The city of Toronto has gained so much notoriety over the last few years with the help of our sports teams, crazy former Mayor, Drake and Vogue Magazine naming Queen West as one of the most stylish neighbourhoods in the world. It seems as if the west end and central downtown gets all the love but with my recent relocation to the Riverdale area, I’ve grown quite fond of the east end’s neighbourhood feel and charm. You don’t have to venture far for a good organic butcher, well appointed coffee house, healthy restaurants and cool boutiques are starting to now pop up giving the area a breath of fresh air. As part of Bench’s #LoveMyHood campaign, I’m giving you a sneak peek into some of spots I’ve quickly fallen in love with wearing the easy to rock basics I wear religiously from the Canadian retailer.
What I’m Wearing: Ornamentation Handbag (c/o of Bench), Verdugo Ramone Deconstructed Denim (c/o Paige Denim), Lautner Leather Moto (The Arrivals NYC), Felt Hat (vintage), Apocalypse White Tee (c/o Bench), Planetary Running Hat (c/0 Bench), Baddah N Leggings (c/o Bench), Shenanigan B Jacket (c/o Bench), Nike Air Max 1 Mid Waterproof Boots (c/o Nike)
ODIN CAFE + BAR – 514 King Street East Toronto, ON
With intricate designed lattes, Matcha becoming mainstream and flat whites gaining popularity, cool coffee shops have been opening all over the city. Some even understanding our society’s obsession of sharing highly curated images on social media of our daily “cup-of-joe”, have built aesthetically pleasing cafes where just about every square foot of space is instagrammable. This describes Odin to a T. Also known as Odin Hus or Odin Cafe + Bar, this Nordic inspired cafe on King East is a hybrid bar serving java and snacks by day, cocktails and craft beer at night plus brunch on weekends. Opened by owner’s Patrick Tu and Tom Juneck. who also own Thor Espresso Bar in addition to new locations opening in Toronto’s financial district, Japan and Switzerland next year, Odin has quickly become one of my go-to places to eat, drink, and work. Caffeine aside, Odin is so aesthetically pleasing with their geometric Konstantin Gric stools and light blue Eames chairs doubling as art, angular details behind the bar and the space’s piece de resistance – a large black and white mural by local Toronto artist Tara Niewiadomski.
KaSpace – KEVIN ALLWOOD ATELIER 185 Carlaw Toronto, ON M4M 2S1
For weeks I jogged by KaSpace when it was a blank canvas wondering what was going to open there and it wasn’t until a cold Sunday evening run in December when I noticed something had finally opened in the space. To call KaSpace a clothing boutique simply wouldn’t do it any justice. Partners Ashley King Allwod and Kevin Allwood, who originally hail from Montreal, opened this gallery-esque concept store in Leslieville as an extension of KA Magazine, which the pair publishes annually and to sell pieces from Kevin’s namesake fashion line (which is all organic and ethically sourced in Italy and Canada) and all-natural personal care items; think essential oil-infused moisturizers and bath salts. And if this isn’t enough, KA Cafe will be coming in the very near future. What attracted me to the KaSpace originally was it’s clean, minimal design of the space which was mimicked by both the clothing and art hung in gallery style on the walls. My favourites are the cluster of photographs by the entrance by Ted Witek just to the right of black chic, gold faced mannequins wearing Allwood’s exclusive evening wear collection. Head towards the back of the room and you will become seduced by a video of a ballerina projected on the wall, shot by the multi-faceted and talented Mr. Allwood, who is also a photographer and art director, as part of his multimedia art exhibit.
Apart from Allwood’s evening wear collection which I adore, his ready-to-wear collection is what closely resembles my personal style. There seems to be less and less of division in the pieces that I wear to work, play and workout. I love tights and sweatpants that are less run of the mill and more athleisure that can take me from the yoga studio straight to lunch and basic tees that can be thrown over sports bras post workout with jeans or as a dress with sneakers. I have literally lived in my pair of Discerning Sweats from Bench since I got them and have worn them with everything. This is what I love so much about Bench. Easy to wear classic pieces that can seamlessly take me from morning to night. Plus cozy hoodies and sweaters perfect for layering under my Bench jacket, that is both warm and surprisingly figure flattering for winter outerwear.
IMPACT KITCHEN – 573 King Street East Toronto, ON M5A 4L3
If you love clean, healthy foods sans gluten but rich in flavour, then stop what you’re doing immediately and head to Impact Kitchen. Also located on King East in Corktown, a stone’s throw away from Odin, this 5,000 sqft lofty restaurant cafe resembles much more of a new wave cafeteria. Opened in 2015 by Josh Broun and Frank Toskane, the latter founded cult makeup brand M.A.C. Cosmetics and sold it in 1998, hired former personal chef Stephanie Tucci to create a menu full of nutrient rich foods that are not only minimally processed but also works with Paleo and vegan diets. Salads and bowls is Impact’s focus during the day in addition to their plethora of guilt free snacks and deserts but the evening is when you can find delicious Paleo chilli, bison meatballs and flanked steak. My personal faves over the past few weeks have been the Paleo waffles (only available on the weekends until 12:30) and the infamous Maverick bowl (pictured above) piled with root veggie mash, avocados, nuts, salsa fresca and your choice of protein if you want to add it. The coffee bar doesn’t disappoint either – offering almond and cash milk, both made in-house, plus their own line of delicious cold pressed juices.
BOXCAR SOCIAL (RIVERDALE) – 4 Boulton Ave Toronto, ON
Good charcuterie, check. Extensive whiskey list, check. Diverse wine list by the glass, check. Tasty craft beer to please even the pickiest of palettes, check. Welcome to Boxcar Social. With two locations now in Toronto, one in Summerhill and the other in Riverdale, people from all over the city have been venturing to Toronto’s east side for Boxcar’s carefully curated list of new world wines, scotches, bourbons and rotating list of coffee from the best roasters in the world. Located on Boulton Ave just north of the Queen East strip with minimal external signage means before you had to be in the know to find the place but with the slew of Instagram posts by locals, I am certain this spot will be continuously busy come summer time when their licensed patio re-opens. I am familiar with “flights” in the juicing world, where you can order sample sizes of a variety of juices if you don’t want to decide on just one, however Boxcar Social is the very first place I witnessed coffee and whiskey flights but I guess there’s a first time for everything. Patrons can order three different coffees side by side or two different espressos paired with two half ounces bourbons. A concept people seem to throughly enjoy. Besides having a great coffee and drink list, this over 100 year old building with 18 ft ceilings is a visually dope and inviting space where an afternoon of writing and emails can easily turn into an evening of one too many drinks with a friend.