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Technically Toronto, East of the Don is several neighbourhoods encompassing multiple vibrant communities. All of which, fiercely loyal to the east end and keeping it local. It seems that every time you blink there is a new coffee shop, restaurant or store opening. And, what once felt like it existed in a different time zone for many Torontonians has been hailed by the New York Times as the coolest neighbourhood in Toronto to shop, eat and drink.
There is no way that you could explore or eat your way through this neighbourhood in one day or even one week. That’s why many locals only venture East of the Don when they have to.
If you’re looking to spend some time in adventuring into East of the Don, here’s a full days’ itinerary to keep you busy for 24-hours.
Embrace the early morning with coffee at the Rooster Coffee House. Nothing beats the view as you look across Riverdale Park and the DVP and see the sunrise reflecting on the Toronto Skyline. Or, watch the locals flowing in unison as they practise their tai chi.
Hint: it’s pretty spectacular at sunset too. People congregate on the hills of Riverdale Park East to enjoy the epic view, play frisbee and sip whatever is inside their travel mugs (no judgement).
Next, walk along Gerrard Street through East Chinatown. Here, you’ll find local vendors pile their tables high with exotic Asian greens, fruits and vegetables. Taking in the sights, sounds and smells, you can easily imagine you are in a busy market in China.
While you’re here, be sure to stop at Andrea’s Gerrard Street Bakery. Indulge in her famous butter tarts, touted by many as one of the best ones in Toronto.
[Image via Food Trippin’ with Ann]
If you’re feeling more adventurous grab your coffee to go from Dundas and Carlaw (in your reusable mug, of course). Head down to Cherry Beach – ideally with your dog in tow. The off-leash park is a favourite in the city and it’s easy to see why. Watching the sun break through the early morning mist over the lake is breathtaking. Chances are, you’ll be joined by daring kite surfers practising their acrobatics on the water. It’s my favourite way to start my day!
There is no shortage of brunch options. Our top picks are local and organic. Be prepared to go early or stand in line at the newly relocated perennial favourite Lady Marmalade. The Green Wood (located much further east) is another neighbourhood favourite. Again, go early or be prepared to wait.
Hint: waiting in line is a great way to meet the friendly locals and find out what’s new in the hood and what’s going on that you just can’t miss.
[Image via eatgreenwood.com]
Too hangry to wait in line? Yaya is a family favourite (well, my family at least). There are lots of gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan options. Sexy avocado benedict? Divine.
So many options.
[Image via shedoesthecity.com]
There seems to be something special happening every weekend, East of the Don. Don’t miss the Leslieville Flea for vintage finds, handcrafted goods, art, music, beer and even more food. Check for posters – or just go with the flow. You’ll also find the Leslieville Farmers Market, the Leslieville Beer Festival, the Leslieville Food and Drink Festival and so much more.
Want to just stroll and walk off brunch? By the time you read this, there will be a new store in the hood. My fave du jour? Scout (closer to Jones on Queen) and Brika (closer to Booth) are boutiques with curated, well-designed cards, bath products, jewellery and covetable objects. Good Neighbour, on the cusp of Riverside and Leslieville, is a hip general store. It’s the self proclaimed “Leslieville fashion curator and coolhunter”.
[Image via Twitter]
If you want to get a little closer to nature, grab a bike from Bike Share and head down Leslie, past the community gardens to Tommy Thompson Park or the Spit. It’s a naturalized man-made peninsula that extends 5km into the lake. Heaven, if you’re a bird lover, over 300 species have been counted here. There’s inspiration for all creative types – the sculptural bricks and building debris lining the shores are rubble masterpieces.
Hint: I love, love the music in Lisa’s challenging flow classes.
The options for boxing, rock climbing, and training East of the Don are endless. When you’ve finished your workout, head to Dew Sweat House to sweat it out and chill in the infrared heat blankets.
The charcuterie board at Gare de L’Est is the stuff memories are made of. If you’re there at the right time, you can grab a play at the Crowsnest Theatre. Or, plan for your next day in the hood and grab some tickets from the box office.
[Image via BlogTO]
Craving something a little sweeter? Wong’s has crazy delicious Asian-themed ice creams. They’ll let you sample to your heart’s content – black sesame and salted duck egg, lemongrass lime sorbet, wasabi honey, and more. But be warned, each flavour is out of this world and you’ll want a scoop of everything.
[Image via UK Standard]
There are a plethora of craft brew pubs in the area. Perfect for a late afternoon bevvy. Make your way from west to east sampling a pint at each. Start at Eastbound Brewing Co. Next to Saulter Street Brewery, Radical Road and then Black Lab.
Hint: Black Lab is named after the brewmaster’s black lab and welcomes friendly pooches.
Rorscharch Brewing Co. is next on the tour, followed by Godspeed Brewery. Wrap up the beer tour at Left Field Brewery. Last on the happy hour tour, stop by the Rooftop at the Broadview Hotel. It’s one of the best places to catch the sunset. Of course, it’s not a secret, so go early to get a seat and sinful cocktail. If you’re not careful you’ll wind up ordering another, indulging in some great food and then dancing the night away when the DJ starts spinning. Yup, guilty.
Leslieville, Lower Riverdale, Riverside and Gerrones are a food lover’s mecca. Craving Italian? Ascari Enoteca has a divine pasta. French? Greta Solomon’s. The best deep dish pizza ever? Descendant Detroit Style Pizza. For a special culinary adventure you can’t beat Ruby Watchcoo – a single fixed price menu created nightly by celebrity chef Lynn Crawford. The mouth watering menu is posted a week in advance so you can select the night that appeals most (or, you could go every night).
[Image via doobernation loves]
There is a restaurant in almost every other building, and every one I have tried hasn’t disappointed. You could spend months eating your way through the neighbourhood and by that time, there would be a handful of new restaurants that you’d need to try.
The newest destination East of the Don is the Gerrard and Jones – Gerrones. There are restaurants and coffee shops popping up everywhere. The Vatican Gift Shop, Poor Romeo and Pinkerton trifecta dominate the night. All run by a handful of business partners who took a risk in an up and coming part of the east end. Pinkerton is an Asian snack bar that gets its second wind around 11 when the moms leave and the late night diners and servers descend. Poor Romeo is local pub meets the best music ever meets insta influencers preening at the bar. The Vatican Gift Shop is a moody speakeasy hidden behind a small store carrying religious accessories.
If you haven’t explored Toronto, East of the Don yet you are missing one of the best neighbourhoods in the city. It’s no secret why real estate is so hot here.
[Image via Meating on Queen]
Loving our guide to Toronto, East of the Don and looking for another neighbourhood to explore? Drop us a line to let us know where you’d like to spend your next 24-hours! We’ll keep this in mind for the next FM Neighbourhood Guide.
This article is written by Kathy Mighton, Project Manager and Lead Designer here at Fox Marin Associates. She is FM Design’s creator of well-crafted spaces that inspire and impress! A true design enthusiast, there are not enough walls or surfaces in Kathy’s life to display all the art that she loves.