Toronto's East Side neighbourhood of Riverside is quickly on the rise with a fast-growing food and culture scene in the once sleepy pocket of downtown Toronto. The area has seen an abundance of new restaurants open up in the past two years, and will soon become home to the new (and much anticipated) Broadview Hotel at the corner of Queen and Broadview. But there's no need to wait until its grand opening to visit the area that stretches from the Don Valley Parkway to Logan Avenue, Eastern Avenue to Gerrard street, because there's already a growing number of local businesses that have helped to gentrify the area, in a very good (and welcomed) way. As a local resident in the neighbourhood, here's my guide to 10 of my favourite spots in the area.
1. Dark Horse Espresso Bar
The opening of the first ever Dark Horse location (nearly 10 years ago) in a small corner space at Queen Street East and Hamilton was one of the first signs of change to come in the area. Today, Dark Horse has multiple locations across Toronto (and still some of the best coffee) and has moved their Queen East location to a newer and bigger space just a few doors down. In my opinion, they have the best iced Americano in the city.
Location: 630 Queen St East http://www.darkhorseespresso.com
2. East Room
When it comes to shared workspaces in Toronto, there is no question that the team behind the East Room, located at 50 Carroll Street, are changing, and leading, the game. The loft-like space is filled with incredible mid-century furniture and decor, and is occupied by some of the city's most exciting, and successful, creatives. There's a good chance you'll want to join even if it's just to hang out.
Location: 40 Carroll Street http://eastroom.ca/
3. Lady Marmalade
Brunch is taken very seriously here in Toronto, and as much as some line ups seem unnecessary, it's always totally understandable when it comes to Lady Marmalade. This breakfast hot spot is a staple of the Riverside neighbourhood, and it's even hard to get a seat without having to wait on any day of the week. But with their fresh Mexican-inspired breakfast options, made with top quality ingredients, who wouldn't want to eat there every morning? This place is a must.
Location: 898 Queen Street East http://ladymarmalade.ca/
4. The Tiny Record Shop
For any music lover out there, a stop at Tiny Record Shop is absolutely necessary. Even if it's only to see for yourself just how tiny it is. Tiny Record shop is located at the back of the Token gift shop, which also connects to the consignment clothing shop, Common Sort. I love that because these three shops are connected together, there's always something for everyone to look at, even when you're travelling as a pack.
Location: 804 Queen Street East http://www.tinyrecordshop.com/
5. Boxcar Social
A newer addition to the neighbourhood's local coffee scene, Boxcar Social chose Riverside for the location of their second shop (the first being in Summerhill) and opened up last May. Their new second location offers more space than their original spot, and features a slow bar, floor-to-ceiling wine racks and a full draught beer system. No matter what you're looking for to quench your thirst, there's a good chance you'll find what you need here.
Location: 4 Boulton Avenue http://www.boxcarsocial.ca/
6. Sweet Jesus
The city's craze for ice cream most definitely does not stop at the DVP bridge, and east side residents are lucky enough to have a mini output for those coveted Sweet Jesus treats, available at the Queen East location of La Carnita. Bonus: you can eat some of the best tacos and ice cream in the city in one spot.
Location: 780 Queen Street East http://www.sweetjesus4life.com/
7. Pulp Kitchen
- It isn't all brunching and decadent sweet treats in Riverside, there are healthy options too. Pulp Kitchen is a staple of the neighbourhood and offers fresh-made juice from their juice bar, super salads and even mason jars of homemade soup for when you need a big ol' hug at home. Don't miss their $12 lunch combo during the week, or their 3-day juice cleanse if you're in need of a detox.
Location: 717 Queen Street East http://pulpkitchen.ca
Tabule is middle eastern cuisine at its finest, and trendiest. This gorgeous restaurant has been a welcomed addition to the neighbourhood, as you'll quickly note from the bustling atmosphere every night of the week. This is a fantastic spot to know for date night, or even a relaxed get-together with family and friends. I'd tell you what to order, but everything is good.
Location: 810 Queen Street East: http://tabule.ca
Although it’s technically part of Leslieville, I'm including Yogathletix on this list because it's only 3 doors west of Logan Street, which is Riverside's official cut off. Yogathletix is a new and bright yoga and fitness studio that offers everything from spinning to baare class. Of course, they also specialize in a more athletic take on yoga too.
Location: 911 Queen Street East http://yogathletix.com
10. The Opera House
The Opera House is certainly no new addition to the Queen East strip. In fact, it's a staple of the area, and Toronto's music scene. If attending an up-coming show isn't on your list of to-dos, don't miss the chance to check they recently renovated Opera House Grill and Patio for a bit on a shady, corner patio right on Queen.
Location: 785 Queen Street East http://theoperahousetoronto.com