Toronto

For cheap thrills, explore Toronto's coolest new neighborhood, clustered around Ossington Avenue.

Forget the CN Tower—formerly the world’s tallest structure. For the ultimate bird’s-eye view of this sprawling lakeside city, try flying into Toronto on the new Porter Airlines (direct flights from Newark; flyporter.com). It’s buzzing, 70-seat turboprop plane lands on an island airstrip just a few minutes from downtown, providing a stunning aerial tour. Though some locals are opposed to the noise and pollution that comes with the airport, this upstart carrier with its Tyler Brûlé touch­—the entrepreneur’s hand is all over Porter’s branding—offers a compelling alternative to the oodles of New York–Toronto flights at distant Pearson International.

Canucks are flush thanks to their gold- and petro-fueled currency, so avoid pricey downtown hotels and restaurants and head for the grittier West End. To get there, jump aboard the Queen West streetcar and get off at Toronto’s ultra-compressed version of the Lower East Side, Ossington Avenue (pronounced “oz-ington”).


The Tab

Two nights, two people

Flight $730
Hotel $370
Transportation $30
+ Meals $225

TOTAL

$1355

Porter Airlines has direct flights between Newark and Tornto, departing daily.

Travel time

1hr 30 mins


Drink
Eat
Shop
See
Sleep

DRINK  |   EAT  |   SHOP  |   SEE  |   SLEEP


Respsado Bar & Lounge

Photograph: John Sandy Macfadyen

Drink

Ossington is a tad scuzzy around the edges, though tentacles of hipster hangouts extend northward from gentrifying Queen Street. At the crossroads where gallerygoers mingle with day-pass patients from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Sweaty Betty’s (13 Ossington Ave, 416-535-6861) is a suitable citadel—a dark and brooding bar with a killer jukebox. Add in the swingers who slip into and out of Wicked (1032 Queen St West, 416-669-5582), a storefront sex club, and you get a sense of the clash of clandestine thrills on offer. Welcome to a new kind of Emerald City.

Drinking carries on until 2am and the legal age is just 19, so stamina—and pacing—is key. Order a microbrew pint of Creemore Ale at Crooked Star (202 Ossington Ave, 416-536-7271) and perch on the patio, or sip from the city’s largest selection of tequilas at Reposado Bar & Lounge (136 Ossington Ave, 416-532-6474). The Dakota Tavern (249 Ossington Ave, 416-850-4579) is a subterranean saloon with an alt-country ambience—think barn-board walls and barrel bar stools. The live music is equal parts roots and twang, and gets groovers shaking to local acts like Luke Doucet. Sunday brunch is served at communal tables, with live bluegrass accompanying the flapjacks and eggs.

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Eat

The much-praised Foxley Bistro and Bar (207 Ossington Ave, 416-534-8520) is known for its seafood: Try the arctic char or marlin ceviche ($14) before diving into curry-infused halibut grilled in a banana-leaf wrap ($22). Delux (92 Ossington Ave, 416-537-0134), featuring a French-Cuban twist on the bistro-dining trend that’s sweeping the city, is the newest kid on the block. The other current culinary fad is pho, and abundant bowls of beef noodle soup ($6.50) keep devotees lined up at the Golden Turtle (125 Ossington Ave, 416-531-1601).

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Ministry of the Interior

Shop

A mix of Portuguese and Vietnamese shops on Ossington is typical of the polyglot mishmash that is one of Toronto’s strongest characteristics. In between the karaoke and salt cod are fashion boutiques from designers like Deborah Korosec, whose Studio Gang (112A Ossington Ave, 416-536-4264) is a mecca for cotton womenswear. Ministry of the Interior (80 Ossington Ave, 416-533-6684) is a gallery-cum-design-shop for cutting-edge furnishings. The House of Horvath cigar factory (77 Ossington Ave, 416-534-4254) sells Dominican smokes by the box, and conjures a scene straight out of Carmen.

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Lennox Contemporary: White Noise by Kristi Ropeleski

Photograph: Tom Blanchard

See

The galleries—like Lennox Contemporary (12 Ossington Ave, 416-924-7964), artist-run A.W.O.L. (76 /78 Ossington Ave, 416-535-5637),/em> and TPW (56 Ossington Ave, 416-645-1066)—are grouped closer to Queen Street, a natural fit with the art scene anchored by MOCCA, the must-see Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art (952 Queen St West, 416-395-0067).

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The Drake Hotel

Photograph: George Whiteside

Sleep

The only thing missing from Ossington is a place to put your head. Thankfully, the city’s two best boutique hotels are just around the corner. The Drake Hotel (1150 Queen St West, 416-531-5042) has 19 smallish rooms (Queen $189, suite $299) and a buzzy bar scene. The Gladstone Hotel (1214 Queen St West, 416-531-4635) is a beautifully restored 19th-century manse with 35 rooms (double $185, suite $375)—each one whimsically designed by a local artist.

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