Merton Street

Get to know a street: Merton Street

Merton Street is a curiously fascinating part of midtown Toronto that you would probably never explore if you didn't live or work there. Just north of Mount Pleasant Cemetery and south of Davisville Avenue, Merton stretches from Yonge Street to Bayview Avenue.

The street is split into two noticeably different sections: going east to west from Bayview to Mount Pleasant Road, the area is purely residential, full of quaint detached and semi-detached houses. (It's worth a pleasant stroll through this leafy, tree-lined stretch to see the beautiful flowers in bloom on most front lawns.)

From Mount Pleasant to Yonge, there is an interesting mix of commercial offices (Blue Ant Media, the national headquarters of the Girl Guides of Canada, and Toronto Water, to name a few), cafes that know office workers need coffee and lunch, townhouse complexes and mid-rise residential buildings amidst ongoing condo construction.

Below are the key spots to check out if you ever do happen to find yourself on Merton.

Absolute Endurance Training and Therapy (115 Merton St.)
An invaluable facility in this area is this 5000-square-foot space that offers state-of-the-art fitness training and physical therapy services. Most clients live or work nearby, but some also come from as far as Markham to take advantage of the comprehensive running, cycling, swimming and wellness programs here, which are ideal for triathlon training. Despite its many intimidating hardcore Ironman athletes, AETT also welcomes beginners who have not a clue as to what they're doing.

Al Green Gallery Toronto

The Al Green Gallery (64 Merton St.)
No, not that Al Green. Toronto's Al Green is an 89-year-old real-estate developer, sculptor and philanthropist who has been honoured with the Order of Canada. His lovely commercial art gallery down a serene little laneway is a true hidden gem. Prior to 2009, the natural-light-filled space was mainly used to showcase Green's own work, but since his daughter Lindy became director of the gallery, it's expanded its scope with one-time exhibitions from various artists.

Cafe Petit Marche (124 Merton St.)
Don't expect the food to be French! Open only on weekdays and catering mainly to the office workers in the vicinity, this small eatery-slash-convenience store run by a Korean couple sells bagels, coffee and an assortment of homemade sushi rolls and other reasonably priced lunches for takeout. There are also tables and chairs for sitting and eating in, but quite frankly, the view is probably better elsewhere.

Monarch Cafe (164 Merton St.)
This small, minimalist cafe can be found on the ground floor of the Geneva Centre for Autism; it's run entirely by adults living with Autism Spectrum Disorder as part of the centre's Pathways of Extended Learning culinary arts program. Participants of the six-month program are completely responsible for running the place, from baking the delicious banana bread to serving customers their coffee. The eats are pretty simple, largely consisting of bagels, sandwiches and soups, but the prices are right, with nothing over $6 on the menu.

Hauser Toronto

Hauser (218 Merton St.)
If you have a hankering to outfit your patio or cottage with high-end, Canadian-made furniture, this is your Holy Grail. The flagship store for this 65-year-old, family-run, Canadian outdoor furniture empire is a bright and inviting multi-level space filled with simple yet sophisticated designs. You can even customize the colours, fabrics and finishes of the pieces to your liking, since the company manufactures most of the items itself.

The Red Lantern Pub (228 Merton St.)
The front patio of this neighbourhood local (open since 1969) was practically full by 3 p.m. on a recent sunny Thursday afternoon. With decent pub grub but a none-too-exciting, basic selection of beers on tap, this is more of a standby hangout than a place to see and be seen. Nevertheless, the Red Lantern has its charms - a live piano player tickles the ivories every Thursday! - and the joint can sometimes get packed at night.

Chacho's Toronto

Chacho's Fine Mexican Dining (234 Merton St.)
One of only a handful of viable dine-in lunch spots for office workers on the street and a worthy dinner option for those who live nearby, Chacho's is an authentic Mexican restaurant run by people who actually came from Mexico. Fish tacos, burritos and fajitas prove to be popular meal choices, but the more adventurous should try the mole poblano or the chile relleno.

Palate Cafe (250 Merton St.)
Another office hours-only operation mostly geared towards those who work in the area, this small cafe tucked away on the ground floor of an unattractive mid-rise can be hard to spot if you're not looking for it. Ben, the owner, has been running the place for the past five years and it's easy to see how people become regulars here - he's friendly and personable in a low-key, likeable way. The Segafredo Zanetti espresso served gets the job done and lunch fare ranges from hot daily specials like curried or jerk chicken to sandwiches and salads, which usually sell out if you get there too late.

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