Top Ten Places I Will Take You When You Visit Toronto
(alternate title: Toronto Top Ten, Twentyeleven)
You're hungry. Me too. Let's get busy with some pomegranate, mint, and walnut-surrounded kebabs at this Iranian joint on Queen West. Also: saffron-infused vodka.
2. Evergreen Brickworks
This is one of the finest examples I've seen in the reclaimed factory / green design genre. Saturday's farmers' market is an embarrassment of Ontario's bounty. Step away from the crowd into a network of hiking trails lacing through this gorgeous valley that, impossibly, happens to be in the middle the city. Also: upscale garden center (or centre, if you will), café, winter skating rink, and groovy natural play yard for kids, occasionally staffed with enthusiastic camp counselor types who teach them how to make mud bricks or bake outdoors, etc.
3. Drake General Store
If you are reading the Merge Records blog, you will like the Drake General Store. Exquisitely curated, indie-eclectic smorgasbord of books, bibelots, and Canadiana for the savvy traveler.
4. The Roof Lounge, Park Hyatt
You're buying? Awesome. Swank (but not too), cozy, expensive room with a view. And a fireplace, natch. (Thanks to @thegoodshopper for introducing me to this one and #7 below.)
5. Sunday Antique Market
Manageable and civilized flea / antique market for tourists and locals. Across the street is the gargantuan and vibrant St. Lawrence market (think butcher, baker, candlestick maker). I forgot if you eat meat, but this is your opportunity to try a peameal bacon sandwich if you go that way.
6. Toronto Islands
A heavenly little escape, just a 10-minute ferry ride from downtown. We'll ride bikes (no cars on the islands, too much territory to cover on foot), cruising past the crowded midway scene and onto the little lanes of island cottages on Ward's Island, where a year-round population of 600 lives. Curling around a narrow trail to the beach and back down the boardwalk, you will be confused by the ocean-like scene without ocean-like waves. You will likely fantasize about ditching your dull life and moving here with your cargo bike, your dog, and your typewriter.
7. Ici Bistro
Fantastic modern French cuisine in a lovely little room with impeccable service and a surprisingly interesting Ontario wine list. Lobster bisque and grand marnier soufflé were highlights of my last visit.
8. Design Exchange
The only real reason we are going here is so that you get a Marian Bantjes smashed penny souvenir. (I know! Right?) http://www.bantjes.com/project/empathy-penny
9. Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, University of Toronto
Okay, back to my neighborhood to step inside this dimly-lit giant library, where the largest collection of rare books and manuscripts available to the public in Canada lines balconies in a sky-high, slightly sci-fi geometric space that makes one feel appropriately small in the world.
10. The Gallery Grill
Let's eat again. Nestled in a picture-perfect old stone building on the U of T campus, stained glass windows and neo-gothic arches provide an Oxbridge mood for food that is quite the opposite. Suzanne Baby's seasonal, local menu lures my husband and I here often for mid-day dates. (They are only open for lunch.) Eyeing today's menu, for example: Crispy calamari schnitzel / honey butter peas / preserved lemon & anchovy dressing. There's a tiny library down the hall that feels straight-up Hogwartian.
Come on up!