Exploring Toronto’s Leslieville

One of the best things about having lived away from Toronto for the last seven years is that a lot has changed in the time that I’ve gone, particularly neighbourhoods. I happen to love urban gentrification, provided it’s on the organic side and isn’t too heavy on the displacement of people. I love the transformation of neighbourhoods, because it means there’s constantly new areas to explore. Selfish? Sure. But for my a.d.d. urban adventurer mind, it’s ideal.

While I was gone, people started talking about this place called Leslieville, and how it was ‘up-and-coming’. Well, friends, that’s not the stage I like to explore. I like to explore at the ‘has-arrived…but-only-just’ stage, so I ignored the flurry of Leslieville praise. Until now.

Leslieville is in Toronto’s ‘fly-over’ zone. It’s east of the river, which is a strike against it. People really only go east of the river to hit up the yummy Danforth (Greektown) and totally lovely The Beach (or The Beaches. Debate all you want.), which is further east along Queen. Most people I knew didn’t stop in Leslieville…what was the point?

Now, my friends, there are many points worth stopping for in Leslieville. We headed down there on a somewhat mild Toronto Sunday to check the place out. Most of where we went was food-related (surprised?).

Brunch in LeslievilleBrunch…well, lunch, really, was at Lil’Baci, a cool place that didn’t have nearly as big a line up as Lady Marmalade a few doors down. Winner by default. Anyway, the service was poor, but the food was really good. Sadly, the grilled cheese sandwich that was listed on the menu outside wasn’t on the actual menu (fail), but the Italian BLT with prosciutto was pretty fine. Egg-lovers: they have this baked egg thing that looked like a lasagne…everyone was ordering and going ape over it. Just wanted to keep you in the loop.

Leslieville Cheese Market has a number of locations, but it’s always nicest to go to the original, non? Aside from their gorgeous cheeses, they make some really lush looking dips, including spinach and artichoke and some crazy sounding hummus. They also do grilled cheese sandwiches of all sorts – one has bacon in it…I know – and have nooks and crannies full of goodies to take home. They also do cheese classes some evenings. See you there.

We headed into the Bone House thanks to the adorable French Bulldog, Sam, chillin’ in the window. How could I not go in and visit?! This great little dog store sells 100% eco-friendly stuff, and predominately Canadian-made goods, so I’m glad I found it. They also have a cute little baked goods display, thus Morgs was pretty pleased when I brought home a peanut butter cup for him.

Red hot chili chocolate and coconut gelatoI’d been told that some of the best ice cream and gelato in the city could be found at Ed’s Real Scoop. Excellent. We walked up to it, and the whole place smelled like fresh waffle cones…brilliant start. The selection was beautiful, and even though they didn’t have the maple bacon ice cream they list on their website (sadface), the red hot chili chocolate gelato was ridiculous. It totally reminded me of Mexican hot chocolates, and that burn you get at the back of your throat. Kudos to Ed’s for that, and for the coconut gelato and the chocolate orange ice cream. I’ll be seeing you again. And again. And likely again.

Aside from all the wicked food, the other things I liked about Leslieville are:

– plethora of dogs

– minimal screaming children (except for in the ice cream store, but I suppose that’s allowed…you’d scream too if you saw the selection)

– people are normal and unassuming, not ‘trendy’ and ‘cool’

– for a nice Sunday afternoon, it wasn’t too busy

– it really feels like a community. Nathalie-Roze & Co, a little indie-vintage boutique was doing a Japan fundraiser + bake sale, and a lot of people in there all knew each other. It just had a community vibe to it…and the baked treats looked delish.

Thanks go to Jason of TourGuys for recommending some of these places, and for inspiring me to hit up Leslieville. Hopefully I’ll prompt some of you to jump over the river and do some exploring…as long as I can come with!

3 Comments Add yours

  1. nancyfrancis says:

    Great post – but I’m a bit surprised about your comments about ‘east of the River’. If you claim to love Toronto, aren’t you missing half of it but eliminating everything the Don cuts off from downtown? I hardly think that particular geographic ‘blight’ for the area counts as a strike.

    1. Hi Nancy, it really was more of a personal opinion, considering I used to live north of the city and once I was downtown, the last thing I wanted to do was trek further out…also, I moved away from the city when I was 18, so up until that age, exploring out of the confines of certain areas was challenging. Growing up I had a friend living in the Beach(es) and would visit her often, but never really stopped elsewhere to the east (except the Danforth). However, this post was meant to show that Leslieville totally proved me wrong and that it’s worth heading over the river because there’s a lot of awesome over there. I’ve ventured back to Leslieville a few times since writing this post and intend to continue doing so. It’s been great since I moved back to explore areas I never used to go to, and opening my mind to once ignored areas (ie. east of the Don) – it’s making me fall in love with Toronto all over again! Do you have any recommendations that I didn’t mention in the post? I’d love to have more places to check out :) Thanks for your comment; it showed I needed to clarify myself a bit.

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