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Summerhill in the City

This charming area takes its name from the 1842 palatial estate of Charles Thompson, a railway baron who called his home Summer Hill. Today only the name remains. Now, in this North Toronto neighbourhood, small shops, cafés and restaurants line Yonge Street, while restored rail workers’ cottages, renovated homes and modern townhouses rest on landscaped properties with century-old trees. Two stops from the Bloor-Yonge subway hub, or a 15-minute walk north from tony Yorkville, the sophisticated Summerhill neighbourhood is readily accessible.

One-of-a-kind shopping abounds here, with everything from home decor and antique stores to high-style clothing and footwear shops. Quintessence Designs (1222 Yonge St., 416-921-3040), L’Atelier (1224 Yonge St., 416-966-0200) and Absolutely! North tempt with home accessories, small furnishings and knickknacks. French Country is filled with all things Provençal, including faience tableware. A chic coach house is now home to furnishings and accessories offered by AT Design Home (5 MacPherson Ave., 416-323-0323). Along Yonge Street’s antiques row, savvy shoppers can find everything from $4 lavender soaps from France to $4,000 antique armoires. Braem & Minetti (1262 Yonge St., 416-923-7437) specializes in European antiques, while Orleans (1096 Yonge St., 416-966-0005) and Putti concentrate on French goods.

Visit German-Chilean clothing designer Alexia von Beck‘s (1228 Yonge St., 416-975-8615) shop for elegantly modern pieces that are perfect for a fashionable dinner party or an art opening, as well as jewellery by local and international artisans. Catherine Curtis (1260 Yonge St., 647-436-5091) designs one-off creations from luxury fabrics, from sexy cocktail dresses to chic daywear separates. Mephisto sells the world-famous French walking shoes. Roots is the place for casual clothes from the internationally known Canadian retailer.DINE
Enjoy delectable food from some of the city’s top restaurants, cafés and bakeries, or simply people-watch from the patios.

Upscale options include Ten Fifty Five (1055 Yonge St., 416-482-8485), an elegant space to enjoy a prix fixe lunch or dinner with such choices as escargots, lamb sausage and seared ahi tuna as well as an extensive dessert list. Lakes Restaurant and Wine Bar (1112 Yonge St., 416-966-0185) has been serving locals for more than 20 years. After a day of shopping, wind down with a glass—or two—from the extensive wine list. Sophisticated French bistro Pastis Express attracts an elite crowd from the arts and media with cassoulet, veal scaloppine and steak frites.

For casual dining, try a daily special (the fish is always a good bet) at gastro-pub The Abbot on the Hill (1276 Yonge St., 416-920-9074), which boasts a good selection of imported beers. Or drop by a local favourite, Browne’s Bistro, for blackboard specials and pasta, pizza and meat dishes from the open kitchen. A televised renovation recently gave The Rosedale Diner (1164 Yonge St., 416-923-3122) a slick new look. Open since 1978, it remains a great setting for burgers, fresh grilled salmon and poutine. The Rebel House (1068 Yonge St., 416-927-0704) serves Ontario beers and wines with a home-grown menu: baked beans, a bison burger and a grilled Canadian Cheddar sandwich.

True to Toronto fashion, Summerhill’s ethnic restaurants hold plenty of appeal. When choosing from the extensive menu at Thai Magic (1118 Yonge St., 416-968-7366), limit your appetizers because the main portions are large—the crispy basil chicken is always a good choice. Seven East (1116 Yonge St., 416-966-3278) serves Asian-fusion fare in a modern room adorned with pastel fabric-covered walls, sandblasted glass tables and white leather chairs. Avant Gout (1108 Yonge St., 416-916-3681) is a bistro with a Moroccan take on French food. For a quick break from shopping, enjoy yummy baked goods with your latte on the patio (open in June, weather permitting) at Patachou (1120 Yonge St., 416-927-1105). If Italian is your preference, the patio at Caffe Doria (1094 Yonge St., 416-920-5315), with soups, panini and pasta, is on a quiet corner.EXPLORE
The heart of the neighbourhood is Scrivener Square, just steps south of the Summerhill subway station. Here, the restored North Toronto Train Station (10 Scrivener Square, 416-922-0403) and its 145-foot-high Venetian clock tower make the spot a city icon.

The historical building is home to the flagship retail outlet of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (L.C.B.O.). Goods are displayed in the former passenger waiting area and corridors that once led to the tracks. Train buffs shouldn’t miss the original ticket wickets, old photos of railway passengers, train memorabilia and scenes of old Toronto. Be sure to pick up a bottle of Canadian ice wine as a reminder of your visit. (See A Wine Lover’s Top 10 in Toronto for more on this location.)

Also worth a look, Muse Gallery (1230 Yonge St., 416-974-9986) specializes in fine Canadian art and crafts including paintings, blown glass, textiles, sculpture, woodworking, mixed media, ceramics and jewellery.

TIP! The Abbot on the Hill holds Monday night “Tasting Menu and Beer Pairings” and Wednesday “Pint Club Night.” You’ll be treated like a regular.

WEB EXCLUSIVE! For more insider tips to the city, check out 10 Hidden Gems.—Linda Heslegrave

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