The north end of Leslieville is one of Toronto's most overlooked culinary destinations. (2023)

When it comes to eating and drinking in Leslieville, Queen Street East gets the most attention. But further north along Gerrard Street East is a short stretch from Marjory to Jones Avenues, with a concentration of decades-old institutions and newer players hoping to become permanent fixtures in the neighborhood.

It is an area that has undergone great changes in recent years.

New bars and restaurants have moved in. There's a condo proposal across from the Gerrard Square mall. Some long-established companies have left. The big question is what this space will look like in the next five years.

Right now you can buy a $5 Banh Mi here during the day, the sidewalks are packed with students on their lunch break, and Gerrard Square is packed with people running errands. You can find special offers for students atGreat burger kitchen(1056 Gerrard St. E.) and bookworms can be found in the cafeteria's side yard.Dineen Outpost(1042 Gerrard St. E.).

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All-day menus at Pho Com Tam 168 Vietnamese Cuisine (1018 Gerrard St.E.) and GB Hand-Pulled Noodles (1024 Gerrard St.E.) satisfy noodle cravingsChula Mexican Tavern(1058 Gerrard Ave. St. E.) is the place to go for patio tacos.

Several places to eat and drink open in the evenings, including one for LGBTQ+ communities, a fish and chip restaurant that also offers a hoisin shrimp burger, and a trio of diners owned by veteran diner Queen West. European-Latin meeting pointgardel(1020 Gerrard St.E.) is the place to go for wine, while a short walk to the east is a surf-themed bar.the dive shop(1036 Gerrard St. E.), with a dream garden facing the sea.

Not everything is open at the same time, so it's worth visiting this little alleyway more than once to really try everything.

Where to visit during the day

Philippines Oriental Food Market (1033 Gerrard St E.)

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On the south side is one of the oldest stores on the Strip. Rosita Dela Cruz purchased the building in 1973 and opened her store a year later, originally located further north on St. Jakobstadt.

The Philippine Oriental Food Market is a place for imported Filipino snacks like instant noodles, roasted nuts, crackers, and bags of pork rinds and chips. Sometimes there are also treats from local bakers, like the giant ube ensaymada, a fluffy coconut confection that can feed two.

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The family business has gone through many incarnations over the decades, as Dela Cruz is always thinking of new business ideas. He started out selling imported clothing and handicrafts, then rented Filipino movies before turning to takeout.

"My spirit does not stop, my spirit does not want to rest even if my body says so," he said.

Banh Mi Huy-Ky (1046 Gerrard Street E.)

Ben Phuong, the second-generation owner of Banh Mi Huy-Ky, has seen the neighborhood change dramatically since his parents opened the Vietnamese bakery in 2010.

"It was a quiet area, and in 2017, 2018, people were coming in with bars. At the moment, this area is emerging," Phuong said.

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For most guests, the Banh Mis are the draw here. The store is pushed past a revolving door by construction workers, teachers, local residents, and the occasional schoolboy looking for a $5 lunch. While the standard deli meats are an option, the pulled pork and chicken sandwiches are the stars. (Always say yes to hot sauce.)

Also, be sure to try the steamed buns, all handmade by Phuong's family.

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In the back kitchen, her mother Huong Nguyen, wife Linh Nguyen, brother Huy Phuong, and sister-in-law Thuy Dinh roll out the dough, stuff it with round pork, onions, mushrooms, and cabbage, and pinch it. closed before being put on the giant steamer.

On the counter is bánh giò, a North Vietnamese specialty of steamed rice flour stuffed with ground beef, mushrooms, and quail eggs, wrapped in a banana leaf and best eaten warm.

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Closer to major holidays like Tết Trung Thu or the Mid-Autumn Festival, Phuong said his family's bakery makes special mooncakes and other festive treats.

"I learned from my grandparents that everything is done by hand," Phuong said, noting that there are no scales in the kitchen and things are measured by touch. “My soul is in this business. It's hard and you don't make a lot of money, but I can handle it."

Tropical Joe's (in Gerrard Square Inn)

Another second-generation homeowner in the neighborhood is Chris Boodhoo, whose father founded Josephtropical joesunder the name Caribbean Cuisine Delight in the 1990s and after all these years people are still lining up for free range chicken with rice and peas, oxtail, lamb curry and channa with potatoes.

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Everything on the menu tastes like it's been slow-cooked for hours, with myriad spices coming out in waves as you dig in chunks of channa drenched in a thick sauce. Chicken curry is one of the most popular dishes here: tender cuts of meat that fall off the bone, drenched in spices and a rich sauce.

After the first location opened, others followed, most recently in Gerrard Square in 2006. The Gerrard Square location is the only one still associated with the Tropical Joe's brand, which the young Boodhoo acquired in 2011 by word of mouth ( Queen East's popular Descendant Pizza used Tropical Joe's Jamaican chicken in a special pie), but at heart she's a neighborhood pillar.

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"We're in a shopping center where Home Depot, Service Canada and Wal-Mart are the main attractions," Boodhoo said. “Many of our clients come early for lunch because they start their day at 5 am. We have contractors, TTC workers, police officers, firefighters, EMTs, and (e)people from nursing homes.”

where to visit at night

Anglr (1054 Gerrard St. E.)

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A new addition to the block that opened in September 2020 is the seafood restaurantangle(1054 Gerrard St.E.). It is owned by brothers Chad and Tate Welton, who once worked at the Broadview Off The Hook fish and chip shop before starting their own business.

"Having worked in the Broadview and Danforth area for nine years, we feel comfortable in the East End," Chad said. “Our landlord is also a restaurateur, so he has been a little more forgiving during the pandemic. When we first opened the food seemed so far away and this place has a backyard so he just checked all the boxes for us when we found a seat.

