Located just a short streetcar ride from the city’s downtown core, Leslieville is Toronto’s hip neighbourhood for eating, drinking, shopping and relaxing.
The heart of the neighbourhood, running along Queen Street East, between Coxwell Avenue to the east and the Don Valley Parkway to the west, has an eclectic choice of specialized stores, bakeries, hip cafes, and restaurants. Indeed, Leslieville is Toronto’s brunch capital, with over 15 venues to choose from. The growing selection of shops, most of which are small and independently owned, makes Leslieville the perfect destination for shopping and casual dining. The neighbourhood has a quiet and relaxed feel that
is more Saturday afternoon than Saturday night. There are several shops with communal tables, giving guests the opportunity to chat with a friendly stranger. This is definitely a close-knit community.
Leslieville started as a small village in the 1850's, when horticulturalist George Leslie opened a plant nursery with 200 acres of greenhouses and fields in the area. Most of the residents were gardeners or employed at one of the local factories.
Today, this quiet, tree-lined neighbourhood has detached and semi-detached Victorian and Edwardian homes, a large number of bungalows, row houses, newer townhouses, and several condominium lofts, which were converted from the retired factories.
Getting to the heart of Leslieville: take the Queen streetcar eastbound; get off anywhere between Broadview and Coxwell Avenue.
Below is a guide for foodies, shopaholics, caffeine addicts, and brunch lovers.BAKERIESBobbette and Belle
Walking into this bakery is a delight to the senses. The beautiful selection of freshly baked cupcakes, brownies, macarons and tarts in the glass counter welcomes you into the shop, a combination of art gallery and cafe. An array of pretty china plates decorate the stark white walls, and wedding cakes that
are works of art are displayed throughout the bakery. No need to rush out after purchasing your items, a sofa and two long communal tables encourage guests to sit down, enjoy a treat, relax and chat with your neighbour. There is also an ice cream bar, where you can purchase whoopie pie ice cream sandwiches and french macaron ice cream sandwiches, for $3.20 each.www.bobbetteandbelle.com
1121 Queen Street East, +1 416 466 8800Brick Street Breads
This is a great place to purchase bread, but I come here for the sandwiches. My favourite is the Boxing Day sandwich, made with freshly roasted turkey, homemade stuffing, cranberries and mayonnaise for $8.00. Their butter croissants, made over 48 hours, rival any I’ve had in Paris. I also visit this bakery in early December to pick up a few loaves of Christmas cake (they sell out fast!). Made with a short list of all-natural ingredients, it’s the best Christmas cake I’ve ever had, next to my mum’s, of course.www.brickstreetbakery.ca
255 Logan Avenue (at Queen), +1 416 465 6808
It’s the Icing on the Cake
This nut-free bakery specializes in cakes, but sells other yummy treats as well: brownies, date squares, tarts, cookies, cheesecakes, and some of the finest cupcakes around. With flavours ranging from chocolate rocky road with chunks of caramel and mini marshmallows, to a dark chocolate with vanilla
frosting and flakes of dark chocolate, this bakery is cupcake heaven.www.itstheicingonthecake.ca
1238 Queen Street East, +1 416 469 4973CAFES
Dark Horse Espresso Bar
Whether it’s an espresso, an Americano or a latte, Dark Horse consistently makes a great cup of java. The baristas pride themselves on using sustainable coffee and having a direct relationship with coffee farmers and roasters. Dark Horse is also known for making some of the best latte art in the city, having taken home awards from Canadian and international barista competitions. This is a cozy cafe, where you have the option of sitting by the large window, watching the world go by, or at one of the communal tables.www.darkhorseespresso.com
682 Queen Street East, +1 647 436 3460Tango Palace Coffee Company
This coffeehouse reminds me of my great-aunt’s living room: stained-glass lamps, large comfy mismatched wooden chairs and side tables, all cramped in tight quarters. Always warm and inviting, this cafe quickly fills to capacity, about 20 people, but there’s a lovely park next door, where you can sit on
a bench and soak up the sun on a nice day. If you’re looking for more than a coffee and a snack, light breakfast and lunch options are offered as well.
