Old and new, retail and restaurants, cafés and bars, including Inter Steer, create a mad mix on the western front.
Walk down the street and encounter the hottest trends side by side with vintage finds
I have a friend who long ago declared herself the Queen of Roncesvalles. She earned her title by being one of those neighbourhood regulars equally at home sipping a gin and tonic with Eva and the old boys at the Inter Steer (357 Roncesvalles, 416-588-8054) and singing Patsy Cline in the afternoon for a pack of pre-schoolers attending the neighbourhood's annual Polish Festival (polishfestival.ca) every September.
As Her Majesty walks down the west-end strip, usually with a guitar slung across her back and a red floral suitcase in hand full of craft supplies and the costume jewellery she sells, the street stops to say hello. She fought to save the Revue Cinema (400 Roncesvalles, 416-531-9959, revuecinema.ca) and now shows her films there on its Drop Your Shorts open screening nights. She is entirely engaged with this corner of Toronto, and she's not alone.
There's something special about Roncie. Maybe it's because part of the street is divided clean down the middle, with homes on the west side and businesses on the east, so there's no chance of missing out on random encounters with friends during daily errands. Or maybe it's the area's luck in avoiding the flash of fad gentrification.
That means the new shops and restaurants that pop up every year have a chance to get to know their long-established neighbours. Whatever the reason, you'd be hard pressed to find a more closely knit community in the city.
Photo By Mark Coatsworth
1+2. Hawk Eyes shows vintage value. 3. Take your time with a Cherry Bomb latte. 4. Buy Canadian at Frock.
Roncesvalles sprouts from Lake Ontario and grows north from Queen West's vintage clothing and furniture spots. Past the Goodwill (28 Roncesvalles, 416-534-1686) and the Film Buff (73 Roncesvalles, 416-534-7078, thefilmbuff.com), where DVD renters skip popcorn in favour of ice cream parlour treats, find Joan Hamilton's Arcane Metal & Stone (87 Roncesvalles, 416-532-9562, arcanedesigns.ca).
Hamilton's expert goldsmithing skills are on display next to beautiful enamel jewellery by her apprentice, Taibe Palacios. Pomegranate glass sculptures and wooden boxes add an artful and homey touch.
The south end of the street is full of coffee spots, including Tinto (89 Roncesvalles, 416-530-5885, tinto.ca) and reigning latte maker Cherry Bomb (79 Roncesvalles, 416-516-8212, cherrybombcoffee.ca).
Further north, Alternative Grounds (333 Roncesvalles, 415-534-5543, alternativegrounds.com) brews fair trade cups from co-ops in El Salvador, Guatemala, Ethiopia and other South American and African sources. Stop off first at Queen of Tarts (283 Roncesvalles, 416-851-3009) so you can dunk a George W. Bush or Ben Mulroney gingerbread man into your java.
Just past Cherry Bomb is the Thin Blue Line (93 Roncesvalles, 416-840-6966, thinbluelinecheese.ca) cheese shop, which has just doubled its size by expanding into an empty storefront next door. More square footage means more room for Canadian cow, sheep and goat's milk cheeses and all the sweet jellies and crispy baguettes you need to assemble a decadent fall snack.
Frock (97 Roncesvalles, 416-516-1333) is full of made-in-Canada fashion buys, including Dace's dress collection and colourful everyday baubles by Foxy Originals. New additions this season include El Naturalista's eco boots and slouchy Erin Templeton hobo bags. Customers head downstairs for haircuts in the Frock Head salon space.
Photo By Mark Coatsworth
Mrs. Huizenga is a mecca for vintage decor.
Roncesvalles regulars do brunch at B (2210 Dundas West, 416-533-2987) and dinner at the Inter Steer, which has upped it dining options since identically replicating itself two addresses south last year. It's still hard to walk by the former Daddy O's Milk Bar spot, but the pumpkin muffins at Lit Espresso Bar (221 Roncesvalles, 416-538-9700), which replaced it, are an equally delicious substitute.
When it comes to furniture, Roncesvalles's strength is its vintage and antique shop options. The sweetest home spot is Hawk Eyes (103 Roncesvalles, 416-916-6212), where owner Rachelle Turner sells a pastel mix of finds and furnishings from the 20s through to the 50s. There's a simple and nostalgic look to baby-blue Amish butterprint bowls or old hutches brought back to life with a coat of lemon yellow or cream paint.
Photo By Mark Coatsworth
Style hunters come to Dressers for a range of clothing finds.
Turner was careful not to step on the toes of the neighbourhood's other vintage mecca, Mrs. Huizenga (121 Roncesvalles, 416-533-2112) when she opened Hawk Eyes last December. After only three years, Catherine Huizenga's boutique is a neighbourhood staple for shoppers hunting for anything from a pair of 70s riding boots to colourful glass holiday ornaments.
"People around here love a yard sale," is how she explains the store's success in a neighbourhood that embraces recycling, upcycling and the second-hand hunt.
But if anyone is going to give my Roncesvalles queen a run for her title, it's Dressers' (307 Roncesvalles, 416-531-7356) Mary Ellen Mitchell, who's been holding court at her clothing and gift store's current location for 22 years. Dressers stocks clothing by Quick Reflex and Point Zero along with locally designed cards and jewellery.
Mitchell is giddy because the city is moving ahead with a plan to widen sidewalks and green the streetscape this spring. Considering Roncesvalles's knack for neighbourly behaviour, it could use the extra space.