The Idealist

Insider City Style Guide: The Junction – Toronto, Canada

Style shopping, eats and drinks in the real Toronto

If you’ve been to Toronto before, you’ve seen the CN tower, the Eaton Centre, and maybe you’ve shopped in Yorkville or on Queen Street West, but you won’t know The Junction.

There’s more to Toronto than the usual tourist areas. Professional interior designer and Toronto resident Ena Kenny takes us on a tour of the coolest places, a short ride by bus or train from the main tourist sites, but a world away in terms of look and feel. This is the real, hip Toronto: their shopping, arts and design scene is constantly evolving.

The Junction is an older neighbourhood, once home to mills, meatpackers, foundries and furniture manufacturers. The Junction Triangle, an area of land bordered by three rail corridors, is found at the east end of The Junction.  Running west along Dundas Street to Runnymede Road, you’ll find a mix of long established family businesses as well as new ventures. Here are some of our favourite spots for vintage and mid century modern wares, plus new Canadian fashion, jewelry, and furnishings.  We’ve included our favourite restos and cafés to keep you going before your return downtown.

Shopping

ARTiculations – this beautiful art supply shop is also a workroom, studio and gallery. Its Earl Selkirk gallery has space in the left side store front window, and in an interior room of the shop, and features art by a new local artist, every month or so.  The right side window display is curated by the staff and always features something whimsical.  This month, paper stars and hexagonal wood frames filled the window, interspersed with the shop’s wares and information on their workshops, demonstrations, lectures, and classes for kids and adults.  The interior is as charming as the range of interesting gifts for the artists in your life. Explore the store for high quality drawing, painting, and printmaking materials, and plenty of beautiful stationery.  2928 Dundas Street West, 416.901.7464, articulations.caOn Instagram @articulations_to

Mjölk – this fantastic locale is one of our favourite in the city, let alone in The Junction.  Run by a husband and wife, John and Juli Baker, they describe it is a “lifestyle shop and gallery, representing work with an emphasis on functionality, craftsmanship, and timelessness”.  Look here for well curated Scandinavian and Japanese designs, including textiles, kitchen and table wares, lighting and furniture.  Be inspired by the very modern first floor interior, housed in a three-storey Victorian building, with soaring ceilings and glazed shopfront. The owners’ home on the two floors above is the dream of many a young designer or architect (see www.dwell.com/amp/article/these-shop-owners-have-a-killer-apartment-right-upstairs), the design of both the shop and the apartment is by local architecture firm Studio Junction. See the Mjölk website for exclusive product collaborations by international designers and local artisans, and three print volumes featuring tours, interviews, and fantastic photography. 2959 Dundas Street West, 416.551.9853, mjolk.caOn Instagram @mjolkshop

Simply Beautiful – this is a new venture featuring jewelry, children’s and adult clothing, home and bar accessories, foodstuffs and stationery. Chief curator Deborah Ross has sourced products from across the country, including bath and body products from British Columbia’s Harlow, and Wild Hill Botanicals, Canadian-made jumpers and colourful knit socks, printed tea towels and a range of wood products such as live-edge wood cutting boards.  Her goal is to offer unique items from small design companies and artisans, acquired in small batches, so that something new is on offer at each visit. Explore her shelves for well designed gifts and keepsakes to bring home from Toronto. 2739 Dundas Street West, 647.525.9283, simply-beautiful.caOn Instagram @simplybeautifulto

Williams – We frequent Williams to add to our collection of vintage barware, and always enjoy seeing what else is on display, since the ever-changing inventory includes Victorian curios, Fiestaware, maps, vintage medical items, architectural salvage, furniture, lighting, art, and kitchenware.  The brick-and-mortar location showcases just a fraction of the mid century modern, antique, and salvaged items the owners have collected over the years, more of which can be viewed on their website. It’s a well known source for Toronto film and television set designers, and owners Clayton Williams and Bonnie Meacham even maintain an online wishlist if you’re hunting for a particular item. 387 Keele Street, 647.931.0077, williamsdesign.caOn Instagram @williamsdesignto

