Finally, friends! The day has come...
The restrictions on Toronto restaurants, gyms, movie theatres, shops, and event venues have been lifted (again).
And we couldn’t agree more with Doug Ford (ironically) urging Ontarians to support small businesses and forget big box stores.
So, we put together a preliminary (we want your input!) list of local businesses to support post-lockdown, whether you need a bite, a drink, a workout, some home goods, or pretty much anything else.
Check them out, and please hit the chat button on this page to let us know who we missed! Let's grow the list together.
Get a Workout In
Holy smokes, has it ever been a long time since we were able to visit a gym. And now that we can, it’s a safe bet that you’re probably itching for a good workout!
And while you can still hit your local Fitness World, you might also want to consider dropping by a locally-owned gym since they have been struggling in a real way for a long time (and maybe even doing a group workout, given that socialization has been scarce lately).
You can check out:
- 416 Fitness Club (390 Queens Quay W, Unit 112): Ready to level up your intensity and your fitness? Check out this strength and conditioning facility that specializes in CrossFit training.
- Dwell Gym (276 Carlaw Ave #101): Dwell Gym is a newly renovated 8000 square foot facility in the heart of Leslieville for people looking for a place to have a straightforward workout.
- Common Ground (550 Queens Quay): Common Ground is a beautiful boutique fitness studio with minimal distractions. It provides a comfortable workout environment for exclusive personal training and small group training sessions.
- Fuel Training Club King West (45 Camden Street, but also has other locations): Fuel specializes in strength condition and HIIT (high-intensity interval training) offering small group classes.
- F45 Downtown Toronto (165 King St W): While F45 is technically a big chain gym, each location is owned by an independent franchisor who’s personally liable for its success.
- Unchained Athletics: (28 Bathurst St): Located in the Stackt market on Bathurst, Unchained Athletics is on a mission to enhance the life of their clients and community, and pushing them to continually learn and grow.
Plan a Perfect Date Night
Haven’t been out for a date night with your significant other (or Hinge match) in a while? Here’s your chance to have a night out on the town, all while supporting some incredible local restaurants.
- Campechano (504 Adelaide St. W): Check out this bright, laid-back space offering tacos and quesadillas boasting housemade tortillas. They’ve also got some killer cocktails.
- 416 Snack Bar (181 Bathurst St.): Cutlery-free and reso-free since 2011, 416 Snack Bar started out as a food blog committed to showing the city’s best under-the-radar culinary offerings. Now, it’s a soulful atmospheric food and cocktail bar offering some of the city’s most iconic dishes and drinks.
- Marben (488 Wellington St. W): Marben was one of the city's first farm-to-table restaurants. And this place is nothing short of incredible. If you’re looking for an upscale date spot offering top-tier creative dishes made with locally-sourced and sustainable ingredients, this is it.
- Edulis (169 Niagara St.): Looking for an incredible tasting menu? Check out Michael Caballo and Toby Nemeth’s top-tier eatery where they serve seasonal treats from their rooftop gardens complemented by perfect wine pairings. They’ll be reopening on February 4 but you can make your reservations as of today.
- DROM Taberna (458 Queen St W): DROM Taberna is a heartfelt homage to places that its owners came from, have traveled to, or have never been - the lands that stretch from the Baltic to the Balkans to the Black Sea. Sounds pretty sweet. Live music and an awesome bar don't hurt either!
- Nusa Dua [N2] (56 Bathurst St): Streamlined Indonesian eatery dishing out traditional & fusion dishes, plus wine, beer & cocktails.
If it’s a little early in the day for date night and you just need a bite to eat during your workday, you can check out the best lunch spots near PS Camden Street and the best lunch spots near PS King West.
Enjoy Some Afternoon Cocktails
If you’ve got a craving for a great cocktail, Toronto’s got no shortage of locally-owned options to choose from.
