Having been an independent town prior to 1909 before it was annexed to the city of Toronto, the Junction has managed to maintain its small town allure throughout the years. Persevering through an alcohol ban lasting from 1904 to 2000 (shock and awe!) and several boom and bust economic cycles, this tight knit west-end community is now flourishing into one of Toronto’s premier art, design and foodie destinations.
I’d never really had the opportunity to explore this zone of the city properly so was thrilled to spend an afternoon skipping from one local business to the next. There’s nothing quite like adventuring through your own backyard. One often finds the finest fancies just a hop, skip and a jump away!
Take the trip out west and you’ll find a passionate group of locals who support their neighbours on the regular. Innovative offerings by some off YYZ’s most celebrated entrepreneurs. Serious sips and downright naughty nibbles. As slick condo’s begin to pop their heads up around here it’s clear that the Junction is a Toronto neighbourhood worth flirting with on ASAP.
Here are 14 Reasons to Adventure Through The Junction:
It is perhaps fitting that Toronto Distillery Co opened its doors in an area of Toronto known for being dry for so many years. While it holds the proud title of being “the first distillery to be licensed in Toronto since 1933,” I can’t even imagine the number of hoops the two high school friends had had to jump through to make their dream a reality. I imagine it helped that both practice law while navigating Ontario’s draconian liquor laws
Toronto Distillery is committed to sharing the whole story of their spirits, from field to glass. All of the spirits are distilled on site using local organic products which link each bottle to a specific harvest. Liquor lovers can organize a tour of the distillery in advance or simply pop by for a tasting or to grab a freshly filled bottle at their retail shop. Highlights from behind the bar include Ontario Single-Grain Whiskies, JR’s Dry Organic Canadian Gin, a curious Beet Spirit and pomme flavoured Applejack brandy.
Indie Ale House
Looking to dive in for a sud-stache? Head to Indie Ale House brewpub, a community watering hole for local foodies. I hop up at the bar and am instantly impressed by the diverse crowd: a table of lady friends sipping suds with their toddlers in toe, a few plaid shirt wrapped bros nibbling on BBQ ribs, a gaggle of girls celebrating TGIF and a flock of families tucking in to a fine feast. The kitchen prepares a trilogy of popcorn (old cheddar, garlic butter and rosemary is a fav) perfect for munching while hydrating on hoppy.
Making its home in a white Victorian with a modern interior by local architect Studio Junction, Mjolk is both a gallery that exhibits work by artists from Scandinavia and Japan, as well as a freestyle store; looking to everyday life to find inspiration for the products they carry. This really is one of Toronto’s finest design gems, especially for anyone like me who has traveled through Tokyo, Stockholm, Copenhagen and Oslo in search of inspirational art.
Cheese heads swoon for La Fromagerie foodie boutique featuring an awesome selection of baked bread, preserves, pickles, charcuterie and a top notch selection of cheeses. Many of Canada’s award winning fromage can be found smiling from the shops glowing display case. Favourites include Grey Owl, Riopelle de L’Isle, Bleu d’Elizabeth, Alpindon, Louis D’or, Niagara Gold and Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar.
Delight Ice Cream and Chocolates
The folks at La Fromagerie also run the shop next door, offering a slice of nirvana to local sweet tooth’s. It’s at Delight Ice Cream and Chocolates where you’ll find homemade marshmallows, a glass case filled with cookies, squares and chocolates and frigid freezer where seasonal scoops are served up on crunchy cones. Lick your way through organic Pear Ginger, Canadiana Maple Walnut or Fresh Mint Chip.
Like many things that get better with age, clothing has the ability to develop character and tell a story. LATrE believes in creating timeless art and style by focussing on natural quality and functional unisex pieces. The space includes a shop and gallery (check out the fantastic indigenous inspired collection), studio space in the basement and backyard for special events.
Formerly an antique shop, white-walled Nodo Restaurant is big and bright featuring checkerboard floors and lofty ceilings. The posh Italian eatery is decorated with an eclectic mix of salvaged finds and contemporary pieces offering guests to this 70-seat intimate dinning room a perfect place to sip and nibble. Hop up at the bar and slosh through a few Aperol muddled cocktails while snacking on a bowl of complimentary lupini beans. Nodo’s perfectly scorched pizza’s and fresh pasta’s will leave your mug smug.
Helen + Hildegard
“Beauty Infused in Everything,” is the Helen + Hildegard philosophy, reflected in their unique collection of natural beauty brands and organic herbal teas. H+H is where traditional botanical principles and innovation in green chemistry come together. Conscientiously sourced from sustainably responsible suppliers, all of their product lines draw from the intelligence of plants to instill healthy skin experiences and leave a beneficial footprint on our planet. If you’re eager to make your own soap from scratch pop into the shops old school apothecary vibe and sign up for one of their hands on classes.
If you’re looking to quench your thirst after a long work day head to Shamone, a quirky meets chic bar featuring an eye catching technicolour painting of a orgie-esque conga line. The place fills to the brim at night but your best bet is to pop by during the week at 5pm when a free snack spread is offered up to those looking to pair their craft beer or classic cocktail with that munch and crunch.
Articulations is a locally run art supply store that specializes in more than just your basics. Besides the carefully curated inventory, owners Heather Phillips and Miki Rubin have also included in the small quaint store its own semi-enclosed gallery space titled the “Earl Selkirk Gallery.” You’ll also find a back room studio, full roster of workshops and drop in programs for kids and adults.
Founded in 2008, SMASH operates from a spacious 4300 sq ft showroom on Dundas Street West. Owner Paul Mercer is an art history graduate with a long background in antiques, art and salvage. The business is a well-regarded and inspiring source of high quality vintage materials, furnishings and fixtures. The city’s top film, television and theatre set designers are also known for adoring the place.
Hole in the Wall
The Hole in the Wall is a charming (narrow) slice of Dundas Street West offering decadent brunch fare on weekends to hungover locals. At night a tiny stage in the back offers an intimate space for musicians to belt their beats.
Rod Gun & Barbers
Rod Gun & Barbers is modeled after a traditional Rod and Gun Club with an added focus on men’s grooming and style. The owners aspire to reinvigorate and reinterpret the old traditions of barbering and grooming where dapper gents can indulge in a traditional straight razor shave. Pop open the door and you’ll find a colourful collection of bros enjoying a slice of urban Nirvana. Boys get their hairs buzzed out front while those waiting for the next free chair enjoy a slow sip over bottle of Bourbon of frothy pint.
When the Pig Came Home
Carnivore’s prepare to lick your lips! When the Pig Came Home is no stranger to the Junction as locals have known owner Ryan Gatner as a fixture at local markets where he’s known for his now iconic peameal bacon sandwiches and smokey BBQ. The adorable deli is a tribute to the Eastern European old-school while at the same time infused by modern design elements such as white subway tiles, painted tin ceilings and salvaged brass rails.
Gerhard Supply offers a carefully curated range of high quality, locally made menswear and lifestyle products. It’s a great one-stop-shop for men, with products ranging from casual sportswear and suiting, to accessories and personal grooming tools. Take a moment to brows and you’ll find fresh lewks by 18 Waits, Diemme, Etat Libre d’Orange, Hestra, String Theory and Outclass Attire.