I have lived in Toronto for much of my adult life. Moving out at the age of twenty, my first apartment was a $900, junior one bedroom with no air conditioning just steps away from Bloor and Yonge. I remember how excited I felt to be at the heart of the city and to explore everything Toronto had to offer within all the little nooks and crannies ignored by tourists and from people who pronounce it “Toron-to”.
Now at the age of twenty-eight, I can confidently say that I have merely scratched the surface and my list of places to go just gets bigger every passing year. Which is the beauty of Toronto if you think about it. There is always something new to discover and experience while also curating your own personal bubbles within it all. For me, my biggest bubble was the West End, and these are some of the more special places I continue to go back to even to this day.
1. Saving Grace: A small, cozy restaurant on College street serving some of the best brunch eats I have ever had. The menu is constantly changing and larger than you think possible to accommodate, once you see the kitchen in the back, but I have never been disappointed by any of their dishes. This place is BUSY, so get there early or prepare to wait awhile for a table. The wait is worth it though and if you really get antsy, you can always grab a coffee and walk through Trinity Bellwood’s Park which is only a few minutes away.
2. The AGO: If you live in Toronto, I’m sure you know of the AGO (Art Gallery of Ontario) and possibly have even gone once or twice in the past, however I still wanted to include it on this list because it is worthy of repetitive visits. More people should be going to museums outside of vacations and field trips. There are always new exhibits throughout the year which allow a person to immerse themselves in new ideas, concepts and of course artistic talent from around the world. There is a café, a restaurant and yes of course, a gift shop. But more importantly, the building itself is stunning and walking through its quiet serene hallways is an experience itself.
3. The Brockton Haunt: Continuing west along College street towards Lansdowne, The Brockton Haunt is an independently owned coffee shop run by the most charming mother and daughter team who know their craft damn well. Serving Pilot Coffee, scratch made baked goods (the blueberry scones are the very best) and sandwiches, The Brockton Haunt has become a staple for the community and for myself and is a great place to relax with friends. Hands down my favourite coffee shop in the city.
4. Eyesore Cinema: Eyesore is located not far from Bloor and Dufferin and is one of the very last remaining video rental stores in the city. Yes, I said it, RENTAL STORE. Though they also have movies to buy along with vinyl, books, CD's, zines and any other hard media you can imagine. The owner has lovingly curated a collection of film oddities spanning every genre and I dare you to walk through the store and not find something to bring home for you and your friends to watch. Eyesore also holds screenings in the back of the shop and supports local and independent film makers. You have never been to place quite like it.
5. Burdock Brewery: The Burdock is a microbrewery, music venue and bar which also serves lunch and dinner. Along with crafting artisanal beers, the Burdock also has an impressive wine menu, carefully curated by the sommelier to pair well with the great food they serve each night. I have had some of the best meals here and for someone like myself who hasn’t always been impressed by beer, some of the best of that as well. It is a stunning place and the staff is well versed in what they do.
The next time you find yourself wondering what to do with a day off with friends, I hope you will use this list of personal favourites as a road map for some of the best hangouts of the West End. Cheers.