Experience Toronto the way locals do with a few activities and at a few hangouts that aren’t in the guidebooks.

Eat on Ossington, drink on Dundas West

Ossington Avenue is where the Toronto cool kids go out for dinner, and the hard part is choosing a spot. Almost all the restos – Union, Omaw, Mamakas Taverna, La Banane, even Golden Turtle, the hole-in-the-wall pho place where celeb chef Susar Lee likes to go – are fantastic! We like Boehmer, especially on a Tuesday when they offer dollar oysters, $24 lobsters and half-price bottles of wine.

Later, head to Ossington and Dundas West for some prime evening entertainment. The Dakota Tavern is live music central with roots rock and country on the slate seven days a week. The Red Light is perfect for an intimate drink and for chats about music with local DJs, and Opera Bob’s, home of Manchester United Supporters in Toronto, has live bluegrass on Sunday nights.

Hang out in Kensington Market

By day, Kensington is home to dry goods stores, green grocers, two fabulous cheese shops and many purveyors of vintage clothing. If you’re hungry, go to Sanagan’s Meat Locker for artisanal deli and charcuterie products and their yummy chicken sandwiches, or pop by any of the Colombian and Mexican lunch counters sprinkled about near Augusta and Baldwin.

In the evening, visit Grey Gardens, one of the five restos owned by Toronto toughie Jen Agg, for delectable food like crispy pig’s head, venison carpaccio and tandoori lobster. Next, be a total insider and check out Cold Tea, a hidden spot in a little mall on Augusta. Find the red light and act like you’ve been there before. The bar’s cool outdoor area makes it an excellent summer destination.

Graffiti Alley and Spadina Avenue

Just south of Queen and Portland, you’ll find Graffiti Alley, where the walls are filled with mesmerizing murals, political statements and other everchanging bits of local documentation. Follow this all the way east and you’ll be right around the corner from Avenue Open Kitchen. With its all-day breakfast, its luscious Reuben and revolving daily lunch specials, this non-touristy place is legendary. Head north from here to Chinatown, for the hustle and bustle, unusual street vendors and some inexpensive gifts.

 

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