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In addition to the traditional fish and chips, there is also a gluten-free option (and have a separate fryer to reduce the risk of cross-contamination) where pollock is ground into a mixture of chickpea flour, tapioca and rice, resulting in a crispy, golden crust that is served on a bed of chips and salad cabbage.

Hints of the brothers' Asian heritage can be found in the shrimp burger (a nice alternative to the more ubiquitous fish sandwich), which comes with a hoisin twist and is topped with pickled radish and aged cheddar cheese, and the chicken meatballs. fried shrimp with sesame soy sauce recipe, which they learned from their grandfather, who owned a Chinese restaurant in Kirkland Lake.

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lavender menace(Calle Gerhard E 1062)

infiltrate peoplelavender menaceto Chatty Thursdays, where the bar hosts a social once a week for those looking to make new friends. The bar's owners, couple Vivian Lynch and chef Agnes Lee, renamed the venue from its previous incarnation The Yard Sale last year.

Lee originally wanted a space with a greater focus on serving the LGBTQ+ community, and when the pandemic hit, the two decided to follow the original vision and name the space after a group of lesbians who opposed exclusion from the feminist movement and those years rebelled. 70 in America.

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"I still remember a neighborhood woman tearfully explaining to me how much our bar meant to her, how isolated and alienated she felt anywhere else in the Far East, even if they were (LGBTQ+) friendly enough," Lynch said. "That finally convinced me that Aggie was right all along and that we should have followed her gut! Plus, it was COVID and we barely lasted. So if we fail, we might as well fail to do something we really care about, for a community that we care.

The bar's namesake cocktail begins with gin infused with butterfly pea flowers to give it a blue hue, followed by cream of violet, elderflower syrup, lime juice to turn the blue gin a purple hue, and then finish with egg whites and rounded sage. dried lavender and cherries. It's a strong, slightly tart floral drink that goes with the flowers that hang in the bar where Lynch makes the drinks.

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She's whipping up a new cocktail for warmer weather: a colorful sunset concoction called Chana Com Chana, named for a 1980s Brazilian lesbian magazine Cachaça, Italian and Creole bitters, pineapple and jackfruit juice, and falernum are combined for a tropical delight you can't resist best enjoyed on the rooftop this summer.

As the owner of the Philippine Oriental Food Market, Lynch also spent much of her life in Leslieville, watching the neighborhood change (her bar was once a Starbucks, then a bakery). She's not sure what the neighborhood will be like in the next few years, especially with aProper condo overlooking Gerrard Square, but he believes that old and new stains can coexist.

"I don't think we're going to be at the level of (Queen West or Ossington) because this is a more family-oriented neighborhood. I love Leslieville and the people of the East are very proud of their communities."


Pinkerton's Snack Bar, Poor Romeo and the Vatican Gift Shop (1026 Gerrard St.E., 1029 Gerrard St.E. and 1047 Gerrard St.E.)

As the sun goes down, the menus and the mood change on Gerrard Street. Six years ago, Marc Baglio (of West Queen West Czehoski fame) put down roots here along with his business partners Adam Graham, Adam Kelly and former Czehoski chef Andy Wilson.Restaurante Pinkerton.

Pinkerton's vibe is grunge, set to a soundtrack based heavily on '90s alt-rock. In the kitchen, bowls of duck rice are served alongside sous vide fried chicken drizzled with a generous dollop of piri piri sauce. . The baos have become so popular that there is a whole menu of fillings like bulgogi-style steak marinated in spicy mayonnaise sauce, Korean fried chicken bao with spicy gochuchang sauce, and slow-cooked jackfruit.

Bartender Joao Machado's cocktails rotate regularly, and a line of canned cocktails under the Dynamite Kid brand was recently introduced at Pinkerton's Bottle Shop. The Aperol Spritz is a popular drink when the weather is nice, and another favorite is the Sherry Tonic, which Machado makes with champagne vinegar and dry vermouth.

The team opened a year after Pinkerton's.armer romu, a version of the American pub with whiskey and mezcal on the cocktail menu and smashed burgers and grilled chicken on the menu.

The playlist ranges from disco and synth pop to '80s hair metal.

"It felt like a natural extension of Pinkerton. We were so impressed with the support we received the first year that we decided to keep our second project in the neighborhood," Baglio said.

Vatican gift shopis the third place. Originally intended as a speakeasy, the bar has grown into a full-blown dance party and live venue that gets rowdy late into the night. Oh, and there's pizza.

“All of our restaurants are odes to our favorite Toronto foods, and pizza is something we wanted to make part of the core identity of the Vatican,” Baglio said.

A crowd favorite is the Augustine, a vegetable pie made with roasted butternut squash and crisp kale, topped with mozzarella and sweetened with caramelized onions. The Bianco di Prosciutto has a wonderful garlic sauce, black olives and thin slices of prosciutto and Parmesan. There's a final touch of sweetness from the balsamic glaze that wraps it up nicely.

Keep an eye out for occasional specials like pies with shishito peppers and flank steak or the pancetta torta with grilled pineapple and pickled jalapenos.

"When people think of the East Side, Danforth and Queen East immediately come to mind because they have their own scene," Baglio said. "Gerrard is not getting the attention he deserves."

Correction - April 28, 2022:This article was updated from a previous version, in St. James Town, and placed its location south of Gerrard Street East.

now liuis a Toronto-based food reporter for the Star. Contact him via

Suresh Dossis a Toronto-based food writer and travel guide. He is an independent star contributor. Contact him via



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