1156 Queen Street East, +1 416 465 8085Te Aro Roasted
Named after a New Zealand suburb, Te Aro coffee is roasted in-house and in small batches. The cafe is set up in a converted garage, with a spacious interior and large front patio. Service is always impeccable, the staff is extremely knowledgeable, and the coffee is awesome. The cafe hosts free coffee cupping sessions every Friday at 12:30 where you can taste and compare the body, aroma, acidity and balance of different types of coffee. Te Aro sells wholesale to many other cafes in the city.www.te-aro.ca
983 Queen Street East, +1 877 558 3276SPECIALTY SHOPSArts Market Toronto
This artisan’s market showcases the works of local artists, with crafts, handmade jewelry, paintings, photography, one-of-a-kind clothing and even baked goods. Over 20 exhibitors are set up in this collective space, which is a great venue for emerging artists to sell their work and for others to purchase
1114 Queen Street East (at Caroline Avenue)Gadabout
This vintage shop houses an extensive collection of clothing dating from the late 1800s to the 1970’s. Every corner, nook and cranny is crammed with accessories such as hats, shoes, jewellery and scarves, collectibles such as antique toys, books, games, buttons and china, as well as household items of
any kind. You can spend hours in here, searching through drawers, cabinets, and racks. It looks like everything is thrown together haphazardly, but the saleslady knows where everything is. The second floor is devoted to menswear, wedding and prom dresses, women’s coats and furs. There is even a “manly man corner” with machinery, tin cans, knives, fishing gear, swords and military patches.www.gadaboutvintage.com
1300 Queen Street East, +1 416 463 1254Holy Cow
Whenever I browse this exotic gift and furniture shop, I almost feel like I am in a foreign marketplace. The walls are covered with retro Chinese poster ads and vintage framed images of Hindu gods. There are Turkish bath towels and lamps, Moroccan serving dishes and leather slipppers, Laotian Buddhas, and
exquisite inlaid marble tables. Of course, there are also the “holy cows” after which the shop is named, ranging from small hand-painted cows used as temple offerings in India, to enormous procession pieces made from solid teak.www.holycowmarket.com
1100 Queen Street East, +1 416 778 6555RESTAURANTSBonjour Brioche
As with most brunch spots in Leslieville, this venue does not take reservations, so get here early to avoid the long lineups. Beautiful flaky pastries, sandwiches and great coffee make this cafe one of the most popular with the locals. Try the Brioche Royale, a brioche filled with lemon curd, raspberry, or blueberry pastry cream. I love going solo, sitting on the patio, reading the weekend morning paper while eating a very large slice of quiche with a salad – all washed down with a cappuccino. The atmosphere
feels so “French,” and even though the place is packed, I am never rushed out and always made to feel welcome. Cash only.www.bonjourbrioche.com
812 Queen Street East, +1 416 406 1250Lady Marmalade
This place offers a creative menu with something for everyone. There is comfort food with a healthy twist: organic tofu scramble; Mexican fusion dishes, including “huevos rancheritos”: 3 soft-scrambled eggs,
cheese, guacamole with smashed beans on a tortilla; and vegetarian dishes, where you can substitute meat for avocados or tofu. There are no greasy options here; the food is healthy and locally sourced. The place has a hippy vibe, with apple green walls, formica-topped tables and food served in mismatched plates and cups. Cash only.www.ladymarmalade.ca
898 Queen Street East, +1 647 351 7645Queen Margherita Pizza
This place makes Italian pizza as it should be: simple. The 6,000 pound wood burning oven, imported from Naples, reaches temperatures so high that pizzas are cooked in a few minutes. There is a set menu consisting of a starter, choice of pizza, and small salad, but I always order the pizza on its own because that’s what they make best. The restaurant's namesake, Pizza Margherita, is made with fresh baby mozzarella, San Marzano tomato sauce and basil leaves. San Marzano tomatoes are best for making sauce due to their low acidity levels. Because the pizza cooks so quickly, the mozzarella, although melted, stays fresh and creamy, and the basil is still fragrant, having had no time to wilt. And the crust is perfect: thin yet sturdy and puffy with a few charred and slightly blistered bits. Italians come from all over Toronto to eat this pizza, so you know it’s good.www.queenmargheritapizza.ca
1402 Queen Street East, +1 416 466 6555The Ceili Cottage
This pub looks like it’s been transplanted from a small village in Ireland. Built in 1884, the interior walls of this small white cottage have peeling paint and plaster, exposing brick walls and wood. Church pews and small tables fill up the interior, while the patio, which seats up to 60 people, has hundreds of oyster shells embedded in the concrete. Owned by a world-champion and Guinness oyster shucker, Ceili Cottage offers Irish and Maritime oysters, as well as comfort food such as Mac and Cheese, Bangers and mash, and braised lamb shank with champ and roast vegetables. Depending on the day of the week, specials range from a roast dinner on Sundays to curry on Thursdays. There are different events every night of the week: Irish dancing and traditional music, oyster shucking, and even a matchmaking night. And of course, there is the beer: 12 on tap, including Irish brews and some from Ontario and Quebec. But if beer’s not your thing, there’s also Veuve Cliquot and Cava from Spain.www.ceilicottage.com
1301 Queen Street East, + 1 416 406 1301
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