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Jul 24, 2008 08:41 AM

WALKING TOUR! Not-to-miss spots on Queen West, Roncesvalles Ave, and Dundas West

My SO and I are planning to embark on a city walking tour this coming saturday. The purpose of this trip is to explore unfamiliar neighbourhoods in Toronto. I have heard great restaurants/pastry shops/coffee shops/bars along Queen West and Roncesvalles Ave. However, doing a quick search on the past threads just seems impossible. So, Toronto chowhounds, I will need your help on any recommendations of ANY food establishments on Queen West, Roncesvalles Ave, and Dundas West (West of Spadina).

Any suggestion is greatly appreciated!

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  1. Hey Oohlala,
    Are you looking for a cheap and cheerful version or break the bank stroll?!
    For a snackish type tour walking west on Queen from Spadina, I would hit NY Sub for that lamb satay wrap that everyone's been buzzing about. I would've stopped into Gandhi next but since they don't seem to be open on the weekends this summer, you'll need to bypass them and head over to Red Tea Box for a cup of tea instead and maybe a bowl of soup. Their cakes are a bit dry for my liking so I would wander across the street to Dufflet (personally I love their Chocolate Banana Cake). Moving on west, stop in at Oyster Boy for a few oysters, then Fresh for a fruit smoothie concoction to go. Although not on Queen but a block north on Ossington, Golden Turtle is worth a little detour. The Drake will be coming up next and I recommend you check out TorontoJo's review:
    That should tie you over till you get to Ali's West Indian for a roti. And that's about as far west as I ever go on Queen so someone else will need to take over from here!

    4 Replies
    1. re: fickle

      just a few thoughts on fickle's recommendations.... and mine might not be so orderly from east to west.

      i love the atmosphere of red tea box and it would encourage me to linger over sweets and tea, but it never occurs to me to drop in there for a sip. i'd rather move on over to tealish and grab a tea latte (roiboos raspberry) or see if they'll brew me up some of their interesting concoctions. certainly more nouveau though it's fun to see how much of a stickler those red tea box gals are on steeping time.

      drop into prague deli for the cream puff, if nothing else. it's perfection for the downtown circuit. it's a nice little spot to get an eastern european snack and you might like to check out some of the market items they've got for sale.

      do NOT go to clafouti, they're a personal pet peeve with awful service and hardly passable croissant.

      when you're up on dundas i'd go to pho phuong for a durian milkshake (few places make such a smooth shake) and a crispy bahn xeo.

      almost across the way from that would be the bazilian bakery. i love their gigantic brioches for croque madame in the morn and their wide variety of tartlet items like natas and the similarly shaped sweet almond ones that i desperately should learn the name of. if they have the doughnuts fresh (large round flat blobs), get them. lemony sugary goodness.

      if you're interested in dinner on the area too i would suggest something off of the ossington strip. it's interesting how over night it's really busy every 6 doors down from each other, otherwise it's a sleepy street. delux is comfortable and tasty... plus they take reservations.

      you want an interesting beer, rhino bar in parkdale will have a great international and microbrew selection at the best prices in town. it's just unfortunate that some of the more interesting ones aren't always available.

      i'd suggest roti at roti lady in parkdale but i haven't been in ages and there's the possibility she's shutdown.

      btw, if you're a shucker at all, it's nice to take the oysters straight from oysterboy and do it up yourself in the park. you'll only pay just over $1 a piece and i haven't had much luck with their shuckers - broken shell galore!

      1. re: fickle

        And I'll throw in a rec to get the sticky toffee pudding at The Drake!

        1. re: TorontoJo

          Mother of India for Butter Chicken in in Parkdale (on Queen). Cafe Polonez in Ronces for melt in the mouth perogis and fabulous beef gouloush soup. Aris Place (the location further from Queen St). Incredible greasy spoon breakfast for around $8 includes pancakes with the eggs bacon etc. Perfect breakfast sausage too.

          1. re: food face

            start your day off with brunch at B or Mitzis (just do it early to avoid the lineups)

      2. Queen and Roncey do indeed meet and you could start your stroll at Easy for breakfast (or lunch or munchies anytime). What I would do is start at Queen West at Trinity Bellwoods park, head to Ossington, walk north on Ossington to Dundas, turn around and head south back to Queen on the opposite side of the street, continue west on Queen to Roncey and then head north on Roncey as far as you like.

        As for specific recs, Silver Spoon on Roncey for dinner, it's a must do, Cafe Bernate on Queen near Oss for sandwiches and pastries (and a v. cool vibe), do not miss the galleries on Oss for great local art and you're going to find a lot of good, local food and drink. Where are you visiting us from?

