At Al Premium, the gleaming new 75,000- square-foot grocery store at Eglinton and Warden, bags of Filipino jute leaves share the aisles with sacks of Vietnamese glutinous rice flour, Caribbean spices and Halal meats. The cafeteria counter transitions seamlessly from shawarma to mutter paneer to pho to dim sum, and the bubble tea station, staffed by a teenager in a hijab, abuts the espresso machine. The store caters to the mind-boggling diversity of the westernmost bit of Scarborough, which fulfills Toronto’s promise as a multicultural city in a way that no downtown neighbourhood has in decades—nearly half of the residents here are visible minorities. The diversity is vividly realized at the annual three-day Taste of Lawrence festival, for which the local BIA manages to close off a six-lane suburban arterial to traffic (downtowners would be surprised at how many people opt to walk).
In contrast to the hectic excitement of the main streets, all is placid on the inner residential lanes, where pretty post-war bungalows on perfectly kempt lots go for less than $500,000. There are even a few reminders of the mid-1850s village that used to stand here, like the old Anglican Church of St. Jude in Wexford and a copse of gnarled, hundred-year-old oaks and sugar maples that somehow survived clear-cutting at the top of Wexford Park. Further north on Pharmacy Avenue is Wexford Collegiate School for the Arts, the east end’s magnet for budding singers, actors and artists, whose alumni include sculptor Shary Boyle, Canada’s representative at this year’s Venice Biennale; and Degrassi’s Nina Dobrev—and yes, the school’s “Gleeks” recently sang an earth-to-orbit duet with Chris Hadfield.