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Toronto is most decidedly a city of neighbourhoods, each with a distinctive character or ethnic overlay. They all feature great food, independent and unusual shops and a high degree of walkability. We’ve chosen five areas, all within a few minutes of The Ritz-Carlton, Toronto and all with great subway or streetcar access.
 

Riverdale/Leslieville

These two areas stretch out from the Don Valley Parkway towards Toronto’s Beach or Beaches neighbourhood. Here are some spots to check out:

  • In Leslieville, Descendant serves delicious Detroit-style pizza (square, deep dish pies with the sauce on top).
  • Mercury Espresso Bar is a tiny spot in Riverdale/Riverside with a cool vibe. On a typical sitting you’ll be entertained with music alternating between The Beatles and Mozart’s Requiem in D Minor.
  • Bergstrom Original features sleek dresses, unusual shoes and striking purses made in Toronto.

Ritz-Carlton Recommends: Ruby Watchco is a fabulous restaurant run by celebrity chefs Lynn Crawford and Lara Kirk with varying menus that focus on fresh, local ingredients for a lovely Canadian feel.

Cabbagetown

This used to be a working class area where Irish immigrants occupying tiny houses grew cabbages in their front yard. It’s been transformed into a hugely popular spot with artsy types. Once-sooty brick fronts are now sandblasted clean and gleaming, and the front gardens have charm to spare.

  • Grab an ice cream cone at Park Snacks on the corner of
    Winchester and Sumach and admire the architectural details of sumptuously restored homes.
  • At the end of nearby Amelia Street you’ll find a series of handsome houses with front yards that look out onto a leafy park.
  • The Wellesley Cottages are a row of pretty homes on a quiet street, all tucked away and tidy.

Ritz-Carlton Recommends: Riverdale Farm is a charming spot to take the kids, with farm animals from cows to sheep. If you left the kids at home, stop in the morning at St. Lawrence Market and grab some fine Ontario charcuterie and fresh bread and fruit for a Riverdale Park picnic.

Kensington Market

This has been a starting point for many a Toronto immigrant over the decades; serving as a centre for newly arrived Jews, Portuguese, Chinese and more. It’s a true Toronto polyglot now, although there’s a preponderance of shops and restaurants with a Caribbean or central/South American theme.

  • Torteria San Cosme serves up tasty Mexican street sandwiches, while Perola supermarket sells deep red-purple Guajillo chilies, cans of cactus and dozens of tiny jars of hot sauce.
  • Jimmy’s is a fine Toronto coffee shop and recently was featuring Chaiwalla Chai with ginger; a tasty twist on traditional Indian chai.
  • You’ll also find a shop on Baldwin St. called Moo Frites selling Belgian-style fries and a hipster speakeasy-style bar hidden away in a small shopping mall called Cold Tea, specializing in cocktails and dim sum (60 Kensington Ave.).

Ritz-Carlton Recommends: The city closes off traffic through Kensington Market on Sundays and it becomes a giant street party. Try the barbequed jerk chicken at Rasta Pasta on Sundays. Vegetarians should check out Hibiscus, a pretty spot that also has non-dairy ice cream.

Summerhill

This might be the design centre of Toronto, with several high-end and unique shops selling interesting household furnishings and places (such as Department of Interiors) that specialize in bespoke design strung along a pretty stretch of Yonge St. north of downtown.

  • BB&L (also known as Boo Boo & Lefty, the owners’
    two dogs) features everything from bright pillows to beehive lights and posh books with titles such as “In the Spirit of The Hamptons” and cocktail books by celeb chef Daniel Boulud.
  • Boxcar Social is a trendy coffee shop with old plumbing bits supporting weathered wood shelves stocked with locally roasted coffee or bottles of Scotch. The upstairs is an airy, light place that’s perfect for a quiet conversation.
  • Clock Tower is a trendy bar next door to Boxcar Social, while a nearby sandwich spot called Black Camel (across from the Rosedale subway station) serves up excellent pulled pork and Texas-style brisket sandwiches.

Ritz-Carlton Recommends: Perhaps no building in Toronto sums up the changes in the city as much as the Liquor Control Board of Ontario shop near Summerhill Ave. and Yonge Street. Once a train station in a city where buying liquor was barely tolerated, it’s now a gleaming store with an event kitchen, craft beer for sale and a tasting room where you can sample everything from Puligny-Montrachet to Canadian ice wine and Kentucky bourbon.

The Danforth

Sometimes called Greektown, this area just northeast of downtown features a series of tempting Greek restaurants, some casual and kitschy but many happening and hip. Almost all have fine patios.

  • Men’s Essentials sells outstanding shaving gear and products from Italy, England and elsewhere. Definitely a step above the usual men’s grooming products, and a joy to use.
  • Social Butterfly has an ad in the window that says they’ll donate a pair of shoes to needy kids for every pair you buy.
  • Pizzeria Libretto has a thin crust, wood-oven pizza that’s divine, while the Dora Keogh pub has live Irish music on Friday nights and then Saturday and Sunday in late afternoon.

Ritz-Carlton Recommends: The Taste of the Danforth is an annual summer event that draws huge crowds of locals. The smell of souvlaki is everywhere, and there’s often great music.