In our City Guide series, we fill you in on the best places to eat, drink and be merry in whatever pocket of Toronto you may find yourself in.
Which side is the best side? Well if we’re debating – every online publication would tell you the west side is the best. But I would like to have you know that the east side has been doing some pretty cool things as of late. Take specifically, Leslieville. Touted by the Toronto Star as “hipster east”, Leslieville has seen an explosion of restaurants, bars, gallery spaces and shops open in the last few years from trendy young urbanites looking to settle down. So rather than always going west, why not check out the east and some of the exciting spots they have to offer. You might be surprised on what you find.
Bill Hicks Bar
946 Queen Street East
A true local dive bar, with a twist. Welcome to Bill Hicks Bar! The walls are lined with band memorabilia and there is a very small tiki theme happening, but don’t worry – this isn’t another one of those tiki bars. With old tabletop arcade machines (including Donkey Kong), it’s the perfect accompaniment to cheap mixed drinks and beers. Don’t go here expecting an extensive list of booze and spirits – this is a dive bar, friends. You’ll be going for an experience and from what we hear, it certainly leaves an impression each and every single time.
The Ceili Cottage
1301 Queen Street East
Irish Pub, $$
Patrick McMurray, oyster shucking champion, has always wanted to create his very own Irish local. When he opened The Ceili Cottage back in 2009, he did just that. From the outside, an unassuming white-washed building with a patio (front and back) but on the inside is where the magic happens. The Cottage is separated into two rooms: the dining room and the bar area. On the menu, they like to keep things simple, fresh and affordable while still be fairly forward on the seafood. There’s everything from Cottage Boards ($20-$65), an entire Oyster Bar (MP) and staples like curries and pies. One of the biggest draws though has been the cottage’s outdoor yurt, which is 2015 was forced to close “due to circumstances beyond McMurray’s control”. Regardless, an experience at The Ceili Cottage is one not to be missed.
4 Boulton Avenue
Since 2014, Toronto, Ontario’s very own Boxcar Social has prided itself on being a cafe and wine bar. Well-known for its intensely curated stocklist of coffees, wines, craft beers, scotches and whiskies. Each of the baristas go above and beyond to provide their customers not only with a great tasting cup of coffee but with a unique tasting experience. At the east end location, they have a slow bar where guests can order a tasting flight (three coffees brewed side by side) or better yet, The Whisky Tango (two Featured Espressos alongside two 1/2oz bourbons). Yep, this is our kind of place.
948 Queen Street East
Love bacon? Well then you’re in for a treat because Rashers is dedicated to all things bacon. This neighbourhood spot is owned and operated by British expat Richard Mulley who has been committed to making quality bacon sandwiches for his customers that are simple, yet delicious. The menu items range from breakfast style, grilled cheese, experimental and sweet. But all showcase the greatest ingredient in the best way possible. Sandwiches range in price from $7 to $12.
Descendant Detroit Style Pizza
1168 Queen Street East
There is a huge culture surrounding Windsor-style pizza but what about Detroit style pizza? Well, if you haven’t heard or tried it – now is your chance. This cozy and comfortable pizza joint serves up square pizza, sauced up – you know, the Detroit way. The crust is thick and chewy and the toppings, well they are generous – let’s say that! The signature red sauce is something you’ll be craving for days afterwards. With small (8×10) and larger (10×14) sizes, you can stick with a classic (Pepperoni or Double Pepperoni) or take a walk on the wild side with the Soppressata Marmalade. Prices per pie vary between $16 and $30.
Reliable Fish + Chips
954 Queen Street East
Take Out, $
If you’re looking for a no frills, moderately priced fish and chip place then look no further than Reliable. A great spot for lunch, this spot offers a great two piece meal with batter so light with just the right amount of crunch and crisp. Things to keep in mind for your visit: it’s cash only and there isn’t much seating. This place is fairly popular, so takeout is your best bet. This is comfort food done right, so get ready for a bit of indulgence.
898 Queen Street East
If this place has a lineup outside of it every single weekend, then you know that it has to be good. Lady Marmalade is bright and airy, with a wonderfully welcoming atmosphere. Their menu prides itself on sourcing local and fresh ingredients from producers like Rowe Farms, St. John’s Bakery and Société-Orignal – to name a few. This spot is perfect for lunch and brunch offering everything from wonderful salads (Crunch Thai Slaw, $9) or twists on classics sandwiches (Mexican Meatball, $14).
Did we miss any of the best restaurants in the Junction and the Junction Triangle? Let us know in the comments below or tweet us@ViewTheVibe.