Neighborhood Tour

It's All Good in Toronto's Up-and-Coming Neighborhood

by Paul Jebara
Corktown, Corktown’s Multipli'city Project showcases some of Toronto’s best street art. All photos by Paul Jebara.

Heading to Toronto? Don't miss Corktown, the city's new Itspot. Here's a rundown of what's new and good in the up-and-coming neighborhood.

TORONTO – Toronto’s trendy East End has been simmering for some time. The hot real estate market, relatively affordable lifestyle vibes, settled sense of community, and access to the downtown core have drawn young professionals and entrepreneurs to Corktown, clearly the city's next It neighborhood.

Odin cafe in Toronto
Odin pairs a striking interior with espresso drinks and a full bar.

The Enoch Turner Schoolhouse in Toronto
The Enoch Turner Schoolhouse was founded in 1848 as Toronto’s first free school.

Morning Stroll

If coffee is your cup of tea, find your buzz at Odin, a Nordic-inspired coffee shop on King Street East. The cafe-by-day/bar-by-night presents a clean, Scandinavian aesthetic with geometric furnishings and wooden accents. The baked goods, all made in-house, are terrific.

For a more substantial breakfast option (especially for you health-conscious folks), Impact Kitchen's menu is gluten-free with paleo and vegan options. Dig into a power bowl and a cup of bone broth for a vitamin-loaded punch before exploring the neighborhood.

While new developments continue to pop up around town, turn your head towards the historic gems. Corktown got its nickname from the surge of Irish immigration who arrived the 1800s from County Cork. The area remains home to several lesser-known landmarks of Torontonian history, like the city’s oldest surviving church, Little Trinity Anglican, which was built in 1844 for working class families. Adjacent to the church is the tiny Enoch Turner Schoolhouse. Built by a wealthy philanthropist, it became the city’s first free school and is now a museum. Also worth a visit is St. Paul’s Basilica, Toronto’s first Roman Catholic Church, constructed in an elegant, Italianate style.

For more history a few blocks away: The Inglenook Community High School was home to Lucie and Thornton Blackburn, refugee slaves who fled Kentucky through the Underground Railroad in 1834 and eventually created Toronto’s first private taxi service (horse-drawn carriages at the time).

Pastries at Roselle in Toronto
The exceptional pastries at Roselle are a fresh take on classic flavors.

Corktown Cubes in Toronto
The quirky Corktown Cubes is a landmark apartment structure, rentable on Airbnb.

Afternoon Treats

Chase your dose of local history with sugar at Roselle, one of Toronto’s most favored patisseries. Founded by two Michelin-trained pastry chefs, the assortment of cakes, cookies, and other sweet classics is top tier. Try the insanely popular soft-serve, whatever the current flavor.

Next, stroll down King Street East towards Underpass Park. On your way, you may fall in love with Corktown’s well-preserved 19th century row houses, or perhaps the striking Corktown Cubes, a bizarre and uniquely modern habitat structure located in a parking lot. Apartments in the Cubes are available on Airbnb, so you can even spend the night.

A remarkable example of creative urban revitalization, Underpass Park is the site of Multi'plicity, a mural project that’s as enlightening as it is Instagrammable. It features some of the city’s best street art, thanks to seventeen muralists from different provinces commissioned to tell their cultural stories on the concrete pillars that support a highway overpass. Through art, Multi’plicity emphasizes Canada’s prized diversity — and, symbolically, that this diversity is a pillar of Canadian society.

If you’re here in the in the warmer months, you can have your fill of Ontario’s edible bounty every Thursday at the Underpass Park Farmers Market, a go-to for local produce, artisanal cheeses, breads, and more.

Dish of Souk Tabule in Toronto
Dish at Souk Tabule.

Souk Tabule in Toronto
Casual Lebanese fare at Souk Tabule, a popular addition to Corktown's restaurant scene.

Rooftop at the Broadview Hotel
Panoramic city views at sunset from the rooftop at Broadview Hotel.

Evening Wind-Down

Head to the Canary District, a manicured micro-neighborhood at the fringes of Corktown, originally developed to host athletes from the 2016 Pan Am Games. Go for a walk on the paths within Corktown Common, a hilly park at the mouth of the Don River that was landscaped (beautifully, to boot) to protect the flood-prone area.

With residents slowly trickling into the district’s new glistening condos, restaurateurs are following suit. Souk Tabule is a fast-casual yet refined Lebanese restaurant with delectably fresh mezze platters, made-from-scratch flatbread, and hearty meat dishes. The dining room is bright and airy, accented by Arabesque art and a product wall to bring Middle Eastern ingredients to your kitchen.

For a more formal night out, walk ten minutes eastward on Queen Street East to the newly-opened Broadview Hotel (you’ll technically be in Riverdale, but close enough to end the night here). A former strip club (among other previous incarnations), the impressive landmark was recently restored as an uber-hip boutique hotel with a rooftop bar, lobby restaurant, and café. Take the elevator to the roof before sunset for cocktails and panoramic city views. Grab a small bite, or head down to The Civic, the Broadview’s superb restaurant for elevated, seasonal Canadian cuisine in a dining room that exudes old-world Victorian flare.

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