Leslieville, Revisited 3 Years Later

Toronto is changing. Growing. Sleepy streets are becoming bustling thoroughfares. Coffee shops, boutiques, and condos are popping up at impressive rates. There's arguments on both sides as to whether this is a good or bad thing (not getting into that here). But one thing we can all agree on – additional foot/car/bus traffic is a big boost to local businesses.

Three years ago, I wrote about my first impressions of Leslieville. It hasn't changed dramatically since then, but it's changed (for the better, in my opinion). It's becoming more noticed. "Cooler". Toronto's hype train isn't just riding in the west end anymore. And I, for one, am thankful that this strip of Queen East is finally getting more traction. 

What brought me to Leslieville this time around was a casual Polish restaurant run by a mother daughter duo called Hastings Snack Bar. So, who better to bring along than my own Polish mother for a sweet little lunch date.

Bringing my Mom to a Polish restaurant also meant she'd be the toughest critic to please. But there was no reason to be worried – the food was delicious enough to pass even my mom's taste test. We shared a dill soup to start, and a combination of cottage cheese and sauerkraut perogies for our main. Everything was made right in front of us, and we got to chat with the owner in Polish. It was such an endearing experience. 

The decor and style of the restaurant made us feel like we were right at home. Wooden cutting boards, vintage cheese graters, fresh flowers – all of it sent us back to the homeland. The uniquely painted plates didn't make the dish taste any better per se... but they made for a much more photogenic shot. 

After quite a filling lunch, we headed out to explore the different boutiques, art stores, and nooks and crannies of Queen St. East. One of my favourites was Scout, at 1140 Queen Street East. I could spend an hour in this small space, letting my eyes wander over the smorgasbord of cute gifts, cards, and my weak spot – candles. One can never have too many candles. 

Just a few doors down is another one of my go-to's, Toronto Arts Market. This store is set up as many little stores inside of it, with vendors renting out a space to showcase their products. It's so much fun to wander around, and it feels great to know you're supporting local artists when you buy from here. 

And while we didn't opt for dessert, there's a Bobbette and Belle location in Leslieville, and holy moly is it a dream. Pricey as heck, but hey, if there's ever a time and a place to treat yourself, this would be it. 

What we did opt for was coffee. Right at the western edge of Leslieville is a gorgeous Boxcar Social location, filled with light and plants and the smell of deliciousness. I'm not a coffee girl, but even I can appreciate the art of a great brew. Boxcar Social also offers something I've never seen anywhere else – a coffee flight!

Leslieville may not be "my" neighbourhood, but for some reason, I have a soft spot for it. I like it's quieter nature, the homey cafes that aren't teeming with "King Westers", the family restaurants that give you a lot of bang for your buck. I like that you don't have to wait in line for an hour to get a seat. I like the vintage stores where you don't have to elbow your way in between people. It's not home, but it's where I go when I want to feel like I have a neighbourhood to call my own.