Jump into the Junction: A Neighbourhood Guide to Toronto’s Hip Hotspot

Find Hotels

Get to know the city by taking a deep dive into its neighbourhoods. Make this the next stop on your itinerary or spend a whole day exploring here with this guide to The Junction by local writer, Natalie Taylor.

The Junction, one of Toronto’s most lively neighbourhoods, is named because of its geography: the intersection of where four railway lines in the area meet, and its adjoining area, the Junction Triangle (extending from Lansdowne to its main strip of Sterling Road).

After a long battle to absolve prohibition in 1997, the neighbourhood boomed and has since become a sought-after place to live and visit. Here are my picks on getting the most out of the neighbourhood.

See

The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA)

One of the most anticipated openings of the year, this new cultural hub will transform the former Tower Automotive Building in its new address at 158 Sterling Road. The 55,000 square foot space will feature five floors of gallery, studio, and exhibition space.

Angell Gallery

The third home of the popular art gallery, Angell has always been ahead of the trend and opened in Toronto’s newer gallery district on the Junction Triangle Dupont strip. With its contemporary, and evocative exhibitions, galleries and project spaces, this is a must-see for art lovers.

Eat

The Drake Commissary

Culinary enthusiasts will now have a new eatery just across from the neighbouring MOCA, which includes a bakery, bar, and larder, as well as base for Drake’s Catering services.

Whether you’re in the makeshift “living room,” in the 140-seat dining room amongst a curated selection of eclectic art, at the takeout counter, or coffee and cocktail bar, there’s a buzz from the chefs in the open-concept kitchen and the custom installations from local artists.

Baddies /
679 Lansdowne Avenue
Photo by Sophia Hsin

Baddies

Hipsters flock to the Instagrammable breakfast nook steps away from Lansdowne Station. If you’re not noshing on smashed avocado toast or the brekky roll on a bleacher bench, make sure you get an expertly-crafted flat white from its Australian owners.

Chica’s Nashville Hot Chicken

Smack dab at the corner of Keele and Dundas Street West, Chica’s Nashville Hot Chicken is the perfect beginning to a food crawl. The retro diner setting takes second stage to the filling fried chicken sandwich and the meals, which consist of either a chicken breast or thigh, a side of coleslaw or corn salad, white bread, pickles and buttermilk ranch dip.

When the Pig Came Home

This deli house’s porchetta could contend for one of Toronto’s best sandwiches: crispy pork shoulder stuffed with fresh rapini, provolone, truffle sauce, chilli sauce and grainy mustard. Come back for the jerk chicken sandwich, the smoked meat deli sandwich that could rival Schwartz’s in Montreal, and the $5 peameal bacon sandwich as part of its all-day breakfast special.

Vesuvio Pizzeria and Spaghetti House

Though there are a number of sophisticated Italian pizzerias and wine bars nearby (Nodo, Annette Food Market, Bricco), Vesuvio’s has been an institution of The Junction for over 50 years and spearheaded the neighbourhood’s reform on prohibition in the late 1990s. Classic Italian dishes and personal size pizza combinations either in its main dining room or take-out counter next door are popular with the whole family.

Dirty Food Catering and Eatery

Comfort food classics reign supreme at this local brunch staple. Opt for the fried chicken and waffles, two variations of eggs benny, grits, and biscuits & gravy.

Drink

Indie Ale House

Noted as being one of the best brew pubs in the city and constantly bustling inside, Indie Ale House is a triple threat. They serve varied and flavourful beer, have a fantastic gastropub menu that ranges from small bites to heartier menu items, and have a fully outfitted bottle shop to boot. Their sampler beer menu enables you to pick your favourite before investing in a pint or to try everything if you’re indecisive.

The Gaslight

This neighbourhood joint near Sterling Road in the Junction Triangle is popular amongst locals for their signature cocktail pitchers, cozy and hidden back patio in the summer, and mulled wine and thermos cocktails in the winter. Look out for their drink specials from 5-7 p.m. on weeknights.

Famous Last Words

Word nerds won’t feel out of place reading a book at the scrabble tiled bar while imbibing on a cocktail named after popular tomes. Noteworthy events include a regular book exchange, drop-in book club, themed book months and book trivia.

Junction City Music Hall

Blink and you’ll miss this secret music venue, created by the owners of The Hole in the Wall. (Look for the orange door beside Silk Restaurant and make your way to the basement.) Whether you want to play some pinball or check out a new high-calibre talent or sing your heart out at a tribute night or karaoke, this is one of Toronto’s best-kept secrets.

Coffee

The Good Neighbour Espresso Bar

A block away from the Dundas West strip on Annette, sink into one of the leather chairs in the back while sipping your espresso or catch up with friends near the window in this light-filled cafe. It truly is the perfect neighbourhood cafe with a strong espresso to match.

Full Stop

Bunker up on the wifi and americano at this spacious cafe with eclectic decor that makes you feel like you’re at an airport in the 1970s with its mismatched chairs and airplane mural. If you’re at the Junction Farmers Market, you can grab and go with service at the back door.

Shop

Smash

Smash is a design enthusiast’s paradise, home to many salvaged doors, couches, artwork and other unique furniture. Its specialty is signs, many of which you’ll see in popular restaurants around town, including neighbour Playa Cabana. Its space is of great inspiration for explorers.

Mjölk

A curated selection of designers from Scandinavia and Japan can be found in this shop’s aesthetic, which sells everything from furniture and antiques to textiles, objects, and accessories.

Red Canoe

The unisex shop sells gear that is distinctively Canadiana and utilitarian, ideal for travelling.

Gerhard

This menswear boutique offers the best of locally-made clothing, accessories, and personal care including brands Naked + Famous, Arc’teryx Veilance and Malin + Goetz.

Coal Miner’s Daughter

The third outpost of this popular boutique, Coal Miner’s Daughter specializes in whimsical pieces for women; many made by Canadian designers.

The Beau & Bauble

The boutique sells an eclectic mix of treasures from women’s clothing and jewellery to tarot cards, candles and postcards. Look for their newest offshoot for men, Beau Men's nearby.

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.