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Over the years, we’ve seen many Toronto neighbourhoods experience intense gentrification. You too, might’ve noticed the rapid transformation into trendy hubs that appeal to each individualistic desire. Yet, there has not been a neighbourhood that has evolved quite like Parkdale.
When you first arrive in this gritty yet vibrant neighbourhood, don’t let the friendly vagrants or questionable alleyways deter you. Because, if you look a little closer, you’ll see one of Toronto’s most diverse communities thrive. Parkdale is a place where all social classes, cultures and generations amalgamate into one eclectic neighbourhood. It’s where residents and frequent visitors alike loyally celebrate the Parkdale spirit.
On just a single street, you can see a mix of subsidized housing and community centres. While directly across or a few doors down, a gorgeous set of 8,000 sqft restored Victorian homes with original trim and stain glass windows sit pretty on a luscious green lot.
For this reason (and more), there’s really no place like it. But, to know and appreciate Parkdale, you need to experience its hidden (and not-so-hidden) gems. By doing so, you’ll see why this rapidly changing enclave should be at the top of your must-explore list.
To get you on board, here’s a ‘from dusk till dawn’ itinerary to keep you busy for 24-hours.
Just as the sun is rising, start your day off by taking a stroll through the quiet hidden road that is Noble Street. Here, you’ll see a mix of century-old brick and beam hard lofts and Pia Bouman’s Classical Ballet School. Tucked away in the back, you’ll also find The Northern Contemporary Gallery, showcasing established and emerging Canadian artists.
Continue along Noble and turn right onto Queen until you arrive at The Tempered Room. Notably, this is a neighbourhood favourite for expertly crafted coffee (Sam James beans) and the most delectable display of fresh Parisian pastries and sandwiches made fresh throughout the day by revered Chef Bertrand Alépée.
[Image via The Tempered Room]
Now that you’ve had your morning coffee and snack, stop by the neighbouring Queen Fresh Market for some fresh fruit and flowers. And yes, these will keep you cheating on your neighbourhood grocery store.
Put your fresh produce in your bag and hop on a Bixie Bike to ride west on Queen until you arrive at Easy Restaurant. Here, you’ll find classic dinner-style breakfasts that will leave you feeling warm and fuzzy inside.
After breakfast, walk five minutes east to arrive at Kitten and the Bear. This spot is your go-to source for delicious home-made jams, and an impressive selection of loose-leaf tea by Sloan Teas – a favourite! These make excellent gifts for loved ones who “have it all”.
[Image via Kitten and the Bear]
Now that you’ve had your tea and crumpets, explore the array of antique shops along Queen Street West for lots of hidden treasures at a great value.
Once you’ve reached Brock, it’s time to embrace your inner (or outer) vegan in the newly created Vegandale! First, stop by The Imperative for cruelty-free clothing items and accessories. And, don’t forget to take a photo with your new purchases in the digital photo both on your way out! Then, head over to Not Your Mother for insta-worthy 70’s style vegan ice cream and milkshakes.
[Image via Not Your Mother]
Now that it’s officially past noon, it’s socially acceptable to start drinking. So, head on over to the Vegandale Brewery for a cold one. Because yes, not all beer is vegan!
If you still have room and are up to the challenge, skip, hop and jump across the street to Doomie’s for their favourite vegan big mac. This’ll leave you wondering why you ever ate at McDonald’s in the first place.
Not into the vegan way of life? Instead, check out the low-key and unassuming Superpoint Pizza just off of Dunn Avenue. Or, grab an Anthony Bourdain approved roti from Bacchus Roti.
Full yet? It’s time for more shopping. Public Butter and House of Vintage are your go-to sources for gorgeous vintage finds, including both clothing and furniture pieces at a steal of a deal.
[Image via House of Vintage]
While you’re here, maybe you’re looking for a gift or souvenir from your Parkdale travels? Pop into the Crown Flora Studio for a lush collection of terrariums and fresh bouquets. Need a card? Shop Girls not only has high-quality Canadian made women’s wear, but also an adorable selection of artisan cards for every occasion. And, for the Harry Potter fans, a peruse through Curiosa will make you feel as though you stepped into a typical wizardry shop off of Diagon Alley.
[Image via Curiosa]
Just before dinner, take a stroll through Milky Way alley for some under-the-radar graffiti art. Keep walking until you stumble upon the hidden Hope Garden maintained and cared for by locals at Greenest City.
For dinner, top two choices are Jonathan Poon’s critically acclaimed Chantecler. Or, for something a bit more festive, book a table at Miss Thing’s.
[Image via Miss Thing’s]
In the mood for something more low key? Grand Electric boasts one of Toronto’s best tacos. Pro-tip: order the key lime pie for dessert. It’s a decision you won’t regret. Another option around Parkdale is Guu Izakaya – a place where you’ll be greeted in the very best way.
After dinner, you can walk over to the speakeasy style bar, Pretty Ugly (from the guys behind Bar Raval), for expertly made cocktails and late-night sushi (if you’re still hungry). For a more chill vibe, go visit legendary Chris Harper for a drink at The Pharmacy, where it’s always buzzing with young professionals and neighbourhood locals.
[Image via Pretty Ugly Bar]
Now that you’ve had an eventful day, it’s time to get some shuteye in the neighbouring Drake Hotel. You’ll need to rest up for our next Fox Marin Neighbourhood Guide.
Loving our guide to Parkdale 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 Urban enthusiast and food/travel junkie, Jessica Elizabeth Spillas. As the firm’s multi-talented Business Development Manager and Sales Representative, she is able to pair her passionate approach to buying, selling and investing in Toronto Real Estate with her flair for design and digital marketing. With this in mind, Jessica delivers unparalleled service with every interaction and works hard to keep her clients and colleagues organized and working at top-notch efficiency.