Bloordale

The Informer

Real Estate

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Bloordale is evidently tired of being a strip-club strip
(Image: Google Street View)

(Image: Google Street View)

The Star reports that a subtle but significant change is underway in Bloordale, the steadily gentrifying stretch of Bloor Street between Dufferin and Lansdowne. A group of residents operating under the banner of a new organization called the Bloordale Community Improvement Association has thrown its weight behind a movement to unseat the long-time chair of the neighbourhood’s Business Improvement Area, Spiro Koumoudouros—a guy who also happens to be the owner of one of the area’s best-known businesses, the House of Lancaster, a storied strip club where the menu includes an item called the Gang Bang Platter. Koumoudouros seems nonplussed by the opposition. “If I’m doing a great job,” he told the Star, “what’s the matter [with] the House of Lancaster? I’m in a legitimate business.”

The Goods

Stores

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At Bloordale’s new general store: come for vintage fur, stay for a cup of tea

(Image: Odd Finds General Store)
(Image: Odd Finds General Store)

Odd Finds is a general store, vintage clothing shop and tearoom in one. Unsurprisingly, the space is quaintly cluttered: rustic lanterns sit next to old clocks; antique bureaus are laden with handmade candles and soaps; and the odd fur cap dangles artfully among the mix. Co-owner Stacey Collrin, who opened the store in January with her sister Danielle, explains that the unconventional inventory combines their respective interests. “My sister wanted a tea shop, and I wanted to sell vintage clothes, so this is what we did.” The shop’s racks carry a mix of cute 70s frocks, fur capelets and other vintage apparel, most of it sourced from Bloor West consignors 96 Tears. The goal is to keep everything under $40, although the sisters will make exceptions for special pieces, like a suede, fur-trimmed cape, priced at $150, or decorative deer antlers from Texas, which start at $70. At Dee’s Teas, the casual in-house tea bar, shoppers can ponder their purchases while sipping cups of lavender, lemon balm or gogi berry tea.

Tu-Su 12-7, 1178 Bloor St. W., facebook.com

The Dish

New Reviews

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Review: The Emerson, a new family-friendly bistro in Bloorcourt

(Image: Emma McIntyre)

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The Emerson  1 star½
1279 Bloor St. W., 416-532-1717

This jovial new Bloordale spot is the ultimate hipster family restaurant. The room is filled to the rafters with reclaimed curios—a model airplane hanging from the ceiling, vintage bikes mounted on the wall—but the space is large, the music is mercifully low and the crowd is a mix of flannel-clad 30-somethings and toddlers. The cooks in the open kitchen sport pointy paper hats and bow ties while prepping trendy but safe bistro food.

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The Dish

New Reviews

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Review: The Whippoorwill, the latest Bloordale brunch spot

(Image: Courtesy The Whippoorwill)

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The Whippoorwill  1 star½
1285 Bloor St. W., 416-530-2999

Bloordale’s newest brunch spot deploys all the ubiquitous diner-kitsch cutery—red vinyl booths, checkered floors, Formica tables—without overdoing it. (We only noticed one taxidermied moose head.) The kitchen offers satisfying riffs on traditional brunch fare. Soft buttermilk biscuits sit under two runny poached eggs, fresh watercress and an expertly lemony bearnaise sauce. Eggs come with the crunchiest potatoes you may have ever tasted, spicy, ’nduja-chunked braised beans, and scrapple, a Pennsylvania Dutch dish of pan-fried, pork-studded cornbread. It’s crisp and salty, but far too rich to be doled out in such massive servings. Service is friendly and speedy— but make sure to get there before 11:30, when the line snakes out the door.

