes, bungalows and up) along with the mix of incomes. The Jewish community is on its way out, and the new Filipino one is well on its way in. There is close access to Wilson subway station, and condos are starting to sprout up (north on Bathurst, and around Wilson station). Hopefully something nice will move into the spot where the LCBO used to stand.

The city really needs to take notice of this area and give it a spit shine. It's true that the place reeks of the 1970/80's (see the Degrassi episode when they go to York Bowl - retro concrete jungle charm), but that doesn't mean it wasn't planned well and couldn't be a great place to live.
AK / September 6, 2011 at 05:00 pm
I used to live in a condo between Steve's and Pancer's on Bathurst. I've seen slums before and although this area isn't the nicest looking, it's definitely no slum! There are some really good restaurants in the area (okay they're ugly but the food is amazing). There is definitely no nightlife, but to live there are definitely more sketchy characters where I live now in the Annex than in that area of North York.
Tendim / September 6, 2011 at 10:22 pm
Really? I'll admit that the area around Wilson and Bathurst has a lot of stores/shops, but to go as far west as Dufferin? Not happening. Starting at Dufferin and heading East you have a gas station, car dealership, big-box mall, Wilson Station, a construction zone, some residences, and THEN you actually have stores. Due to the volume of traffic from people entering and leaving Wilson station (which has 5, count 'em, *FIVE* TTC parking lots), heading to and from the Allen Expressway and the big-box mall, the traffic makes commuting by foot a major hassle.

Around Wilson & Bathurst, the layout of street islands makes the area horrible to navigate. The TTC bus stops encroach on parking lots on all four corners (ever try to drive the corner strip-mall where the Starbucks is? You'll run over 4, maybe 5, pedestrians running to catch a bus).

I'd give the area a good 5 years; after the new development beside Wilson Station is complete, they area *will* start to pick up -- but right now there is a gaping void between Wilson Station and Dufferin to the West, and Wilson Station and Bathurst to the East.
Fantomex replying to a comment from Don Mondragon / September 8, 2011 at 03:15 am
Boy, your poor-bashing is sure showing through. Did the people in Wilson & Jane burn your crotch off with acid, or what?
Dave / September 11, 2011 at 07:24 pm
I see the typo I mentioned at the top of this thread has still not been corrected. There is no such thing as "just north of Wilson on Lawrence." You meant Bathurst, not Lawrence.
Dave / September 11, 2011 at 09:29 pm
Seems the typo I mentioned at the top of this thread has not been fixed. Steve's is north of Wilson on BATHURST, not Lawrence. Lawrence, by the way, is parallel and SOUTH of Wilson. Fix it! You're embarrassing yourselves!
cialis / December 5, 2011 at 08:47 am
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Rahim / March 31, 2012 at 03:06 pm
Thing about this area is that if you look at it with a critical eye, even if it appears run down and there are other problems that go beyond the physical look/feel, we too easily give up on areas of the city like this. It has advantages that could be developed - it's a complete tone change once you pass under the bridge past the No Frills - suddenly you're entering into an area of far more affluence (it's one of those 'switch,' neighbourhoods where it just dramatically alters in a matters of seconds) Bridges tend to be geographical dividers like that. You have wider boulevards with a lot of shops on either side of the street, and the shops are set apart from Wilson by parking lots. You can't just plant a tree or two here and hope things pick up, but if there was proper engagement with the business community in this area to at least begin a dramatic cosmetic transformation, it can at least begin to look a lot better and feel a lot more inviting. It's easier for people to drive through the area rather than stop and look around, and that is what has to change. But these are areas neglected at the municipal level, unfortunately. No one looks at a place like Wilson around there with imagination to truly transform it while respecting the businesses that have occupied the area long-term. It's those businesses (and the city) that have to get motivated and responsible.
bad credit bill consolidation / April 26, 2012 at 03:49 pm
So where are all these jobs that the cuts are supposed to create? Are the millionaires spending their current extra 3% to create jobs
bob / April 29, 2012 at 12:41 am
slum? unsafe?

