Cabbagetown is a tale of two cities: the rich and the poor. It is the largest continuous area of charming preserved Victoria housing in North America and it is home to one of the city’s most notorious housing projects: Regent Park.
The neighbourhood, like all Toronto neighbourhoods has experienced a lot of change through the years. It was born as a working class neighbourhood, home to many of the men working on the industrialized waterfront and in the distillery. Many of the residents were poor Irish immigrants, who according to legend would grow cabbage in their front yards as a form of sustenance.
Aerial photograph of Cabbagetown in the former “St. David’s Ward” (including area later developed as Regent Park), 1942
It was a prestigious neighbourhood in the years before the First World War and then in the 1930s it dipped down again and was even referred to as the slums of Toronto.
And now things are changing again for Cabbagetown. Those historic Victorian homes are priced in the millions and Regent Park is undergoing a revitalization that promises to breathe new life into the neighbourhood.
While it’s not all rainbows, sunshine and soaring house values, Cabbagetown is definitely a lovely place to spend the day. Here are some great spots:
Jet Fuel Coffee
Strong coffee, no decaf, cyclists welcome, rock’n’roll blasting, and no bullshit. That is what Jet Fuel is and has been for the last 18 years. It’s an institution in Cabbagetown, so take it or leave it.
Absolute Bakery is a French and Sri Lankan bakery. For the former, expect croissants and breads. And for the latter, feast on savoury fish buns or roti. This spot has absolutely no seating so grab your goodies to go and continue on with your day.
Just three blocks east of Parliament and Winchester is s 7.5-acre working farm. Here you’ll find historic farm buildings, herb and butterfly gardens and even farm animals. The farm is open year round, seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free.
Riverdale Farmers Market
Torontoians love a good farmer’s market. Since the Riverdale Farmers Market actually happens on a farm, it’s the ultimate. Right now isn’t the right time of year to catch the market but it will be back in May, running Tuesdays from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. until October.
If you’re a west-ender, maybe you’ve been to Khao San Road on Adelaide or Pai on Duncan and proclaimed it to be the best Thai food of your life. You’d be correct because those are two parts of the burgeoning Thai restaurant empire run by Jeff and Nuit Regular. Sukhothai in Cabbagetown is where it all started. It is tiny and lacks the bells and whistles of its sister restaurants, but it is the O.G. and it is small but mighty. It is also a great place to stop for lunch on your perfect day in Cabbagetown.
By dbking from Washington, DC (IMG_2730 Uploaded by Skeezix1000) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
You could book a tour with the Cabbagetown Preservation Association to get the lay of the land. Or you could set off on your own. Two highlights that you must hit in this neighbourhood is a stroll down Sackville Street – the Victorian houses there will take you back in time. And a trip to the Necropolis, which is a beautiful Victorian gothic cemetery, resting place to William Lyon Mackenzie and Jack Layton among others.
By dbking from Washington, DC (IMG_2795 Uploaded by Skeezix1000) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Labour of Love
It would be hard to walk by Labour of Love’s charming storefront and not be tempted to stop in. They sell handmade jewellery, beautiful paper goods, gifts, and kitsch. It is definitely a necessary stop.
Sourced and Salvaged
If you are looking for reclaimed antiques, or upcycled furniture, Sourced & Salvaged is a source for design that believes everything old is new again. It is new to Cabbagetown and it is a one man operation so hours are strange. Pop in Tuesday to Sunday between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m.
One of the best Italian restaurants in the city isn’t even in Little Italy. F’Amelia specializes in Northern Italian food and serves it up in a cozy house turned restaurant in Cabbagetown. Try the gnocchi. It is melt in your mouth deliciousness.