Here are a few of our go-tos:
- Cocktail Bar (923 Dundas St W.): Well, the name doesn’t leave much to the imagination, but that’s for good reason. A new take on what a cocktail bar should be, this spot offers classic and modern libations, addictive bar snacks, and a beautiful environment. They also have a nice wine and beer list, but you should probably have a cocktail.
- BarChef (472 Queen St W): At BarChef, the goal was to open a cocktail bar with the world’s most progressive program. To do so, they utilize modern culinary techniques, equipment, and a Chef’s philosophy to create multi-sensorial cocktails. Oh, they also have a selection of 5,000 (that’s not a typo) bitters in-house.
- Mother (874 Queen St W): This local cocktail bar was started by like-minded people with a common goal: to elevate the Canadian cocktail scene. Their philosophy is simple: source quality natural ingredients, enhance them through fermentation, and create memorable cocktails for their guests.
- Bar Raval (505 College St): If you've never been to this cozy, little spot, you have to check it out! Featuring one of the most interesting and unique interiors of any bar in Toronto, you can expect a casual, light atmosphere with food and cocktails so good you'll feel like you're fine dining.
- Three Monks and a Duck (811 Queen St W): An Asian-inspired snack menu with many veg options served in a snug, stylish cocktail bar.
Watch Sports at a Local Watering Hole
There are some amazing sporting events coming up!
The Super Bowl is about to kick off. The Olympics are ready to get underway. Canada is steaming toward the World Cup for the first time since 1986 and only the second time ever. The Leafs are in the middle of their season. And the Blue Jays’ season is right around the corner.
So, if you can’t hit a half-capacity sports arena, you can still hit a local sports bar for some refreshments and a great environment.
Here are a few to consider:
- The Banknote Pub (663 King St W.): Of course we have to kick off this list with our downstairs neighbours at King West, the illustrious Banknote Pub. A staple of the neighbourhood, and a go-to for our members, this place is the perfect combination of chill vibes, great food and more TV's than you can count.
- The Aviary (484 Front St E): The Aviary, from the people behind The Dock Ellis and Longslice Brewing, is equal parts sports bar and brewery. Here you’ll find sports bar classics like burgers, wings, chili, fried chicken sandwiches, and more. It’s also got six big screens playing any and all games.
- Hemingway’s (142 Cumberland St): Famous for its incredible year-round rooftop patio, Hemingway’s is an iconic Toronto spot. This New Zealand-style pub has been around for almost 40 years and offers 24 draft beers, pub eats, and sports on big screens.
- The Dog and Bear (1100 Queen St W): Equal parts sports bar and English pub, the Dog and Bear promises to screen whatever Leafs, Raptors and Jays games are playing, as well as any big games without Toronto ties. They’ve also got some above-average food, a la class English pub.
Do Some Local Shopping
Whether you’re in the market for clothes, accessories, homeware, or anything else your heart desires, Toronto’s probably got a locally-owned shop that offers it.
Some of our favourites include:
- Labour of Love (223 Carlton St): Check out this unique purveyor of handmade jewelry, paper goods, art, mixology, home goods, and boutique gifts.
- Uncle Otis (329 Spadina Ave): Streetwear that's thoughtfully made by designers from a wide range of countries including Canada and the United States is stocked at Uncle Otis. You might find accessories like robes, blankets, and sunglasses.
- Tusk (888 Queen St W): Cool women’s fashions and products, some by local makers, are on the cutting edge at Tusk. Whether it's bath salts, cards, socks, puzzles or, swimsuits, they've got the latest and greatest.
- Spacing Store (401 Richmond St W): Want to show your local pride? Start here. All things Toronto can be found at Spacing Store, a retail shop for a local urbanist magazine. If you're looking for a magnet, card, or apparel branded with a specific neighbourhood, odds are you'll find it here.
- Good Neighbour (935 Queen St E): Good Neighbour is a source for apparel and other items that represent Toronto as well as designer brands. Men's, women's, and kids clothing can all be found here as well as home goods and bath products.
