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From new eateries and newish boutiques to salons and tattoo shops, here's where to go on Queen West
The Queen West strip from Bathurst to Parkdale is the perfect neighbourhood to take the city’s trending pulse: if it’s hot and hip, it’s often happening here.
The space that was once Julie’s Cuban Restaurant (shuttered in 2019) has been transformed into a chic and cheerful bistro-style spot from the team behind Dreyfus. The menu is veg- and small-plates forward, with an ever-changing list of seasonal appetizers and shareables, anchored by rotisserie chicken and house-made soft serve (plus a well-curated list of wines).
202 Dovercourt, bernhardtstoronto.com
In August, there was widespread disappointment and sadness as Queen West mainstay of 25 years Gandhi Roti announced its closure. Thankfully the restaurant was semi-revived under a new name, Roti Mahal, by two longtime cooks from Gandhi Roti who are carrying on that restaurant’s East Indian culinary tradition.
554 Queen West, rotimahal.org
The Roasted Nut is a restaurant devoted to… nuts.
Yes, this is a restaurant dedicated to exactly what it says in the name – roasted nuts – but don’t knock it until you’ve tried it: takeaway-friendly, snack-sized portions of roasted and spiced nuts, available alongside a selection of hot beverages and nut-based bites, might be just what your peckish tummy needs as you turn the corner for a stroll through Bellwoods.
768 Queen West, theroastednutcompany.com
Although a bit closer to Dundas than Queen, Manita is the new bodega on the block. The cafe and grocer from the team behind Grand Electric and Electric Mud offers elevated comfort fare (think good burgers and Mediterranean-inspired snacking plates), plus an extensive wine list, full bar and coffee. Take-home staples include local bread from Blackbird, a selection of cheeses, and plenty of preserves and pantry must-haves like olive oil, plus a small offering of fresh, local produce.
210 Ossington, instagram.com/manitaossington
This bar was opened in 2019 by some of the minds behind the innovative cocktails at BarChef, and it shows: Mother is the cocktail lover’s cocktail bar, with complex, complicated beverages served up alongside small plates that feature wild and foraged ingredients. There’s a small list of beer and wine for those who aren’t cocktail-crazy, but the drinks menu is so diverse and curated that there’s surely a mix for every taste.
874 Queen West, motherdrinks.co
Lee Dekel’s 100% Silk line of handmade clothing are intricately crafted and whimsical.
Toronto designer Lee Dekel’s 100% Silk line of handmade clothing got a spotlight in Vogue magazine last year, and for good reason: Dekel travels the globe, partnering with traditional textile makers and manufacturers for her pieces, which are as intricately crafted as they are striking and whimsical. At her Queen West storefront, Dekel also stocks local brands such as Bully Boy lingerie and Slick Oil perfume.
1190 Queen West, 100percentsilkshop.com
Founded and based in Toronto, the cult ladies’ undergarments brand opened a flagship in 2019 after raising almost $6-million in start-up funding. The products speak for themselves: made in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, Knix uses “human-centric” design and high-tech fabrics to make all of its bras and undies game-changingly comfy. The current Queen West location will be closing later this fall and is relocating further east down Spadina, but Knix wares can be purchased online in the meantime.
630 Queen West, knix.ca
The Canadian-made, 100 per cent-natural skin care line has a flagship on Queen West for buying creams, masks and serums to take home, or for booking a customizable cold-laser facial. Not sure where to start? The brand’s Natural Foaming Face-Wash is a fan-favourite (and an award-winner). Your skin will thank you this winter.
819 Queen West, consonantskincare.com
Just north of Queen West on Ossington, Fresh City Farms stocks local meats and sustainable seafood.
The Queen West strip is not for want of green grocers and fruit markets, but for those looking for a little more local kombucha and vegan cheese with their produce, Fresh City is the place to go. The small store, which operates a large urban farm at Downsview Park, stocks local meats and sustainable seafood alongside fresh veg, kombuchas and ready-made meals to go.
111 Ossington, freshcityfarms.com
Kotn has become a benchmark for ethically
made fashion in Canada. The locally based brand sustainably manufactures all of its premium cotton goods in the Nile Delta. The brand makes cotton basics for the discriminating shopper: think perfectly structured button-downs, impeccably tailored trousers and simple t-shirt dresses that look more nightlife than nightgown.
