Top 5 Places To Eat In St. Clair West, Toronto
By Natalie Taylor
Toronto is synonymous for food-centric neighborhoods such as Greektown, Chinatown, and lately, Ossington Avenue. But St. Clair West neighborhoods, Wychwood Heights and Hillcrest Village, spanning from Bathurst to Winona Drive, are undergoing a foodie renaissance. The St. Clair strip (near Dufferin Avenue) was predominantly known as Toronto’s other Little Italy, Corso Italia, where Italian immigrants settled after the 1950’s and flourished with grocery stores, cafes, restaurants and social clubs for their fellow countrymen. It evolved into a primo location for celebrations after Italy won the World Cup in 1982 when 500,000 revelers dominated the streets.
Corso Italia still remains, but the strip a few blocks west of Bathurst are central for newlyweds, families and young professionals that have moved into the area for reasonable mortgages and a community they can call their own, away from the hustle and bustle of downtown.
Here are a few can’t-miss eateries that are part of the local St. Clair West resident diet.
1) Dutch Dreams
Owner Theo Aben and his wife Dina have been scooping up more than 57 ice cream flavors for 27 years at this notorious ice cream shop (famed chef Susur Lee claims it as one of his favorites). Who exactly is lining up here night after night? Manager Giovanny Rivareta explained to me during a recent visit, “We have an ethnically diverse client base from cultures such as Indian, Hispanic and African, the latter who come for regionally authentic flavors such as Grape Nut (a malt grain).”
All scoops are served the Dutch way: with a dollop of whipped cream and serving of fresh fruit (strawberry, kiwi, pineapple and cantaloupe). One of the most popular flavor is Moose Droppings (vanilla ice cream mixed with chocolate fudge, chocolate chips and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups). After a meal at one of the local restaurants such as Albert’s Real Jamaican next door, this loud and kitschy joint is ideal for an indulgent and affordable treat.
Dutch Dreams, 78 Vaughan Road; (416) 656-6959. One scoop is $3.74; Waffle Scoop costs $5.93; Dutch Pancake costs $12.68; Dutch Waffle costs $11.44. Half liters cost $7.50 and full liter tubs cost $10.69.
2) Green Barn Farmers Market – Artscape Wychwood Barns
Artscape, a not-for-profit urban development organization, revitalized the dilapidated TTC Streetcar barns at Wychwood Park into a multi-faceted community center and housing project for artists in 2008. On Saturdays The Stop Community Food Centre hosts the Green Barn Farmers Market supporting and encouraging locally grown, seasonal produce.
The market bustles with families feasting on the array of snack items while shopping for sustainable produce, including samosas, organic eggs with pesto sauce, and watermelon-lime lemonade. Vendors change constantly: one weekend you could be biting into mini donuts made on site; the next weekend, munching on Irish soda bread and salmon. The barns are surrounded by a small park, a great way to relax on a summer Saturday afternoon and revel in local community. The markets go indoors when the weather in the fall and winter months.
Artscape Wychwood Barns, 601 Christie Avenue, Saturdays 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.; http://www.thestop.org/green-barn-market
3) The Stockyards Smokehouse and Larder
Not only an example of the development of St. Clair West in the past two years, but also a destination for BBQ aficionados and carnivore fans from all over. Laid back and low key, this isn’t a place to dine in as much as it is to take out and bring with you for a hearty picnic at the nearby Wychwood Barns or Humewood Park, just north of St. Clair. It’s best to come early to pick up glazed smoked ribs and chicken, available on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays. I became a convert after indulging in the moist buttermilk fried chicken combo, served with spiced fries and a non-dairy coleslaw.
699 St. Clair Ave. W.; 416-658-9666 ; www.thestockyards.ca; $50 for dinner for two including tax and tip.
Ironically, there are not that many Italian Restaurants in Corso Italia (the nickname for St. Clair Avenue West: Toronto’s center for Italian culture), but the Italian restaurants on St. Clair West that do exist, like Filippo’s, have been mainstays of the area for years. Thin and crisp-edged pizzas are popular, including gourmet concoctions such as fig, serrano ham and gorgonzola. Pam, a resident of the nearby Forest Hill area, highly recommends the pasta. “I’m a big fan of the gnocchi. Its pasta is much better than Ferro’s (nearby) and is not as ‘sceney.'”
744 St. Clair Ave. W.; (at Rushton Rd.); 416-658-0568; Entrees from $9 to $24.
5) Pain Perdu
The baguettes and fluffy croissants at the simple, petite Basque Boulangerie are one of the best ways to transport yourself to Paris. Heartier fare include the eponymous toast with fresh berries, crème anglaise, maple syrup and fruit coulis ($7.95); homemade duck confit ($16.95); croque monsieur ($6.95); quiche ($6.95 for a slice); French onion soup ($8.95 whole); and four varieties of casse croute ($8.95). On the other hand, this is also the perfect spot to plop yourself down in the morning with a newspaper while indulging in a sculpted, rich dessert and coffee.
736 St. Clair Ave. W. (at Rushton Rd.); 416-656-7246.
Natalie Taylor is a freelance writer based in Toronto. She still has dreams of Stockyard’s buttermilk fried chicken. Natalie’s site is: natalietaylor.ca.