- By Nick Frost
To quote an oft-used phrase from Game of Thrones: “Winter is coming!!!” (We’ve added several exclamation points for dramatic effect.)
Even though double-digit temperatures and sunshine are still in the cards for the immediate future, don’t let the forecast fool you — it’s the dead of fall and we’re just one surprise snowmageddon away from exorbitant heating bills, tongues stuck to poles and people magically forgetting how to drive.
Thankfully, winter doesn’t have to be all bad. Especially if you live in a city like Toronto, where there’s an abundance of excellent spots that make for great refuge from the cold.
In a city this culturally diverse, there’s something everyone can enjoy, whether you call it Tronnoh, Tor-onnoh or Trannah. Here are our faves:
Where to find it: In the heart of downtown, smack dab in the middle of three quintessential Toronto streets — on Yonge (at the corner of Temperance, to be exact), two blocks up from King and two blocks down from Queen. If you were to get off at either King or Queen TTC Station and walk, it’s a straight shot up and down the sidewalk, respectively.
Why we love it: Perhaps one of the classiest joints in all of Toronto, Dineen’s has the feel of a contemporary coffeehouse, but with an extra shot of historical cachet. Located in the old home of the W. and F. Dineen fur clothing company, from which it gets its name, it serves as the perfect setting for patrons to sip on something warm as they cozy up to the magnificently designed interior from their red leather perch. Oh, and the coffee’s not bad, either.
Where to find it: You’re in luck, literature lovers — there are actually two locations covering the north and south ends of the city. Location #1 can be found on Queen West, just across from the southeast corner of Trinity-Bellwoods Park, while location #2 is located roughly six kilometres north on Spadina between Lonsdale Road and Montclair Ave.
Why we love it: If, perhaps, a good read is your favourite accompaniment to a warm cup of coffee on a cold day, Type’s selection is just enough without being too little. By that, we mean it’s selection is carefully curated, but can still satisfy anyone who walks through the door. This independent bookstore — which celebrated its tenth anniversary at Queen West last year — has also been known to host local authors for readings, and is home to a community nonprofit called “Word-Play” that operates after-school and summer programs for kids to foster creativity, not just in storytelling, but art, drama, music and more.
Where to find it: Just north of the 401 in Scarborough, to be exact, which is still very much part of the Greater Toronto Area. Depending on whether you live east/west or north/south, you’ll need to either hit the 401 directly or get onto it from the Don Valley Parkway. Exit the 401 onto McCowan Road, then hang a right on Sheppard Avenue East. Bing, bang, boom — we promise.
Why we love it: Put the keys to the blog in the hands of a guy from a Trinidadian family writing about places to eat, and he will write about the best roti shop in town. Toronto’s Caribbean population is the largest in Canada, making it home to the best West Indian food in the country. As a purist and, quite frankly, a total snob on the subject, Mona’s is what home-cooked Trini comfort food is all about. (And who doesn’t love comfort food when it’s cold out?) Open since 2003, Mona’s freshly prepares their rotis in front of the customers and serves up, yes, jerk chicken, but more importantly, some more authentically Trini delights like doubles, oxtail stew and, my dad’s favourite, curry duck. As they say down the islands, it’s “rel nice.”
Where to find it: Hop the streetcar up Queen West and get off right in front of what appears to be a nondescript hole in the wall with the words “Horseshoe Tavern” written in gold on the marquee. These directions are mostly for first-timers, however, as this place is a beloved Toronto institution, well known to music lovers.
Why we love it: Not all favourites lists are about hidden gems and lesser-knowns — sometimes, we just need to be reminded of all the good times. To say that Horseshoe Tavern is both legendary and has been the dive-bar backdrop for some of Toronto’s best concerts would be a dual understatement. It has hosted the likes of The Rolling Stones and The Police in their prime, as well as once-up-and-comers The Tragically Hip and The Strokes. Huddle up and stay warm (and sweaty) while rocking out to some of the world’s best music.