Queen Street West and Ossington Avenue aren’t the prettiest of places, but there are few better for lurching from cafe to gallery to brick-walled restaurant via a few vintage shops and tiny, cosy bars. Gentrification is underway hence concrete mixers, cranes and the weird mix of shabby and chic. Which isn’t the same as shabby chic. Heading east from Dufferin to Trinity Bellwoods most of the original buildings on the south side have gone, to be replaced by loft condos, banks, and marts – hence the plaintive ‘You’ve changed’ plastered on an end wall. There are whole stretches that are just boring.
However, the revitalisation along Ossington Avenue, which intersects it at Starbucks, sort of makes up for it. Ossington now has the densest concentration of good, buzzy restaurants in Toronto. Vancouver’s Salt seems they have spawned a branch here: Salt Wine Bar, serving the same mix of non-Spanish tapas (Alberta bison tartar, ginger soy & coriander) and flights of local wine. Next door, there’s the highly recommended Pizza Libretto, convivial, with great pizzas that manage to have succulent rather than snapping thin crusts (but be prepared to queue at the bar). This being Little Portugal, there’s Portuguese steam stew and bacalhau to take out from Alex Rei Dos Leitoes Churrasqueira next door to that. A couple of minutes back down towards Queen (no.92) there’s Cuban dinners (pork, rice, beans, plaintain) in the cosy environs of Delux, and at no.108, the fabulously aromatic Amaya Express (which also does take-outs – starters are huge).
Ossington is a 6 min walk from the 9flats apartment I’m currently basking in. If you can’t be bothered to go that far, a stone’s throw away on Queen, there’s the Drake Hotel for art, music, cheeky chic and cocktails and for more of a at-one-with-the-community, music, art and fantastic breakfasts, the Gladstone. And given that the first three floors of this condo block are reserved for people working in the arts, there’s a gallery space with frequent events and parties in the lobby.
Should point out, on a really local level is that there are two big blocks in development on the threshold. You don’t see the digging, trucking action from inside, you don’t hear it much, but you might trudge through mud to get home.