Wednesday, February 1st, 2012 at 11:25 pm

To T.O.: District Diversity

One of the things I liked most about Toronto was the diversity of neighbourhoods – it was great to be able to take in such a variety of areas even in the short amount of time I was there. I know there were many neighbourhoods I just didn’t get to – I look forward to exploring them on my next visit!

North York

On my first night in Toronto, Amanda and I stayed in her ‘hood of North York for dinner. What blew me away around Yonge Street was just how dense it was (the 2006 Census recorded a population of 635,370 in North York, only about 100,000 less than the entire population of Edmonton in that year).

North York

High rises

With high rises all around us, it was a reminder of the kind of amenities that can bloom around that sort of density. One great example was a complex with a Loblaws on a ground floor, entertainment and shopping above that, and condo towers on top – and all connected to a subway station across the street.

North York

Amenities galore

Unfortunately, it was clear what was the priority means of commuting in that neighbourhood: given the number of storefronts that lined both sides of Yonge Street, there was a dire need for crosswalks in smaller intervals. Instead, we saw innumerable pedestrians jaywalking across the five lane road.

North York

Inhospitable Yonge Street

West Queen West

Although Amanda currently lives in North York, her dream neighbourhood in Toronto is West Queen West. An eclectic mix of boutiques and lofts, I could easily see why she’d want to move here.

West Queen West

Picturesque walk-ups

The Spice Trader

The Spice Trader, a great little shop

Dufflet

Cookie from Dufflet – tasted like a Reese peanut butter cup!

Harbourfront

On those hot and humid days, there was nothing better than standing out by the lake, taking in the cool breeze.

Harbour

Feeling refreshed

I didn’t get to do this as often as we would have liked during that week, but I did really enjoy the stroll on the boardwalk we did get to take that night!

Harbour

Out on the lake

Chinatown

Our trek through Chinatown was brief, and focused – Amanda and I spent most of our time trying to track down something for our Mum.

Chinatown

Gorgeous murals

Chinatown

Yum!

We also didn’t wander past the tourist-driven shops, a shame because I know it would have been a great area to eat our way through.

Chinatown

Couldn’t resist a picture of sushi-bobbleheads

Kensington

Kensington, with its hippie sensibilities, reminded me of San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury (though maybe not as rough around the edges). I loved the colourful homes-turned-shops, with wares spilling into their yards and onto the sidewalk. The area actually closes its streets once a week as well for “pedestrian Sundays”.


Charming

Judith Deutsch Park

One of the most rewarding byproducts of exploring a city on foot is the things you end up stumbling upon. Judith Deutsch Park was a fun example of this, a narrow playground we came across on our way from Chinatown to Kensington.

Julius Deutsch Park

Amanda loves to exercise!

The playground was made up of sturdy metal versions of popular gym equipment – everything from an elliptical to resistance machines.

Julius Deutsch Park

Whee!

It just seemed so random, but was such a neat interactive little pocket that definitely livened up a dreary strip of pavement.

Distillery District

Historically, the Distillery District dates back to 1832, and represents the largest and best preserved collection of Victorian Industrial Architecture in North America. The area was purchased by developers and re-opened in 2003, offering a mix of cultural and retail experiences, as well as residential options.

Distillery District

Distillery District

Without a doubt the neighbourhood itself is picture-perfect: the area is enclosed, bastion-style, with brick and stone walls. Paired with the cobblestone, pedestrian-friendly streets, it was no surprise when we saw a wedding party traipsing through for photo opportunities. The Distillery has also been home to all sorts of interesting events, including food truck festivals and Toronto’s first Diner en Blanc.

Distillery District

Photo op

They had some interesting outdoor sculptures as well, which nicely juxtaposed the historic backdrop.

Distillery District

Arts market

Distillery District

Straight out of War of the Worlds

It was a great area to browse – an outdoor arts market was set-up, in addition to some funky gift and houseware shops. We especially enjoyed the art on display at Cube Works, all constructed entirely out of Rubik’s cubes.

Distillery District

Shopping

Distillery District

KD!

