I jump on the clanging 501 Queen West streetcar
and join the worker-bees buried in their phones, the mothers with their over-sized strollers and the noisy, pre-drinking bar hoppers and hipsters, all clamoring for a red seat on the Red Rocket on one of the busiest transit routes in Toronto. We are all heading to the hippest part of Toronto, the 19 blocks of Queen Street West between Bathurst and Gladstone known locally as West Queen West, which Vogue Magazine named “1 of the coolest neighbourhoods in the World, a verifiable artery of indie patisseries, homegrown labels, and hidden-from-view galleries—hallmarks of hipness, if ever they existed…” Oh Yeah. Let’s GO! Here are six stops along the way to grab some grub, gallery hop, shop vintage or independent labels or to simply grab a flat white:
Stay for the Toronto Vibe:
On any given day the Drake Hotel is filled with event types, after work cocktail patio seekers and artists and gallery-goers galore; and according to the Drake herself, a ‘thoughtful contradiction and a playful intersection of old and new and TONS of love for the historic relationship between local artists, Toronto exhibitions, and great hotels’. This Liberty Village icon offers everything a traditional hotel does not so drop by for a drink, stay for the vibe and the individually designed signature rooms or shop the Drake General Store for unique and one of a kind clothing and takeaways. They also offer a killer brunch, famous for their post-Saturday night, Sunday restorative Drake Caesar.
Shop some Toronto Vintage
Enjoy designer vintage stores along the way with a favourite being Fashionably Yours just west of Bathurst Street for their authentic lux consignment buys and pre-owned, authentic designer apparel, bags & accessories by Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Hermes, Gucci and luxury items from all over the world, voted Toronto’s #1 Consignment Store by Blog TO Readers & called the “Best Store in the City” by Global TV News.
Toronto Eats: Bar Lisa Marie:
Pop-up and food truck king Matt Basile’s ode to delicious greasy, juicy dripping oozing cheesy, crunchy yummy deadly delightful burger with a side of fries with gravy, our little Lisa Marie just celebrated her third anniversary! Catch Matt’s famous Spaghetti and Meatballs, half price bottles of wine, Wednesday evening madness. Brunch? Chow down on Matt’s s’mores pancakes. Yes, that’s right: s’mores pancakes. You’re welcome.
Sip Some Toronto Whiskey
When we think of whiskey, we think of smoke; a smoky loveliness that fills our noses with heady anticipation of peaty pleasure. When we think of Smoque N’ Bones, we think of smokey, mouth watering, southern BBQ, pulled hot and sizzling from their Southern Pride Smoker. That heady, smoky marriage of food and liquor is what Owner/Chef Alex N Rad has achieved at KOHL Whiskey Bar (KOHL is a word from Chef Alex’s smokey, childhood memories of the deep South) and features 84 bottles of single malt scotch, and 43 additional bottles of bourbon that compliment his bourbon and southern themed eats from his below stairs restaurant, Smoque N’ Bones. Have a drink ( or perhaps three!), and wet your whistle and prime your appetite for some Pork Ribs or Brisket and either nosh downstairs or take away for later.
Toronto Independent Labels:
Meg, a high-end, tailored look boutique that is perfect for women who work and fit all body types from Kate Moss to Kelly Osborne AND that can be worn from season to season at reasonable prices. These gorgeous clothes are available in a wide array of sizes and colours, in styles that run the gamut from day and work wear to cocktail and casual. Individual consults and one on one attention make Meg all about the service and Meg will handle the tailoring, and offers free alterations adding a final bow on this independent designer label!
Toronto Coffee Culture:
Be enticed and lured into this Trinity Bellwoods cafe by the art gallery-like layout, rotating latte wall art, and the gorgeous baristas at RSquared Café. Known for its unusual mixes of coffee, (order a Spanish latte with a hint of Cajun/Cayenne spice or their Orange Mocha), RSquared also serves up a simple mean mocha or latte and if you like your espresso on the toasty burnt side as we do, order up! Mocha Green tea lattes too. Tons of sweet snack options too including dairy and gluten free options as well. We understand the avocado and chocolate muffins are to die for. Try and grab a seat outside and sorry, no drip coffee past 12 pm (try an Americano instead!)
Hop on the Queen Streetcar and head west to West Queen West, the perfect stretch in Toronto to walk or bike, enjoy a patio, burger, or some smokey whiskey, or simply people watch. That’s exactly what we did!
World Traveler, Writer, and Blogger, Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief of the followsummer.com travel blog. A former Actor, current shower-singer, and non-hipster foodie. Loves his week-end house in St Marys, Ontario. Happily married to John Mountain and Dad to Sophia and Ariel, two of the best cats in the world.