Hey guys! Toronto here. Fourth largest city in North America. You would NOT believe what happened to us the other day! So, basically, our mayor went on TV and admitted to, you know, smoking crack cocaine while he was ham-blasted one time…and apparently the police have a video of him doing it, but he’s totally not going to resign because, well, this is America! Goddammnit!
You know, that old chestnut.
Anywho, I’m sure you guys have read all about it so I’ll keep this gravy train moving. The bottom line is this: Toronto has a ton of non-crack related fun to offer to its visitors, and it’d be a real shame to let some teeny-weeny rock-slinging mayoral scandal convince people otherwise.
So, if you find yourself in town (which you should) and you somehow manage to avoid all the ravenous drug dens and street needles, I suggest checking out a few of these spots.
1. Kensington Market
In between Chinatown and Little Italy is Kensington Market, Toronto’s infamous bohemian hood. It’s similar to London’s Camden Town, but with better food and a more neighborly composure. It’s perfect for weekend wandering and don’t be afraid to return in the evening for dinner at Torito Tapas Bar, where you can snack on some bacon-wrapped stuffed date pintos. Williamsburg ain’t got shit on our appies.
David Chang. So hot right now. Chang. The NYC celebri-chef recently opened up his three-restaurant/three-story oasis on the edge of the financial district. I suggest a late night sit-in at Noodle Bar, where a bowl of the city’s best ramen will run you less than 15 bucks.
3. Banh Mi Boys
Step up your sammy game with a Vietnamese banh mi from this spicy sub shop. Snack on the steamed bao stuffed with five-spice pork belly and save some room for the kimchi poutine. That’s right. Kimchi. Freaking. Poutine. Put that in your delicatessen and smoke it.
4. Rush Lane
Also known as “Graffiti Ally”, this back-street stretch is bursting with urban expression. If you’re looking for a Banksy, head down a few blocks to Hotel Ocho. PYSCH! – someone painted over it. But you can still see pics inside and the parsnip soup is fantastic.
5. Record Shops
Vinyl is the Official Hipster Hobby of Toronto. Whether you’re searching for new releases or old dancehall 45s, there are a bunch of shops to scour in the downtown core. Hit up Sonic Boom at Bloor and Bathurst then head next door to the delightfully tacky Honest Ed’s, a discount store that’s known more for its signage than for what’s inside.
6. Toronto Island
Slow things down for an afternoon and hop on a quick ferry ride to Toronto Island. I recommend the sandy stretch next to Hanlan’s Point, which is one of Canada’s only clothing optional public areas. For the best experience possible, throw down a few extra dollars and take the water taxi to and fro.
7. Comedy Bar
Small rooms, dim lights, and cheap beer – it’s everything a local comedy bar should be. The aptly named club is the best place to see fresh talent and the dip-down entrance reminds me of the Comedy Cellar in Manhattan. If you’re looking for a really polished act, head downtown to the infamous Second City for a world-class improv show.
8. St. Lawrence Market
Self-proclaimed as the “Worlds Biggest Food Market”, there’s no gastronomic delight that can’t be found in this sprawling 200 year-old culinary emporium. I’m talking about ostrich meat, folks. So grab yourself some roadrunner thighs, dip down to the lower level, and gorge on a cheap lunch of knishes and pierogies at European Delight.
9. Neighbourhood Hopping
Toronto’s one of the most multi-cultural cities in the world, so you can easily take in five different countries of culture during a single jaunt. Start from the top in Drake’s posh Yorkville hood, head west through Korea Town, and stop at the edge of Little Portugal for some delicious Ethiopian sharing plates.
10. High Park
Head over to the west end and wander through 400 acres of land, including massive ponds, deep ravines, and lush gardens. Hit up the zoo if you feel like it, then take a leisurely streetcar ride (yeah, we still have those) back east to Little Italy for some starchy awesomeness.
11. UofT Campus
We have a really old university that is pretty much Hogwarts. Take a quick detour and stroll through the snow-covered campus while you pretend to search for your loyal mail-carrying owl. He’s not coming, but it’s still fun.
12. Massey Hall
It’s our answer to Radio City Music Hall and it’s the ideal spot to see real musicians play intimate sets. Outside, the brick exterior, cascading fire escapes, and untouched marquee are familiar to everyone in the city.
13. Guu Izakaya
It’s the closest thing you’ll get to authentic Japanese izakaya, the Tokyo equivalent of pub fare. If the rowdy crowds and screaming greetings don’t get you going, the spicy calamari will. Finish up with some deep-fried brie cheese in mango berry sauce, because why the fuck not?
Sounds like a ton of drug-free fun, right!?
That’s barely scraping the surface, but as you can see, there’s a wealth of culture, food, and excitement in this fast-growing metropolis. From festivals and theatre to nature and history, it’s got a million stories to tell and countless treasures to be discovered.
And if none of that tickles your fancy, you can always go smoke some crack. #416