754 Queen West, kotn.com
This winter will be made for walking, since indoor activities will be less accessible than usual due to COVID-19 restrictions. And there are fewer boots better suited to long walks in the city than a pair of Blundstones. Yes, you’ll want to make sure to protect and seal the leather from the elements, but with care, a pair of these classic Australian boots – from this classic Queen West shop – will carry you through the season.
698 Queen West, australianboot.com
In 2019, King West Italian takeout favourite Forno Cultura opened a second, much larger location on Queen West. Shoppers can grab massive focaccia sandwiches to go or sit in for a biscotti and an espresso. Plus, there’s plenty of bread, salami, pantry items and preserves, and homemade pasta sauce to go.
1056 Queen West, fornocultura.com
Tattoo shop The Duchess opened in 2019.
A little bit south of Queen is the Duchess, a tattoo shop opened in 2019. Artists Wes Pratt, Paul Wolk and Alan Wood specialize in traditional tattooing, but are flexible – pop in for a consult or book online.
143 Cowan, theduchesstattoo.com
Since 2009, the Cabinet has been giving Queen West sharp, precise, timeless haircuts. The salon offers trendy rainbow colouring (with a consultation first), wedding updos or styling and plenty more.
577 Queen West, thecabinetsalon.com
There are dozens of nail bars spanning Queen West, which makes choosing the best one an impossible task. We like Organic Nail Bar because it offers dipping power – a long-lasting colour treatment that doesn’t require UV light curing like shellac.
496 Queen West, organicnailbar.ca
Nothing pulls together a look like a strong eyebrow. At Eye Love, the risk of overplucking or uneven styling is eliminated as professional estheticians shape your brows perfectly to complement your face.
988 Queen West, eyelovebeautybar.com
Note: the items listed below are non-medical grade and should not be substituted when medical grade PPE is recommended.
The gifting mainstay is leading the pack with kids’ masks, offering a variety of styles and shapes – including styles from Living Royal that come with a built-in valve and retail for $21.95.
577 Queen West, outerlayer.com
These made-in-Canada masks come in more than a dozen patterns made from 18 Waits’ favourite shirting fabrics, and retail for $28 each.
990 Queen West, 18waits.com
This Queen Street vintage emporium’s masks are handmade from triple-layered vintage fabric and feature a filter pocket. They sell for $15 each.
248 Queen West, tribalrhythm.com
Social distancing circles encourage parkgoers to stick to their bubbles.
In May, photos of people congregating in Trinity Bellwoods – and appearing to ignore social distancing measures – circulated widely, prompting outrage and leading the city to paint physical distancing circles on the park’s grass.
There was no bump in cases that was attributable to that weekend, and since then park-goers have largely adhered to COVID-19 safety protocols. But as the pandemic continues into the winter, we want to ensure the city’s most popular west-end park stays safe – and open. Here are things to remember when organizing your socially distant park hang.
Stick to the circles: This is an easy one. Each painted circle is meant to accommodate only members of your social bubble, so if you’re going to the park with other friends, make sure they’re sitting in a different circle.
Be mindful of the circles: Yes, the park is great for frisbee and spike ball. But pandemic times call for pandemic adjustments: you might want to stick to the sports fields for your physical activity.
Know where to go: There are two public washrooms at Trinity Bellwoods – at the northernmost and southernmost parts of the park. In May, neighbours of the park complained people were using their private property to, er, relieve themselves, as park facilities were shut. Now that washrooms are open, grab your hand sanitizer and do your business where it’s meant to be done.
Be Aware of encampments: The COVID-19 pandemic has hit Toronto’s most vulnerable populations hardest, and many of the parks across the city now feature large encampments of homeless individuals, including Bellwoods. Be respectful of those living there: there’s no reason for you to disturb or disrupt those who are making the park their home during your visit.
Don’t leave a mess: This should be a no-brainer, but a spike in urban park-dates has led to a spike in park litter. Pack as few disposable food and drink containers as you can, and be sure to check that you’ve left your circle as clean as you found it.
Get chatty: Whether you’re on the playground ensuring your kids are interacting with others safely, or in the dog bowl and feeling uneasy about strangers petting your pup, the best way to maintain boundaries is to communicate. Be polite, but be open – we’re all navigating this pandemic together.
Update: An earlier version of this story included an entry for bar-patio The Caddi, which has now closed.