When the New York Times called out Leslieville’s Queen East as the new Queen West a few years ago, it made Torontonians take notice of the metamorphosis happening in the once dodgy, industry-centric part of town.
Today it’s a lively, family friendly neighbourhood stoked by hip, destination-worthy eateries, bars and shops, and a thriving artistic community that’s moving in and converting the area’s industrial strips and warehouses into gorgeous studios and galleries.
TSEvents e-news takes a trip through Leslieville:
Joy Bistro, one of Leslieville’s largest event-ready restaurant options, offers two looks in one. With a capacity for up to 65, the main dining and bar area is light-filled and industrial-chic sleek with leather banquette seating and a mix of modern woods and contemporary finishes.
Upstairs is Over Joy, private event space seating up to 75. Juliette-style balcony windows, creamy exposed brick and glittering chandeliers set off the room’s white table cloth elegance. The room has direct access to a small rooftop patio. Joy’s corner location is actually patio perfect, with flower-boxed fenced street-level seating on both the west and east side of the building. Inventive prix fixe menus are a house specialty.
Skin & Bones
Adding to the area’s proliferation of wine bars, recently opened Skin & Bones has quickly become a destination for locals and city foodies alike with over 40 by-the-glass vintages and a 120-labels plus wine list. The quirky name is reference to grape skins and animal bones, both staples in making good wine and food. Chef Matthew Sullivan’s inspired menu plays up single ingredients for perfect wine pairing.
The warehouse-industrial minimalist interior throws focus on the food and wine. Front of bar seats 16 with high-top table dining by the windows plus banquette seating for groups of up to 30. An additional 35-ft. bar transitions the space into the back dining room which seats 60. An 18-seat chef’s harvest table has place of honour by the kitchen. Private buy out for Monday events.
Along Leslieville’s southern edge, Carlaw’s industrial warehouse strip is teeming with eclectic talent willing to share creative space with like-minded events. Check out PS4 Studio’s very white, very sleek, newly renovated photography and design space. Ceiling tall (up to 18-ft) with walls perfect for lighting colour-washes and projection. The 920 sq. ft. main floor studio also offers an adjustable aircraft-cable hanging system for artwork, backdrops, banners, etc. A curvy, corrugated Molo wall adds portable interest.
Leslieville Cheese Market & Fine Foods
We never say no to cheese, especially when served up with the deep passionate respect and knowledge of curd aficionados such as the gang at Leslieville Cheese Market & Fine Foods. Owner Michael Simpson has cheese covered every which way from amazing in-store selections to awesome catering platters that promise nary a cube in sight.
There are also expert-led wine and cheese tastings and fun themed night school classes. Sign up for on-site participation or get cheesed privately at a location of your choice. Gift certificates and membership in a monthly cheese club make unique gifts.
Hooked is not your everyday fishmonger. Owners Kristin and Dan Donovan parlayed their love for the neighbourhood and backgrounds as professional chefs into a seafood boutique and caterer specializing in direct-from-water-to-shop, local, sustainable seafood. Order up Hooked’s event-fantastic oyster and raw bars, hot and cold hors d’oeuvres and food stations.
An onsite teaching kitchen accommodates small hands-on cooking classes and oyster-shucking lessons for up to a dozen guests. Instruction and ingredients are also transferrable to an outside venue. In-store cocktail receptions are available, accommodating up to 45 people.
Straddling the Leslieville and Riverside neighbourhoods, Table 17 is a popular wine bar and restaurant specializing in bistro-style fare rooted in classic French and Italian influences. Huge mirrors, exposed wood walls, floor-to-ceiling blackboard menu, antique lighting and colourful, distressed tavern chairs lend the setting a comfy, rustically elegant farmhouse feel.
The main level seats 50 with front-of-house bar, dining in the back. Moveable furnishings make for versatile event layouts. Upstairs, a private dining room seats 24, offering lots of event options such as wine tastings, business meetings, holiday and office parties. Full restaurant buy out is available.
The Rock Oasis
Scale new heights of learning and activity bonding with teambuilding sessions at The Rock Oasis. The rock climbing facility houses six climbing nooks, colour-coded by complexity, for a total of 15,000 sq. ft. of multi-angled Spider-man enticing wall surfaces. The experienced climber’s challenge tops out at 34 ft.
Group packages include up to three hours of certified instructor-led safety and climbing basics, equipment and wall time. Working in pairs, participants learn to properly harness and tie into the safety rope, and how to belay the rope for their partners. Relax, share and toast achievements post-climb in a small on-site lounge. Weekday group packages accommodate up to 78 people (less on weekends).
Cry If I Want To
Event designing sisters Allison and Rochelle Straker have been Leslieville loyalists since opening Cry If I Want To, their entertainment lifestyle retail concept and rentals showroom, on Queen Street East in 2008. The boutique sells unique home entertaining décor including table and barwares, party accessories, tons of gorgeous pillows and their own specially designed furniture line.
On the event rentals side, a reasonably priced inventory is geared to small-scale gatherings of up to 100 looking to make a splash with high-end dishware and décor pieces. The shop is also home base for the sisters’ event marketing and design services for the corporate and wedding industry.
Lo the ’hood’s ire if the Ceili Cottage, a mega-popular Irish local, were to close for private events! But if group exclusivity is a must, outside you go between late October to early May, warmly ensconced within the pub’s brand new, authentic (and ingenious!) Mongolian Winter Patio Yurt that keeps seated parties of up to 40 warm and toasty.
Direct connection to the Cottage’s main building ensures seamless indoor passage to the inside bar and loo. Order up a Yurt-Ceili advantage … an oyster bar from the pub’s owner and champion shucker Patrick McMurray’s StarFish
Bobbette & Belle
Artisanal pastry and cake designer duo Allyson Bobbitt and Sarah Bell opted for the heart of Leslieville when they made the leap from custom order-only to storefront bakery. Pop into Bobbette & Belle for DIY-event stock and sweet table indulgences of French macarons, cupcakes, cookies and pastries. The award-winning team is behind the city’s most stylish special occasion and theme cakes. Custom order a wide range of edible corporate treats and beautifully packaged favours.
The spacious 3,000-sq.- ft. Parisian-style bakeshop is as drop-dead yummy gorgeous as the wares it sells. A lovely on-site café lounge is perfect for intimate high teas, espresso-fuelled meetings and champagne gatherings for up to 25.
For floral DIYers, Florabunda is Leslieville’s answer to Avenue Road and Davenport’s flower market row. A huge selection of colourful and unique fresh-cut flowers by the bunch, and vases to display them in, pack the shop. Potted plants, mainly orchids and seasonal petals, are also popular sellers.
Onsite expertise guides customers through the wide range of choices and potential decor ideas. Vase arrangements, bouquets and plants are also available for GTA delivery. Owner Marc Staples happily supplies bulk flowers at bulk prices to event planners and brides designing their own centrepieces, bouquets and décor.
Pentimento Fine Art Gallery
Specializing in contemporary Canadian artists with a local talent-focus, Pentimento Fine Art Gallery offers a bright, ever-changing art-filled canvas for gatherings of up to 50 people. Open-plan versatile, the gallery’s event portfolio includes wedding and cocktail receptions, lectures and workshops in addition to its own art talks and exhibit launches.
Call on owner John Rait’s film connections for guest speakers, artists and celebrity personalities for excitement and ideas for a unique salon-themed event. Warm weather events can push the bar outside to a cute patio. The lower level holds a small prep kitchen.