TASTE THE WORLD & GET TO KNOW YOUR LOCAL BUSINESSES ON QUEEN STREET

by Meg Marshall (Queen St. West BIA) & Jennifer Lay (Riverside BIA)

SELF-GUIDED WALK

DETAILS

Language: English

Area: Downtown

Theme: Getting Around, Food and Entertainment

Accessibility: Family-Friendly

WALK DETAILS:

Did you know you can taste a huge variety of the world’s culinary cuisines right on Toronto’s Queen Street? The Riverside Business Improvement Area (BIA, on Queen East) and the Queen Street West BIA have teamed up to bring you this walk where you’ll learn about the stories behind ten different local businesses offering up cuisines from diverse backgrounds. Prepare to be hungry while getting to know these Queen Street eateries!

STOPS IN RIVERSIDE (QUEEN EAST)

 

STOP 1 IN RIVERSIDE: (QUEEN E): BONJOUR BRIOCHE (HTTPS://BONJOURBRIOCHE.COM/), 812 QUEEN E

Bonjour Brioche has been a hotspot for heavenly Parisian inspired pastries and petite des Jeunes in Riverside since 1997. When Lori Feasson and her pastry chef husband Henri opened their bakery, fresh bread was non-existent anywhere else along Queen Street East and brunch was a thing reserved for Toronto’s west end. “You would not believe what it was like here 20 years ago,” says Lori. Back then she had a buzzer under the cash register so Henri could run upstairs if there was any sort of danger. “Henri and I are very proud to live and work in the Riverside-Leslieville area. We opened our little mom-and-pop operation and within a week we were written up in the Globe and Mail with glowing reviews; one of them stating there was now a reason to go to the east side. Now we are just one of many shops and amazing restaurants in this wonderful 'hood we call home. What a pleasure it has been to see families grow up and what a pleasure it has been to be a part of this of this changing neighbourhood from the very start. Hopefully we will be baking for many more years to come.” says Lori. The couple chose the corner of Queen and De Grassi for the location of their cafe mostly because it was, and still is, within walking distance to their home in Leslieville and, says Lori, despite Riverside’s bad rap a couple decades ago, it’s always had a very neighbourly vibe.“You can feel it as soon as you get over the bridge.” With an all-day breakfast and brunch menu featuring the likes of brie and garlic aioli on a fresh baguette and Croque Madam, Bonjour Brioche is now easily one of Toronto’s top spots from breakfast/brunch foods - with a guaranteed lineup on many mornings for takeout during this pandemic

Photo credits: Arash Moallemi (@arashmoallemi) and Fuze Reps (@fuzereps

STOP 2 IN RIVERSIDE: (Queen E): TABULE MIDDLE EASTERN CUISINE (HTTPS://TABULEQUEEN.COM/)

810 Queen E: A long time spot for Middle Eastern cuisine in Riverside, they have a story that is deeply steeped in the local community. By 2012, Tabule owners Chef Rony Goraichy and Diana Sideris had had success with their first location in Midtown/Davisville, and were looking to expand. They were eyeing Toronto’s downtown east. “Part of our brand was to make sure we were in a neighborhood, not just any location,” says Diana. They looked at 810 Queen Street East in Riverside, which housed a medical clinic at the time. “There was Bonjour Brioche right next door and then De Grassi Street and the bridge, and we just connected with it,” recalls Diana, “since day 1 when we opened in 2013, we had people bringing us flowers. People were so supportive of us being here.” Tabule transformed the existing space on Queen with their modern decor, vibrant back patio, and really added value to the neighborhood, which people appreciated. The restaurant has had a consistent contemporary aesthetic since the beginning, designed to compliment and fit in with the Riverside neighborhood and has always been a huge participant in community events and causes. When asked what the experience of running a local restaurant during a global pandemic has taught them, Diana shared, “it reinforced just how much the local community really wanted us to be here”. She said locals would send flowers and their children’s drawings to thank the restaurant for staying open during such a challenging time. “During tough times, it really gives you the courage to keep on going… it’s these kind of rewards and being part of a strong community that make it worth it”. Check out Chef Rony preparing ‘Fattush Salad with Seared Hallum Cheese’  ‘Riverside Eats Virtually: an evening with locals chefs, for a good cause!” in support of Mustard Seed, Fontbonne Ministries food program in Riverside.

