Rose and Sons

When I made the move to Toronto one thing I anticipated more than anything else was the restaurant scene. It seemed like every cuisine under the sun had a place to call home and the inclusivity and thoughtful approach excited me. When I for a place to eat, I often peruse instagram and blog to for honest reviews and suggestions. Keeping that in mind, I have decided to create my own archive of restaurant reviews and highlights in the city.

Let's start with Rose and Sons at 176 Dupont street.

rose and sons via jamie sarner
{image via Jamie Sarner}

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Spotlight: Tro & Co.

There is nothing better than finding a new brand to be obsessed with and knowing that it’s completely manufactured in your own country. It’s easy to support fast-fashion stores like H&M, Zara, and Forever 21 knowing where their price points lie, but it’s even easier to support local brands and shops knowing that their products come from your homeland. Since moving to Toronto in particular, I’ve begun to realize how many incredible artisans the city is home to, like Dan; the founder of Whisky & Spice. Another individual who is making waves in Toronto is Tro of Tro & Co.

Tro is super talented and at the helm of his own clothing line. Offering various streetwear-esque tees and sweatshirt options made from bamboo, Tro&Co catches your attention with the graphics and keeps it there with affordable price points. I had the opportunity to ask Tro a few questions about the line, being a designer in Toronto, and the future of Tro & Co.

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Grabb and Go

In a world where convenience is key, Grabb is the number one purveyor in getting your food to you as quickly as possible. For Torontonians, this is a game changer when it comes to ordering food. Grabb is a mobile app that allows you to pre-order and pre-pay for your food, so you never have to wait in line. Showing you a list of restaurants in your area, you can look at their menu, pick what you want, pay for it, and pick it up when the timer on your phone tells you to. Partnering with a wide variety of restaurants such as Hero Certified Burgers, Bacon Nation, Fresh Off The Boat, and more, you have plenty of options. I had the opportunity to ask Grabb’s Vice-President of Growth, Keely Turner, a few questions about the app, food, and the future of food-ordering.


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Toronto as a Tourist

The eye has to travel. How can you say you’ve truly lived your life if you haven’t taken in what the world has to offer? There is an endless stream of beauty in this world, you just have to look for it. Knowing this, I took it upon myself the last few weeks to take in some of the most notable sights and sounds in my new home, Toronto. I’ve lived here for three months and they have been the best months of my life but that’s not to say they’ve come without their own set of trials and tribulations. For every bump in the road though, there is always something better after it. Wanting to take advantage of my newfound optimism brought upon by the hustle and bustle of life as a Torontonian, I made a list of a few attractions I wanted to see: the Ripley’s Aquarium, the CN Tower, and attending a Jays game.

When news first came out that Toronto would be getting it’s own aquarium, I was ecstatic. I have loved marine animals my entire life and I have always wanted the opportunity to see them up close. I went to the zoo when I was a child, and the Central Park zoo in high school, but they don’t have the same focus as an aquarium. When my best friend Sam came to town last week, she was as eager as I to check out the aquarium. I can’t stress this enough: you have to check this place out. With an adult ticket costing $28, it’s the same price range as the zoo, and it’s HUGE inside so it’s worth every penny. The aquarium is separated by the different habitats but you get to see every animal under the sea: sharks, sea turtles, sting rays, lobsters, octopuses, coral, crabs, and much more. My personal favourite were all of the tunnels that allowed you to get photos while the sharks swam around you.

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The CN Tower was something I’ve had on my bucket list since I was five years old. I remember coming to Toronto then with my parents and brother and seeing it in all of it’s glory but not having the opportunity to get up close and personal. Every time I have been downtown in the city, I get overwhelmed by how beautiful the tower is. It’s a beacon of Canadian history and I love saying that I have the opportunity to look at it whenever I want. My other friends had already seen the view so I was alone on this escapade. Paying $36 felt like a lot, but I knew that this would be a once in a lifetime (unless I come back for the 360 Restaurant!) visit. Going through the tower to walk to the elevator to the Observatory Deck made my stomach churn. I have a terrible fear of heights so not only was I marking this off my bucket list, I was conquering one of my biggest fears on my own. Going up the elevator I felt nauseous but once I stepped outside, I felt like I had entered another world. I have been to both the Empire State Building and the Rockafeller Centre in New York City but this view was a completely different experience. Perhaps it’s because this is a city I am proud to call home, or that I was feeling a natural high (no pun intended), but it was incredible. I took in all of the buildings, the islands, and the lakes taking mental pictures along the way. There is nothing like seeing a place you have wanted to after fifteen years to make your soul feel rejuvenated.

