Your Insider Guide to Historic Cabbagetown Toronto
Named after the cabbages Irish settlers would plant in their front yards, Cabbagetown has a long history of being a low income neighbourhood. After scarcely avoiding the fate of neighbouring Regent Park and St James Town and being redeveloped as housing projects, the area has been experiencing a cultural and economic boom since the 1970s. Today, it is home to white collar workers, artists, and the largest continuous area of preserved Victorian housing in all of North America. Perhaps because of this, there are several antique and home decor shops in the area as well as amazing restaurants and even an urban farm. Here’s our guide of things to do when you visit this charming community.
If you’re into Victorian architecture, art and design, the Distillery District is most definitely worth checking out. Meanwhile, to continue exploring to the east cross the bridge over the Don Valley and see the sights of Riverside and Leslieville.
For even more fun ideas, check out these Amazing Things to Do in Toronto!
1. Eat at a delicious restaurant
For a relatively quiet district, Cabbagetown’s culinary scene packs a punch. Here are our picks for some places not to miss:
This place brings the flavours an smells of Taiwanese street markets to Toronto. They serve small snack size dishes such as Hotline Bling (sweet and sour chicken) and A Tribe Called Hakka (hakka-style stir fried pork), have an obsession with old school hip hop and a great selection of cocktails and local drinks, including sake. website
F’Amelia has some of the best North Italian food in the city with a vegetarian-friendly menu of specialty pasta, pizza and more! The restaurant is in a cozy little converted cottage and has a spacious solarium and patio. It’s also joined by Extended F’Amelia, a wine bar with bar snacks tucked in next door. website
This southern Cabbagetown spot serves authentic flavours brought directly from Thailand by its owners. Sukhothai isn’t glamarous, but it sure is delicious, making it the favourite go-to Thai place for many Cabbagetowners and Torontonians. See what the buzz is about for yourself! website
This is another pizza place that’s got people raving. It serves delicious thin crust pies (with gluten free and vegan options), and has a selection of beers on tap, as well as wine. There’s little seating in this cool, airy joint so the tables are communal, adding to its friendly neighbourhood charm! You can also get your pizza to go. website
Peartree serves continental dinners and brunches in a cozy plant and floral decorated interior with brick walls that’ll make you feel right at home. It’s a quiet and comfortable space with an amazing backyard patio – perfect for enjoying a meal from their extensive and varied menu. website
Another staple of Asian-inspired cuisine in the area: Zakkushi is a yakitori izakaya serving charbroiled skewers of meat and other Japanese favourites in a bustling and authentic atmosphere, perfect for dinner and drinks with a few friends. For a fine dining izakaya option, nearby Kingyo is also worth checking out. website
2. Grab a cup of coffee from Jet Fuel
Jet Fuel has long been a favourite destination for Toronto’s coffee addicts. The cycling themed coffee shop has bright red walls and is filled with creative types working away, plus it has an amazing sound system, catering to their tastes. Their coffee is velvety and smooth, with extra attention paid to the ratios of milk to foam, and even of micro foam to dry foam. They even have their own drink called the ‘Jet,’ with a more balanced ratio of foam and milk than a latte. The pastries are delightful too, so stop by soon to fuel your day, and especially your bike ride. website
3. Stroll down streets lined with Victorian houses
The original buildings in this area have largely been preserved, making for a cohesive and enchanting streetscape, filled with large old trees, beautifully landscaped gated yards and, of course, charming architecture. As you walk along, pay attention to how narrow some of these homes are and to all the various architectural styles to be found. While the Gothic Revival and Bay-and-Gable styles dominate with their steep, pointed gable roofs and decorative wooden trim, there are lots of other styles to be found – including Second Empire with its mansard roofs and dormer windows, Romanesque Revival such as the prominent Toronto Dance Theatre, and some charming single story workers’ cottages are tucked in there too. Start your walk on Amelia, Winchester, Carlton or Spruce Streets and turn on Metcalfe or Sackville as you wind your way through the neighbourhood.