It’s a well known source for Toronto film and television set designers

Eat, drink, coffee

Eat

Bricco Wine Bar – for dinner, don’t miss this lovely Italian resto. The wine list changes by the season and the selection showcases small production artisanal wine from Italy and beyond.  Most dishes are modern interpretations of homestyle Italian food. Owner Eric Gennaro and Chef Justin Zamperin are famously attentive. You’ll love the black and white tiled bar front and the mid century Scandinavian furnishings, the warm wood accents and the delicately branching wall sculpture by local woodworkers Brothers Dressler (brothersdressler.com). 3047 Dundas Street West, 416.901.4536, briccowinebar.comOn Instagram @briccowinebar

Take home a jar of their own “Cool Hand” hot sauces

Cool Hand of a Girl – Stop in for a light breakfast, lunch or coffee. Imagined as “an urban culinary oasis” by its owner, Lucia Maceda, the menu is made up of local, organic, and delicious meals with a Mexican flare. Sample the avocado parmesan sandwich with house-made slaw, the chilaquiles, or one of the daily specials.  Take home a jar of their own “Cool Hand” hot sauces or chutney, or one of the sweet treats that are baked fresh daily. 2804 Dundas Street West, 647.726.7613, coolhandofagirl.comOn Instagram: @coolhandofagirlcafe

Farmhouse Tavern – for a heartier brunch or dinner, the Farmhouse Tavern is a taste of the countryside in the city.  Owner Darcy MacDonell’s locally sourced ingredients shine: begin with a Farmhouse Smoked Caesar, garnished with smoked oyster and caper berry.  Indulge in the fabulous eggs Benedict on biscuits at brunch, or the barnyard burger at dinner.  Vegetables are no mere side dish here, even the side salad and house made dressing is delicious. 1627 Dupont Street, 416.561.9114, farmhousehospitality.tumblr.comOn Instagram @farmtotavern

try the camarones el diablo tacos, and finish with the churros poutine

Playa Cabana Cantina – One of the “Mas Playas” group of Mexican restaurants in Toronto, this Junction outpost is casual, lively, and the food is fantastic.  Have a tequila-based cocktail and the guacamole to start, try the pulpo (octopus) or camarones el diablo (spicy shrimp) tacos, and finish with the churros poutine, a sweet and playful dessert version of the Canadian comfort food staple. 2883 Dundas Street West, 647.352.7767, playacabana.ca/cantinaOn Instagram @cantinatoronto

Drink

The Hole in the Wall – This tiny gem, tucked back from the street in buildings that have stood here for decades, is perfect for a late night drink.  The atmosphere is laid back, with wood panelled walls and a long bar.  You could simply sample one of the sixteen Canadian craft beers on tap, but the brunch and dinner menus, including oysters every Tuesday, will entice you too.  There’s live music most nights, including open mic on Mondays. 2867A Dundas Street West, 647.350.3564, theholeinthewallto.com

local talent Marco Pecota has created an interior that is industrial-meets-art-deco

The Passenger – if you are looking for a cocktail, and a patio on a sunny afternoon, this is the place. Indulge in a Negroni al Frutto, or a “mini classic” like the Hotel Nacional Special. The small brunch, lunch and dinner menu changes from time to time, and many ingredients come from the Junction Farmers’ Market. Inspired by Junction history, local talent Marco Pecota has created an interior that is industrial-meets-art-deco.  Pop into the Pekota showroom across the street, (www.pekota.com) for his range of industrial furnishings, lighting, and unique finds from around the world. 2968 Dundas Street West, 416.762.0777, thepassenger.co On Instagram: @thepassengerto

Coffee

Full Stop – there are plenty of options for coffee in The Junction, but none have the atmosphere of Full Stop.  With lots of seating – Eames chairs rescued from a basement at the University of Toronto’s Trinity College, no less – and a large back patio, you’ll always find a spot here.  I love the huge stencil of an airplane the length of one wall, and the sixties vibe.  A variety of baked goods, sandwiches and salads are all prepared in house.  Don’t leave without their banana chocolate chip peanut butter cookie, and a bag of coffee beans to bring home. 2948 Dundas Street West. On Instagram @fullstopcafe

Travel

The Junction is about a 25 min drive from downtown Toronto. The Junction can easily be reached by public transportation (ttc.ca).  A more direct route is via the new UP Express train (upexpress.com), which travels between Pearson International Airport and downtown.  Bloor Station of the UP Express route is a fifteen minute walk from the Junction Triangle. The cheapest direct flight to Toronto we can find from London is with WestJet for £430. 

Feature photo is courtesy of Mjölk and used with thanks

  • 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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