The St. Clair West Guide: 19 need-to-know spots along the midtown strip
The St. Clair West strip between Bathurst and Oakwood is known for its diverse population, interminable TTC construction, and that classic Toronto mix of urban grit, Old World–authentic mom and pop shops, and yuppie startups. Our list of 20 can’t-miss stops is the best way to get to know the area.
Boom Breakfast and Co. View »
1036 St. Clair Ave. W., 416-657-3447
Patachou View »
833 St. Clair Ave. W., 416-782-0122
Javad’s Buy and Sell View »
818 St. Clair Ave. W.
Ellington’s Music and Café View »
805 St. Clair Ave. W., 416-652-9111
Prop View »
770 St. Clair Ave. W., 416-792-3313
Filippo’s View »
744 St. Clair Ave. W., 416-658-0568
Pain Perdu View »
736 St. Clair Ave. W., 416-656-7246
The Stockyards View »
699 St. Clair Ave. W., 416-658-9666
Mezzetta View »
681 St. Clair Ave. W., 416-658-5687
Churrasco of St. Clair View »
679 St. Clair Ave. W., 416-658-0652
Cocoa Latte View »
671 St Clair Ave. W., 416-792-8696
El Rincon View »
653 St. Clair Ave. W., 416-656-1059
Kosoy and Bouchard View »
651 St. Clair Ave. W., 416-651-4480
Leah’s View »
621 St. Clair Ave. W., 416-785-4711
Wychwood Barns View »
601 Christie St., 416-653-3520
Sam’s Barber Shop View »
573 St. Clair Ave. W., 416-651-7056
Dutch Dreams View »
78 Vaughan Rd., 416-656-6959
Albert’s Real Jamaican Foods View »
542 St. Clair Ave. W., 416-658-9445
Ecoexistence View »
21 Vaughan Rd., 416-652-0808
Boom Breakfast and Co.
A favourite of diet guru Dr. Bernstein, the bright diner thrums with a St. Clair vibe, drawing locals of all stripes for hot lattes made with the Vitoria Arduino machine, cheerful servers and affordable prices. The simple two-eggs breakfast, served with frites, meat and a roasted tomato, is a sure bet at $6.89.
Boom Breakfast and Co., 1036 St. Clair Ave. W., 416-657-3447
Posh locals visit the scruffier end of the strip to pick up lunch—French onion soup, prosciutto sandwiches and bright yellow quiches—from this renowned patisserie, tucked beside a men’s shelter. Butter is in the DNA of this place; the evidence is in the huge array of croissants, pear and almond tarts, and fluffy macarons.
Patachou, 833 St. Clair Ave. W., 416-782-0122
Javad’s Buy and Sell
St. Clair West is prime territory for scouting antiques, art and vintage clothes. The best bargain finds are buried in the cavernous, floor-to-ceiling stacks of modern miscellany at this eclectic store. (Those unwilling to hunt through Pig Pen–style piles should go five doors east to the more orderly Art Collector.)
Javad’s Buy and Sell, 818 St. Clair Ave. W.
Ellington’s Music and Café
The laid-back hangout (named after Duke, of course) has live jazz mornings, open jams on Wednesday nights, and occasional spoken word readings from the Dub Poets Collective housed upstairs. A regular complement of dreadlocked moms and dads, artists, musicians and writers come for the Wi-fi and freshly roasted fair-trade brew.
Ellington’s Music and Café, 805 St. Clair Ave. W., 416-652-9111.
Locals swear by the long-standing family-run Italian joints like Gianni and Maria’s, but foodies from Forest Hill and farther afield are trekking to Prop for bowls of pasta cooked by Giancarlo Carnevale, new to this part of town. (Carnevale and his wife, Marlene Simone, also ran Trattoria Giancarlo and the College Street Bar, in Little Italy.) The risotto nero—tender squid and carnaroli dripping with squid ink—is almost good enough to forgive the resto for its goofy name: Prop stands for People’s Republic of Pasta.
Prop, 770 St. Clair Ave. W., 416-792-3313.
Pizza crusts are nearly as thin as they make them in Italy, and orders outpace pricier veal and risotto specials chalked on the menus hanging over the open kitchen. Filippo’s outdoor patio has more charm than its unintentionally kitschy decor: orange stucco inside and out in a nod to the homeland.
Filippo’s, 744 St. Clair Ave. W., 416-658-0568
In 2009, Yanic Foilgras’s artisanal bakery became the first in Canada to be recognized by the French government. The array of pastries, crunchy cookies and baguettes by boulanger Eric Chevalier (Foilgras’s boyhood friend from Pays Basque) sell out daily, even though they’re among the priciest on the strip.
Pain Perdu, 736 St. Clair Ave. W., 416-656-7246
When Tom Davis and Monique Nanton opened up shop in April 2009, St. Clair West became a frenzied destination for barbecue fanatics. The ribs—available only Tuesday, Friday and Sunday nights after 5 p.m.—generally sell out within the hour, but the burgers, pulled pork sandwiches and fried chicken are equally good. Customers too hungry to wait out the 15-minute queues head one block east, to Churrasco of St. Clair.
The Stockyards, 699 St. Clair Ave. W., 416-658-9666.
The peeling letters on the green canvas sign of this Middle Eastern joint indicate diners come here for substance over style. At rough wood tables, they deliberate over some 60 traditional mezze dishes—tahini or stuffed vine leaves?—before choosing a dozen or more to share. Loonie Mondays and Toonie Tuesdays, offering the second dish for the appropriate coin, are a bargain eater’s bonanza.
