Queen Street West is arguably Toronto’s coolest neighourhood. Even Vogue magazine says so (Yes, we Torontonians love outside validation). Though Queen Street West east of Spadina Ave. has lost some of its cool factor due to the opening of big chain stores in recent years, the western part of the neighbourhood is still full of unique and trendy establishments (the area I’m describing is actually considered West Queen West, but let’s not get too technical). So what should you check out in this hip neighbourhood? This is your ultimate guide.
Where to go for the classic brunch: The Drake Hotel
The Drake Hotel is one of the pioneers of cool in this neighbourhood. It helped establish Queen Street West as a not-to-miss destination. This institution serves one of the finest brunches in Toronto. Don’t forget to order the chicken and waffles; I guarantee it’s one of the best in the city.
Where to satisfy your sweet tooth: Nadege
What started out as a Queen Street West independent patisserie is now a mini-chain in the city. I think this original store still has the best ambiance being next to Trinity Bellwoods Park. Nadege offers a wide variety of macarons, cakes, and chocolates that will sure to satisfy your sweet cravings.
Where to hangout and people watch: Trinity Bellwoods Park
There’s something for everyone at this perfectly located and spacious park. But one of the best things to do here on a nice sunny day is to bring a picnic and people watch (or dog watch!). Bonus if you spot one of the legendary and rare white squirrels that roam this park.
Where to buy beautiful things: Old Faithful Shop
Since opening in 2015, this Vancouver import has become one of the most popular Instagram spots in this neighbourhood. The interior of this general store is simply beautiful. Besides the eye-catching design, the store actually offers a diverse collection of items, from functional ones like Opinel folding knives from France to artisanal Mast Brothers chocolates from Brooklyn, New York.
Where to get cool Canadiana items: Drake General Store
Located across from the Drake Hotel, this new flagship location is bigger and better. Here, you’ll find cool Canadiana items from sweatshirts to luggage tags. This location even has a barbershop and a café.
Where to fuel up: Early Bird Espresso
No doubt there are plenty of independent coffee shops on Queen Street West. However, Early Bird Espresso has the most relaxing vibe. This cool spot has plenty of seating from communal to individual tables. The coffee can be perfectly paired with their vegan cookies.
Where to get your Japanese goodies: Sanko
Who doesn’t like Pocky?! Last time I checked, this store stocks 14 (!) flavours of Pocky! You can also buy sushi grade fish here and other Japanese cooking essentials.
Where to get your poke fix: Pokito
Poke is Toronto’s newest food obsession. This spot has a nice sunny atmosphere. Pokito’s generous bowls are full of flavour. They also offer a wide variety of creative toppings to choose from. Don’t forget to try their sushi burrito and the tasty Dole whip float.
Where to take pictures: Graffiti Alley
This alley runs south of Queen Street West between Spadina Ave. and Portland Street. Here you’ll find some of the best street arts in the city. The colourful murals are the perfect backdrops for your next profile picture!
Where to take someone on date: The Good Son
One of the best things about Queen Street West is the endless choice of restaurants for dinner dates. But, The Good Son has this distinct atmosphere that’s suitable for a romantic meal. The space is dimly lit with antique décor. The menu focuses on local and seasonal produce and hormone free proteins.
Where to have late night drinks and snacks: Bar Fancy
This non-descript spot offers some of the best bar snacks in the city! Their patty melt is the best I’ve ever tried and their fried chicken is pretty awesome too. Plus, the kitchen is open late! Although the drink menu is simple, the service is fantastic. There’s no sign outside the bar and the entrance is hidden in an alley so look out for the glowing neon tiger as you walk down the street.
Where to try Filipino food: La Mesa Filipino Kitchen
Do yourself a favour and try Filipino cuisine! La Mesa is the first restaurant to offer modern Filipino dishes in the city. For those unfamiliar with this cuisine, La Mesa is a great spot to try it for the first time. Expect to be impressed with bold flavours and unique dishes.