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Last, but not literally or least, was attending a Jays game. I have wanted to see a Blue Jays game since I moved here because it feels like the one experience that solidifies you as a true Torontonian. A beer in one hand, a hot dog in the other, what could be better? Although I skipped the $10.50 tallboy, I shared a hot dog with the amazing person who took me to the game. It came with grilled onions and peppers and although I’ve had better hot dogs, it was the experience that I wanted to pay for. We had great seats because we were behind the plate yet we were high enough that we could see all of the plays going on below us. Although our area was rowdy, I was able to take in the game. I learned the rules fairly quickly and realized that baseball isn’t nearly as boring as people make it out to be. I may have felt differently if I wasn’t sitting live at the game, but at the time it was better than anything I could ask for. The icing on the cake was that the Blue Jays beat the Seattle Mariners 8-2! My first game ever and our team won on our own turf, talk about a great afternoon.

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These are only three of the many experiences I have planned to take in while I live in Toronto. I want to say thank you to Sam and Drew for being a part of this with me and putting up with how excited I got as a tourist. Thank you to everyone who works at Ripley’s, the CN Tower, and the Rogers Centre for making these locations worthwhile places to visit. And thank you everyone for reading this far, I didn’t realize I would have so much to say about my city, but I’m happy I do.

When I Shop the World Gets Better

Does anyone recognize the book my title is quoted from? It’s one of my favourites, but I’ll let you think about it for a little while before I give away the answer. When I read the book for the first time and saw that line, it struck a chord with me. I have always seen shopping as a form of therapy and one that worked quite efficiently. Suffering from a broken heart? A new pair of shoes is a quick (and sometimes costly) fix. Bummed about your job? Go buy a new blouse to wear to work this week. School stressing you out? Find the comfiest sweats you can, buy them, and go home and lounge. See how easy it is to treat your problems with shopping?

I digress from the point of this post, which is to explain why I haven’t posted in the last week. If you’re following me on Twitter or Instagram, you may have seen that I spent the last week in Toronto with my dear friend Will. It was a marvellous vacation and exactly what I needed to re-invigaorate my creative side. We spent two days of the trip wandering throughout downtown, going in and out of shops, walking through Kensington Market, as I fell hopelessly in love with the city. It was a funny reminder of how love can happen so fast… yet this time, I was falling for an area code, not a man. I was speechless at the number of stores that were on Queen Street West alone and yet I could imagine spending the rest of my weekends and days off walking through every part of Toronto, searching for more places to get lost in.

Toronto has something for everyone and today I am sharing with you three stores I think you should check out if you live in the 416 or are going there to visit any time. These stores have a place in my heart and wallet and I look forward to going back and raiding them for even more amazing pieces for my closet and home.

Black Market
I have never been as happy and excited to be in a store as I was Black Market. A curated vintage and alternative clothing shop, nothing in the entire store costs over $10. It’s the craziest thing in the world and the most magical thing for a shopaholic to know. When we walked down the stairs into the store, it transports you to the 1990’s (or what I imagine they were like). The walls were scattered with printed t-shirts, oversized graphic crewnecks, denim everywhere, and lots of references to shows and artists that were a blast from the past. Having such reasonable prices means you can stock up on a ton of vintage and know you’re pulling off your very own unique sense of style. My favourite part of all? The pins. I’m a sucker for pins and Black Market has a wide selection, yet my favourites had to be Adventure Time and Archer characters.

Visit Black Market at 256a Queen Street West Toronto

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Public Butter
Toronto has such an amazing presence when it comes to vintage shopping. Where I come from, we have one Goodwill, and I have never seen so many amazing thrift finds there as I did during my stay in Toronto. Public Butter was a store that Kami recommended we go to and she is someone whose style I love, so I trust her taste in clothing stores. Public Butter was an absolute dream to visit because it’s vintage was curated so perfectly, each rack made me  feel like I was Diana Vreeland putting together a photo shoot with Richard Avedon and Veruschka. The way they had their letterman jackets, fancy furs, gowns, and so much more were exquisitely showcased so you could really see what they had to offer in each varying style.

