leslieville toronto

How to spend a day in Leslieville and Riverside

Leslieville and Riverside are two of Toronto's most dynamic neighbourhoods east of the DVP. Seemingly forever on the up-and-up, their small village roots remain intact despite an ever-growing list of cool restaurants, cafes and indie shops. 

The two hoods on either side of the railway tracks are often melded into one another, so it only makes sense to explore both in one go. You definitely won't be hard-pressed for things to see and do in an area known to be simultaneously trendy and laidback. 

Here's how to spend a day in Leslieville and Riverside, from morning until night. 

Breakfast

As an area brimming with food options, it makes sense that breakfast is abundant around these parts. French bakery Bonjour Brioche is an easy choice in Riverside if you're after croissants and omelette provençal. 

madame levant

Madame Levant has a cozy patio for weekend brunch. Photo by Hector Vasquez.

There's also White Lily Diner should a full English breakfast or rotating selection of donuts suit your morning cravings. 

If you're looking to explore the burgeoning food scene on Gerrard East, Leslieville's Madame Levant is a can't miss weekend brunch destination for halva pancakes and hummus. 

Get Caffeinated 

A bit of caffeine fuel is a must for a day of exploring and lucky enough, these two areas are hot spots for local coffee shops. For something neary the aforementioned breakfast options, Dark Horse Espresso in Riverside continues to be a go-to for an early morning pick-me-up. 

leslieville toronto

Dineen Outpost is a more rustic offshoot of the original Financial District cafe. Photo by Hector Vasquez. 

Boxcar Social is a place to hang from morning to late serving coffee alongside stronger drinks. Dineen Outpost on Gerrard just a few blocks east from Madame Levant also does both and their lattes are almost too pretty to drink. 

Morning activity 

Take a walk on the Lower Don River Trail to get your day started just west of your coffee and break options in Riverside. The trail is super easy to access and there's plenty to see along the way. 

Another outdoor space south of Leslieville in the Port Lands that's hard to pass up is the one-of-a-kind Leslie Street Spit

lower don toronto

The Lower Don River trail can be accessed via a staircase from the Riverside Bridge. Photo by Hector Vasquez.

Another way to elevate your heart rate in the a.m. would be to challenge your endurance at The Rock Oasis climbing gym on Carlaw. It's just a short walk from the main drag on Gerrard. 

The Leslieville Farmers' Market at Greenwood Park makes for a bit more of a leisurely activity if you happen to be around on a Sunday morning.  

Lunch 

First a Kensington Market food stall, Completo does churrasco and empanadas among other South American favourites. Chino Locos is tough competition when it comes to Mexican street eats though, and is known for their fat burritos with noodles and other Asian ingredients. 

leslieville toronto

Completo started at the El Gordo Food Coourt in Kensington Market. Photo by Jesse Milns. 

A longtime Leslieville staple on Gerrard is Com Tam Pho. Save time reading through the massive menu and go for a bowl of the tasty (and cheap) pho. 

If all you're craving is a juicy smash burger, head to Billy's Burgers at Pape and Queen. Can't go wrong with a burg and a side of onion rings. 

Shopping 

There is plenty of vintage treasures waiting to be found in the shops scattered throughout these joint hoods. Hit up Coffee and Clothing on Pape or its newer location on Gerrard or dig through some weird, but cool knick-knacks and clothing at Gadabout

Easy breezy surfer vibes and beachy apparel are always in stock at Surf the Greats on Carlaw while you're likely to find your next fav read of fiction at Queen Books or comic series at The Sidekick on Queen East.

The stationary store Token in Riverside also houses Tiny Record Shop (Fred VanVleet is a fan) if you're in the market for some old-school vinyl. You can even snag a few quirky greeting cards and gift items while you're at it. 

leslieville toronto

Tiny Record Shop is inside the stationary store Token. Photo by Jesse Milns. 

Afternoon snack 

Head to the beautiful bakery cafe Pasaj on Queen East for the Istanbul classics – we're talking eclairs, tartelettes and meringue cookies. Petite Thuet on Carlaw offers more of a Parisian experience, so don't leave here without a croissant. 

Bobbette & Belle has cupcakes and macarons, sometimes even in outlandish flavours like peach Bellini and s'more. The vegan donuts at Fruitful Market are also worth a drop-in. You never know what flavours will be available from Kahlua crème brulee to apple fritter. 

Dinner 

Gio Rana's Really Really Nice Restaurant has been a mainstay when it comes to reliably tasty Italian food in the neighbourhood. Wynona is another option for pasta, also serving lots of seafood.

gio ranas toronto

Dinner at Gio Rana's in Leslieville is never a bad idea. Photo by Fareen Karim.

But there's no beating the pasta, calzones and pizza at Nodo which comes with plenty of patio space.

Maru is a more recent addition to Leslieville, though the sushi and fresh sashimi have already made a splash. On the other hand, Avling Brewery is a good spot if you're keen on having a pint with your meal. 

Drinks and Late-Night Eats 

Pinkerton's Snack Bar and Poor Romeo on Gerrard East are both equally as perfect for a night of drinking and snacking. Baos and kung pao cauliflower are served till late at Pinkerton's while oysters and burgs are more the style of its sibling bar down the street. 

poor romeo toronto

Poor Romeo on Gerrard East is a great spot for a burger and a pint. Photo by Hector Vasquez.

Nearby The Dive Shop, around for just a short while, has hard-to-beat surfer vibes and vegetarian snacks. 

Comrade, HI-Lo and Lloyds (all spanning Queen East from Riverside to Leslieville) are other homey watering holes of the area. Each spot has a few dishes up its sleeve for when hunger strikes and a drink list to keep you well hydrated. 

Lead photo by

Hector Vasquez at The Dive Shop


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