Leslieville and its sister neighbour, Riverside, has truly come into its own. From its traditions as a residential neighbourhood, it’s transformed into a young, hip community complete with exciting options for dining, nightlife and shopping. For the visitor, the area is perfect for curious creatives and urban adventurers looking for an alternative to Ossington and Queen St. West.
Its restaurants and bars can easily compete with their west end rivals. In fact, popular west end eateries and bars (like Jules, AAA, and Glory Hole Doughnuts) have opened up second locations to serve the east side. There are now so many options, each section of bars, restaurants and coffee shops could have its own dedicated adventure for you to explore this booming village on the east side.
The appeal of #eastside4life is real: you’ll not only want to spend an entire day there but may even be tempted to move. Here are a few of my curated favourites. I’ve focused on Queen Street East but welcome you to explore Gerrard Street as well, with plenty of options to discover.
Leslieville is known as the “brunch destination,” home to some of the best brunch spots in the city. This neighbourhood favourite is big on locally-sourced and sustainable ingredients, which leads to tasty dishes like souk fries and its coziest French toast. There are plenty of options for vegetarians too.
If you want down and dirty, Detroit-style pizza, look no further. The Truff-Ghi is a favourite, with pops of bacon and mushrooms oozing out of the gooey cheese and the magic touch of truffle oil.
It’s a nondescript gas station outside but inside, it’s home to mouth-watering sandwiches like pulled pork, smoked turkey, and butter chicken. Though there are plenty of picnic tables in the summer months, this is the ideal place for a grab & go lunch.
Co-owned by Food Network star, Chef Lynn Crawford, the homey space offers a 4-course menu—which changes daily—using local and seasonal ingredients. Its set menu is perfect for those who want a farm-to-table feast without choosing from an a la carte selection.
If you ever walk by the sleek exterior of Tabule, it’s always bustling and for good reason: it’s an explosion of Middle Eastern flavours. I love its dips (specifically, the creamy labne), kefta skewers and falafel. It’s an ideal meal for both herbivores and carnivores.
Inside, its hip and brooding interior, this bar feels like you’ve been transported to Williamsburg, Brooklyn. We come for the fabulous happy hour special and elevated bar snacks like its hefty charcuterie board. We stay for the curated cocktail list complete with playful takes on classics like the white negroni.
For a refreshing alternative to beer, be sure to pop into Toronto’s first cidery. Made with Ontario heritage apples, Brickworks offers some of the most unique offerings of the genre. Rosé cider, anyone?
This revitalized boutique hotel is one of the city’s best rooftop bars with the perfect vantage point for a Toronto skyline snapshot. Inside, floor-to-ceiling windows mean 360-degree views of The Six year-round amongst chic, mid-century modern decor, where you can mix and mingle.
There are so many breweries that have emerged in Leslieville in the past five years but the most hidden one is Saulter Street Brewery. It’s down a side street behind a warehouse, adjacent to a parking lot. Keep going…you’ll find it! The best part? They have a new brew every week in their tap room because they make everything on site. It’s an ideal afternoon pitstop for a brewery hop in Toronto’s east end.
The variety and quality of coffee shops in the east-end is so vast, you could spend a day going on a “coffee crawl.” Venture up to Gerrard Street to Dineen and Hailed if you have the time but there’s plenty to drink on Queen East.
Tucked away on a side street, Boxcar Social prides themselves on sourcing the top roasters in the world (The Barn, Phil & Sebastian, 49th Parallel) and it shows in the consistent quality of each cup. Sip and savour in its airy, industrial room in the morning and come back later in the evening to enjoy an equally excellent selection of wine and whiskey.
One of Pilot Coffee’s outposts, Te Aro is the unofficial community centre for Leslieville residents, all the more inviting with its pavement patio outside its garage doors in the summer months. If you’re really into coffee and want to talk to the experts, head over to its tasting room on Wagstaff in the lesser-known “Drinks Alley” for carefully crafted pour overs and Chemex.
Runners who are looking to explore the neighbourhood will love Sweat & Soda, which is not only a cafe but a fitness hub where you can store your things in a provided locker while you’re on a solo fitness adventure. In addition to a number of tasty vegetarian/vegan and protein-packed wraps and bowls, this cafe is a good location point to help you discover the backstreets of Leslieville, Toronto’s Beaches area and Tommy Thompson Park.
I love this magical bookstore for its curated selection, author readings/events and a twee children’s section in the back.
This general store is perfect for the stylish curator seeking distinct Canadian apparel, accessories and unique one-off items for the home.
If you’re looking for the perfect gift, Token features a number of tchotchkes made in Canada and is one of the growing number of stores in Toronto offering refills and less packaging in efforts to reduce waste.
See it. Snap it. Share it. In every neighbourhood, around every corner, through every door
there's something that begs to be discovered in Toronto.
See it. Snap it. Share it. In every neighbourhood, around every corner, through every door there's something that begs to be discovered in Toronto.#OPENYOURCURIOSITY
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