The Dish

The Month That Was

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The Month that Was: the Toronto restaurants and bars that opened and closed in December

Sang Kim’s new Yakitori Bar (Image: Gizelle Lau)

Opening

  • Yakitori Bar and Seoul Food Co.—Restauranteur Sang Kim (Ki, Blowfish) set an ambitious goal for himself: one restaurant, thirty days. It must’ve been too easy, because he ended up opening two, an izakaya and a Korean takeout joint. Read our Introducing post »
  • Hawthorne Food and Drink—Chef Eric Wood (Fabarnak) finds inspiration for Hawthorne’s menu in Toronto’s wide array of ethnic cuisines. Bonus: he also runs a paid training program for newly graduated cooks. Read our Introducing post »

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The Dish

Openings

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Introducing: Karelia Kitchen, Bloordale’s new Scandinavian café

Introducing: Karelia Kitchen

(Image: Megan Leahy)

From the late ’60s until the ’80s, Karelia was an influential Scandinavian design store in Toronto run by Janis Kravis. Now his son, Leif Kravis, along with his wife Donna Ashley, have revived the brand with Karelia Kitchen, a Scandinavian-inspired café at Dufferin and Bloor. The 24-seat, 600-square-feet space has a clean-lined, minimalist Scandinavian aesthetic, with a ceiling panelled in locally sourced tongue-and-groove ash and naked walls painted ochre and rusty red. In fine Scandinavian style, the counter-service menu fluctuates depending on what is market-fresh, local and in-season.

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The Dish

The Month That Was

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The Month That Was: the Toronto restaurants and bars that opened and closed in November

Santouka Ramen was one of the many ramen shops to open this month (Image: Karolyne Ellacott)

Opening

  • Skin and BonesDaniel Clarke and Harry Wareham, both formerly of Enoteca Sociale and Pizzeria Libretto, have opened the doors to Leslieville’s newest wine bar with chef-nomad Matthew Sullivan (Boxed, Maléna) in the kitchen. Read our Introducing post »
  • A-OK Foods—Yes, it’s another spot serving ramen, but this Queen West snack bar is owned by the trio behind Yours Truly and serves house-made ramen noodles. Read our Introducing post »
  • Rose and Sons—The first of Anthony Rose’s promised trio of restaurants opened with little fanfare and no liquor licence last week on Dupont. Rose is still tinkering with the menu, offering only brunch and lunch, but he’s launching a full dinner service on December 6. Read our Dish post »

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The Dish

Closings

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The Bloordale Pantry closes, is quickly replaced by The Whippoorwill Restaurant and Tavern

In a 10-day Restaurant Makeover-ish blitz, friends Shawn Creamer (Dakota Tavern) and Tyler Cunningham (Ultra) have taken over and transformed the homey Bloordale Pantry into the trendier Whippoorwill Restaurant and Tavern (consider it Bloordale’s second wave of gentrification). A regular at the Pantry, Creamer told us that he would often half-jokingly offer to take over the space from its owners, Rose Guarnieri and Anthony Menna. Eventually, the half-joke became a deal.

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The Dish

Openings

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Introducing: Bar Neon, a new Bloordale watering hole with some ambitious grub

Jeff Garcia’s striking mural adorns one wall at Bar Neon (Image: Gizelle Lau)

When Bar Neon opened last month, it became Bloordale’s answer to the trend embodied by places like Grand Electric and 416 Snack Bar: hip, local watering holes not afraid to serve food with a little ambition. Behind Bar Neon is Niki Tsourounakis, who grew up around the restaurant business, near Montreal. She also owns Café Neon in just outside the Junction Triangle and Amphora Products, a company that imports organic Vlatos olive oil and fleur de sel from Crete—both of which, naturally, make a few appearances on the plates at Bar Neon.

