In recognition of my first year of living here, I’ve put together a list of my Toronto faves. Moving to Toronto has been a tough transition some days (especially those days between January and April) and I still get homesick for Seattle. I will take rain over snow any day and will argue with you for too long about it if you feel differently. Toronto may not have the mountains, tall evergreens or climate of Seattle but it still has other gems that can make living here more enjoyable (even in the winter). If you feel there is something missing from this list please leave a comment! I’m always looking for something new to love about Toronto!
Evergreen Brickworks Farmers Market
My favorite farmers market in the city, this market runs year round and is the real deal. You won’t find any reseller vendors here, everyone must sell their own grown produce or homemade products. If you’re lucky you’ll score some interesting locally grown produce that you won’t be able to find in any grocery store. I’ve scored salsify, Parisian carrots, black radishes, foraged mushrooms, and the best wild leeks here. If you love foraged foods, check out Forbe’s booth and make sure to try the pickled spruce tips. Take a stroll through the Evergreen store, which is a great spot to visit when looking for local, unique gifts for people. Also, make sure to stop at their cafe and pick up a breakfast biscuit with smoked trout – you’ll be coming back for more!
St. Lawerence Market
Best visited during the week, but just as good (but a lot busier) during Saturdays. This place has it all under one roof: cheese shops, bakeries, butchers, gourmet & specialty grocery stops and so much more. I come here whenever I am having a hard time finding an ingredient for a dish, or sometimes I make a visit just for inspiration for new dishes. I never leave without first buying a cut of cheese from one of the many cheesemongers (grey owl is always a crowd pleaser). Make sure to check out the downstairs, which has my favorite bakery and several great little gourmet grocery shops.
Toronto Community Acupuncture
Acupuncture was something that I had been wanting to try, but stayed away from due to cost concerns. Community acupuncture is done in a shared space; everyone is lounging in chairs and napping while receiving acupuncture. The treatments are applied to your legs, arms and head, which means that everyone can be comfortably clothed. I had no idea that community acupuncture existed, and I was skeptical to give it a try. Pricing is based on what you can afford. Turns out, I really enjoy going to a sunshine filled space located in Riverside and taking naps with strangers! I’ve noticed an improvement in my energy and stress levels since starting treatments.
MWM Fish Co.
During my years of living in the Pacific Northwest, I developed a love for seafood. Growing up in suburban Chicago, I had never the opportunity to experience fresh, great tasting fish. Before I found MWM, aka my local fishmonger, I felt as if I was reliving parts of my childhood with poor, overpriced seafood. When MWM Fish Co. opened in my neighborhood this past year it has been a game changer for our week night dinners. Stop by here during the week and pick up a fresh fish for dinner, along with local pastured eggs. They will fillet any fresh fish for you, and their prices are great for the quality.
This is my favorite place to go for lunch downtown. They have a menu full of inspired seasonal salads and bowls that are veggie packed, local and delicious. Their menu changes periodically, and everything is prepared fresh that day. Dishes are modern and inspired, often featuring pickled beets, fresh goat cheese, and tahini dressings. Grab a kombucha or chia pudding, you won’t be disappointed.
Waterfront Box Car Social
I am a sucker for a view. This trendy coffee shop has a great patio that opens up to views of the waterfront and a nice breeze on a hot summer day. They have great teas along with coffee, alcoholic drinks and light plates. Next door is a free art gallery, Power Plant, which can be hit or miss, but always weird and funky. Also next door to Box Car Social is the Harbourfront Centre store. This little shop carries upscale home goods and books from local artisans and writers making it a great place to visit when looking for gifts.
My only complaint about this amazing labyrinth of food is that it is too far away from me! The Cheese Boutique is so much more than another upscale cheese store. They have an overwhelming amount of spices, bottles of vinegar, oils, crackers, baked goods and fresh pastas. If you are looking to be inspired or recreate a difficult European recipe, this is your place. They specialize in European imported grocery goods along with cheese and dried meats, but they also have a great bakery and butcher counter. If you go here, you MUST go into the cheese cave and spend a few minutes connecting with the cheese filled space. It’s musty, it’s damp, it’s delightfully inspiring.
Ferry to Center Island
I love being on the water, and taking the ferry over to the island on a nice summer day is an inexpensive way to enjoy the lake. You’ll get great views of the city and it’s fun to watch the planes land at Billy Bishop. Pack a lunch and have a picnic on the island. Bring your bike and find a fairy tale spot to enjoy your lunch on the east end of the island. Most people only go to the centre of the island, which I find is really the lamest and most commercialize part. Bike or walk over to the east end and make an afternoon of getting out of the city without having to deal with traffic.
Tommy Thompson Park
Tommy Thompson Park was created from landfill that was removed in the 1970’s as the city began to undergo a construction explosion. It’s now been filled in with cottonwood and willow groves that provide habitat for birds and other wildlife. A road winds down the long peninsula, making it perfect for biking (sorry no cars). At the end of the trail is a lighthouse, but don’t get any romantic ideas about it, it resembles more of an antenna than something from a charming coastal town. The real view is the city skyline from this perspective. The “beach” here is comprised mainly of broken bricks and tiles. The water has been tumbling the rubble around for decades, making smooth edges and abstract shapes out of the bricks and tiles. It’s beautiful in its own way, but just be careful here, there is lots of exposed rebar and I’m sure other dangerous materials.
The Healthy Butcher
This local independent grocery store has two locations in the city, but the Englinton and Younge store has a lot more to offer. A great source of pastured, grass fed local meats and organic produce. They have their own production team that creates unique and delicious sausages, meat pies and burger creations. Great place to stock up on keto and Whole30 foods which can be hard to find in Canada. Best prices on Vital Proteins and Bulletproof in the city, along with other local products like Lee’s Ghee and Suzie’s Good Fats bars.