Converted warehouses, java joints galore and new home decor spots are transforming this Queen East strip
It’s easy to miss artist Eldon Garnet’s Time: And A Clock installation at Queen and Broadview.
With Dangerous Dan’s (714 Queen East, 416-463-7310) on the northeast corner advertising that “The burgers are bigger at the Double D” and Jilly’s (106 Broadview, 416-466-8756) posters on the northwest side proclaiming its daily $3.50-drink happy hour (among other temptations), Garnet’s word art pieces inlaid into the sidewalk can disappear beneath your feet.
“Better late than never,” reads the message in metal letters that curve around the corner in front of the Real Jerk (709 Queen East, 416-463-6055). “Distance = Velocity X Time” they spell out across the street. The text is part of a three-site project installed in 1996, but the time theme is a very current fit for a neighbourhood ticking toward full-scale renewal.
The local BIA calls this stretch of Queen East the Riverside District, and another of Garnet’s pieces, the words “This river I step in is not the river I stand in” arching across the Queen Street bridge over the Don, announces its entrance from the city’s core.
Past the converted warehouses and the boarded up New Edwin Hotel with its retro Oceans Nite Club sign is one of the strip’s newest arrivals. Flower shop Quince (660 Queen East, 416-594-1444) recently moved here from its downtown location on Adelaide East. Inside, the former gallery space has been planted with lush blooms, fresh arrangements and colourful pottery picks.
If anything signals an area’s evolution, it’s a coffee culture boom. There’s no shortage of serious caffeine stops in these parts, including F’Coffee (641 Queen East, 416-463-0500) and Dark Horse Espresso Bar (682 Queen East, 647-436-3460) on Quince’s block, Merchants of Green Coffee (2 Matilda, 416-741-5369) and Lucaffé (798 Queen East, 416-461-2400) a few blocks further east.
Shopping options kick in at Broadview. Liloo (734 Queen East, 416-466-8710) sells eclectic South Asian housewares including colourful glass oil lanterns ready to cast a comfy summer glow on late-night patios. Beaded throws add a well-travelled feel to backyard benches.
Rogue Gallery’s (733 Queen East, 416-462-1800) Martin Augsten spends his Sundays selling mid-century furniture and West German pottery at the St. Lawrence Antique Market but does business from a pint-sized storefront in the Opera House (735 Queen East, 416-466-0313) during the week. It’s packed with vintage accessories that jiggle when bass players rehearse next door. Just ask to check out larger pieces kept in a storage space nearby.
The corner of Queen and Grant is home to Ring Audio (742 Queen East, 416-693-7464), which may look like any old eclectic electronics shop but is filled with “high-end to humble” vintage turntables and stereos.
Across the road, the 1905 Bank of Commerce building (744 Queen East, 416-703-6929) is a monument to Canadian fashion designer Stephan Caras and still functions as his clothing company’s headquarters.
Furniture is distressed but beautiful at Hardware.
Christina Bergstrom is another Toronto fashion talent who calls this area home, selling her colourful Bergstrom Originals collection from an all-white space (750 Queen East, 416-595-7320) that makes her summer prints pop. Psychedelic florals and swirls cover wrap dresses and edge three-quarter-sleeve jackets.
A robin’s-egg blue room houses Lea-Ann Belter’s bridal studio (785 Queen East, 416-778-6868) filled with the designer’s chic and romantic gowns.
District home mecca Phil’z (792 Queen East, 416-461-9913) sells modern vintage pieces out of a giant space in the handsome Poulton Block. Eames chairs, slat benches and low-profile sectionals come from the company’s Montreal flagship, where they’re polished and reupholstered. The double-height room’s silk-cocoon ceiling lamps look like floating swarms of packing popcorn.
For similarly retro furniture fare, visit Studio Pazo (781 Queen East, 416-916-6302). Hardware (760 Queen East, 416-462-3099) sells starkly distressed furniture, while Lumiere (761 Queen East, 416-406-5757) outfits nurseries with adorable monkey mobiles.
Prints pop at ChristinaBergstrom's all-white shop
If any place deserves credit for kicking off Queen East hip, it’s Bonjour Brioche (812 Queen East, 416-406-1250). The café’s pastries have lured brunchers to this side of the Don since before they knew “Leslie” had a “ville.”
It’s joined by other eating and drinking stops including the chic Comrade (758 Queen East, 416-778-9449), the gilt Rasputin Vodka Lounge (780 Queen East, 416-469-3737), the Citizen (730 Queen East, 416-465-0100) and the new Table 17 (782 Queen East, 416-519-1851).
Foodies come from all over town to taste treats at Bonjour Brioche.
Leslieville starts on Riverside’s eastern edge, and the final piece of Garnet’s installation, a quartet of stainless steel flags cut out with the words “Coursing,” “Disappearing,” “Trembling” and “Returning” in front of Jimmy Simpson Park, marks your exit.
Modern vintage home decor rocks at Phil'z.
He was a little early anticipating it, but the Riverside district’s time has come.