Travel Photographer / Writer
chasing the essence
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The Junction is a hot Toronto neighbourhood these days — way different from native trails that once crisscrossed the area, followed by railroad tracks driving boom and bust cycles, a wild City of West Toronto in the 1800’s, prohibition from 1904 until 2000 (!!) and amalgamation with Toronto in 1909. It's now a funky community flowing with an eclectic brew of furniture designers, bakeries, coffee shops, clothing stores, restaurants, bars and galleries — to list a few.
Unemployable Baker (UB) / owner Anthony Buso was drawing liquid gold from a magnificent expresso machine as we entered UB Social cafe & General Store. Tantalizing aromas of fresh-baked pastries filled the air — a good start to the day.
We popped into mjölk, a design shop selling Nordic design and Japanese handcrafts in a space that neatly reflected both cultures.
A few doors away at Post + Beam Reclamation co-owner Megan Webster showed items from the past in one of the city's few remaining arcade-style buildings.
We paused briefly to catch up on the local history before crowding into M+Co, a design shop where vintage pieces inspire "furniture to fit small spaces." Co-owned by Yadder and Stacey Madrigal.
Heather Phillips and Miki Rubin conduct art classes within their well-stocked ARTiculations art supply store. Shop dog Charlie is the official greeter and art director above and under the table.
Less than a degree away (just a few steps, actually), sisters Mary Ann and Janet DiBernardo not only do custom framing, but also represent Canadian artists from coast to coast in their premises at Latitude 44.
Vesuvio Pizzeria and Spaghetti House was not only the first pizzeria in Toronto, way back in 1957, but tirelessly advocated for the right to serve wine with meals. With that tap finally opened, the Junction took off. Current owners Piera and Ettore Pugliese are proof to me that pizza makes you happy.
If one size doesn't fit all, Liz Heyland provides onesies to fit anyone from babies to 350-pounders in Snug as a Bug. The shop is small, but like the clothing, it covers all with expansive global sales.
Juliana's Zalucky Contemporary gallery puts the focus squarely on the art in a minimalist space. The current exhibit features artist Lee Henderson with work from his Glenfiddich Distillery Artist residency based appropriately enough on whiskey tasting notes.
Further west on Sterling Road north of Dundas (the Junction Triangle), Drake Hotel Properties developed its central kitchens and cool eatery
The Drake Commissary in a restored textile factory. The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) will soon be a neighbour as a former automotive building is also renovated.
And now for some craziness. Axe throwing anyone? In a corner of the Galleria Mall on Dupont Street, between the Junction Triangle and Christie Pits is a BATL location. BATL = Backyard Axe Throwing League. BATL has rapidly become an organization with 11 locations. Private groups can book space, and at least one wedding couple has cut it close by slicing their cake with a hatchet.
As you can imagine, axe throwing is thirsty work. So we headed for Cider House on Roncesvalles, a new kid on the block. It's one of only 2 bars in the city dedicated to cider. With 36 different ciders on tap or in cans, and 95% of those from Ontario, it's a good place for some intensive local tasting. PS - this bar serves excellent and filling appetizers.
Sasha Steinberg, with fellow staff L-R Tom Moultrie and Caleb Brown, confided "I've always wanted to open a bar." Power to you, Sasha!
Final stop was a monthly gathering of the Ontario chapter of TMAC, a group of travel media and industry members. Hosting the event was the luxury hotel Bisha, a new place to hang your hat in the Entertainment District while enjoying fine dining and fabulous views of the downtown. It's just across from Wayne Gretsky's.