Toronto is full of hidden surprises, from unusually placed galleries in forgotten warehouses to the occasional suspicious speakeasy. Unearthing some of these gems of establishments require careful excavation, (like navigating through a sketchy unmarked alleyway) others are often hidden in plain sight, overlooked and harrowingly underrated. Here’s our list the best places to search for in Toronto when you’re feeling particularly adventurous.
Monkey’s Paw | 1267 Bloor St W
Monkey’s Paw is an enchanting shop filled with rare books and artifact prints from the mid 20th century. While you’re here take a stab at the Biblo-Mat, a machine that adds a sense of excitement to the standard dollar bin, dispensing a vintage book at random for only $2.
BYOB Cocktail Emporium | 20 Kensington Ave.
This shop has us shaken, not stirred. Or as the millennials would say, “shook.” BYOB Cocktail Emporium is the perfect spot for that budding mixologist in your life. Looking for Absinthe Sugar? Score. How about some Black Walnut Bitters? You’ll find it here and much more. Cheers to that.
I Have A Crush On You | 51 Jefferson Ave.
Shimmy up the stairs to a second story unit in Liberty Village and you’ll come across this cheeky little gift shop. I Have A Crush On You is filled to the brim with novelty trinkets, cute prints and rare designer goods like the occasional set of ostrich pillows.
The Cloak | 488 Wellington St. E.
In a stairwell in between Marben’s bar and kitchen is a speakeasy with a myriad of savoury drinks, well intended to whet your whistle. Options include your standard mixed drinks as well as a few unique creations named after famous Brits: Churchill, Mr. Bean and Banksy.
PG Clucks | 610 College St.
Who doesn’t love fried chicken? Especially fried chicken that’s submerged for a cool 24 hours in a tasty herb and lemon brine. Find this lil’ family-owned gem is tucked away between The Royal and Birreria Volo with a modest sign titled: FRIED CHICKEN SANDWICHES.
Schmaltz Appetizing | 414 Dupont St.
Do you like smoked fish, bagels and caviar? Well mosey on down to this spot in The Annex inside a reimagined barn behind Fat Pasha. Chef Anthony Rose will upgrade your humble bagel with gefilte fish flavored cream cheese and some delectable beetroot horseradish.
Northern Contemporary Gallery | 1266 Queen W.
Stashed away in the historic Ushers Grocers Warehouse is a space that aims to promote Toronto’s thriving art scene. Northern Contemporary Gallery focuses mainly on illustrative works as well as art pop, comic, experimental works. Support your local Toronto art scene!
Eye Love Brow And Beauty Bar | 793 Queen St. W.
Blink and you might miss it. This hidden gem is tucked away on the second floor of a loft space shared with Lebel and Crowe on Queen West. Let Eye Love’s owner Mary Dang and her crew of exceptionally trained artists shape your brows into a thing of beauty.
SP184 | 184 Ossington Ave.
In a back alley behind a pizzeria, you’ll encounter a glowing purple light and a door simply marked SP184. Enter at your own risk to discover another world. Yet this world is not that of science fiction dreams but of Monday night DJ sets and a variety of tasty local craft brews on tap within the realm of a repurposed garage.
Sourced and Salvaged |246 Gerrard St. E.
No mass-produced items here. A great spot for those vintage design gurus who are fixated on reclaimed or repurposed furniture and decor with that uber-hip industrial look.
Tiny Record Shop | 804 Queen St. E.
Tucked in the back of Token (an ultra hip gift and stationery shop in the east end) lies Tiny Record Shop, dreamed up by head of Paper Bag Records, Trevor Larocque and his wife Maude Fallon-Davesne. Expect a well-curated and inviting collection of new releases, local Canadiana and even some rare European imports.
Lake Inez | 1471 Gerrard St. E.
Enjoy Filipino cuisine in a dreamy scene, underneath dimly lit chandeliers and in view of gorgeous hand-painted mural. Lake Inez is a newly conceived pan-Asian gastropub on Toronto’s east end by co-owners Zac Schwartz, Dennis Kimeda and Patrick Ciappara. Try their exquisite Braised Mussels in a Filipino sinigang (smoked ham-hock and tamarind broth) dreamed up by Chef Robbie Hojilla, along with a craft beer off of their 24-rotating tap list.
Crazy Doll House | 37 Bertmount Ave
For cool and quirky Toronto treasures, this fine house makes the list. Check out this little gem on one of your next strolls through Leslieville. You won’t regret it.
Circus Books & Music | 866 Danforth Ave.
Head over to this spot on the Danforth filled to the brim with a massive collection of hand picked books and vintage vinyl. You’ll be happy you stopped by.