Picking up from where I left off in my last post – Eat, See, Do: Toronto Part I; here are some more things to do if you’re ever in Canada’s largest city. Some of these may not seem that unconventional, but they have been included in this list because of my personal experience – and trust me, they’re worth doing.
5. Queen Street West: Arepa Cafe & Nadège
Walking distance (between the two): 11-12 minutes, approx.
Start your day at Arepa Cafe (open 10:30 am – 10:00 pm), a modern Venezuelan joint famous for their grilled cornmeal bun sandwiches. Trust me, the La Catira (chicken breast, cheddar, tomato and herb mayo) arepa with their signature mayo (extra on the side) is DELICIOUS. Have the Alfajores – cornstarch cookies slathered with dulce de leche to make a cookie sandwich – for dessert and you’ll be in seventh heaven.
Recently named by Vogue as the world’s ‘second-hippest district’, Queen Street West does not disappoint. Packed to the brim with vintage shops, music stores, thrift shops, novelty shops and lots of textile shops – it’s every art and fashion lover’s paradise! Don’t let the pretentious labels and reviews intimidate you – explore this 2km stretch at your own pace and shop for beautiful things you probably won’t find anywhere else. My picks for shopping would be the Cabaret Vintage store and Outer Layer. Stepping inside Cabaret Vintage was like a fantasy come true and they have the most delightful staff who will encourage you to play dress-up with some stunning outfits from the ’20s to the ’60s! Outer Layer is a funky novelty store that has everything from kale candles and bacon toothpaste to socks and finger-puppets of Freud – I loved it.
Wind up by hitting Nadège (open 8:00 am – 9:00 pm, but go between 6pm and 7pm because they run out of the good stuff early) – a boutique patisserie at the end of Queen St, which has the most delectable pastries you’ll find in all of Toronto. My friends love their macarons, but my personal favourite was the Marie Antoinette tart – mini macarons on a vanilla bean custard tart, laced with a light maple syrup – a complete foodgasm. The Pineapple Coconut tatin – coconut almond cream, roasted pineapple and coconut streusel – as well as their artisanal Chocolates and Caramels are a must-try.
6. Lola’s Kitchen & the Royal Ontario Museum
Walking distance (between the two): 14 minutes approx.
Get an early start at Lola’s Kitchen (open 11:00 am – 10:00 pm), where their promise is the ‘best fresh food in town’. Healthy is the keyword here and their California salad bowl with kale, quinoa, avocado, sundried tomatoes, toasted nuts and seeds, grilled tofu and sweet cider vinaigrette is a whole meal in itself. My favourite was the Smoked Salmon sandwich – with gorgeously smokey salmon, bacon, cucumber, avocado, red onion, arugula and garlic aioli on a multigrain bread. Their signature Sweet Potato chips are unlike any I”ve ever had and much better (and healthier) than the regular potato version! If I had more time, I would have gone back again and again until I’d tried everything on their menu. Really.
So, have a bite that will keep you going all day before walking over (it’s a bit of a walk, but worth it) to the Royal Ontario Museum (open 10:00 am – 5:30 pm). The ROM, as it’s more popularly known, has been extended in size over the years and most recently in 2007 with the latest addition, the Michael Lee Chin Crystal, marking it as a symbol of a ‘new age’ for the soon to be 101-year-old Museum. Don’t miss the Galleries of Canada and the First Peoples. My personal favourites were the European Galleries (style through the ages) and the Galleries of the Age of Dinosaurs and Mammals. The staff are very approachable and friendly, if you get lost or need to ask for recommendations. Note: It’s always better to check for the latest exhibits and timings online before you make a visit.
7. To-ne Sushi & Princess of Wales Theatre
Walking distance (between the two): 13 minutes, approx.