4. Take a break for some sweet treats
We know you’re tempted! Especially once you hear about the goodness Cabbagetown has in store for you…
This bakery/coffee shop has its own way of running things – and its a recipe for success. TASSO is only open Friday, Saturday and Sunday, from 8:30am until they run out of their in-demand croissants, which are some of the best in the city, and their other pastries. You’ll often see a lineup of people waiting on weekends to get their hands on the flaky, buttery goodness. website
Just downstairs from TASSO, these guys do dairy-free gelato like no other. Their homemade, small batch ice cream is creamy, flavourful, and delicious, with choices such as Punch Buggy Coffee Creme Brulee, Roasted Banana and Apple Cider Caramel as well as a selection of seasonal flavours, and vegan options too. Get a cone… or the whole pint! website
5. Travel to another climate in Allan Gardens
Although the park is technically outside of Cabbagetown, it’s so close it may as well be in it. It’s one of the oldest parks in the city and home to two off-leash dog parks, a playground and, most importantly, the beautiful Allan Gardens Conservatory. This greenhouse is full of lush vegetation year-round, with each room bringing a new landscape. Turn the corner from the main hall, filled with tall tropical trees, and you’re surrounded by cacti or turtles and orchids. This place is perfect for photoshoots or just hiding from the harsh winter cold! website
6. Get some drinks at a local pub
Aside from the restaurants we listed, these are a couple more places to get a good drink in the area that’ll make you feel right at home… think dark wood and black leather.
This gastropub and Cabbagetown institution truly does food so well that it’ll keep you coming back. Their menu is humorously divided into the type of cutlery the dishes require (i.e. ‘fork and spoon’, or just ‘no cutlery needed’) and they’re open for weekend brunch too! It’s laid back, but popular, so get there early and it’s the perfect place for some beers (or whiskey) with friends. website
Another cozy Cabbagetown romp with excellent pub food, weekend brunch and a familiar atmosphere. On top of that, they have what might be the best selection of local craft beer in the city, trivia nights on Mondays and Tuesdays, and a whole lot of board games! website
If you’re looking for more vibrant and dazzling nightlife, head over to the gay bars in the neighbouring Church and Wellesley Village
7. Catch a show at The Phoenix
Not only can you watch some amazing artists play live at this concert theatre, it’s a full out entertainment complex with three distinct environments, perfect for events and dancing to the city’s hottest DJs. With an amazing sound system and great acoustics, the Main Room has one of the largest dance floors in the city and five bars, but you’ll still feel like you’re up close and personal when your favourite band plays. Musical acts span all genres with acts as diverse as Owl City, Nazareth, Japanese Breakfast and FIDLAR (in the next month alone). See if there’s an event you’re interested in on soon! website
8. Travel back in time at Riverdale Farm
On the more family-friendly end of things is Riverdale Farm, which is reminiscent of the earliest settlements in the area. The farm is open every day, and entry is always free, so its always a good idea to head over with your family, partner, friends or even on your own! The farm is also connected to the trails of Toronto’s beautiful ravine system, making it the perfect gateway for escaping the city life. Check out the gardens and get to know their livestock at the 11:30am demonstration every day, they’ve got cows, pigs, sheep, goats and chickens, and there’s some friendly cats wandering the property too! website
9. Check out the city’s best antique and design shops
Perhaps because of its focus on old architecture and the interior design that comes along with it, this area is bursting with some amazing antique and design stores. Hold your hat, there really are a lot.