Visit Public Butter at 1290 Queen Street West of Dufferin

publicbutter1 Screen Shot 2014-10-27 at 3.04.15 PM{image via Public Butter, Public Butter Instagram}

Outer Layer
If you don’t know this about me, I am obsessed with stationery and paper goods. I don’t know what it is, but I love being able to disconnect from my phone and laptop, and write in my notebook. Outer Layer caters all of your stationery needs, from boxed letters to Moleskine leather bound journals. The store also carries skin and bath goods from brands like Burt’s Bees, Rocky Mountain, and Soaptopia, perfume, candles, jewellery, and more. It’s a hole in one if you want to buy someone a gift, get their card, and the bag all in one shop.

Visit Outer Layer at 577 Queen Street West

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Ed. Note: The answer to my title caption is Confessions of a Shopaholic!

Salad King

Out of all of the restaurants in Toronto, Salad King has earned a top spot. Known for their exceptional Thai cuisine, this hole in the wall is anything but. Located upstairs at 340 Yonge Street, once you enter, you’re transported to paradise. Yonge Street is a mecca for anyone looking to surround themselves with good food and fun. Only steps from the entertainment district and Ryerson University, Salad King is in a great location.

Let this be a disclaimer: I have never had Thai food before. Although I have watched my friends eat Thai Express time and time again, I am stuck in my ways. When I told my cousin that I would be eating Thai food, she laughed, and recalled when I used to only eat Chef Boyardee and peanut butter cups. Long overdue for change and going in with an ‘I’ll-try-anything-once’ attitude, I let my friends Will and Kami take me to a restaurant I won’t soon forget.

banquette area salad king{Banquette area, image by Renée Suen}

After having Will tell me about all the amazing dishes and times he has had at Salad King, I was looking forward to experiencing it for myself. When we walked in and down the stairs, Kami was already seated at a table in the corner. I had never seen anything like it – rows of tables with seats, almost like an open bar, giving a communal feel to the restaurant. Even when we arrived, Kami was mingling with another person seated at the end of our table. I like that Salad King has a comfortable atmosphere that makes people feel free to talk to strangers while they wait for their flavourful food to arrive.

salad king communal dining{Communal dining, image by Renée Suen}

Our waiter was very nice and took our orders right away. Will and I split the ‘Sea Queen’ as an appetizer, which was breaded squid with thyme and chili with a honey and lime juice sauce, while Kami opted for the ‘Satay Chicken,’ grilled chicken on a skewer with peanut dipping sauce. I have never tried squid before but like I said above, tonight was all about the ‘I’ll-try-anything-once’ point of view. Once I got over the initial feeling that I was eating squid, I quickly devoured my portion. I thought that it may taste weird but it was full of flavour and I was thinking about it all night long.

sea queen{Sea Queen}

For our entrees, Will ordered the ‘Thai Basil Noodles (veggie)’ which consisted of rice noodle, egg, carrot, bell pepper, bean sprout, and a sauce made from garlic, chili, shallot, and dried shrimp. Always one to kick it up a notch, he ordered 5 chilis on the dish. Something you need to know about Salad King: they aren’t afraid of heat. They have their own Spicy Scale so you can add more spice to your dish, ranging from ‘medium – a little kick’ to ’20 chilis – may cause stomach upset.’ Will said that the chef has even went as far as 50 chilis, but with that dish, you can touch it to your tongue and you’re finished… it’s that hot. Kami went for a less spicy but equally amazing dish, ‘Shrimp with Cashew,’ which had shrimp, carrot, onion, bell pepper, celery, cashew nut served in a mild sauce. For myself, I ordered the ‘Garlic Shrimp’ which consisted of breaded shrimp with garlic, carrot, onion, and bean sprouts, served in a mild sauce. All of our dishes were served in a timely manner and after our first bites, we were sold. The flavours, textures, and colours came together to create dishes that made our taste buds come alive.

garlic shrimp{Garlic Shrimp}

shrimp with cashew
{Shrimp with Cashew}

Overall, my experience at Salad King was a terrific one. I truly believe that there is nothing better than dinner and drinks with a few friends and Salad King is the perfect environment to have the best of both. With phenomenal food, a great location, and overall comforting atmosphere, I fully understand how this spot has become one of Toronto’s best.