Is this up-and-coming Toronto area the next Ossington strip?

Bloordale is emerging as one of the city's hottest destinations

If you stand at the corner of Bloor and Lansdowne, sometimes the air actually smells like chocolate.

Over on Sterling Road, sharing the street with Henderson Brewing, the Drake Commissary and MOCA, is the Nestle factory where they make Smarties, Kit Kats, Coffee Crisps and Aeros.

Though it’s not open to the public, if you are craving sweets there are some good options in this emerging ’hood bordered by Brockton village and the Junction triangle, and affectionately named Bloordale.

One of those sweet options is the Lansdowne Cone, an outpost that has become a classic for local residents. Owner Denise Soueidan-O’Leary is a big part of the community, with a spot on the board of the BIG On Bloor festival as well as involvement with the business improvement area (BIA) and community improvement area (CIA) for Bloordale.

“We, as a social enterprise, have been in the community for five years, and the Bloordale now is way different than the Bloordale of 20 years ago. Young people, families, new businesses, community,” she says.

Soueidan-O’Leary fits right in with that sense of community. She even went to high school with Alex Wallen, one of the owners of the area’s hottest new restaurant, Sugo.

 

Bloordale
A towering plate of pasta at Sugo

Cool restaurants

Run by Wallen and Connor Joerin (who also both happen to be former boxers), Sugo has become the place to go for North American red sauce–style Italian, with a boisterous atmosphere and affordable food.

Another restaurant making waves is Alma, a few blocks east. Here, chef Anna Chen has created a small menu of Asian-influenced Italian, in a quiet refined space.

Looking for more? Well there’s Donna’s, a couple of blocks north of Bloor on Lansdowne, which has created quite the buzz, drawing guests from all over the city. People have been attracted to this no-frills spot, run by ex-Momofuku staff, for its simple ingredient–focused lunch and dinner, with no-nonsense unobtrusive hospitality.

For brunch, look no further than Baddies, where you’ll often see a lineup — Torontonians sure are obsessed with brunch. What’s even better is that brunch is offered mid-week for the freelancers and shift workers who prefer to brunch on days that are not Saturday and Sunday.

There are many other food options in the neighbourhood, and with parking easy and plentiful, it is a great area to just explore and find what you didn’t know you were looking for. You will stumble across African, Mexican and Jamaican establishments, and so much more.

Oh, and dessert! We hinted earlier and would be remiss not to mention the Lansdowne Cone and Emmy’s Ice Cream, with the former including a scoop of empowerment. The Lansdowne Cone offers a training program for people with barriers to employment, forging a real sense of community and giving back.

Coffee and cocktails

Being an affordable (by Toronto standards) neighbourhood to live in, it’s easy to find young people out and about in the area. During the day they can be found in various coffee shops, including industry-leading Propeller.

Known as one of the better coffee roasteries in Toronto, and shipping its beans all over North America, the team at Propeller lead the way as community members. Propeller is a sustainability-focused business that also supports the Stop Community food centre.

Beyond Propeller, be sure to check out Wallace Espresso, Café Neon or Home Baking Co. (don’t leave without a slice of cake) — all are tasty options.

Now that caffeine is covered, it’s time for cocktails. Spots like Grey Tiger (also a vegan snack bar and bakery by day), Three Speed or the 47 are great for pints and tipples. They all sport very different vibes, with something for everyone, much like Bloordale itself.

 

Bloordale
A look inside Dead Dog Records

Vintage shops

For the treasure hunters, Kensington Market has nothing on Bloordale, which is its own treasure chest for vintage shopping. The area boasts no fewer than six shops, including a large Value Village, which could easily be the best one in the GTA.

The winner however is Final Touch, where shoppers will find everything ’90s and more, with an ever-changing stock of goodies.

Another favourite is Uncle Vintage with its large streetwear selection. If garage chic is more your style, head over to Ransack the Universe, though you may want to pass if hoarding is not your thing (or is your kryptonite). Lastly, for the vinyl collectors, make a trip to Dead Dog Records and Zoinks to find both new and hard-to-find  vintage vinyl gems.

Artsy venues

Another highlight of Bloordale is its community of artists, and contemporary galleries abound. Of course there’s the aforementioned MOCA, but the ’hood is also home to the Daniel Faria Gallery, Clint Roenisch Gallery, Scrap Metal Gallery, Gallery TPW, Robert Kananaj Gallery and a community theatre and venue called Collective Studio. There are definitely some very talented artists in this city, and who doesn’t like a good gallery schmooze?

 

Bloordale

Eco-friendly attitudes

Another cool find on a recent walkabout was Saponetti, which boasts an assiduous zero waste, zero emissions philosophy through its soap and detergent refill and delivery business. This forward-thinking company reuses glass packaging, and bulk buys its products in order to have the most minimal impact on the environment possible. Bravo! The product list is vast and can help you take care of your household, including your pets, in as green a fashion as possible.

Collabs and community

Rounding out the Bloordale esthetic is a coworking space on Wallace, located next to Halo Brewery, demonstrating that this area is very up-and-coming.

Lab T.O. is a bright and open space for entrepreneurs and digital nomads to set up shop and form a sense of community with like-minded people.

That sense of community is something Soueidan-O’Leary loves most about the area.

“One of my most favourite memories was the first time a couple of young siblings came to the [ice cream] parlour with cash, all by themselves without parents. That, to me, is the marker of healthy community: that families feel comfortable to let their kids explore their surroundings independently,” she says.

“There’s trust there. There’s safety there. There’s community here in Bloordale.”