The Idealist

Insider City Style Guide: Leslieville – Toronto, Canada

Many visitors to Toronto know of the Beaches (or “The Beach”, as locals call it), but head east in a hurry and you may miss Leslieville along your route eastward.  Leslieville’s namesake, George Leslie, was the owner of nurseries in this east end area of Toronto in the mid 1800s.  It’s bordered by the Canadian National railway line to the north and east, Eastern Avenue to the south, and its westernmost boundary, Coxwell Avenue. Professional interior designer and Toronto resident Ena Kenny returns to profile another area that will be new to first-time Toronto visitors.

Many of the original residents were gardeners, or worked in the factories that once dotted this area. Steadily gentrifying for the last decade and a half, Leslieville continues to draw in a creative and eclectic mix of residents, especially as several large film studios opened in old industrial buildings nearby.  Visit this friendly neighbourhood for our favourite cafés and restaurants, and, of course, the best of its design and gift shops.

Shopping Leslieville

Arts Market

Browse the work of over 175 artists, including photographers and painters.  An eclectic mix of handmade goods, vintage finds, jewelry, clothing, and more, is on offer.  Craftspeople and designers can lease a small space at any of the three locations in Toronto, and since no commission is taken on sales, you can be sure you are supporting Canadian entrepreneurs. At last visit, I spotted a Fiestaware pitcher, vintage telephones, cool kids’ clothing, and lots of artwork.

1114 Queen Street East, 416-546-8464, artsmarket.ca 

On Instagram @artsmarket

  

Brika

Kena Paranjape and Jen Lee Koss, BRIKA’s co-founders, have opened two locations, one on Queen West, and one on Queen East, in Leslieville.  Both shops feature the work of over 400 “Makers”, many of whom are Canadian, and whose work is reflective of the duo’s brand of “a well crafted life”.  You’ll find art and prints, items for house and home, jewelry and fragrances, beautiful children’s gifts and accessories. Online, search their ever-expanding collection, which includes Brika exclusives and even furniture. Don’t miss their sale offerings either.  The larger Leslieville location has a fantastic wrapping table, a thoughtful finish to the selection of the perfect gift for a loved one or one’s self.  Follow the Brika blog at www.blog.brika.com

768 Queen Street East, 1-844-472-7452, brika.com

On Instagram @shopbrika

   

Machine Age Modern 

Owner Jake Keck has been stocking his showroom with modern vintage furnishings, lighting and accessories for almost twenty years.  Luckily for those traveling from further afield, he has an area dedicated to smaller, unique items for the kitchen and for entertaining.  Most are vintage and all are very well priced.  We could not resist a bright yellow Dansk pot at our last visit, and still love a pair of vintage armchairs bought for a song here many years ago.  The shop’s full inventory can also be viewed on their website.

1000 Queen Street East, 416.461.3588, machineagemodern.com

On Instagram @machineagemodern

Common Sort / The Tiny  Record Shop /  Token

This unusual combination of three shops should not be missed.  Common Sort features a well curated mix of vintage and nearly new men’s and women’s clothing, footwear and accessories.  Now and then there are even live musical performances held here. After perusing Common Sort’s racks, you can continue into the adjoining store, housing The Tiny Record Shop at the back, and gift shop Token toward the front.  One of the co-owners, Trevor Larocque, is head of a Toronto record label, Paper Bag Records, and The (literally) Tiny Record Shop reflects his love of music.  Here you’ll find used as well as new and re-issued vinyl.   Token, at the front of the shop, has a fun selection of “special and functional gifts chosen for you from across the globe”, according to their Instagram bio.   You’ll love the whimsical woven wall hangings, colourful throws, stationery and housewares.

800 Queen Street East, 416.463.7678, commonsort.com 

On Instagram @commonsort

804 Queen Street East, 416.479.4363, tinyrecordshop.com / tokentoronto.com

On Instagram @tinyrecordshop / @tokentoronto

Eat, drink, coffee

Be sure to leave some time to eat and drink in Leslieville

Eat

Barrio Cerveceria

This newer Mexican resto has a gorgeous heated patio for the warmer months. The interior is bright and colourful, and so is the food.  Try the watermelon ensalada, Mexican street corn smothered in crema, tacos with one of six fillings including battered cod and chicken tinga.  There are local and Mexican beers on tap, and a range of vibrant cocktails.  If you stop by earlier in the day there is a good brunch menu with a Mexican flair, including huevos rancheros and a french toast platter.

884 Queen Street East, 647.352.0884, barrioonqueen.com

On Instagram @barrioonqueen

Eastside Social

Lots to love at this seafood spot, where they pride themselves on their “coastal fare, bevies and great times”.  There are oysters most nights of the week, and steamed mussels Thursdays to Saturdays.  Crab stuffed leeks, and the grilled octopus, are favourites on the menu.  The chef also prepares two special desserts each night.  There is a great patio at the back, and the interior is stylish and cozy.  Try one of the house signature cocktails – like the “Lavender Brown”, bourbon with lavender honey and lemon – or share a punchbowl of Zubrowka Bison Grass vodka, port, rum, grapefruit juice and chamomile syrup.

