This is article number eight in Joey’s Unofficial RubyFringe Guide to Toronto, my guide to Accordion City for attendees of the RubyFringe conference, as well as anyone else who’s interested in our fair city.
In case you missed them, here are the other articles in this series:
- Where Did All the Cigarettes Go?
- Getting from the Airport to the Hotel
- Boozin’ in Accordion City
- The Lay of the Land, Part 1
- The Best Damn Cookie in Town
- Active Surplus, a.k.a. Hardware Nerdvana
In The Lay of the Land, Part 1, I covered some areas close to the hotel. In this article, I’m going to go over some of the interesting areas to the west: Chinatown, Kensington Market and Queen Street West.
The interesting neighbourhood that’s closest to the Metropolitan Hotel is Chinatown. From the hotel, all you have to do is walk to Dundas Street and hang a left and starting walking westward along Dundas. Things will start out a bit sparse, but as you cross University Avenue, there’ll be more to see. Continue westward and the concentration of Chinese restaurants and shops will increase until you reach the corner of Dundas and Spadina, the heart of Chinatown. Chinatown stretches north to about College Street, south to Sullivan, and west to about Denison.
As you might expect, Chinatown is lined with a lot of Chinese restaurants, although you’ll also find a lot of Vietnamese places, with a little Thai and Japanese thrown in for good measure. You’ll also find a lot of grocery stores with sidewalk stalls carrying fruits and vegetables. There are also some cheap clothes in the mix: if you need some plain T-shirts, there are plenty of places that carry them in many colours, 4 or 5 for a mere $10.
If you find yourself with the late-night munchies, Chinatown is the solution to your problem. A good number of the restaurants cater to the late-night crowd; many close as late as 5 a.m. on the weekends, and at least a couple of the Vietnamese places run 24 hours.
Getting to Kensington Market is easy: just walk west on Dundas from the hotel for about ten minutes and go one block past Spadina, then turn up Kensington. You’ll be in Kensington Market, an area that blends alternative and counter-culture stores, traditional food markets, international restaurants and offbeat bars. Here’s a map of the area:
If you’re looking for stuff that you’re not going to find at the mall, this is the place to go.
For more about Kensington Market, see its Wikipedia entry and this Globe and Mail story (with video) of Dr. Richard “Creative Class” Florida paying a visit to the Market.
You can also take a little photo tour of the Market through the slideshow below:
Queen Street West
Check out this map: it shows the way from the hotel to the corner of Queen Street West and University Avenue, followed by a long stretch west. If you’ve got the time, it’s a very interesting walk — about 4 kilometres (two and a half miles) of one of the more interesting streets in the city. Things will start off a little more gentrified and no more edgy than the Hot Topic store in your local mall, but as you progress westward, the stores, bars and restaurants get quirkier, and you’ll see the “creative class” types who make Queen West their home. If you don’t feel like walking, you can always check out the scenery via streetcar.
Once again, I direct you to Wikipedia for a description of Queen Street West and its OurFaves page for some locals’ recommendations.
And There’s More!
I haven’t yet told you about Little Italy on College West, the Annex, that stretch of Baldwin Street with all the restaurants, the Beach(es), Mink Mile, Greektown, Koreatown, Roncesvalles, High Park and a lot of other places, but I hope that I’ve given you a good start. If you’re at the conference and have any questions about the city, feel free to ask me or any of the other locals — we’ll be happy to help!
See you at the conference!