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The Dish

Restaurants

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New Reviews: Ortolan, Pizza e Pazzi and Obikà

ORTOLAN star ½
1211 Bloor St. W., 647-348-4500
OrtolanBy now the formula is familiar: young chefs set up small, idiosyncratic restaurant in down-at-heels neighbourhood on shoestring budget and compensate for limited chalkboard menu and no-reservations policy with good food and reasonable prices. Damon Clements and Daniel Usher, the chef-owners at Bloordale Village’s new local-focused bistro, just a few doors down from the House of Lancaster strip club, happen to do a better job with the formula than many of their peers. The cooking is outstanding much of the time: superb potato gnocchi with chopped mint, early-season asparagus, creamy, melted mascarpone and grana padano cheese, for instance, or hangar steak that’s gently charred at its edges and busting with beefy flavour on top of a caper brown-butter pan sauce. Desserts are great, none better than the tiny jam pot of chocolate mousse that tastes of expensive cocoa beans. Service is spot-on. Among the quirks here: there is no vodka or gin (the owners loathe generic white spirits). Closed Sunday and Monday. Mains $14–$20.

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The Dish

Openings

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Introducing: The Lansdowne Cone, a new ice cream parlour set to lure patrons westward

Manager Kaili Kinnon and owners Alex Sinclair and Andrew Helfrich

“Blansdowne,” to use the oft-deprecating moniker for the strip of Bloor around Lansdowne, may be losing traction with the recent addition of new places to eat. One such business is The Lansdowne Cone, which opened its doors a few weeks ago to an enthusiastic reception from the area’s residents.

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The Dish

Openings

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Introducing: Ortolan, a tiny new restaurant in Bloordale

(Image: Catherine Gerson)

With a name nodding to a notorious old-world culinary delicacy, Ortolan quietly opened its doors two weeks ago in the space formerly occupied by Kathy’s Kitchen in Bloordale Village. Taking a little bit of Ossington with them, chef-owners Damon Clements (Delux) and Daniel Usher (Pizzeria Libretto) have pooled their respective experiences in French and Italian cuisines to branch out on their own on the quickly changing strip between Dufferin and Lansdowne.

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The Informer

Culture

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The Avenue recap: new Web series “takes” Toronto—and so far, we want it back

Toronto-focused television already has its place in fiction, from the mind-warping fantasy of Being Erica to the gang’s-all-here approach of Metropia. So when The Hills collapsed in Lauren Conrad’s absence and a trashy void needed to be filled, Toronto stepped up with the racial stereotyping of Lake Shore. Or that’s what we thought until we saw The Avenue.

Local production company Fisher/Morris had dollar signs in their eyes after meeting Gregory Gorgeous, a flamboyant, back-treading gay caricature from an undisclosed Ontario suburb, and stuck him in the show. The Avenue is a Toronto-based Web series that has generated some early interest after only five heavily scripted Webisodes (everyone seemed to be talking about its coming finale on Twitter last night). Here, we go back to the beginning to recap the first installment, following the show’s five vacuous wannabes as they tear up over snubbed non-contracts, difficult gay men and the trials transplants face when trying to “make it big” in the dark, mean streets of semi-privileged Toronto.

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The Goods

Shopping

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Introducing: Sara Duke Factory Store, the new Bloordale location for the designer’s creations

The spare display at Sarah Duke’s new store (Images: Glynnis Mapp)

The place: Sara Duke’s Factory Store is a sight for sore sartorial eyes along the quietly gentrifying section of Bloor Street West between Lansdowne and Dufferin (“gentlemen’s club” House of Lancaster notwithstanding). Some vintage retail shops offer kin company—namely furniture–meets–fashion store Lost and Found and 69 Vintage—but it’s been a while since this ’hood has welcomed a new clothing hub, and a bespoke one at that.

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The Dish

Openings

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Introducing: Drift Bar, Bloor and Dufferin’s affordable new hangout

Follow their Drift: Matt Michrowski and Damian Gaughan's new Bloor West bar (Image: Jon Sufrin)

Bloordale? Dufferin Grove? Blandsdowne? Dovercourt Park? The local boundaries may be in dispute, but the area is on the rise. Two years ago, the list of hangout options near Bloor and Dufferin looked like this: dive bar, Portuguese dive bar, dive bar, Disgraceland. Then came 3 Speed and Holy Oak, Starving Artist and Calico—edgy places that toy with the concept of “dive” without actually being uninviting.

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