* * *Eating La Cubana If you ever wanted to experience 1950s-era Havana, La Cubana may be your ticket. Decked out in mosaic and turquoise-tiled floors and walls, these cozy eateries (there are two in the city’s west end) are a feast for the eyes but most importantly, the mouth: the menu features an array of Cuban-style sandwiches, plates and beverages like mango colada guava fizz. The guava BBQ short rib medianoche (a Cuban-style sandwich) is a BRIKA fave. Sukhothai There’s fierce competition for the tastiest Thai in the city, but Sukhothai takes the crown for our pick of the litter. Offering up tasty, traditional fare with differing levels of spiciness (“Thai spicy” is not for the faint of heart), the khao soi—a noodle dish with a rich, curry-like sauce—is a surefire hit. People’s Eatery Paying homage to the Jewish and Chinese history of its neighborhood and located squarely on Chinatown’s main strip, People’s Eatery’s celebration of Toronto as “the culture of all cultures” is reflected in its rotating menu of sumptuous offerings. From General Tao tofu to smoked fish platters, these plates are designed for sharing—good news for you, since you’ll want to sample the whole menu. Drinking – coffee Boxcar Social A coffee shop by day and a bar by night is certainly a novel idea, and in its current incarnation at Boxcar Social, it’s one that’s executed flawlessly. Offering a rotating list of coffee from a handpicked selection of North American roasters, the coffee is meticulously prepared in a city where getting your caffeine fix is an art form in itself. Fika You’ll be hard-pressed to find anything to dislike about Fika, from its welcoming baristas to the bright, Scandinavian-inspired space itself located in a turquoise-painted house. You won’t regret ordering the cardamom-spiced latte; the flavorful combination of espresso, steamed milk, cardamom bitters and cinnamon is worth the trip to Kensington Market alone. Merchants of Green Coffee Located in Toronto’s rapidly gentrifying east end, Merchants of Green Coffee boasts one of the most stunning spaces to enjoy a warm cuppa on a cold day (think soaring ceilings, wooden floors and an eclectic mix of furniture). Check out the neighboring East Room for an example of a co-working space done right. Drinking – cocktails Northern Belle Cozy and welcoming, Northern Belle is the perfect locale for an intimate, candlelit conversation over a delicious cocktail. The sister bar to the equally charming Northwood, across the street from Christie Pits on Bloor West. Thoroughbred Situated in Toronto’s entertainment district where you would otherwise expect supper clubs and chain restaurants, Thoroughbred is a true standout. Retrofitted in an old mansion, the restaurant offers a tasty selection of bites that will make you come for the food but stay for the cocktails. Impressively, they boast a handful of mouthwatering mocktails such as the Kwik-E-Mart, which combines mango, garam masala, tamarind, vanilla yogurt and cardamom. The Wren Head east on the Danforth through Greektown and you’ll be rewarded with The Wren, an always-busy saloon-style pub that offers a multitude of Ontario craft beers on tap and a southwestern-style cocktail list. Think drinks like the 1382, a tasty mix of pineapple infused pisco, anejo rum, lime and sage syrup. Outdoor spaces Evergreen Brickworks A self-titled community environmental center, the Brickworks is a multidisciplinary venue that boasts fun community initiatives like free kids’ cooking classes on the weekend, a Saturday farmers market, bike shop, classes, workshops and more. Formerly a factory that supplied the bricks and mortar for many well-known Toronto landmarks (such as Casa Loma and Osgoode Hall), the Brickworks backs onto bike trails, footpaths, ponds and a lookout point, perfect for leisurely weekend strolls. Trinity Bellwoods Toronto is pegged as a “city within a park,” and Bellwoods (as the locals call it) is one of the many green spaces that serve as a testament to this saying. Bordered by some of Toronto’s hippest arteries—Queen West, Dundas West and Ossington—you’ll find this sprawling green space teeming with picnickers, tennis players and dog walkers during the warmer summer months. If you’ve been privy to reports of the recent police crackdown on park-dwelling day drinkers, let us offer you perhaps the most Canadian solution ever: as one Reddit user pointed out, a tall can of beer fits perfectly in an XL Tim Hortons cup. Riverdale Park For arguably the best view of the city skyline, head to Riverdale Park around sunset and park a seat on the sloping hill to take it all in. Keep your eyes peeled for free outdoor movies that are shown here on Sunday nights during the summer months. Kid-friendly spots Red Fish Blue Fish Cafe This adorable spot in Toronto’s picturesque Annex neighborhood has plenty of amenities to offer for both parents and kids alike, from coffee to a craft table, free wifi to workshops. Artscape Wychwood Barns The Wychwood Barns is a community-run space on the St. Clair West strip, with a focus on sustaining the arts, urban agriculture and the environment. Saturdays see a cornucopia of fresh produce and yummy eats at their farmers market, with a great playground and splash pad for monkeying around in during the warmer months. Check out the Stockyards close by for one of the best burgers in the city. Terroni A veritable institution when it comes to Italian eating in the city, Terroni is a casual yet bustling Italian eatery with three different locations in the city’s west end, east end and midtown. If you go early, you won’t have to wait for a table, and they offer great menu options for kids such as spaghetti with plain tomato sauce. BRIKA product picks: Need more YYZ in your life? We've got you covered—the Toronto Smoke Candle from Smells Like Canada, the YYZ Tote Bag by Nicole Tarasick and the "You Remind Me of Home" Baby Onesie by Meera Lee Patel all hark back to Hogtown.
Artwork of Toronto map by BRIKA Maker Forest & Waves The New York Times has shown Canada a lot of love lately, with its recent, somewhat caustically-titled piece “With the Rise of Justin Trudeau, Canada Is Suddenly…Hip?” that highlights some of today’s coolest Canucks, and it prominently features Toronto as #7 in its list of 52 Places to Go in 2016. As you may already know, the BRIKA standalone shop is also home to our Toronto office on the downtown Queen West strip, and we happen to think this city is pretty cool, too (we’ve known that for a while now, but we’re happy the NYT is now in on the secret!). The latter NY Times piece spotlights the newly revitalized Queen’s Quay bike and pedestrian paths along Lake Ontario as well as the up-and-coming west end neighborhood The Junction, named after the four railway lines that intersect in the area. Albeit flattering, the brief write-up excludes many points that are the city’s buzziest and best, so we’ve outlined them for you below in our definitive guide to the top spots in the city. Did we forget to include one of your favorites? Be sure to let us know in the comments below, or on social media @shopbrika.