- Te Koop (421 Queen St W): Looking for a solid new bag? Head to Te Koop where they've got duffels, backpacks, totes, messenger bags, you name it. They also sell great shoes, sunglasses, hats, jackets, and wallets, and have been around since 2003.
- Present Day Gifts (1609 Dupont St and online): Need a gift for literally anyone in your life? Check out one of these curated and custom gift baskets. Made with local and artisan goods, each gift box and basket is well-designed and purposeful, so all you have to do is 'click' to make someone's day.
Find a Local Bakery, Food Store, Grocery Shop, or Liquor Vendor
If you’re looking for groceries, snacks, sweets, or liquor, you can consider opting for a locally-owned shop over a chain.
We think it’s a safe bet you’ll love a few of these awesome options:
- Grand Cru Deli & Sips (304 Richmond St W): This deli in the Entertainment District is a one-stop-shop for all your entertaining needs, including a long list of curated, “soul touching” wines that you can’t find at the LCBO, plus cheese and charcuterie boards to go.
- Rowe Farms (multiple locations): This locally-owned grocery store takes a simple approach to eating: the best way to eat healthily is to consume minimally-processed, sustainably-raised, locally-grown food. And they live that mission in delicious fashion.
- The Local Market (1434 Queen St W): This incredible family-owned business focuses on specialty grocery items and fresh produce. They offer many products that are organic, gluten-free, vegan, and local, as well as homemade baked goods and authentic Kimchi.
- La Palette (492 Queen St W): The pandemic caused this French restaurant to convert into a wine shop as well. If you’re looking for rare, old-world wines, you’ll find them here.
- Blackbird Baking Co. (172 Baldwin St): You probably heard that sourdough baking took a massive uptick during the pandemic (or maybe you didn’t, but it did!), and Blackbird Baking Co. was doing it long before everyone else jumped on the craze. And the crusty, crackly Blackbird sourdough has become the new normal, the baseline by which all other artisan loaves are compared.
- Emmer (161 Harbord St): Baker and owner Philip Haddad offers an amazing array of delicious treats, from viennoiserie to peanut butter–miso cookies and bacon butty sandwiches.
- Courage Cookies (28 Bathurst St): Located in the Stackt market on Bathurst, Toronto-based Courage Cookies raises money to support the community through the baking off incredibly awesome cookies.
- Forno Cultura (609 King St W): Home to third generation bakers who feed the local community with the true taste of Italy using only the finest of natural ingredients and organic flours.
Other Awesome Toronto Spots
A miscellaneous category for other awesome Toronto businesses that deserve your support. Let us know who we've missed!
- Birdhaus (263 Adelaide St W): Birdhaus is a super cool, 3,000 square foot, female-owned photo studio and event space in the heart of downtown Toronto. Boasting high ceilings and more style than you can imagine, you won't find a better spot to host a unique event, or shoot that Insta-worthy content.
- Grape Witches (1247 Dundas St W): You definitely have to check out this natural wine shop specializing in organic, biodynamic and natural wines from around the world - a bustling natural wine store with over 200 constantly rotating wines in store and online. Cheers to that!
- Fahrenheit Coffee (529 Richmond St W): With 3 Toronto in the city, this awesome coffee joint has been voted Best Specialty Coffee House in Toronto since 2012. Offering three different espresso origins which rotate seasonally. Expertly crafted.
One thing’s for sure: we’ve all been going through it with these lockdowns, and that applies extra for the local businesses that have been trying to stay afloat.
So, as restrictions ease and we’re able to get back out into the world, consider supporting your locally-owned businesses and helping them get back on their feet. We'll see ya out there!
And if you want a home for your own locally-owned business, come join us at Project Spaces. We’re a community of supportive, like-minded, Toronto-based professionals celebrating the wins and supporting each other through the losses. We'd love to have you.
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