1008 Queen Street East, 416.461.5663, eastsidesocial.ca

On Instagram @eastside_social

Gio Rana’s Really Really Nice Restaurant (aka ‘The Nose’)

In spite of the fact that there is no signage outside, you can’t miss this resto:  just watch for the giant papier maché nose mounted over the entrance.  Located in a former bank, its interior has a rather industrial look, but the atmosphere is friendly and laid back, making this place a neighbourhood favourite. Stick to the simple Italian dishes and you’ll be more than satisfied.   Try the butternut squash crespelle (savoury Italian crêpes), the grande meatball, and the seared scallop risotto.

1220 Queen Street East, 416.469.5225

See tagged photos at instagram.com/explore/locations/368414/gio-ranas-really-really-nice-restaurant/

Drink

Boxcar Social

This café/bar has been around for a couple of years now, and is the second of several locations to open in Toronto.  Each venue is different – this one was once a library, and then a furniture store, before becoming Boxcar Social Riverside.  Stop in for a coffee or tea, thoughtfully selected from around the world, or for something from the impressive list of wine, craft beer, or whiskies on offer.  A full menu is available for breakfast lunch and dinner as well.

4 Boulton Avenue, 647.344.4530, boxcarsocial.ca/locations-riverside.html

On Instagram @boxcar_social

Coffee

Mercury Espresso Bar

Locals frequent Mercury Espresso Bar for its roasts from across North America:  Anchored Coffee (Nova Scotia), Bows and Arrows (British Columbia), and George Howell (Michigan), its cold brew, fun music and treats from neighbourhood bakeries – watch for Tori’s Bakeshop’s organic and vegan donuts, and cookies and tarts from Circles and Squares.  The interior is simple and pared back, with new artwork featured monthly, and there is a small outdoor area with bistro tables for sunny days.

915 Queen Street East, 647.435.4779

On Instagram: @mercuryespresso, @anchoredcoffee, @bowsandarrows, @ghowellcoffee, @torisbakeshop, @circles_and_squares

  

Sweet Bliss

Pop in for a perfect chai latte or Americano from the friendly husband-and-wife owners/bakers Chris and Christina Blougouras at Sweet Bliss.  You’ll love the cupcakes, fruit scones, cinnamon buns and blondie bars.  The interior has a rustic charm, with a wall of petite artwork, and a few colourful country accents. There is standing room only in this tiny café but you can peruse the shelves of Mennonite-made preserves and jams, maple syrup, honey and pickles while you wait for your hot drinks. 

1304 Queen Street East, 416.916.7895, sweetblissleslieville.com

See tagged photos at instagram.com/explore/locations/254373963/

Stay

The Ivy at Verity

This is a luxurious boutique hotel in a restored 1850s chocolate factory, a bit west of Leslieville, but still on Queen Street East.  Each of the four rooms are unique, and include private terraces. Amenities include the Sweetgrass Spa, and the five-star GEORGE Restaurant.

111D Queen Street East, 416-368-6006 ext. 0, theivyatverity.com

On Instagram @theivyatverity

The Beverley

A little farther west still, The Beverley is a fifteen minute streetcar ride from Leslieville.  There are eighteen rooms, from which you can select a single room “crash pad”, a “double”, or a “queen” – each room is elegantly minimalist.  Large scale art enlivens many spaces in the hotel.  Eat at the ground floor restaurant, or in warm weather, have a cocktail and snack on the rooftop patio overlooking Queen Street.

335 Queen Street West, 416.493.2786, thebeverleyhotel.ca

On Instagram @beverleyhotelto

And coming soon… 

The (New) Broadview Hotel

For thirty-four years the main floor of this beautiful old Romanesque Revival building was an infamous strip club.  The building’s exterior restoration was recently revealed after a couple years hidden behind construction hoarding, and it will soon re-open as a boutique hotel.  Built in 1891, it first housed a bank, with professional offices on the floors above.  In 1907, it was re-imagined as the Broadview Hotel, and operated as such for many years.  Toronto’s DesignAgency is responsible for the new Broadview Hotel’s interior design, including a fine dining restaurant, coffee shop and 58 guest rooms. 

106 Broadview Avenue, thebroadviewhotel.ca

On Instagram: @broadviewhotel

Travel within Toronto

Leslieville is about a 15 min drive from downtown Toronto. Leslieville can easily be reached by public transportation (ttc.ca), both buses and streetcars will bring you from downtown.  If you still have some energy, continue east along Queen Street to The Beaches. 

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  • Ena Kenny is a registered interior designer from Toronto, Canada. When she's not at work, designing healthcare spaces at multi-disciplinary firm Stantec, she enjoys city life with her husband and two small children. She loves things that are simple, functional, and beautiful, but her desk is always messy.

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