Distillery District

Only limited by their imagination…

We decided to grab a coffee at Balzac’s, which seemed to be a top-rated café in Toronto. We were puzzled, then, to encounter a sign that warned that no photography was permitted inside the shop. We had to wonder about this policy, especially for a third-wave coffee shop – wouldn’t they want the publicity from coffee addicts posting candid photos taken of their drinks?

Distillery District

Balzac’s

Mack defied the signage and snapped a quick photo of the interior, which was quite striking. The coffee, on the other hand, wasn’t a highlight.

For lunch, we stopped inside Mill Street Brewery, a microbrewery known for their organic lager (it can be found in Edmonton). The restaurant side was comfortable, serving up predictable, but comforting pub classics. Amanda liked her turkey club, and Mack’s beer-battered fish and chips were decent. My chicken pot pie was all right, though I could have done without the side of mushy, thawed peas and lead potatoes.

Mill Street Brewery

Mill Street beer

Mill Street Brewery

Inside the pub

Mill Street Brewery

Turkey club

Chicken pot pie

We stuck around for the free tour inside the small on-site brewery, which is now mostly used for R & D purposes (at that time, for example, they were trying out an Italian rice brew). Our guide reinforced how small they were in comparison to some of the big fish in the industry – what Mill Street produces in a year can be replicated by Labatt in eighteen hours.

Mill Street Brewery

Cheers!

Although it was a stunning neighbourhood to visit, I was hoping our food and drink experiences would match the grandeur of our surroundings.

Waterfront Night Market

A festival can be considered a temporary neighbourhood, which is how I thought of the Waterfront Night Market. It was such a serendipitous moment when I wondered aloud to Amanda whether or not Toronto hosted any night markets similar to the one found in Richmond, BC – then promptly stumbled across a poster advertising the Waterfront Night Market taking place that weekend.

As we didn’t have a car, we decided to take the free, advertised “fun bus” from City Hall down to the festival site (which happened to be the parking lot of the downtown T & T Supermarket). Apparently organizers didn’t learn from the previous year when similar problems happened – they again only had three buses, resulting in massive wait times. Although we waited an hour for the promised ride, they did avoid a #funbusfail.

Waterfront Night Market

The fun bus, living up to its name

When we reached the festival grounds, it was busy, but not quite as packed as I remember the Richmond equivalent to be.

Waterfront Night Market

I’m sure the smoke could have been seen for miles

It was clearly a food market, with merchandise vendors outnumbered ten to one. The hawkers in particular were entertaining, and reminded me of some of the Asian markets my family and I had visited long ago.

Waterfront Night Market

Meat on a stick

And though we had dinner not long before, we indulged anyway. To do so, Mack did have to get over the overpowering aroma of both stinky tofu and oyster omelettes though.

Waterfront Night Market

The bane of Mack’s existence

Waterfront Night Market

Thirst-quenching

Waterfront Night Market

The strawberry ice drink I ordered (featuring fruit popping pearls) had the consistency of ice cream!

Waterfront Night Market

The tornado potato was unfortunately not crispy

In addition to the vendors, there was a live music stage and an NBA tournament going on – the sights and sounds were almost overwhelming!

I’m happy we made our way to the night market – it was definitely something we wouldn’t have been able to experience at home.

  • Buddha Pest

    I went to the Richmond Night Market about 3 years ago. It was definitely worth the visit.

  • Amanda

    Yay can’t wait for our next adventure together!

  • That Dufflet cookie is my favourite! I think about it more often than I care to admit.

  • Jo

    I actually saw the maker of the industrial workout machines on Dragon’s Den. He installs industrial-grade machines in pedestrian-friendly locales to so that low-income families can have access to workout equipment.

  • That is awesome! Such a great idea. Wonder if Edmonton will be getting a set in the future, too? http://www.greengym.ca/ 

  • Nothing wrong with that…mmmm.

  • Me too, coming soon!

  • I visited once, though years ago, before the management changed hands. The next time I head to Vancouver, I will make the effort to get out again!

  • Nigel

    More and more
    companies in Canada are offering this outdoor fitness equipment. It seems the kids are
    clearing out of the parks while the adults are on their way in. Keep an eye on
    your local park, I’m sure you’ll see one soon! http://www.Activefit.ca

  • Pingback: Only Here for the Food » Blog Archive » Recap: Heritage Chinatown Night Market()