BY SHEREL PURCELL // PHOTOS BY RICK O'BRIEN // ILLUSTRATION BY KERRY HYNDMAN
For visitors, it’s best to navigate Toronto’s diverse areas with a friend – hopefully a local with good taste in food and a knack for finding fun things to do. Since 2007, the light industrial buildings and auto repair shops on lower Ossington Avenue in Toronto’s west end have been replaced by micro breweries, contemporary art galleries, boutiques and upscale restaurants and coffee shops. Allow us to be your guide through one of our favorite spots.
1. Foxley Bistro (207 Ossington Avenue, Toronto, ON, M6J 2Z8; 416-534-8520) Food lovers line up for one of 40 seats in Chef Tom Thai’s exposed brick space for a taste of the unique flavor combinations of his Asian/Canadian inspired tapas. Share a dish of steaming east coast mussels drenched in green curry and spicy beef heart (it’s good, try it!) with Thai chili lime salsa tempered with a crunchy kale salad. Wanna get crazy? Try the frog legs sautéed with pablano and Szechwan spices and an arctic char ceviche with green apple and ginger – a perfect dinner for two. (Close your eyes, try not to think of Kermit, and it’s delicious.) In the summer, enjoy a dry Rose on the back patio, which pairs well with spicy dishes. In the winter, stay warm from the inside out with their side ribs with shallot glaze.
Tom Thai’s intimate Foxley Bistro serves up popular Canadiasian tapas.
2. Crafted (135 Ossington Avenue, Toronto, ON, M6J 2Z6; 416-645-0273) Cozy up solo or with a few friends in Crafted’s small, contemporary art-filled room while the friendly and knowledgeable baristas prepare your favorite brew in myriad ways including French press, pour-over or aeropress. Cold-drip and siphoned coffee are sometimes available too. On warm days, head to the urban backyard with a Dark and Stormy - a ginger ale, espresso, and sugar combo or a Flat White – an extra long shot of espresso with latte-style foam.
Crafted, a welcoming space that’s cozy, contemporary and caffeinated.
3. Venezia Bakery (114 Ossington Avenue, Toronto, ON, M6J 2Z4; 416-537-2914; veneziabakery.ca) Young moms with babies compete with the coffee breakers for the freshest egg tarts - caramelized custard with a hint of orange sitting in a flaky, buttery crust. In the middle of this homey, sweet-smelling space sits a large table laden with over-sized cookies, homemade fruit pies, and meringues, while the sugar donuts, cream puffs, coconut tarts and hunks of apple strudel tempt from behind glass.
Home-style baking by the three Marias: Maria Lopes, Maria Caetano, Maria Felix.
4. Cote de Boeuf (130 Ossington Ave, Toronto, ON, M6J 2Z8; 416-532-2333; cdbossington.com) Step into this old-fashioned butcher shop for a water buffalo salami sandwich topped with a specialty local cheese or perhaps some homemade pork terrine. These very knowledgeable charcuterie folks, two brothers who own Union, the restaurant next door, carry only top, local products.
Inside Cote de Boeuf, an old-fashioned butcher shop with top, local products.
5. Crywolf (91 Ossington Avenue, Toronto, ON, M6J 2Z2; 647-729-7078; crywolfclothing.com) This haven of limited edition clothing and gifts for everyone on your list is the brainchild of two young Toronto artists and long time friends. Stephanie and Rose collaborate on drawings that become everything from funny, “You Crack Me Up” tees and buttons to mason jar lights to recycled leather patch toques (French Canadian winter hats) to day-glo shopping bags and a skeleton shirt for your friend’s cat.
Crywolf. A quirky boutique filled with things you didn’t know you had to have.
6. The Dakota Tavern (249 Ossington Avenue, Toronto, ON, M6J 3A1; 416-850-4579; thedakotatavern.com) Avoid this bottomless weekend brunch if you’re in Overeaters Anonymous. But you can burn off calories do-si-do’ing to Toronto’s best Bluegrass bands. Or just chill in the saloon atmosphere while checking out the farm implements and Canadian winter scenes that adorn the walls of this basement bar dance cave. Check back evenings for new Canadian roots-rock or faux folk bands. What’s faux folk? Don’t you have to find out now?
Scarlett Jane perform at Dakota Tavern.
7. Lower Ossington Theatre (100A Ossington Avenue, Toronto, ON, M6J 2Z4; 416-915-6747; lowerossingtontheatre.com) Enjoy professional-level performances of award-winning musicals, theater for children and a rare opportunity to enjoy a local Barking Squirrel beer along with wine and popcorn during the shows. The LOT’s cozy setting guarantees no bad seats.
There’s not a bad seat in the house at the Lower Ossington Theater.
8. Trinity Bellwoods Park (155 Crawford Street, Toronto, ON, M6J 2Z0; 416-392-0743; trinitybellwoods.ca) Any day of the week, you’ll find folks walking, running or biking through the 37 acres of Trinity Bellwoods Park - a hangout for artists, dog walkers, kids and minor athletes. At the Trinity Community Rec Centre, you can swim in the indoor pool or try your hand at tennis on one of the 8 tennis courts. There’s also an indoor skating rink. Children and adult programs are offered seasonally within the rec center and in the park. New slackline poles allow tightrope walker wannabes to practice their craft – but it’s BYOL – bring your own lines. Self-guided tree tours are available for the rest of us.