I have NEVER been a fan of sushi, because I prefer my food hot and well cooked, so the thought of eating raw, cold fish was not something my palate could accept. Fortunately for me, my bestie is a sushi fiend and she convinced me to give in and try it one more time. We ate at To-ne Sushi (open 11:30 am – 11:00 pm), one of Downtown Toronto’s most notable Japanese seafood Restaurants. After being seated, we were served an amuse-bouche of (what we assumed was) Miso soup with rice noodles. Ebi (shrimp) Shumai with ponzu sauce and Chicken Katsu (breaded, fried chicken) with a special sauce on the side were a good start to our meal.
We decided to share a couple of rolls: the Avocado Crunch roll with tempura bits and special mayo was superb, the Philadelphia roll was a bit unusual, with smoked salmon, cream cheese and green onions – but worth a try. My favourites were the Dynamite roll – shrimp tempura with avocado, cucumber and masago – and the Spicy Salmon roll – chopped salmon with tempura bits and spicy mayo. It’s official now – I’ve been converted! Hallelujah.
It’s a little over a 10 minute walk to the Princess of Wales Theatre, so plan accordingly. We were lucky enough to catch ‘The Book of Mormon’ on their Canada Tour, which was amazing. Attending at least one show or musical at the Theatre is definitely worth it! Note: Check their website beforehand and book your tickets at least a week in advance. If you want good seats, it’s best to buy directly from the Box Office. Prepare to be there half an hour before the show begins.
9. Niagara Falls – Journey Behind the Falls
This may sound like the most touristy thing to do, but you haven’t seen ANYTHING until you’ve seen the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. We drove there and spent about half a day at the Falls, before heading back to the City. Apparently we visited at a less busy time of year, which was great, because it wasn’t that crowded and we didn’t have to wait in any long lines. If you DO happen to go at a better time of year, check out some of the vineyards around Niagara, too – they’re famous for their Ice Wine!
I wasn’t keen on the boat cruise, because it really doesn’t take you that close to the Falls. Instead, my bestie’s Dad suggested the ‘Journey Behind the Falls’, which he had done before. Honestly, it’s the best way to experience Niagara. Buy a ticket for JBTF from the main building, before heading to an elevator which will take you 150 feet underground. Make your way through the tunnels in the bedrock to the viewing portals, where you’ll end up behind the massive curtains of water that are the Falls. At the end, you’ll find yourself on the Observation Deck where you’re literally at the foot of the Falls – be sure to wear the poncho they’ll give you and also tuck away any valuables, because the wind blows the water every which way and poncho or not, you’ll be soaked from head to toe!
10. Rebozos & The Big Chill
Walking distance (between the two): 6 minutes, approx.
Rebozos (open 12:00pm – 10:00pm) on College St is a very rustic-style cantina with a warm and friendly vibe. My friends ordered Micheladas (a spicy drink with Mexican beer) and I had a frozen Mango Margarita (tequila is my poison) which were all great drinks. The Choriqueso – melted mozzarella cheese with Mexican sausage, served with tortillas – was a delicious start. By the way, Rebozos don’t hold anything back with their salsas – the red one is super spicy and the green tomatillo one is milder but still pungent. The Carnitas tacos (their soft corn tortillas are beautiful, by the way)- shredded, slow cooked pork shoulder – were my favourite, with the Chorizo tacos coming in a close second. My bestie and I also braved the Tripe (cow stomach) tacos – which were interesting, but not something I would order again. It was so enjoyable to eat real Mexican food for a change, over the fast food crap that is churned out by big brands and dubbed ‘authentic’. Reasonably priced, Rebozos is definitely a place I would go back to.
For dessert, walk down College St til you hit The Big Chill (open 12:00 pm – 12:00 am) on Manning Avenue and treat yourself to an Ice Cream Cookie sandwich. Your inner child will thank you! I loved their quirky, decor (they really love cows) and ordered the Salted Caramel Ice Cream Cookie sandwich. It was perfection! They also boast a Waffle and Sundae menu – which I intend on checking out the next time I’m in Toronto.
That concludes the highlights of my trip. I hope you find these lists useful. Toronto is an easy city to fall in love with and I really look forward to going back. If you like (or hate) what I have to say, you can find me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Happy Eating (and Exploring)!