How to spend a day on West Queen West
West Queen West is one of Toronto's most fascinating neighbourhoods - even Vogue, thinks so, recently naming this stretch between Trinity Bellwoods and Dufferin the second coolest neighbourhood in the world.
Populated by indie cafes, patisseries, galleries, home-grown fashion labels and restaurants, it's easy to see the attraction. The neighbourhood is a hub for dining and nightlife and while other neighbourhoods might call it a night early, West Queen West is often still bustling and raring to go if you muster the stamina.
Here's how to spend a day on West Queen West from morning to late night.
BREAKFAST AND COFFEE
This neighbourhood is full of heavy-hitting coffee bars, but I still like the smaller indie outfits like White Squirrel and R Squared. For a quick breakfast on the run I like to visit Sud Forno where the display cases are stocked with fresh-baked cornettos, sandwiches and biscotti.
If a leisurely brunch is in order, it's hard to beat the big English breakfasts served by The Bristol, but I also like Swan where the weekend brunch menu features fresh-shucked oysters and solid plates of huevos rancheros.
Trinity Bellwoods is easily one of the neighbourhood's best attractions and in the warmer months you'll get all walks of life flocking here to picnic, tan or just to be seen. The park is also well equipped for active folk, there are tennis courts, an ice rink and off leash dog bowl, but best of all there's a swimming pool inside the Trinity Community Recreation Centre where drop-in lane swim is offered mornings year-round.
Once I've worked up up an appetite at the park I'll head over to RaviSoups or Bolt Fresh Bar for hearty, vegetable-rich liquid lunches that are easy to grab and go. If I'm intent on lingering over my midday meal I'll stop in at Fonda Lola weekdays between 11am and 2pm for classic Mexican dishes with a twist.
SHOPPING & CULTURE
This stretch of Queen St. is densely populated with indie fashion labels and design stores. Among my favourites are Bicyclette for ladies' fashions and accessories, and vintage boutiques Chosen and Cabaret. Type Books and the The Paper Place are places for the design-minded to nerd out.
The area is also flush with galleries, and hopping from one to another is a great way to check out the local talent. I plan to spend as much time at MOCCA as I possibly can before it's demolished to make room for a new condo development. I also like to check out the workshops and the latest exhibits at Graven Feather.
When my sweet tooth calls, I typically find myself at Nadege for a couple of their salted caramel macarons. Other favourite spots of mine include the back counter at Appletree where I go for the $4 green smoothies and Clafouti for one of the best croissants in the city.
There are so many dining options in this area it's easy to be overwhelmed. I love going to Oyster Boy for lobster rolls or rich bowls of saffron-scented bouillabaisse. The County General is notable for some seriously tasty fried chicken, while I like Carmen for a date night because there's just something lovely about sharing in a spread of Spanish tapas.
DRINKS & ENTERTAINMENT
You'll find a hub of activity happening at both The Gladstone and The Drake Hotel most nights of the week, thanks to concerts and events that draw big crowds. Despite being compact and often cramped, The Beaver is the one place I've frequented the most - you'll find it a relaxed place for drinks in the early evening that often transitions into raucous, queer-friendly dance parties as the night wears on.
For a more laid back atmosphere, I like The Done Right Inn, a low-key watering-hole with a a great patio shaded by trees, fully stocked bar and a pinball machine.
LATE NIGHT EATS
The take-out counter at Barton Snacks has got me covered for late night eating until 4am on weekends with a fun menu featuring hot dogs and tacos, the kind of stuff that sits just right after a few too many drinks. Just down the street, Poutini's is also a solid option as they ladle out the gravy up until 3:30am on weekends.
What did I miss? Add your suggestions for how to spend a day on West Queen West to the comments.
Photos by Jesse Milns, Andrew Williamson and Morris Lum.
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