Toronto East Eats

Once upon a time not long ago food in Toronto was just a 4-letter word. Except for a brief period in the 1980's, nothing special. And before that TO was called hogtown not due to any fine cuisine but rather for its many stockyards whose aromas wafted downwind ie. eastward over the city. Which brings me to this story. 

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Downtown Eastside neighbourhoods Riverdale, Leslieville and Corktown — the latter earning its name from the proliferation of breweries and poor Irish immigrant workers in the 19th century — are being transformed beyond recognition.


The big breweries are long gone and the millenials who live in all the renos and condos popping up like mushrooms are mortgage poor. But they still have money to fuel lots of exciting new bars and restaurants. 

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Neighbourhood food tour specialist Culinary Adventure Co. recently guided 5 travel writers — the Foodie Five? — on a sampling tour of these neighbourhoods with their hopping scene de cuisine. 

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First up was the Broadview Hotel on the NW corner of Broadview and Queen. The Romanesque Revival-style 1891 building has gone from bank to exotic dancers to casual cool. From the lobby to rooftop views to smoked salmon and cucumber salad, it remains a landmark.

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Walking west along Queen, past the original red brick Canadian Tire Corp. building on the corner of Hamilton St, we turn right along Carroll St., through Joel Weeks Park with its acorn envy statue for squirrels to Merchants of Green Coffee on Matilda St.

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Inside what is obviously a community gathering spot Meaghan Thibeault gives us an energetic demo and explanation of what makes good coffee and why it matters to the planet. Impressive. And the coffee is good.

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Strolling west along Queen, across the Don River via the Riverdale Bridge and past the Humane Society with its murals, we come to Dominion Pub and Kitchen, once site of the nations largest brewery and now an amiable gastro pub.

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Waiting for us are tumblers of Henderson's Best Bitter (but it's smooth) and Brickworks 1904 Cider made from Ontario apples and named after the fire that turned wooden Toronto to ashes which led to the red brick buildings that dominate the city core. A giant pretzel and tater tots accompany our drinks.

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Zigzagging down a few streets, including one with a $750,000+ tiny house — this is Toronto, ya know — then teeter-tottering through UnderPass Park beneath the QEW expressway, we make our way to where Front St. and Bayview Ave. meet and end in the Canary district.

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Why Canary? It's named after the old Canary Restaurant which remains but has sadly lost its signature neon sign. Ah well, we're here to check out a new eatery: Souk Tabule, an upscale Middle Eastern restaurant.

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Passing some photogenic outdoor street sculpture, we step inside Souk Tabule. Our Culinary Adventure Co. hosts, owner and "Big Cheese" Kevin Durkee (L) and City Manager Leo Moncel (R) are pouring water for us.

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The food arrives and we all agree it's superb. Chef Rony Goraichy and his wife Diana Sideris have now opened 4 restaurants around town, bringing a touch of Lebanese class to TO.

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Dessert is at Roselle Desserts on King St. just east of Parliament. Taking a page from Amy Rosen's Toronto Cooks, I copy a photo of entrepreneurial husband and wife and mad-about-French-pastry owners Bruce Lee and Stephanie Duong who aren't there when I am. 

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Final stop for the day is Cluny Bistro & Boulangerie in the Distillery Historic District. The Canadian chapter of SATW, a travel organization, is pairing its monthly meeting with hors d'oeuvres and Ontario wines.

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Present to receive the SATW's Phoenix Award for outstanding preservation and development of the District is Mathew Rosenblatt who was the cornerstone of the project. Mathew and his partners had the vision and fortitude to develop the Gooderham & Worts heritage site while maintaining its integrity down to the smallest detail. Today it’s one of Toronto’s signature tourist attractions. 

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The District has become a hot spot for city nightlife. By 9:00PM the social scene is usually well underway.

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Photos, text and design 

© Gary Crallé 2018 

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