[spotlight series. amanda blakleybeckerman girlsela aldorsson]

[toronto soundtrack. oh sailor]

We first came to Toronto when we were living in London 15 years ago. A quick and easy hop across the pond. The reason for our trip – a visit to see our Toronto insider, Amanda Blakley - who we had met backpacking through Italy that same summer. It was the beginning of a long and lovely love affair with this ‘city of neighborhoods’. A city that reminds us somehow of our own stomping ground, Melbourne Australia. Full of culture (we long for their Film Festival in September each year), great food, good coffee, and an awesome music and art scene. It’s diverse. Its laidback. It’s exceptionally friendly. Canadians are open and warm. We just get each other. Come in summer, when the TDot really turns it on. It’s beautiful here.

They do coffee well here. To caffeinate, we like…

Boxcar Social: 1208 Yonge Street.

De Mello: 2489 Yonge Street.

Ezra’s Pound: 238 Dupont Street.

Crafted: 135 Ossington Ave. 

Mercury Espresso: 915 Queen Street East – a Leslieville staple.

Early Bird Espresso: 613 Queen Street West.

Capital Espresso: 1349 Queen Street West.

Sam James Coffee Bar: 297 Harbord Street.

Rooster: 343 King Street East.

To eat.

Bar Centrale: we love to sit up at the bar here for great Italian coffee and breakfast paninis.

Fika cafe: for all things Swedish.

Woodlot: for unbelievable breads. Honest. Simple. Handmade. 

Soho House: for weekend brunch.

Universal Grill: for weekend brunch

Lucky Red: for Vietnamese bao-centric sandwiches in Chinatown.

Delica: for healthy and delicious sandwiches, soups, salads and baked-goods to-go. Three locations.

Gusto: for dinner (with a great rooftop terrace in summer).

Terroni: for pizza.

And Pizza Libretto (two locations - Ossington and the Danforth).

Kalendar: super cosy institution. An Indian-inspired romantic bistro. Nice brewed coffee made with cinnamon. 

Dailo: only open 3 months. Modern Asian. Nick head chef/owner used to chef at our longstanding favorite modern Thai restaurant in Sydney, Longrain. Wine here is excellent too, thanks to sommelier and co-owner, Anton. 

Dinner at Fat Pasha: Middle Eastern on Dupont Street (same owners as Rose & Sons). Quite heavy. 

For sweet things:

Bang Bang: for the best ice-cream sandwiches in Canada. Home made cookies and ice cream. For us, it’s a toss up between a Captain Peanut cookie (caramelly and crunchy, Salted Virginia peanut butter praline, cereal) or the Rococoa cookie (Cocoa Brit. 70% Callebaut Choc. Maldon sea salt) – filled with their oh-so-peanutty peanut butter and jelly ice. OMG.

Bakerbots: for baked goods. Order the fruit tart with almond crust.

To drink.

Bar Isabel: for dinner or cocktails. Spanish tapas – hole in the wall.

416 Snack Bar: with a rotating menu of mini-things.

People’s Eatery: by the same guys as 416. Dark and oriental-inspired. Try the peking duck.

Lo Pan: the bar above DaiLo.

Beers at Ronnie’s: just off the main drag of Kensington Market. Dirty, dilapidated dive bar!

Beers at Bellwoods Brewery.

To shop.

Narwhal Boutique: our favorite stop for all our favorite designer brands & ela handbags.

For more designer stuff, try Jonathan and Olivia.

Advice From a Caterpillar: a stunning lifestyle store for children, for the most beautiful kids stuff in the world.

Love the Design: for cute gifts and homewares…and for Tuck Shop Co. outpost inside.

For Vintage/designer consignment: try I Miss You Vintage. And Kensington Market.

Mjolk: for Scandinavian/Japanese-inspired homewares.

For coffee and clothes, try Lost and Found. 

To do.

Saturday farmers market at Brickworks.

Personal training with Craig at Catalyst.

Yoga and pilates (incl baby pilates) at 889 Yoga.

For the best blowout: visit Beni at the Blowdry Lounge.

Visit Kensington Market for great market goods (visit on pedestrian Sundays when they close the streets to cars).

Hang out in Trinity Bellwoods Park. Perfect on summer weekends for lounging in the sun. A hipster haven of picnic blankets and good vibes. Beautiful entrance on queen street. 

Visit the city’s largest green – High Park – a paradise each April when the cherry blossoms make an appearance. They also have a zoo with super exotic animals. 

Visit Casa Loma: a lovely Gothic Revival castle built in the early 20th century. 

Stop into the Art Gallery of Ontario: renovated by Frank Gehry back in 2008, the AGO hosts some wonderful exhibits; likewise the Royal Ontario Museum is worth checking out for its standout architecture alone.

To sleep.

The Drake Hotel: located in Queen West, this cute boutique hotel is our favorite place to stay. Good food, good drinks, good beds. What more could you need.

Get outta town…

Muskoka: approx. 2 hours from Toronto. National Geographic Traveler editors recently chose Muskoka as the No.1 summer destination in the world for its 1600 lakes, granite cliffs, and beautiful pine trees. Eat at The Rosseau Grill atWindermere House.

Prince Edward County: approx. 3 hours from Toronto. Ontario’s newest wine region, come here for some award-winning wines and delicious artisan eating options. Must stay at the new Drake by the lake – Drake Devonshire.

Scarborough Bluffs: a little out of the city centre, come here for spectacular cliffs.