The Parkdale Guide – Why You Need To Go Past Dufferin

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Carrie Bradshaw once said that in New York city, a girl is constantly on the look out for an apartment, a job, or a boyfriend. I’ve come to realize that the same goes for Toronto. Back in September, I found myself lacking two of the three.

While I believe that  love will find us organically, the same cannot be said about apartments. Toronto’s condo industry is daunting and home hunting is about as pleasant as a trip to the dentist. Picking the right neighborhood also weighed heavily on my mind. I’ve lived in both sides of the city. Though I’ve enjoyed the brownstone lofts and indie coffee shops of the east side, I’ve always identified better with the pop up shop obsessed west side.

When the opportunity presented itself, I jumped on the chance to move to Parkdale! With its rough around the edges persona, Parkdale can be easy to misjudge but stay awhile child and let me change your mind.

I’ve compiled a list of hidden gems that will make your streetcar ride past Dufferin well worth it and perhaps even fall for it’s gritty charm.

Food & Drink


Pretty Ugly Bar is in fact not that ugly. The new spot by our good buddy Grant Van Gameren of Bars Isabel and Raval is quickly becoming my favorite! Why? It’s just so goddamned cool, that’s why. The exterior is nondescript, much like most businesses in this area but the interior proves that we should never judge a Parkdale bar by its cover (pun unintended – there’s no cover here). Go past the carpeted entryway (I mysterious) and when you find yourself at the mezcal bar, pat yourself on the shoulder cause you made it!



The Commodore is really a perfect mash up of great food, delicious cocktails, and a beautiful atmostphere. The fact that you can stumble home doesn’t hurt either. Take your date here. *Wink wink. Foodies and instagram babies flock here for brunch so make sure you get there early!



Just when I thought I knew Parkdale, I discover spots like Miss Thing’sSup with Tiki culture these days, you may ask. Well, it’s absolutely not what I expected. Tony Bahama shirts were not found at Miss Thing’s, only fresh poke bowls, pineapple jicama salad, and all the flavours of the tropics. They also have a cocktail served inside a coconut – I checked. I love this place and I’m not just saying that because I may or may not be Polynesian. Take your touque off, put on your lei, and sip your coconut cocktail.


Foodie favorite Chantecler has undergone some staff evolution but retained the charm and delicious menu. I’m happy to dine at Chantecler for about 15-20 years without getting tired of it. The city needs more spots like this one where you can relax, have a wonderful meal, and romanticize the neighborhood a bit.



Kitten and the Bear is as adorable as it gets. The spot just right of Sorauren Ave offers artisanal preserves and buttermilk scones. Not to mention an abundance of Instagram photos opportunities Stop by for a some scones and jam or stay for their Jam & Tea Service ($17.450/per).



The Tempered Room is such a gem. I have been known to be extra every once in a while but I am not exaggerating when I say, that the Tempered room is one of the most beautiful cafes I’ve ever been to. Their of food is another thing. I’m mildly addicted to their veggie quiche. They also offer catering and their space is availabe for special events.


Mitzi’s Cafe is my go to neighborhood brunch spot. You cannot get any more neighborly than this. The cozy cafe is surrounded by stately brownstones. The staff are sweet and because most of the repeat patrons live in the area, they are greeted by name. The food is consistently delicious. Mitzi’s gives me such warm feelings. Home sweet Parkdale.



People have various opinions regarding Grant Van Gameren’s take over of  Harry’s in south Parkdale. My opinion is that they have fantastic burgers ($6) and that’s really all you need to know – that and how Nate Young’s team has so carefully preserved the atmosphere of the previous Harry’s. Oh yes, its cash only – this is Parkdale after all. Leave your Apple pay at home you animals!


1nyr3iwbniBorealFront I imagine Boreal Gelato will be my post brunch chill spot when the weather gets warmer. One wonderful thing to note about Boreal is that they really take eco-friendly to heart. The furniture are salvaged from old church pews, the packaging are all bio degradable, and of course their gelati are all made in house with natural and local ingredients so you can leave the dessert guilt at home!

For Browsing


Crown Flora Studio sits right off Queen Street West on Gwynne Ave. I never thought I would be so obsessive about plants. Crown Flora’s studio will bring out the plant lover out of anybody. Their Parkdale space combines plants, fashion, and prints. This is the source of those addictive terrariums we see all over the city. I’d say they’re worth a visit!



In true Parkdale fashion, General Hardware Contemporary actually did used to be a hardware store. GHC showcases installations from both emerging and established artists and transcends beyond painting. Many of the artists live in the neighborhood and will drop in from time to time.

For Shopping


Love & Greed proves that the Queen West boutique row goes well past Dufferin Street. The high end menswear boutique curate items from American, Italian, and Japanese brands. From bespoke suits to luxe basics – this spot is worth checking out. Oh, did I mention the private whiskey bar in the basement sponsored by Auchentoshan?



Shop Girls Gallery Boutique stocks fashion and homeware from various Canadian designers. More importantly, their concept of “shopping for your shape” will change your shopping experience. Genius I tell ya!





If Parkdale is anything, it is antique heaven! Queen West Antique Centre is the source of all the mid century credenzas you’ve been eyeing in design blogs. Their items are mostly collected from schools but there is a solid industrial feel as well. Disclaimer: You will spend hours here so make sure you have a free afternoon!



I cannot possibly tell you about all these neighborhood gems without mentioning the Parkdale Flea! Shop antiques, vintage, designer, and even some munchies here. The next one is on December 10th and 11th – you can be sure its hella holiday themed! As always, its free entry!

Parkdale is one of the few neighborhoods in this city that has managed to hold on to its heart and its grit. As I’m writing this, I can’t help but feel pride and love for my new neighborhood. There is soul here – there is also a solid truckload of hipsters  but you know what I mean. I strongly urge you to take the next street car over to the west side and don’t let the grime deter you from exploring, Toronto is after all a treasure chest of neighborhoods – you never know what you’ll find!

Shiela is the original Small Girl and the Founder/Content Editor of Small Girl Medium City. She spent the majority of her "Grown Up" life in Toronto and reluctantly calls it the 6ix. Connect with her on Instagram - @shylo_l and Twitter - @sgmc_to; Definitely say hi when you see her on the mean streets!

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