Dundas West holds a special place in my heart.
Many don’t know this but it’s actually where I started my foray into fashion. Six years ago, I partnered with my best friend to sell vintage clothing at her then, brand new jewelry store, Armed. While I eventually moved on to writing about fashion and retail at StyleDemocracy – in turn, leading me to Vv Magazine – the experience helped me better understand the importance of supporting local businesses and opened my eyes to a world where business owners see each other as pillars of support rather than competition.
The retail landscape in Toronto has changed so much since then, and Dundas St. West, one of the oldest streets in Toronto, has burgeoned into the home of some of the city’s best restaurants, nightlife, and local shops. And though businesses have come and gone, the community feels the same. Warm, inviting and innovative in their offerings. It’s safe to say that the neighbourhood is having a moment.
Some may say it’s a newfound prominence, but I beg to differ. The strip has always been one of my favourites. And when Yellow Pages asked me to share my very own Shop the Neighbourhood guide and celebrate the businesses that make the city and the neighbourhood what it is, I was happy to hop on board!
And because I’ve always found a way to combine my two loves; food and shopping, my Shop the Neighbourhood guide includes both restaurants and shops. Here are my picks for the must-visit Dundas West establishments.
800 Dundas St. West
Old School is where I go when I’m looking for elevated comfort food. Their kitchen, helmed by Executive Chef Marcus Monteiro, is known for over-the-top creations and American classics available late into the night. If you’re headed there for brunch, you won’t want to skip their Blueberry Hill Pancakes, filled with blueberries and topped with their butcher’s crack and brown sugar butter. But If you’re more of a savory bruncher, opt for their hefty Hogtown BBQ Benny; soft poached eggs on housemade cheddar chive biscuit with spicy hogtown hollandaise, slow roasted pulled pork, tangy potato salad, and greens. And while their brunch has earned them some major Instagram cred, they’ve got some pretty mean lunch/dinner options, too. My suggestion? The smoked rib dinner with fries and Kansas slaw. Don’t forget to ask for extra BBQ sauce before you slip into a food-induced coma in their cushy booths.
1024 Dundas St. West
While this may seem biased coming from the best friend of the owner, I am irrevocably in love with everything that’s inside Armed. A style oasis along a row of residential homes, Armed is unparalleled when it comes to accessories. The store may be small, but Armed’s signature (and handcrafted, to boot) body pieces and bold necklaces are seen on tastemakers far and wide. From big brass chains to iridescent earrings and clusters of stackable rings to shade-throwing sunnies, logo embossed hats and bundled blanket scarves, Armed’s offerings are ever-evolving, making it a real attraction for those shopping on Dundas West.
825 Dundas St. West
If you’re looking for the best sandwich in the city, look no further. This tiny take-out focused restaurant, owned by Nick auf der Mauers, offers up some of the best Italian pork you’ll ever try. Slow-roasted and hand-carved, visitors have got to try the porchetta sandwich, loaded with truffle sauce, parmesan, mustard and hot sauce on a fresh Thuet bun – a perfectly orchestrated medley of flavors. The sandwich is addictively delicious.
1410 Dundas St. West
Walking into V S P is like walking into your sophisticated older sister’s closet. With high ceilings, clean lines, and marble and wood accents, V S P is brimming with coveted labels like Alexander Wang, Acne, Gucci, and Céline that beckon for your touch. And while their offerings may seem inaccessible, a flip of a price tag will change your mind. Everything in store – from the vintage Chanel suit to the Acne leather jacket to the TODS boots – is available for a third of the original price.
1599 Dundas St W
Big open windows brighten up the inside of this Dundas West vintage spot, which specializes in the eras of the 80s and 90s. The store, which recently relocated from Queen St. West, is a welcome addition to the neighbourhood. Owner Melissa Ball handpicks and stocks her store will all the cool-kid essentials, including Mongolian lamb jackets, worn-in leather lace-up boots, and local labels like Eleventh House Jewellery.
1442 Dundas Street West
Of all the restaurants on this list, I’ll have to admit, Sukhothai is the one I’d eat at time and time again with no regrets. Owned by the Thai-food power couple, Chef Nuit and Jeff Regular, Sukhothai on Dundas West is as warm and comforting as their popular Khao Soi bowls – and I’m not the only one who thinks so. The restaurant has been crowned one of the best Thai spots in Toronto and with friendly staff and mouth-watering, authentic, yet simple dishes, it’s easy to see why.
1447 Dundas Street West
Owned by Zai Rajkotwala, Easy Tiger is my go-to for gifts in the ‘hood. The shop is built on exclusive brands and products that are well made, packaged, and designed. Shelves and racks are stocked with everything from fresh Ontario grown bouquets to made-in-Spain footwear to New York hailed accessories. Whether you’re on the hunt for a unique gift for your gal pal or fresh coffee brewed with love, Easy Tiger is the friendly neighbourhood gift shop/general store that stocks it all.
1265 Dundas St W
Nestled on the corner of Dundas and Dovercourt, blink and you might miss the small neon sign hanging above or subtlety handwritten letters that spell out Mr. Flamingo on the front door. Inside is cozy and dimly lit with an open kitchen set up back. My suggestion? Snuggle up here with pals on a Wednesday, when oysters are a buck a shuck and select bottles of bubbly are on special for $30 bucks. While you’re there, don’t forget to try the burrata that’s made in-house, fresh to order and the perfectly-crisp-on-the-outside gnocchi that’s served with a sprinkle of popcorn.
1227 Dundas Street West
I have nothing but love for the women behind Fitzroy, owners Angela Pastor and Julie Buczkowski, who are a true pop-up to brick-and-mortar success story. After bouncing around pop-up to pop-up for years, the ladies have settled down at a brand-spanking-new spot on Dundas. But their shop isn’t any ol’ regular shop, they have graduated into and championed the market of rental gowns and dresses. Walk up the stairs past their “Foxy Lady” tile entrance and you’ll instantly feel at home in their giant walk-in closet. The walls are lined with dresses from brands like For Love and Lemons, Free People, and more, plus they’re fully stocked with accessories like purses and jewelry, making it a one-stop party shop.
1177 Dundas Street West
Located just west of Dundas and Ossington, Penny Arcade is full of surprises. The shop stocks local labels like Bully Boy Lingerie and Minnow Bathers, plus a hand selected collection of vintage for men and women, and vintage for kids from Filly and Foal, making it a store that you’ll want to pop into more than occasionally. In the summer, Penny Arcade is my go-to for perfectly destructed denim shorts but what really draws my attention year round is their curated selection of buttery vintage leather bags from Coach.
To learn how to support STN, visit shoptheneighbourhood.yp.ca