A charming little gift shop full of paper goods, jewellery, and home wares (especially for the kitchen), among other gifts. It’s basically a space that’s full of cute and exciting novelties and indulgences. We won’t tell if you just want to shop for yourself when you’re there. website
This store is a one man operation, specializing in reclaimed antiques that the owner, Darius, fixes up and often converts and repurposes. Some of the tables started as tables, and some were transformed into tables, but they’re all works of art. While open from 12-5 on weekends, the weekday hours are “by appointment or chance.” website
They’ve got a quirky and curious selection of vintage items in mid century modern and other 20th century styles. ‘Items,’ here, can really mean anything, including “furnishings, lighting, art glass, clothing, accessories, jewellery, textiles, art, books, ephemera, ceramics, metalware, kitchenware, appliances, barware, vintage technology, and miscellany.” When you visit the store, bring your sense of humour! website
In store, again you’ll find an expertly curated selection of stylish vintage furniture, art and other eclectic home goods, both new and old. They also have a selection of books about things like food, drink, and plant care, as well as candles and a mobile pizza oven… so the store’s perfect for gift shopping. website
Lamp Cage owner Dean crafts and sells his own unique lighting pieces made from scrap materials, antiques and other found items, making contemporary shapes out of vintage metal and glass. The store is a sort of gallery for his work – stop by for the perfect lighting solution and to see some creative design. website
Another design-oriented furniture and home accessory store, but this one carries new pieces in sleek and contemporary silhouettes, drawing on mid-century modern and other influences. They’ve got investment furniture pieces and other odds and ends that are sure to spice up any space. website
Every trip to Green’s Antiques is exciting – you never know what exactly you’ll find! Beyond furniture, they have bronze and porcelain statues, art, crystal, jewellery from around the world, and so much more! Plus, all of it is very reasonably priced compared to what you might be expected to pay elsewhere in the city. website
Another space full of decor, awesome gifts, and unexpected finds, all selected with the environment in mind. Describes as one stop design shop, Kendall & Co also sells work by local artists and artisans and is a stand-out in the wallpaper industry. website
10. Show love for the area at the Cabbagetown Festival
Ok, now that you’ll never have to search for a design shop again, its time to celebrate.
The Cabbagetown Festival runs annually throughout the district in celebration of the neighbourhood, its people, its culture, and its businesses. Over the span of one weekend, it features amazing activities such as Arts & Crafts vendors, a Restaurant & Pub Crawl, Wine Route, walking tours of historic homes, yard sales and the Cabbagetown Short Film & Video Festival. The Film Festival is a juried selection of video works from both seasoned and up-and-coming filmmakers, making for a unique festival experience. The weekend also presents the Riverdale Farm Fall Harvest Festival, opening and closing ceremonies, a street fair, and more! There is so much to do, you can’t miss this weekend of festivities. website
11. Make a quick stop for lunch
These places serve more casual food options for when you’re too busy exploring the neighbourhood to indulge in its finer dining establishments.
The perfect little stop for when you’re on the move: Park Snacks is right across from Riverdale Farm and serves all your go-to favourites. From lemonade and milkshakes to more substantial grilled options like burgers and hot dogs that you can load with the toppings you want. They also have ice cream and coffee, fuelling all the generations. website
This place is a neighbourhood favourite for Jamaican and Caribbean food. With no additional glitz and glam, the flavours are what stand out at this quaint take-out spot. You can get delivery too, for some jerk chicken realness wherever you are. website
If you’re looking for somewhere to sit and eat, Chew Chew’s Diner, with its train theme, is your new unpretentious fave. Their all day breakfast is extremely popular, as are their milkshakes, while the lunch menu has a classic selection of soups, salads, sandwiches and burgers. website
12. Go back to your roots at the Cabbagetown Farmers’ Market
Alternatively, get some fresh produce for a meal at home from the Cabbagetown Farmers’ Market. You’ll feel reenergized from all its earthy goodness. Not only will your body thank you, but so will the local farmers and food producers of Southern Ontario, and even the planet too. Shopping at the market supports farmers who employ more sustainable food practices. Stop by on Tuesdays from 3pm to 7pm to join in the farm fresh foodie fun. Not to mention, there isn’t a neighbourhood in the city that has a more fitting name for hosting a farmers’ market. website
13. Connect with history at the Toronto Necropolis
While a necropolis might sound like a grim place to recommend, it’s actually quite a sight to behold. It has stunning natural views as well as architecture, including ornate stained glass windows, sculptures and its distinct Victorian and gothic arches and buildings. The cemetery is also the resting place of prominent people such as Toronto’s first mayor, William Lyon Mackenzie, former NDP leader Jack Layton, and many other figures from Toronto’s settler history. The necropolis is one of the oldest in the city, so it also acts as a historic site, connecting visitors with stories from Toronto’s early years. website