Photo credits: Arash Moallemi (@arashmoallemi) and Fuze Reps (@fuzereps

STOP 3 IN RIVERSIDE (QUEEN E): ISAAN DER THAI

730 Queen E:  New to Riverside and Queen Street East, Isaan Der Thai (https://isaander.com/) is a Toronto Thai restaurant that has managed to expand from one location to three over the course of the pandemic with a fourth on the way, heartening to see at a time when many restaurants are being forced to close. Isaan Der serves Thai cuisine like spicy salads, soups, noodles and curries from regions all over the country. However, it’s named for and specializes in traditional dishes from the North-Eastern region of Isaan which borders Laos and Cambodia near Vietnam. According to owners and partners Donald and Chatsuda Drouin, “der” translates roughly to “eh” in our own Canadian dialect. Apparently the language spoken in Isaan is closer to that spoken in Laos, almost like Montreal French. Donald Drouin shared: "Our third location, in the space formerly known as Ruby Watchco owned by celebrity Chef Lynn Crawford at 730 Queen Street East, was perfect as it was big enough for our needs as well as the location in Riverside Community.”

Photo credits: Isaan Der

STOP 4 IN RIVERSIDE (Queen E): INDIAN SPICE ROOM

717 ½ Queen E: Indian Spice Room (https://indianspiceroom.com/) has authentic Indian street food with mainly vegetarian and vegan options. Owner Rohit Wadwahan is a first-time business owner with no prior experience in the restaurant or food industry. He spent his 25-year career in the corporate world and until a couple years ago was a human resources director. However, he wanted to create something of his own and wanted to do something that would allow one-on-one interaction with a variety of people. Food, and especially vegetarian and vegan food, has always interested him. Plus, coming from India where it’s all about spices, flavour and aroma. He opened Indian Spice Room on December 18, 2019 . The local community was supportive. Patrons tried the food and provided genuine feedback. Then, several months later, COVID happened. Rohit says: “We were caught in the storm of COVID two months after opening and all our original hires left. But I decided that we would not shut down…not even for a day. I kept the doors open through deliveries and takeouts.” They are getting through the pandemic day by day and although still far from breaking even, Rohit gets satisfaction as an employer continuing to serve our customers every day. He is also an active member of the Riverside BIA Board of Directors and helping shape the neighbourhood pandemic recovery plans.

Photo credits: Arash Moallemi (@arashmoallemi) and Fuze Reps (@fuzereps

STOP 5 IN RIVERSIDE (QUEEN E): IL PONTE

625 Queen E: Il Ponte Cucina Italiana (https://ilponte.ca/) opened its doors in 2015, just before the launch of the Riverside Bridge Lighting project which illuminated the adjacent bridge nightly in festive vibrant colours. ‘Il Ponte’ means ‘The Bridge’ in italian and it was in fact named for the beloved and iconic Toronto landmark which marks the passage into Riverside and Toronto’s east end. The restaurant opened up in Riverside, one of Toronto’s fastest growing, and most diverse neighbourhoods with a simple mission: to be a dependable local establishment that serves and grows with the families, businesses and residents of the local area. From participation in community events and festivals, to supporting local charitable causes, Il Ponte has become a local icon itself. Over 5 years later, restaurant manager Giancarlo Catalano and his team have pivoted from fine dining to take-out of its homemade italian dishes during the pandemic and continues to enjoy the strong support of the local community it is rooted within. 

Photo credits: il ponte

STOPS IN QUEEN WEST 

 

STOP 6 IN QW: MI TACO - MEXICAN - 247 QUEEN ST W  

Mi Taco (https://mitacotaqueria.com/)  is a family run business that opened its doors to the Queen Street community on October 3, 2015. Since then, the owners and employees have enjoyed every day as they offer Tacos, Burritos and Bowls to the Mexican cuisine enthusiasts.  The restaurant has two main locations: one on Bloor and one on Queen, two of the most popular and beloved neighbourhoods in Toronto. Mi Taco offers authentic mexican food that is handmade with love. All menu items are made fresh and in small batches every day with fresh spices, vegetables, and meats. During the pandemic, the owners decided to add a second concept and introduced Bubba’s Crispy Fried Chicken that is now serving tasty fried chicken meals in the Queen Street location. The restaurant’s top sellers are the Chicken Tinga tacos and Bubba’s Original Crispy Chicken Sandwich. It is also known for its unique decor, bright interiors, and mexican vibe.

