How to spend a day in Roncesvalles Village

Roncesvalles, the old predominantly Polish neighbourhood in Toronto's west end, did a major street revamp a few years ago. All the pavement and tracks got ripped up and some businesses, including a few stalwart Polish places, didn't survive. Now it's lined with beautiful trees and flowers, the boulevard wide and teeming with friendly people, dogs and strollers.

The traditional haunts keep the old village spirit, and new additions confirm Roncy as the hippest neighbourhood for young families. Where do the Parkdale/Queen St. art directors and creative types move when they start families? They move to Roncesvalles.

Here's how to spend a day in Roncesvalles Village, from morning to late night.



I start my day early at Mitzi's on Sorauren, making my to-do list and reading the news over a fried egg sandwich with kimchi and bacon. If I've got errands to do I'll slip into Cherry Bomb to grab a coffee to go before hitting all the spots on the street (Kennel Cafe for pet food, Maple Produce for veg, Thin Blue Line for cheese, Custodio's for meat) but if I'm wanting to do some cafe work, I choose Extra Butter. They're similar to Cherry Bomb (some staff were trained there) but the space has more seats and Wi-Fi, perfect for a couple of hours of reading and writing in the morning.


After sitting for a long while, though, I need to get moving, and try to get a run in nearby High Park - the winding hills are great for a workout - or I call up a friend to play tennis at the free courts at Sorauren. For yoga there's Sama studio and then the Ten Spot for post-workout pampering.



Lunch is La Cubana for Cuban style-sandwiches in all their bright neon glory, or a bowl of pink borscht and a potato pancake at Cafe Polonez before hitting the galleries.


I follow along Dundas to Narwhal and the Black Cat then stop on Morrow at Christopher Cutts and Olga Kopper. Daniel Lanois's studio is on nearby Howard Park and on rare occasions he is known to play on the roof, or at the Belljar Cafe around the corner - both not to be missed.


With a workout and groceries crossed off my list, I squeeze in a little shopping fun too. Likely General, Scout, and Mrs. Huizenga are great for gifts and one-off treasures, or I'll hunt for clothes at Frock, shoe emporium Imelda and now, new unisex Canadian designers Muttonhead.

One of the most unique shops around is the Herbal Dispensary, full of tinctures, teas and soaps, and a place to get all your homeopathic and natural medical treatments. Plus, Roncesvalles is a magnet for bibliophiles like myself. Between She Said Boom and A Good Read you can find nearly any secondhand book you are looking for and any recent titles can be picked up at Another Story.


The High Park Library is a wonderful old building with great afternoon light, but I get peckish and will run up to Dundas Park Kitchen for a snack, or hit up Benna's for those addictive Polish donuts and finish the last pages on a nearby bench.



Sometime during the day I'll have called or popped in and booked reservations for dinner later. It's fabulous seeing the streets in the early evening full of people, but it sucks when you realize you're all just waiting for seats at the neighbourhood boĂŽte.

Hopgood's Foodliner serves East Coast seafood with edge (and was a big hit with Ryan Gosling and Eva Mendez when they visited), and Barque is the neighbourhood barbecue joint. I'm partial to The Westerly or The Ace. Both are relaxed, warm environments with simple bistro menus, great cocktails and even better service and work well for dates or group affairs.


Quiet nights are spent at the Revue Cinema catching a rep film, but who are we kidding, really? Most of the time post-food all I want is some music, more socializing and drinks!

There is always a jazz combo at Gate 403 or a 70's troubadour at Hugh's Room in for a final appearance, but most of the time I like grabbing a couple friends and going for pints at the Local or the Inter Steer. With their unpretentious, all-welcoming energy, they both affirm the village vibe of Roncesvalles.



By night's end, If I can stuff even one more bite into me I go to Rude Boy for a late night burger, though I have been known to regret it - how many good eats can one girl have in a day? It's then that one final Roncesvalles pit stop comes to mind, a morning trip to one of the historic churches on the street, to repent for all my glorious gluttony.

What did I miss? Add your suggestions for how to spend a day in Roncesvalles Village to the comments.

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