Toronto is an amazing city. It’s the 5th largest city in North America (after Mexico City, New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago), but it’s clean as a whistle and you have to work pretty hard to find somewhere you’d feel uncomfortable walking around in alone after dark. And there’s a lot to be seen just by walking around and stopping in anywhere that looks interesting. Distinct parts of the city have each their own feel, from the tree-lined neighborhood streets of The Annex and Little Italy to the glassy skyscrapers of the heart of downtown and the entertainment district…
The whole city is studded with gorgeous murals. I kept turning corners and finding them. Peek down any alleyway in Kensington Market and you’ll find an onslaught of color. It really livens up the city, and it’s nice to see that the murals seem to be immune to vandalization. That’s certainly not the case in large cities in this country.
Strolling down Queen Street West, I stumbled upon this great window display at an independent “concept shop” and art gallery. I love the way that the heads just hang there. You can get a feeling for what the street is like by looking in the reflection.
Wandering around is also how I found Jet Fuel, this amazing coffee shop in Cabbagetown. It became my home away from home. I spent the better part of four afternoons holed up there doing math.
Jet Fuel is the kind of place that serves lattes in pint glasses and plays the music just a hair too loud on a killer classic sound system. Jet Fuel seems to be favored by cyclists, especially those of the fixed-gear/messenger persuasion, and the scene is decidedly cool. The long, narrow main room is painted red and lined with arthouse photography. You order at a long stainless steel counter, manned by one barista on weekdays and possibly two on weekends. Between pulling shots, the barista washes the pint glasses by hand in the sink behind the counter. They have three kinds of drinks: espresso drinks, herbal tea, and lemonade, but you wouldn’t know it walking in, as there’s no menu or information of any sort on what’s available or what it costs. The focus is on the coffee, and that makes for one of the best lattes I’ve had. Don’t bother asking for decaf or flavored syrups.
Another great find is The Pomegranate, a Persian restaurant on College at the edge of Kensington Market and Little Italy. I had noticed it on my first day in town, but it took until my second-to-last day to make it over there. I went with some friends from the Fields Institute, most of whom had never had Persian food before. The food was so great that I went back alone on my last day to have the Adas Polo just one more time. The rice was studded with dried fruit and the lamb was incredibly tender. Delicious.
On Tuesday, I checked out the Riverdale Farmer’s Market. It was a compeltely different scene than the hustle and bustle of the St. Lawrence Market on Saturday. While the St. Lawrence market overflowed with a bounty of imported produce (mostly labeled USA, which I’m pretty sure means California), the Riverdale market was exclusively local Ontario produce. Everything was in season and beautiful. The most popular stand was the ice cream cart, and I got myself a scoop of sheep’s milk ice cream with maple crunches. Click the ice cream to see more photos from the market.
On my walk home from the institute one afternoon, I stopped by Allan Gardens and saw the most intriguing flower there. This was a cluster of about twenty small, fuzzy, thick flowers in a spherical shape the size of a tennis ball. Unfortunately, it didn’t have a name plate! Does anyone know what this flower is called? The plant was about three feet tall and had leaves that were somewhere between a magnolia and a succulent.
Overall, I had a good trip from all points of view. If you’re in Toronto, here’s a list of places I’d recommend checking out.
Jet Fuel Coffee
519 Parliament Street
420 College Street
The Riverdale Farmer’s Market
Riverdale Park West
This Ain’t the Rosedale Library
483 Church Street
124 Harbord Street
And here are the places that I stayed. Both are definitely recommended.
Posh Digs II
A Seaton Dream