Toronto is one of Canada’s thriving cultural centres. There are a plethora of museums that point to our diversity (like the Aga Khan Museum) and unique galleries in a city of neighbourhoods. Being able to explore a cultural institution and indulging in conversation over a good meal or a cold drink afterwards makes for a fantastic day in The Six. These following restaurants or bars are local hangouts (and offer good value!) within a kilometre of a museum or gallery.
Much like the 29 galleries and rotating exhibitions at the ROM, The Oxley in nearby Yorkville offers something for everyone with seven menus from Brunch to the Feasting Menu for groups of 5 or more. Cozy up to British pub classics on antique plates in the refined downstairs dining room; or relax and have a pint and watch a game upstairs at the Snug. Summer months on the front patio are ideal for examining passersby in their natural habitat if you’re not drinking with the dinos during the ROM’s Friday Night Live series or at their workshop series, ROM U, held by ROM experts.
Royal Ontario Museum (ROM): 100 Queens Park / 416-586-8000
The Oxley: 121 Yorkville Avenue / 647-348-1300
Beer lovers can indulge in over 41 different drafts, steps away from the AGO. Lovers of Belgian beer and food will have their prayers answered: a choice of 24 different Belgian brews and four different selections of moules frites to complete the feast. Plan accordingly if visiting for AGO’s interactive after-hours event, AGO First Thursdays, held on the first Thursday of every month. For a shorter visit, try the Pop Up on the Dot Talks, which are 10-minute art chats offered on the half hour from 11:30 a.m to 3:30 p.m. daily and 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday and Friday evenings.
Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO): 317 Dundas Street West / 416-979-6648
Sin & Redemption: 136 McCaul Street / 416-640-9197
A six-minute drive away, The Shops at Don Mills offers an array of dining options, including McEwan’s Italian restaurant, Fabbrica. Tuck into a funghi pizza (truffle, crema, mozzarella, mushrooms) by the rustic pizza oven after a long day of exploring the world of Islamic and Iranian art at the museum. Aga Khan Park—the complex devoted to Muslim culture— is a favourite of photographers, who are constantly inspired by the exterior architecture conceptualized by Fumihiko Maki. I usually try to get a photo for Instagram (gotta do it for the ‘gram!).
Aga Khan Museum: 77 Wynford Drive / 416-646-4677
Fabbrica: 49 Karl Fraser Road / 416-391-0307
The Harbourfront’s newest scenic patio, The Slip, is a welcome next-door neighbour to the neighbourhood’s contemporary art gallery, housed in a power plant. Chow down on homey BBQ (chicken wings, fried chicken, pulled pork sandwiches, and burgers) alongside crafted cocktails with a view of the tall ships that pass by Lake Ontario in the summer months. My favourite ship is the Kajama (where you can take tours of Lake Ontario and another fun activity if you have some more time on the Harbourfront). It’s a worthwhile splurge because 30-minute “power tours” at the Power Plant are free; arranged tours are $2.50 per person.
The Power Plant: 231 Queens Quay West / 416-973-4949
The Slip: 235 Queens Quay West / no phone
I never need an excuse to dine at one of my favourite lunch spots, IQ Food Co., but looking up at sharks and other marine wildlife on a moving walkway at the Dangerous Lagoon exhibit is a pretty good one! A note that the Dangerous Lagoon exhibit is the longest of its kind in North America. IQ Food Co. offers healthy yet flavourful fare, which can always be a challenge near tourist attractions. The Greek inspired Sparta Box is my favourite not to mention it counts toward my daily veg and protein intake. Other excuses to eat at IQ Food Co.? Ripley’s creative events like jazz nights or yoga under the sea. Check their website regularly for updated happenings.
Ripley’s Aquarium: 288 Bremner Boulevard / 647-351-3474
IQ Food Co.: 18 York Street / 647-340-6892
This 20-year-old boutique gallery—a favourite in its old location of the gallery district of West Queen West—has found new life in the growing neighbourhood of the Junction Triangle. Ex-Terroni pizzaiolio, David Mattachioni, offers up 13 different slices of ‘za alongside fresh paninis. My pick? The Carlo & Giulia pizza complete with fresh mozzarella, taleggio, olive, hot cacciatore salami, and basil. There’s nothing like indulging in complex flavours after examining complex art. Bonus: the Margherita, Marinara, and Napoli pizzas are only $10 from Monday-Wednesday.
Angell Gallery: 1444 Dupont Street, Unit 15 (Entrance off Campbell Avenue) / 416-530-0444
Mattachioni: 1617 Dupont Street / 416-519-1010
About the Author
Natalie Taylor is a freelance writer born and raised in Toronto, who has contributed to publications such as National Geographic, CN Traveler and Travel + Leisure. You can find Natalie on Instagram, sharing her love for travel, food and cycling.