I’m always surprised when I find neighbourhoods in the city that not only have I not been to, I’ve never heard of. This city never ceases to amaze me. I was invited to check out the Upper Beach by the people at Streetcar Developments, among building condos, you may know Streetcar Developments as the developers that bought Jilly’s at Broadview and Queen.
If you’re like me, and have never heard of the “upper beach”, it’s basically the area halfway between Main Station and the Beach. It’s a 10 minute walk to the Danforth and to the Beach and an adorable neighbourhood where people seem to know each other and cute shops. We started the evening at our “hosts” – Streetcar Development. The Southwood condos. They told us a little history of the neighbourhood and sent us on our way to our first stop, the Yellow House Gallery – a space that is half gallery, half framing shop. The curator and owner hosts monthly exhibitions, the next one beginning on September 10th “BODY.FORM.COLOUR.” and you can easily go to the opening night and support emerging artists.
Our next stop was the Art of Cheese, owned and operated the “grand fromage” Bill Miller. He has a huge selection of cheese, which we were able to sample with some local red wines. If you can dream it as a cheese, Bill’s store probably has it. We also got to take home some cheese which was perfect on my balcony with more wine (of course).
Our next stop was an adorable gift shop, where I totally stocked up on greeting cards – there was two walls of them. TWO! And the good ones, I hate terrible cards. I should have just bought all of them that day. The store was Collected Joy, which is owned by Sharon Smyl – a former marketing director who quit her job to open her shop. Ask Sharon about any item in her store and she can tell you the story of how it was created and who it was created by. She wanted a store that would be fun to shop in, and she was successful in creating a warm inviting space that you can easily get lost in and find gifts for even the hardest of people.
By this time, we needed a snack. We stopped in at the Stone Pizza and split a few pizzas. This restaurant prides itself on having the freshest ingredients – they don’t even have a freezer on site. The restaurant is mostly designed for take out or delivery, but there are picnic benches outside, as long as the weather keeps holding up.
Of course, that was just a snack so we headed over The Beech Tree, owned by Robert Maxwell, who like Sharon, quit his desk job to open a restaurant. They pride themselves on making everything for the restaurant, including their own juices and infusing their own liquors. I was driving so I didn’t have any drinks here but I want to go back and try their strawberry old fashioned – seems so strange but the potential to be delicious. My favourite food we had was definitely the gnocchi in a sweet corn puree, feta and fennel bread crumble. I can’t wait to go back and eat a whole thing of that to myself.
We were now supposed to go through the Glen Stewart Ravine, but it was getting dark so we walked through the beautiful gorgeous houses. IT was one of those neighbourhoods you can drive around and pick your favourite houses (I can’t be the only one that does that…) We ended up closer to the beach, at Queen St where were met by Sanna’s Famacia‘s bike. Like a “dickey dees” bike, Steve Sanna rides around his handmade smoothes, freezies and juices. While we were standing there chatting with him, the fire department drove by, we thought they were slowing down to tell us we needed to move but they were stopping to say hi to Steve, it really showed the community spirit of the neighbourhood.
I had a great time thanks to The Southwood by Streetcar Developments in the upper beach – a neighbourhood worth exploring. What are your favourite “hidden gems” in the city? I’d love to check more out!