Before heading to Toronto early last month, I had already heard about the city’s coolest neighborhood, West Queen West, and was eager to explore it firsthand. For those unfamiliar with what Vogue deems the world’s second hippest neighborhood, it’s basically a one-stop-shop for everything trendy. I toured the area on a rainy afternoon and even with overcast skies, I found myself returning the next day to search for more hidden gems. Here you’ll find a slew of independent shops, cafes that double as boutiques, themed bars and farm-to-table restaurants. There’s also a very strong artistic presence here, as seen through the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art (MOCCA) and various artist studios and galleries.
I was lucky enough to have a pretty fantastic tour guide, Betty Ann Jordan, Founder of Art InSite, who lives and breathes the neighborhood. She knew exactly where to go and even gave me cheat-sheets to remember all the places we visited. Before starting our trek through West Queen West, she walked me through the MOCCA and gave me some background into the neighborhood’s art community.
First off, the West Queen West Art + Design District was historically a working-class area and while gentrification is taking place, it still feels authentic and has managed to keep its bohemian appeal. The district takes up about 15 short blocks on Queen St. West between Bathurst St. and Gladstone Avenue and is mainly comprised of art galleries, indie fashion and design boutiques, resto-bars, music shops and everything in between.
One of our first stops was the BYOB Cocktail Emporium pictured below. I could have easily spend an hour inside the shop but I just did a quick walkthrough. I was so smitten with this store not only because it sold all different kinds of cocktail glasses, syrups and bitters but because I can’t think of another place like it. It also gave me some serious inspiration to throw an elaborate cocktail party in New York and show off my non-existent bartending skills. Whether you’re a bitters fan or not, I suggest sniffing a few at the counter to imagine what it might taste like. They also have great wineglass chandeliers.
Similar to the Kensington Market neighborhood I wrote about last week, West Queen West has a slew of vintage stores. I Miss You Vintage (63 Ossington Avenue) sells high-end, collectible women’s vintage, including couture and really cool accessories. Head to Cabaret Vintage (672 Queen Street West) for garb from the 1940s-70s including bridal and cocktail dresses. If you’re a fan of leather, go to Doc’s Leathers (726 Queen Street West) for both new and old motorcycle clothes and accessories. It’s housed in 2-floor museum of motorcycling memorabilia.
Megan Eileen McDonough
Megan Eileen McDonough is a New York City-based freelance writer the founder of Bohemian Trails, a blog covering global lifestyle trends for the savvy and stylish traveler. Her cultural escapades have taken her to Europe, Latin America, Asia, the Middle East and across the United States. Megan’s work has appeared on Lonely Planet, Fodor’s, US Airways and USA Today among others.