Toronto, along the 501 Streetcar Route – Part 2 -Leslieville

By: Jim Bamboulis

Alexander Muir was a long time Leslieville resident in the 19th century. A Canadian songwriter, poet and soldier, he composed The Maple Leaf Forever. He wrote it 1867 to celebrate the Confederation of Canada.
Alexander Muir was a long time Leslieville resident in the 19th century. A Canadian songwriter, poet and soldier, he composed The Maple Leaf Forever. He wrote it 1867 to celebrate the Confederation of Canada.

Ah yes, Leslieville. Many years ago, this part of town was mainly working-class, industrial and a bit too sketchy for any sort of street culture to happen. But cue the gentrification. It all started to change about 10 years ago. So much so, that the New York Times came out with an article that said that Leslieville was “emerging as Toronto’s hippest place to dine, drink, shop and live”. That got a rise out of some.

A few years later, the Toronto Star took it up a notch and described the neighbourhood at Hipsterville East. Whether you love gentrification (or even hipsters) or hate it, there’s no doubt that Leslieville has been hot for a while now with no signs of slowing down.

Feel of area

Leslieville is one of the most walk-friendly neighbourhoods in Toronto’s east-end, if not the entire city. It’s laid back and has very much a weekend destination feel. It’s the kind of neighbourhood where you point to a shop on the other side of the street and remind yourself to drop in on the walk back.

leslieville part 2
Leslieville grew around the Toronto Nurseries which were owned by George Leslie and sons. The neighbourhood is named after him.

Property values have skyrocketed in this part of the city. Everyone it seems has flocked here. Well, everyone who can afford it (or convinced themselves that they could afford it). On a typical day you’ll find young married couples, stay at home mom’s and dad’s, movie producers and musicians all in one spot, enjoying a coffee or talking business.

Frank Zappa, everyone!
But as much as the neighbourhood has changed in recent years, long time residents and business owners have done a great job holding on, keeping that nostalgic feel of old Leslieville and still making room for more current, modern boutiques, restaurants and cafes.

Why come here?

Restaurants…but mainly brunch

Let me get something straight off the bat. The restaurants in this area are solid. Skin + BonesAscari Enoteca and The Ceili Cottage do really well. And in case you were wondering what a schnoz like this is doing at the entrance of a building, your answer is below.

Gio Rana’s Really Really Nice Restaurant
Gio Rana’s Really Really Nice Restaurant. It’s a Really Really Popular Restaurant.

As good as the restaurants are, to me Leslieville is more of a weekend hotspot. And if you’re a brunch person, then this is the area to get to. There are 3 notable brunch joints that are a must-eats when you’re in these parts. The Tulip, Lady Marmalade and Joy Bistro. Click on each photo for a description of what to expect from each spot.

Bakeries and cafes

As much as people come here for eats, they also come here for sweets..and coffees. Clever, right? Bobbette and Belle, Remarkable Bean, Te Aro, Tango PalaceMercury Espresso Bar and Ed’s Real Scoop are among the notables. Click on each photo for a description of what to expect in each spot.

Nostalgia + Antique stores

Now that you’re full with brunch and probably over-caffeinated you’re about ready to burn it all off. Luckily, there are plenty of distractions to get you in that calorie burning zone. If you’re a music lover and love going through old records or even trying to find one you’ve always wanted, then I suggest you step inside In the Groove. It has over 40,000 records in stock and growing. Sheldon the Owner is great and really personable and will help you with whatever you’re looking for.

If you love antiquing, bringing back old memories…both good and forgettable, then there are a handful of great shops to keep you yearning for the good old days. You could try Matter of Time and Gadabout Vintage, which has a reputation for having some pretty amazing vintage clothing. In fact, it was voted as best vintage clothing store on a recent web poll.

The Leslieville Pumps is another great example of how business owners work hard to keep the rustic, old spirit of the neighbourhood alive. Part gas station, part restaurant, part general store, The Pumps is an old school, one-stop-shop for everything you need. The folks here are so darn nice that they’ve decided to write motivational messages that you can read while you’re pumping your gas. Maybe to forget about how much you’re paying to pump your gas.

Leslieville is a neighbourhood still in transition. It’s modern and current but we hope that it doesn’t lose its rustic and charming feel as time goes along. By the way, if we missed something about Leslieville that you feel we should have included, let us know.

In the meantime, happy travels everyone!


2 Comments Add yours

  1. I’m being nice. It’s hard to include every restaurant and every business because there’s just so many but I have to mention a few of my favourites. I’ve lived in L’ville for 30 years and I’ve seen it transition from an un-named rundown area to the coolest place in Toronto. My favourite businesses span that evolution. Stratengers has a huge patio, wood-burning oven and has a great selection of pizza, curries and beer, all at reasonable prices. Lil Baci has a casual friendly vibe and authentic Italian food, great patio too in good weather. Completo has delicious take-out sandwiches and in a stroke of genius, they’ve buddied up with Hitch bar so you can enjoy a Completo sandwich while sipping Hitch’s beers, cocktails and wine. New addition Milky Way serves up Kawartha Dairy ice cream and thick crust pizza. It’s not all food. We also have yoga (Spirit Loft, Leslieville Yoga, Flying Yoga and Park Yoga), pet services (Bone House, Timmies Doggie Outfitters, Critter Castle, Canine Clips), baby stuff (Baby on the Hip, Sprouts) and art galleries (MJG Gallery, Project Gallery, Parts Gallery, Ben Navaee) too.
    I’ve left out so much and I know someone will take over. Bottom line- There’s lots to do and see and eat in Leslieville.

    1. travelmammal says:

      Hi Nancy! First of all, thanks so much for taking the time to stop by and thank you also for reading the article. Yes for sure, there’s A LOT to see and do in Leslieville. I actually have a friend who parks their car near Te Aro and walks downtown only because they enjoy Leslieville so much (He lives in North York) :). Thanks also for your comments and suggestions. I will definitely follow up on them and I also hope that many readers do too! Thanks again Nancy and keep coming back. The aim after all is to continue the conversation. 🙂

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