Photo credits: Richie Dos Santos

STOP 7 IN QW: LITTLE INDIA - INDIAN - 255 QUEEN ST W  

Little India Restaurant (https://littleindia.ca/) is a family run business that has been operating in the Queen St West area for over 20 years. The restaurant first opened its doors on January 2, 1995 to introduce authentic and traditional Indian food to the Toronto area and have grown into what many say is the best Indian Restaurant. Located at 255 Queen St West, this popular restaurant provides Indian food lovers with authentic Indian food to satisfy the whole palette of flavours from spicy,sour,sweet and hot all at the same time. It is also known for the distinctive butter chicken dish that’s prepared with butter gravy to give the curry a silky smooth texture and a rich flavour, making it the most popular dish over the years. Little India is also known for its involvement in a variety of not-for-profit initiatives and organizations in the Toronto area. The family always tries to give back to the community that has supported this business for so many years.

Photo credits: Richie Dos Santos

STOP 8 IN QW: SAFFRON SPICE - SRI LANKIN - 459 QUEEN ST W

Sri Lankan cuisine has been shy to enter the mainstream food scene and Saffron Spice Kitchen (https://www.instagram.com/saffronspicekitchen/)  is on a mission to share authentic Sri Lankan cuisine with the city of Toronto. Located in the heart of the popular Queen West neighbourhood, Saffron Spice Kitchen cooks up and introduces new ways to reinvent traditional Sri Lankan dishes. Their best-selling dish is Butter Chicken Kothu Roti which is a Sri Lankan staple street food. This unique gem opened a few years ago to serve the Queen Street West community which graciously welcomed it as part of their international food hub.

Photo credits: Richie Dos Santos

STOP 9 IN QW: LA PALETTE - FRENCH - 492 QUEEN ST W

La Palette  (https://www.lapalettequeenwest.ca/) opened in Kensington Market in 2000 and moved to Queen Street West 10 years later. La Palette has been hosting musicians, actors, pirates, dreamers and lovers for the last 20 years. French bistro fare is what La Palette serves at this homage to Paris in Toronto. This french restaurant is loved for its steak/frites and duck confit which keeps people coming back. You'll also find other classics like mussels, bouillabaisse, steak tartare, and a selection of essential desserts like crème brûlée and chocolate ganache. La palette is also known for the meat the restaurant serves, focusing on Canadian game such as bison and venison; it is also  legendary for being that place that serves horse. Over a year ago La Palette transformed the beloved hole-in-the wall restaurant into a rare wine shop with a European pantry. A selection of classic and off-the-beaten-path wines has kept this restaurant well afloat during the pandemic as the owners turned into a wine shop. 

Photo credits: Richie Dos Santos

STOP 10 IN QW: DEMEN - VIETNAMESE - 500 QUEEN ST W

New to Queen West, Demen Bistro (https://www.demenbistro.com/) is an authentic Vietnamese restaurant that opened in May 2019 on 500 Queen Street West, just a year prior to the pandemic. Demen Bistro’s Vietnamese Chef; with his food art passion, brought along with him unique Vietnamese cuisine recipes from the North to the South of Vietnam. Demen Bistro offers a unique mix of Vietnamese strong coffee, Vietnamese authentic fusion food and exceptional unique Cocktail. Even though the restaurant is still relatively new, many of the dishes became popular and were mentioned across the neighbourhood for their freshness, tradition, and quality. Demen Bistro is sought-out for its old recipes and traditional dishes that are prepared with a carefully sourced and seasonal fresh ingredients. The restaurant is well known for its tasty Phở (Vietnamese rice noodle soup), Bún (vermicelli salad bowl, Bò Lúc Lắc ( Shaken Beef), and many other dishes that  are cooked with love for the guests in an atmosphere that creates beautiful memories. 

Photo credits: Richie Dos Santos