        12 Replies
        1. re: stapler

          we're planning to start from spadina/queen, work our way west to roncesvalles, head north, and then east on dundas.

          i am from toronto, but just a different neighbourhood (willowdale). I just want to know my Toronto more, that's all :)

          sounds like ossington is a must-visit! I'll put it in my itinerary, ha!

          1. re: stapler

            bernate has good scones but the croissants (or was it danishes..?) left a lot to be desired.

            1. re: pinstripeprincess

              hahaha, so critical on the croissants, pinstripeprincess~

              seems like dundas west will be just a waste land, lol~ I have put down exactly 20 places to visit. Thanks a lot people! I will see if we can survive past ossington :)

              1. re: oohlala

                there was a period of months where nearly every weekend was dedicated to trying croissants around the city... i think we hit nearly 20 places in the end. some of them were retried on basis of people's overwhelming opinions on their goodness. i even have the extra lb-age around the belly to prove it. so i've got opinions galore whether you agree or not ;)

                dundas west isn't a total wasteland! brazilian bakery and pho phuong... the interesting portugese stuff requires you to deal with a couple block of nothing though.

                1. re: pinstripeprincess

                  oh total brain freeze and now a recovery.... you must must must do a side by side tasting of natas around the city. venezia on ossington is certainly a reigning king but my favourite is still the brazilian bakery (varying sweetness and crispiness in the tart shell between the two) and there will always be the others... caldense, nova era...

                  1. re: pinstripeprincess

                    This is critical information... who won the croissant competition?!?
                    Inquiring minds want to know!

                    1. re: sway

                      winner: cigogne
                      secondaries: st honore (so buttery that you can keep them a couple days and pop them in the oven and they're still very good or their frozen ones you can proof and bake yourself), jules (for almond croissants only), pain perdu, wagamama

                      others tested in no particular order: david's by day, rahier, celestin, fleur de lys, petit paris, la bamboche, ma maison, wanda's pie in the sky, zane, clafouti, bonjour brioche, patachou, and probably a couple more that i just can't recall right now.

                      these are some descriptions of them, but this was started nearly a couple years back now and notably places like clafouti have changed and faltered incredibly since then.

                      1. re: pinstripeprincess

                        btw, these are photos of the frozen croissants.

                        1. re: pinstripeprincess

                          Awesome! Although I'm now sitting in my office ready to kill for a croissant...

                  2. re: oohlala

                    I couldn't think of much on dundas west, but if you head back along College (and they eventually meet at Roncey), then you get:
                    - la fromagerie
                    - Senhor Antonio's @ Chiado for Portugese tapas (might be 5:30ish and time for a snackie by the time you make it that far)
                    - Sicilian cafe for gelato
                    - and I know there are a couple of interesting bakeries and Italian groceries along that route too although I'm blanking on specific names right now.

                    College is actually becoming kind of interesting again!

                    1. re: Rabbit

                      College and Roncesvalles actually do not intersect. College merges with Dundas and then Roncesvalles merges with Dundas a bit further north. It's true Dundas West is not as trendy or chowish as the others areas mentioned however there are still a few decent places: Pho Phuong, Gauchos, She Takes the Cake, Multiple Organics, Lula Lounge.... and then east of Ossington you have Saving Grace, Ella's Uncle and Cafe 668. A plethora of options really.

                      I love exploring new neighbourhoods. Did that a few weeks back in the Junction and really loved it. I think two musts for this trip is dinner on Ossington at either Deluxe or Foxley and takeout for lunch/snack in Trinity Bellwoods Park. Mmmm. If it were up to me I'd be doing brunch at either Easy, Mitzis or B. Walking down Queen West and grabbing something from Clafouti to eat in the park. Window shopping and people watching along Queen West. Up to Ossington for some dinner and to She Takes the Cake for dessert. Sounds like a perfect day to me!

                      1. re: airsey

                        Ack! - sorry for my bad/misleading geography! I guess I'm suggesting taking the College Street branch at the intersect-y point of which you speak. Just another option. I'm kind of into College lately, and I've found the bit west of Ossington particularly interesting.