Mezzetta, 681 St. Clair Ave. W., 416-658-5687
Churrasco of St. Clair
Rows of succulent whole chickens are barbecued to piri piri perfection in the mega-oven of this takeout-only joint. At $10 a bird, expect to wait a few minutes at supper hour. Roast potatoes with crispy onions and secret spices are the favourite side dish, scooped from behind the hot food bar. Whole rabbit, suckling pig and turkeys can be ordered with a few days’ notice.
Churrasco of St. Clair, 679 St. Clair Ave. W., 416-658-0652
The Mexican family behind this brown and baby blue café are as charming as the decor. The light salads and sandwiches are inspired by owner Carlo Flores’s childhood in the Napa Valley. Food is prepped on order by Flores, his sisters and their respective hubbies. Six flavours of homemade gelato and a few fruity sherbets are crafted by a local Valencian who insists on anonymity lest his icy concoctions rocket to fame.
Cocoa Latte, 671 St Clair Ave. W., 416-792-8696
Hanging sombreros and mariachi beats accent the Morgado family’s authentic cuisine. The zingy guacamole flies out of the kitchen, while the underappreciated rich chocolate-tinged sauce of the mole poblano makes for a mouth-watering piece of chicken. The food here has become so popular, the Morgados may just open a second location in Toronto.
El Rincon, 653 St. Clair Ave. W., 416-656-1059
Kosoy and Bouchard
The front window of this store and studio space displays modern sandblasted glass sculptures by Pierre Bouchard alongside pieces by his wife, Michelle Kosoy, whose bowls, stools and Tibetan prayer wheels are stamped with woodblocks from Nepal. Kosoy’s pottery classes, taught in the in-store studio, are filled with repeat locals.
Kosoy and Bouchard, 651 St. Clair Ave. W., 416-651-4480
Last winter, Leah Kalish, Toronto’s biscotti queen, delighted the St. Clair stroller set when she opened her first retail patisserie: a tiny black-and-white-checkered shop at the “three churches intersection” (that would be St. Clair and Wychwood). In the back, the bakers churn out up to 10,000 biscotti a week, stocking Whole Foods, Pusateri’s and Summerhill Market. Up front, Leah’s pecan Chelseas and peanut butter–chocolate Rice Krispies treats tempt so many customers that commercial real estate agents boast about how many doors down from Leah’s their listings are.
Leah’s, 621 St. Clair Ave. W., 416-785-4711.
The restored TTC barns have become a buzzing community hub. Designer dogs sniff at one another while their equally well-bred owners sip foamy lattes, teens of all stripes play volleyball on the sandy court and Picassos-in-training take classes from the artists in residence. The year-round market stalls offer artisanal fare: organic chocolate, gluten-free bread, pickles and cheeses, along with fresh-squeezed juices, omelettes and rotis.
Wychwood Barns, 601 Christie St., 416-653-3520.
Sam’s Barber Shop
When Sam Carozza opened his original barbershop just off St. Clair on Raglan in 1971, he was 22 years old—the youngest of the 17 predominantly Italian barbers on the St. Clair strip. Now, at 62, he’s the only one still in business, sharing space with his hairdresser wife, Marisa, just half
a block from his first location. “It works, as long as we stay 40 feet away from each other,” Carozza jokes. With an antique cash register and green leather barber chairs, the vibe is decidedly old-school. A standard men’s haircut is $21.
Sam’s Barber Shop, 573 St. Clair Ave. W., 416-651-7056.
Theo Aben Sr., a native of the Netherlands, opened his ice cream parlour in 1985, sleeping on the floor in the basement with his two young sons for the first year. Now the shop is operated by Theo Jr. and his wife, Dina. When one of the 34 flavours runs out, the kids behind the counter sprint across the street for another bucket from the proprietors’ house, marked by a not-so-subtle 15-foot ice cream cone slide in the front yard. Today it’s known for both the kitschy madhouse decor and homemade waffle cones with generous scoops and fruity toppings. Such visiting stars as Danny DeVito (mint chocolate chip) and Rhea Perlman (tiger tail) are fans. New this summer: soft serve, whipped up by Theo Sr. every morning.
Dutch Dreams, 78 Vaughan Rd., 416-656-6959.
Albert’s Real Jamaican Foods
The recipes at Albert Wiggan’s popular jerk joint haven’t changed in the two-plus decades since it opened: orders for curried goat and jerk chicken topped with oxtail gravy keep the kitchen busy. With St. Alphonsus Catholic Church on one side and an adult video store and a massage parlour on the other, Albert’s eat-in window counter is a perfect viewing platform from which to watch the area’s pluralistic populace walk by. (In an eight-block radius, there are eight other churches and a Buddhist meditation centre.)
Albert’s Real Jamaican Foods, 542 St. Clair Ave. W., 416-658-9445.
Hillcrest resident Kym Klopp stocks her tidy, open-concept store with rigorously vetted eco-clothes, kitchen supplies, beauty products and baby gear. Forest Hill parents come here to kit out their newborns, and granola types from across the GTA test the Organic Lifestyle floor model mattresses. French milled soaps from Ella’s Botanicals and bamboo T’s with statements like “I love my two moms” are also among the inventory.
21 Vaughan Rd., 416-652-0808.
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