Wychwood wonders

With the pain of the streetcar line construction behind them and the Wychwood Barns attracting hundreds of visitors, shops and restos along St. Clair West gear up for the sizzling summer season


It feels timely to profile the stretch of St. Clair West between Bathurst and Oakwood on Earth Day. While I’d never go so far as to crown it Toronto’s greenest neighbourhood (I can already hear Annex, Kensington and Danforth residents sharpening their bamboo pencils to write a letter to my editor), there’s an indisputable eco angle to the area atop the ancient Lake Iroquois shoreline.

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The leafy, cottage-lined lanes of Wychwood Park a few blocks south of the main strip are the most literally green examples of a neighbourhood with a particular closeness to nature. The thrift stores that line St. Clair, and local eco retail landmark Ecoexistence (21 Vaughan, unit 103, 416-652-0808) prove the area can sustain recycled, earth-friendly retail.

But it’s Green Neighbours 21 (gn21.ca) and its goal of actually making this slice of Toronto the city’s greenest that has it leading our eco livability list.

Foglie flower shop owner Lily Contento specializes in modern monochromatic arrangements.

The 200-plus-strong group, along with the Wychwood Heights and Hillcrest Village BIAs and the website MyStClair.com, are behind the Shop St. Clair movement. The initiative’s goal is to keep locals and destination shoppers alike cruising the neighbourhood’s stores, restaurants, bars and bakeries while the TTC wraps up construction on its lengthy streetcar right-of-way project.

The Wychwood Barns complex, with its weekly farmers' market, has redefined community and artists' space.

It must be working, because here we are touring St. Clair, starting our trip at Boutique Parpar (649 St. Clair West, 416-657-3333). Behind a pretty-in-pink storefront, owner Stephanie Benaich stocks a rosy selection of home accessories including L’Othantique soaps, boxes of thank-you stationery and polka-dot-print watering cans. The ceiling is hung with crystal chandeliers in pastel shades of purple, green and blue, and clothing racks fill up with Hudson denim and separates by C’est Moi and Repeat.

Kawartha Ecological Growers Liang Cheng and Shannon Holton sell their goods at Green Barn Farmers' Market in Artscape Wychwood Barns.

The floral look at Foglie (775 St. Clair West, 416-654-1991) down the street is less precious and more modern and textured. Lily Contento works oversized philodendron and monstera greens into monochromatic arrangements of tulips, pincushion protea and cacti.

Blooming closer to Bathurst is flower boutique Fiori (633 St. Clair West, 416-658-0715). Kosoy & Bouchard (651 St. Clair West, 416-651-4480), Angel Interiors (695 St. Clair West, 416-537-9169) and Shendah’s (786 St. Clair West, 416-658-0101) are other furniture, housewares and gift must-stops.

Greenhouse coordinator Lord Abbey tends to his precious project at Artscape Wychwood Barns.

More perfect presents are on offer at Peek-A-Boo (603 St. Clair West, 416-654-2489), too, as long as your giftee likes climb-and-slide castles and foam alphabet letters that float in the tub. The kiddy boutique has a swanky stroller selection, including the retro-style Bumbleride Queen B pram, and nursery decor finds like airplane mobiles and dinosaur-shaped clothes hangers. There are more toys to try at Playful Minds (657 St. Clair West, 416-651-4028).

The Hungarian Cultural Centre at 840 St. Clair West is a key gathering place.

If any one establishment has claimed to lure the most downtowners up the hill to St. Clair lately, it’s barbecue mecca Stockyards (699 St. Clair West, 416-658-9666). Local foodies are fixated on the smokehouse’s meaty menu, too, though they haven’t forgotten other area restos like Ferro (769 St. Clair West, 416-654-9119), the Rushton (740 St. Clair West, 416-658-7874) and recent addition Café Leopold (672 St. Clair West, 416-652-0075).

Get dynamite biscotti and other irresistible treats at Wychwood's brand new bakery Leah's.

The sweetest new neighbourhood arrival is Leah’s (621 St. Clair West, 416-785-4711) at the corner of St. Clair and Wychwood. Cookie master Leah Kalish has baked 20 years of biscotti and butter tart expertise into her teensy, chic café. A black-and-white photo of Julia Child hangs next to a case overflowing with mushroom-shaped meringues dusted with cocoa powder and with those signature biscotti, which come in flavours like lemon-poppy seed and chocolate chunk with almond.

Ice cream lovers flock to Dutch Dreams just north of St. Clair West.

Leah’s joins a long list of local bakery options, from neighbourhood staple World Class Bakery (690 St. Clair West, 416-654-0606) to Pain Perdu (736 St. Clair West, 416-656-7246) and Patachou (833 St. Clair West, 416-782-0122). If your sweet tooth still isn’t satisfied, there’s CocoaLatte (671 St. Clair West, 416-792-8696), Dutch Dreams (78 Vaughan, 416-656-6959) and, sneaking over to the west side of Oakwood, The Cupcakery (1034 St. Clair West, 647-430-7409) to sample.

Boutique Parpar is pretty in pink.

Or you can plan your visit for a Saturday and shop the Green Barn Farmers’ Market at Artscape’s Wychwood Barns (601 Christie). The year-round market, open weekly from 8 am to noon, is loaded with delicious locavore fare. It’s definitely the tastiest way to do your part for St. Clair’s eco cause.

Snap up some cool kids' stuff at Peek-A-Boo.

Photos by Michael Watier

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