A Newbie's Guide to Big, Bad Toronto
When I left Vancouver earlier this year, I dramatically wondered how I would possibly survive. How would my lungs ever acclimatize to choking exhaust fumes and gridlocked road rage, instead of breathing the sweet scent of micro-breweries and salty, fresh air?
But what I quickly learned about sharply extracting myself from the mountainous haven of picturesque Vancouver and into a parking spot sized condo in big, bad Toronto was that by comparing the two cities like I just did, I’d cut out my ability to see a city that stands on its own two feet. Toronto rules and actually doesn't give a shit that mountains aren't in the backdrop of its postcards.
So despite my Big Smoke Newbie title, here's a short, very incomplete, top five of what I've found and loved in Toronto so far:
They just know what they're doing, quite frankly. I'm learning what to get where, whose good at what, but the consistent goldmine always seems to be over at House of Vintage. Lisa keeps their Instagram ticker-tape going with new finds and one of a kinds. Looking for flight jackets, Led Zeppelin tees, pony sweatshirts, or 1960s two-tone cigarette pants? They've got it.
Throw a stone anywhere in this city and you’ll hit a slurping hot spot. Best in town goes to Boxcar Social. The downstairs bustles with fashionable creatives, computer-armed big wigs and hipster baby raising moms, while the upstairs is, by contrast, a tranquil, reading-a-book or quietly-ticking-away-on-a-laptop vibe, which is great. If you want to regale your best friend with stories of last weekends debacles, keep it downstairs. If you want to get some thinking done or do some undisturbed sketching, stick to the top.
There is no greater tour guide than simply wandering around the varied and distinct neighbourhoods. After a quick dig on Wikipedia I discovered there are "upwards of 240 official and un-official neighbourhoods within the city's boundaries." Picking up groceries here and there up Roncesvalles, bumbling about the hectic planet that is Kensington Market, strolling by the always packed, old time-y congregating storefronts of Little Portugal, waiting in line for brunch surrounded by hungover crowds anywhere on College Street, take your pick. It's bustling and interesting and enthralling everywhere and I haven't even stepped foot in most nooks and crannies yet.
THRIFT & ANTIQUES
Rec + ART HISTORY is a curated treasure trove so reasonably priced I often look towards the back to catch eyes with the shop owner to hold up my find and say, "Really? That's it? I'll take it." It's what gives the shop’s inventory a high turnover, with new pieces and trinkets always rotating out the door and keeping it the golden shop that it is. I walk in and do a lap while dreaming about some house I'll live in one day that will have all of the things my eyes fall on: old musty clocks, tiny detailed desks, sturdy wooden bowls and thick coupe glasses from another time.
Maybe because it's so small and cozy or because it's a brief skip to my house, but I adore The Federal. Get the Cubano and you will welcome the same addiction to the place that I’ve developed. Tender pulled pork and ham, fresh pickles, pickled red onions, a smear of avo and mustard on sourdough rye bread, SIGN ME UP. I think it's one of my favourite sandwiches. Ever. They've also got wonderful coffee, great tunes, ace servers and I must say, reading the paper and hearing the paper creases crack in the middle of a regular afternoon is a special kind of Toronto happiness.