VL’s UPPER BEACH TOUR with Streetcar Developments | TOEast
You know that feeling you get when you stumble into an off-the-beaten-path place that winds up having the perfect combination of authentic food, unpretentious service and a casual and yet not at all contrived ambiance? You feel elated! excited! can’t wait to come back and bring all your friends don’t you? Then it dawns on you that if you do bring all your friends, it won’t be a secret anymore and suddenly it will be packed on the weekends and your perfect unblemished gem of a restaurant will no longer be yours alone.
That is exactly how I felt when I was lucky enough to be included in a recent tour of the Upper Beaches hosted by Streetcar Developments at their latest condominium venture, The Southwood.
I don’t want you to know how hospitable and generous everyone at The Southwood was because then you’ll want to rush over and have a look at their beautiful showroom at the corner of Main and Kingston. It sits in the middle of an eclectic and utterly charming neighbourhood just up the hill from the infinitely more bustling “Beach” which we all know and love.
What you may not know (and I may or may not want to tell you about) is the pristine and peaceful 11 hectare Glen Stewart Ravine which connects the Upper and Lower Beach communities. For those of you hoping for flora and fauna in the midst of your big city living this is just the place with its boardwalk, creek and more than 800 varieties of trees and shrubs.
But it’s the neighbourhood which runs along Kingston Road between Main and Victoria Park that I’m feeling most like keeping to myself. An assortment of shops owned by locals who are understandably proud of their community have come together to provide the area with everything you could possibly need or want all within a few minutes walk.
There are the essentials with Close to the Bone, a husband and wife owned butcher shop who specialize in small-batch house made sausages and many other local products. And Courage Foods, a perfect little grocery store with local produce and house-made prepared foods which change daily. You must begin to see why this is difficult for me to want to share.
The Art of Cheese actually deserves an article unto itself, but only someone who wanted you to learn about this gorgeous neighbourhood would be fool enough to write it. Bill Miller is the co- owner and “Grand Fromage” of this slice of heaven within 500 sq ft. The Art of Cheese specializes in Canadian cheeses but definitely has a strong foothold and knowledge in European specialty cheeses. What was most interesting to me about this shop (and in fact the man himself) was not just that his shop is like a living breathing Wikipedia page about cheese but the soul that is so evident in every aspect of the shop.
Yellow House Gallery and Collected Joy are the cornerstones of the art and culture in the area. Yellow House features an ever revolving group exhibition of local and regional artists. While Collected Joy, owned by Sharon Smyl, is technically a store, it’s more like a love note to the local artisans and to the art of collecting beautiful things. Pottery, jewelry, cards, stationery and stained glass that you will want to re-design your home decor around and everything in between all by local artists. I honestly did not want to leave this store and you may find yourself in a similar situation when you visit. Every corner has yet another beautiful and interesting locally made gift.
Finally, yet another reason I am loathe to tell you about this amazing neighbourhood that Streetcar Developers are wisely situating their new (and might I add really quite stunning) The Southwood is exactly the perfect spot I described in beginning of this article.
The Beech Tree is an inviting restaurant owned by local Robert Maxwell. The menu finds it’s inspiration in some of Great Britain’s top chefs as well as local twists on Italian food and modern and local interpretations on North African and Spanish food. The Beech Tree specializes in locally sourced “scratch” cooking that unfolds as delicious and accessible flavour. The staff are knowledgeable and quite rightfully proud about what they’re serving. I might suggest among many of their creative dishes and cocktails that you do not want to miss their Lychee Lavender Martini, but that would be far too generous of me.
Add to all of these a further selection of local favourites from pizza and burgers to ice cream and you barely have to venture beyond these few perfect blocks for all of your needs and wants.
The Southwood is destined to be a jewel in the crown of this delightful hidden collection of eclectic and charming shops and restaurants and I look forward to seeing many of you about the “hood” in the near future… well sort of.
Stacia Carlton is a culinary school graduate and food writer with a selfish streak when it comes to finding perfect local secrets. You can follow her weekly at www.bestillandeat.com.