Exploring Toronto’s West End
Once a dowdy working-class strip, the West End’s Ossington Avenue has been transformed into a high-style hub for galleries, shops, and restaurants.
You may have to wait 30 minutes for a table, but the slices are worth it—even the classic margherita, made with San Marzano tomatoes, fior de latte mozzarella, and basil. Dinner for two $50.
Former Helmut Lang accessories designer Virginia Johnson silk-screens travel-inspired prints onto paper-thin merino wool shawls, colorful canvas bags, and cotton dresses. Best find: totes with whimsical camel motifs.
Mad Men’s Don Draper would fit in perfectly at this retro yet intimate cocktail lounge and restaurant, where the music lineup switches from dinner-hour crooning to late-night up-tempo beats.
Toronto native Jason MacIsaac curates offbeat exhibitions (say, the work of a Parisian sticker maker) and sells one-of-a-kind pieces by design companies such as Established & Sons at his 2,300-square-foot shop.
Although owner Teo Paul’s new restaurant is French-inspired (open for café au lait and croissants in the morning, then nonstop till closing), the food is local—elk sliders, roasted Red Bro chicken. Dinner for two $89.
At this men’s and women’s clothing boutique, the parquet is newly bleached, the space airy, and the hip credentials impeccable: APC, Acne jeans, and Isabel Marant are just a few of the labels you’ll find.
Authentic Neopolitan-style pizzas are on the menu at this Beaconsfield Village pizzeria, which uses fresh ingredients and a wood-burning oven handmade in Naples for owners Rocco Agostino and Max Rimaldi. The oven operates at 900 degrees, essential for creating that characteristically blistered, charred crust. Artisanal, in-season, and local ingredients top thin-crust pies like the margherita, made with Ontario buffalo mozzarella, fresh tomato, and basil. House-made charcuterie and regional cheeses are the perfect accompaniments, and the tightly edited wine list has mostly Italian and Ontario options.
Located in Beaconsfield Village, Virginia Johnson's eponymous shop showcases the illustrator and textile artist's silkscreens on a variety of fashionable media. Formerly an accessories designer at Helmut Lang, Johnson's women's wear, bedding, and tote bags are characterized by natural and travel-inspired motifs. A small pouch sporting a chain-stitched polar bear makes an apropos Canadian souvenir, and abstractly patterned, whisper-thin merino wool shawls are stylish year-round. She creates her original patterns in watercolor before they are silk-screened in India and Toronto.
This downtown cocktail bar takes its style cues from Manhattan's circa-1950s and -60s cocktail lounges with sleek black booths and wallpaper featuring old magazine covers. Classic cocktails like Manhattans, sidecars, and mojitos are served alongside more modern concoctions such as el diablo, made with Cuervo Gold, tequila, Chambord, lime juice, sugar syrup, and ginger ale. Watusi's not-so-traditional food menu includes East-meets-West tapas like chick pea fries with jalapeno dip, Gulf Coast shrimp grilled with umeboshi butter, and Alberta slow-roasted buffalo short ribs.
Ministry of the Interior
This quirky gallery and boutique is known for its offbeat exhibitions and designer home furnishings. Launched in 2007, MOTI was one of the first upmarket shops to put down roots on this once-gritty strip of now-prime downtown real estate in hipster-centric Beaconsfield Village. Its neighbors include art galleries, vintage-clothing stores, craft cocktail lounges, and locavore restaurants. Owner and Toronto native Jason MacIsaac's 2,300-square-foot shopsells big-ticket items like a multi-shade Wrongwoods chest of drawers by craft furniture makers Established & Sons, and anti-jewelry like a blackened needle or silver matchstick on chains.
Located on an up-and-coming street in the heart of West Queen West, Union, Toronto serves up culinary Canadiana in a Parisian-bistro-inspired locavore restaurant. European-trained chef Teo Paul sources in-season ingredients from Ontario farmers and small-scale producers, crafting them into a daily-changing menu that includes favorites such as elk sliders, steak hache a cheval (freshly ground Scotch Mountain beef topped with a fried egg), and smoked duck breast with crabapple and beets. The modern space channels an arty vibe with its full-wall mural, exposed brick, and midcentury-mod globe lighting.
Jonathan + Olivia
Located in Beaconsfield Village along Ossington Ave., this stylish boutique is known for its luxe tees and sweats, artfully draped dresses and knits, impeccably tailored coats, and chunky handcrafted jewelry. Named after owner Jackie O'Brien's niece and nephew, the gallery-like space is filled with custom and reclaimed fixtures, and O'Brien's French bulldog Estelle is often seen sunning herself in the windows. The flagship store sells such brands as Band of Outsiders, Alexander Wang, Isabel Marant, Rag & Bone, and L’Agence, as well as artfully packaged body care products from the Malin + Goetz collection.