By Sherri Telenko
It’s the end of prohibition. The 21st century marked a milestone in the history of Toronto, Canada’s west-end Junction neighborhood: Restaurants such as Vesuvio Pizzeria & Spaghetti House, established in 1957, at 3010 Dundas Street West can now serve alcohol.
That’s right! Until 2001, The Junction (defined by Dundas Street West, Keel Street, Bloor Street, and Runnymede Road) in Toronto, Ontario, Canada was dry. And for 40 years, the Pugliese family and owners of Vesuvio—the city’s first pizzeria—lobbied to change that since they (wisely) believe that every adult should be allowed to drink wine with pasta and beer with pizza.
These days the customers of Vesuvio can do just that. As a result, The Junction is posed to be the next trendy hub. Gradually, restaurants, coffee shops and niche boutiques are filling storefronts and some empty industrial space in this up-and-coming neighborhood, formally home to Canada’s largest stockyards.
If you find yourself in Toronto, and tire of the usual downtown Eaton Centre, Yonge Street or CN Tower, head to the neighborhoods. Toronto’s defined by them. The most up-and-coming option among them is The Junction in the west end.
The Junction’s gradual gentrification is attracting new condo builds such as The Heintzman (named after the former piano manufacturer), and young families pushing trendy strollers past home décor outlets and stores such as Snug as a Bug, which is Canada’s leading supplier of adult and children’s onesies. And yes, I own one.
Snug as a Bug is behind a small 3020 Dundas Street storefront and it’s filled with retro kid’s toys and accessories as well as the manufacturing and distribution center. The company specializes in full-body footed sleepwear for the whole family—children, men, women and even the dog (though not with feet)—can wrap up in colorful quirky fleece bodysuits, not appropriate for the humorless. Every Snug as a Bug sold anywhere in the world (and they are shipped worldwide) originates here in The Junction.
Appropriately this neighborhood, once a thriving manufacturing area and railway junction in the early 20th century, is becoming a magnet for ‘micro manufacturing’—smaller companies repurposing or subdividing larger former industrial buildings, now too large for one business—and home décor, which is appropriate considering The Junction was once home to large-scale furniture production.
Attracted by the lower retail rents, compared to other parts of Toronto, repurposed and handcrafted furniture and décor companies are finding a home in The Junction, including Post and Beam Reclamation at 2869 Dundas Street West full of salvaged architectural details like doors, tin ceiling tiles, wrought iron fences and antique window frames.
Down the street, M+Co. specializes in one-of-a-kind Canadian vintage pieces and recently added a Moroccan flair to the front of the shop. Unique to the store is a home fragrance line blending lemongrass, lavender and sweet lime.
For a nosh and a pint, head one street over to the Cider House, 391 Roncesvalles Avenue, purveyors of Ontario ciders in a variety of forms and flavors. But wait. You’re thinking, doesn’t everyone drink beer in Canada—especially post-prohibition?
Almost, but cider is the new wine cooler (though I doubt they’d like that comparison). The line up on tap changes frequently, so ask for a flight of ciders. If possible try the 401 Gatsby from Picton and Reinhart’s Apples from Stayner, Ontario. In keeping with the Canadian theme, poutine is the specialty and you can get a flight of that, too. I recommend pairing it with cod cakes.
One of my favorite places to spend an evening is back along Dundas Street West (2866) is Pinot Palette—yes, that Pinot’s Palette with franchise locations across the U.S. The spacious storefront operation along Dundas Street in Toronto is Canada’s first and it’s here you can sit down for two hours and paint a masterpiece. Well, paint something anyway, thanks to the guidance of a teacher walking you through the not quite paint-by-numbers process to create the evening’s selected image. Plus, there’s wine in The Junction.
– Photos by Sherri Telenko
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