Recently we rounded up some of our preferred shops, restaurants and event venues on Roncesvalles Avenue, finally sitting pretty after three years of painful cosmetic surgery (a.k.a. multiple streetcar rail resets and a top-to-bottom sidewalk overhaul). But there’s so much to see and do on this neighbourly little strip, we couldn’t resist running a few more of our favourite places.
VINTAGE FIND The stretch of antique shops in Parkdale is a must-visit destination for aficionados of the past, but nestled between Tiffany lamps and turn-of-the-century parlor sofas is a different style of old school. Black Pug DMK’s aesthetic is pure steampunk—stainless steel incorporated into Neo-Victorian pieces and Gothic upholstery overwhelm the eye. Owner and designer Daisuke Ito also offers custom work; his workshop is an immense desk littered with pieces in progress while gutted chairs line the wall, waiting to be reupholstered. A stroll to the back of the artful clutter yields Black Pug’s line of bags and clothing, which carry the store’s signature weathered appeal.
FLIRTATIOUS FASHION Catering to playful women who embrace their girlie side, Frock brims with color and pattern: wallflowers need not apply. The small corner shop overflows with vintage-inspired brooches, knit accessories and flirty dresses. Shoppers seeking basics are advised to head elsewhere; Frock prides itself on a well-curated stock of attention-grabbing pieces from Canadian designer Valerie Dumaine, and sustainable brands like Mat & Nat. For winter, cozy up in wool capes from Pendleton. Unique cards are displayed on a small table beside the wooden, glass-topped counter housing an eclectic mix of jewellery.
A CUT ABOVE Dundas West fixture Grateful Head was lately transplanted onto “Roncey,” to curious looks from young mothers and the strip’s large Polish community. The open-concept space is lined with black baroque wallpaper, and a formal dark-wood reception desk welcomes you into the modest space styled like a rock ‘n’ roll boudoir. Owner Lysa Fina’s love of music is evident from the playlists to the salon’s stylists, who are musicians or artists. Their creativity is evident in the beautiful, unusual cuts they craft for ever-grateful patrons.
SMOKING ENCOURAGED Head north of High Park Boulevard and you’re apt to find yourself salivating. The smell of smoke fills the air, and soon enough a bustling line-up is in evidence. Welcome to Barque, one of Toronto’s newer, highly touted barbecue joints. The distressed interior of concrete and exposed brick is peppered with butcher-block tables, but Barque’s secret hides in the back—a 500-pound smoker brought in from the Deep South. It infuses meaty mains such as brisket, beef and baby-back ribs with a generous helping of flavour, while the sweeter-than-usual house sauce helps to balance things out.
WOOD OVEN WONDERFUL The local buzz surrounding Pizzeria Defina is made clear by the crowds that gather every evening. The sea-salt dusted fries are served with chipotle aioli, and the bruschetta comes lined with truffle mascarpone spread, but the stars of the show are undoubtedly the wood-fired pizzas, offered in a crispy, Roman-style dough, or the softer Napoletana. Many of the pizzas feature fior di latte, a slightly sweet mozzarella that offsets unsmoked Italian bacon or sopressata, while the menu’s sole calzone is an inventive mix of radicchio, brie and wild boar sausage.
GOOD LOOKING GIFTS Roncesvalles’ quirky vibe is exemplified in its newest giftware addition: Scout. With 10 years of retail experience under her belt, owner Leah Eyles has developed an eye for stand-out pieces. She sources whimsical handmade cards, locally crafted jewellery and unusual housewares from trade and craft shows, and strives to represent independent brands. Look for Montreal designer Stay Gold Pony Boy’s asymmetrical feather earrings, messenger bags from Track and Field, and recycled-sweater mittens from Toronto’s own SLO.