              2. A few more thoughts for your food-touristing:

                On Queen West -
                - The Healthy Butcher is worth a look (if you're into meat)
                - And Spice Trader is a pretty shop (
                )- definitely do pop into the Red Tea Box, even if just for window shopping. But if you decide to stay, remember to check out the carriage house behind the store... a pretty secret
                - and this might sound like a less adventurous suggestions, but if you need a cocktail, the SkyYard at the Drake is really a pretty place to sit (upstairs) with not-bad cocktails

                On Roncesvalles
                - The Queen of Tarts has pretty baked goods

                5 Replies
                1. re: Rabbit

                  If you do Ronccy, consider coming a bit north to the Junction (Dundas West). Lots of great new places to check out:

                  - Indian Kiss for fresh, healthy Indian take out
                  - Delight Chocolates - fantastic homemade truffles and ice cream
                  - Bars - Troubador and Margret for a drink
                  - The Sweet Potato and The Beet for organic groceries
                  - Rope In - tasty Caribbean food
                  - North of Bombay and Curry Twist for Indian
                  - Friendly Thai - if only for their $10 pitcher of Amsterdam beer special
                  - Cremra Coffee for fair trade coffees
                  - The Purple Onion for a hearty steak and eggs breakfast

                  1. re: LovesToEat

                    Also, if you're in Ronces, walk over to High Park, and check out the organic food market there on the weekends, behind the Grenadier restaurant. It's really nice.
                    And right at Ronces and Dundas West, there is an Ali Baba's which serves the best falafel, and great samosas.

                    1. re: noshthis

                      While I'm not convinced on the Ali Baba's recommendation, I admit I haven't been to that location and really shouldn't judge.

                      High Park is a lovely place for a wander - and it sounds like you might need it after all this eating you're planning!

                      If you're going right past it, I'd definitely recommend going into The Mercantile on Roncesvalles (near Geoffrey I believe) - not a restaurant, but a small shop with some nice spices/sweets/drinks/etc. The woman who runs it is great, too! They used to be located on College -- if you recognize the name.

                      Absolutely, get some nata tarts in Little Portugal. Yum yum yum. Even better heated up in a toaster oven with a bit of cinnamon on top, but straight out of the box on the street also suffices quite nicely.

                      Have fun!

                      1. re: thora

                        If you have a sweet tooth don't miss dufflet's Queen West - take home one of their cakes, or sit down for a slice. You won't regret it!

                    2. re: LovesToEat

                      a tibbit that most know about with the Purple Onion is that they got their start at the tulip. The owners of the Onion were cooks at the tulip before they opened on Keele and then moved to the larger location on dundas.

                  2. Despite the stormy weather, our trip still ended with a success. I am truly jealous of the residences @ Parkdale and Roncesvalles! Anyway, here is a little summary of our 15km trek (in chronological order)

                    Healthy Butcher - bought some mortadella and roast elk meat. Mortadella was on the fatter side and elk was extremely dry and gamey. We wrapped the two items together and worked extremely well! Great selection and service, will definitely go back.

                    NY sub - chicken satay wrap was the size of my SO's forearm. The food was extremely delicious! Spicy, flavourful and cheap! HOWEVER, DO NOT eat the whole belly buster if you are going on a eating tour. We had to skip most of the stores after the wrap, thanx, fickle, lol

                    Prague Fine Food Emporium - forced a plum butter danish, delicious, but still super full

                    Red Tea Box - Lovely lovely store. Didn't know the store was concerned with the copyright of their pastry. Got lectured when I snapped few pix of their dessert.

                    Oyster Boy - Started raining by the time we got to oyster boy. Despite the bursting belly, we sampled all 6 east coast oysters the store carries. Laid back but efficient service. Will go back :)

                    Tealish - Great selection of various brews. Toronto definitely needs more stores like this one.

                    Cafe Bernate - when i asked the server about scones, the waitress looked at me and asked me what is a scone. Love the ambience though

                    Drake - did not find the roasted cauliflower salad on the menu, so we left

                    Tibet Kitchen - at the time of arrival (~4pm), restaurant was about half full and most clients were tibetans. tried their chilli tripe, great chilli mix and the tripe is fresh, will definitely go back.

                    2 eastern european grocers on roncesvalles - if you see grandmas shopping at the place, you know you are at the right place. Bought some perogies to go, will sample them today.

                    Gauchos - only saw chickens in the roaster. Hopefully will see other type of cuts available in the future

                    Brazilian Bakery - amazing amazing pastry selection. Natas were truly fantastic. Only downside is that my server did not know what was in each pastry. She would just tell me "sugar" as the main ingredient for all desserts

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: oohlala

                      Sounds like a great day! I'm glad you enjoyed yourselves!
                      We are pretty lucky here...loads of fantastic food all around. It's so nice to hear that others appreciate it, too!

                      1. re: oohlala

                        if you go back to ny sub, i'm telling you... it's the lamb that seriously rocks the boat there.

                        i'm so glad you enjoyed brazilian bakery, i push them so hard here and i'm sure they get enough business but they are really quite excellent. it's sometimes unfortunate that they're so sugar heavy but it's a great excuse to get some coffee ;)