1.there are hardly any blacks in this area.
2.near or over million dollar homes are in this area (largely jewish)
3. filipinos are very family and community orientated, which helps not make this area a dump.

il admit, the architecture and layout looks a bit dreary, but its a good place to live if u arent hung over the downtown feel of cities
Synthetic905 / October 20, 2012 at 08:25 pm
The Bathust and Wilson area is what is called the diamond in the rough area. Clean, Safe and a future developers dream. Located minutes from downtown and close to all ammeneties.
Super easy access to public transportation. Those that consider this area unsafe obviously have a skewed view of what is a slum and what is not. Jane and Finch is a slum and will probably always be. Bathurst and Wilson is just too central a location with huge potential to be considered a slum. For those of you south of Bloor just remember all the real slums that USED to be downtown and are now the trendy areas.
JokesAlright / December 2, 2012 at 07:03 pm
Synthetic905 you crack me up! "Diamond in the Rough" You have me rolling in tears here!
This area is a dump, it has been for many years. It's dull, dirty and nothing is changing any time soon. Just in the past 24 hours there have been 3 home invasions, a shooting, stabbing and robbery in the close area.
All of the above comments about how dirty it is, I am in full agreement. As I read them I kept nodding.. Yep that's Wilson!
Don't fool yourself, maybe you have some property investments.. My Advice Sell! Get out ASAP!
deanna / December 13, 2012 at 01:57 pm
Listen I lived on Wilson Ave for 4 yrs and I never had a problem getting off the dufferin bud at 3 or 4am and walking the long three blocks till I got to my place the roads have been re-done and tree's have been planted and lots of things are starting to make Wilson Ave look a lot better. All the places that the above people had mentioned have since closed down and has opened up into somewhere respectful so for all the people that don't like Wilson Ave come down and check it out now I'm pretty sure you'll be surprised.
deanna / December 13, 2012 at 01:58 pm
Meant to say the dufferin bus
Howard / April 27, 2013 at 10:58 pm
I grew up on Charleswood Dr., which is the first street north of Wilson Ave. in the 1950s & 1960s and have seen a lot of changes in the area over the years. In fact when I lived there as kid, there was a farmhouse dividing the our street in the middle, which was owned by farmer old man Stewart, who at one time his family owned all the land at Bathurst & Wilson going back to the 1800s.
I remember Mr. Donut which was a fixture on Wilson for many years. As well as the Royal Bank which was there for many years before Starbucks.
marT / April 29, 2013 at 12:22 am
I believe Yorkville was once considered the "ugly" part of Toronto, and Cabbagetown was once a place that mainly immigrants lived in, and Kensington Market was a neighbourhood that many Jewish and Italians settled. These neighbourhoods were considered slums, people!! In about 20-30 years I think Wilson can be developed into a more dense area that developers will flock to.

Places like Bathurst and Wilson is where culture develops and will soon thrive into a neighbourhood that Torontonians take pride in. Mimico is an example of a gentrified neighbourhood that used to be rough around the edges, but now it's developing really quickly.
Vivian / September 28, 2014 at 02:55 pm
It's such a shame that this area could be in SUCH BETTER SHAPE. Sorry to say it, but I've seen enough of Toronto to say this is one of the very worst areas - the only good thing is that at least it's not as unsafe as other areas.

Once you leave Wilson and Bathurst, everything gets better, cleaner, more organized. This is the one area that looks really bad! It should be cleaned up or modernized, at least. Whenever I pass by, I can tell those shops/restaurants haven't been "re-touched" for decades... More than that, the roads are AWFUL but that's true even beyond W & B! When you're on the bus, it feels like it's gonna fall apart because of all the potholes and the very, very bad conditions of the road. Smh. Toronto can do better!
The almighty E. / April 24, 2015 at 06:01 am
Truth be told. I've been on Wilson avenue since 1999. It's really not all that bad. Sure, there's a bit of crime here and there. But let's be honest. Crime knows no boundaries, I mean, I've had to problem getting onto the dufferin bus or off for that matter at 2, 3, 4 am. And walking all the way down to Keele. It can appear to be scary, but it's relatively safe. Plus if your scared of crime taking place, then maybe you shouldn't be outside at 4 am when your most likely to be a victim anywhere in the city.

So much hate on the Wilson strip. Personally I like it here. No scratch that, I love it here. I feel safe walking the streets in The day or night. However put me downtown and ive got my eyes wide open looking for needle poking junkies ready to ruin someone's day for their next fix.
Also @bob. If you think there are no black people on Wilson, I suggest you keep walking westbound, truth be told. There's a large black, Spanish, Filipino, and Viet community. Just gotta keep walking West.
Debbiw / June 15, 2015 at 01:10 pm
I work near Wilson, have for the past 4 years, and it is not a nice neighbourhood. Possibly one of the worst. I've been all over Toronto too. Full of strip malls, garbage, no trees, poor urban design, oblivious drivers who take no notice of pedestrians, people have been hit several times in the past 4 years at a nearby intersection.

There is nothing to do here since it is a tiny strip surrounded by residential areas. Very boring. Several of the restaurants have been given DineSafe violations, it has certainly narrowed down our lunch options. Prices are way inflated for the quality you get anyway. Poor urban design overall, just a very harsh place to be. Never felt unsafe here though (except as a pedestrian dealing with the obnoxious drivers).
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