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Neighbourhood Guide: Distillery District

Toronto’s Historic Distillery District is loved by locals and tourists alike. Wandering the cobbled lanes of the city’s only pedestrianized zone, provides an old-world charm just blocks from the towers of the city centre. The current dining and entertainment district was once home to the largest distillery in North America: Gooderham & Worts. These two gentlemen came from England to found a gristmill on the shores of Lake Ontario. It wasn’t long before they began using the grains to dabble in beer brewing, and whiskey distillation soon after. Gooderham & Worts at its peak was one of the largest in the world shipping across Canada, the U.S.A, and down into Sao Paolo and Buenos Aires. Walk around and discover the history, view antique equipment, and dabble in the wild history of Prohibition. 

Visit the official Distillery District Website Here. For more history on the area check out the Distillery Heritage Site. 

Take a mini tour with Mackenzie in the video below, and click the links to find out more about our favourite spots:

Coffee + Chocolate

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Some cafes have nailed every detail, and ARVO is one of those gems in the local coffee scene. The name comes from the Australian slang for ‘afternoon’ which is when you should pop in for a coffee!


The staff is passionate and education takes a forefront  through public coffee cupping seminars exploring the subtleties of coffee. Eat at the toast bar with ricotta, fruit and honey, smoked trout, or the beloved Avo toast. We suggest adding a poached egg!

Soma was North America’s first bean-to-bar chocolate maker, working with local farmers from the best cacao-growing regions globally. Single-origin chocolate bars adorn the shelves and hand-made truffles infused with high-quality ingredients surprise seasoned chocoholics. 

Our favourites are the Spicy Mayan Drinking chocolate, crispy corn tossed in dark chocolate, and the lemon-pistachio brittle enveloped in dark chocolate. In the summer you won’t want to miss their gelato.

Food + Dining

Sake A to Z Sake Tour Eating Through TO at Boku

A Japanese noodle bar with Pan-Asian influence offering ramen, izakaya plates, and a selection of refined, inventive dishes. Come for the food, and stay for the drinks! Boku has a great list of craft cocktails alongside a healthy sake selection and Japanese whisky. We love the Miso Ramen, Takoyaki, and the Brioche Bread Pudding with Miso Caramel.

Once the dining area of the G&W Distillery, Brick Street serves up tradition in the form of British baking, soups, and meat pies. Come for fresh breads to take home, or grab the perfect lunch or snack. Don’t miss our favourites: the eccles cakes, Bakewell tarts, and of course their famous sausage rolls

Proudly taking high-quality Canadian ingredients and turning them into cultural culinary gems, Wildly Delicious is a great place to pick up a gift, or for treating yourself. Browse the preserves made from maple, mustard, and local fruits. Sample the goodies at their tasting bar, or sit down for a glass of Ontario wine and charcuterie at their cafe-restaurant. What did we take home? Well we’re obsessed with the Asiago-Artichoke Bread Dipper infused with Chardonnay. 

Technically located two blocks north of the Distillery in  Corktown, we are giving Roselle a shout-out for some of our favourite desserts in the city. Do it small with picture-perfect madeleines, or indulge with their gorgeous cakes. They also have fab ice cream in the summer and mouth-watering hand-made taffy. We can’t stop thinking about the black-sesame éclair and The Earl: a tea-infused gateau. 

Chef Ramon Simarro has brought his Michelin Star Experience to grace Toronto with a modern adaptation of Tapas dining. Smoking domes lift to reveal grilled octopus, and a Mille-feuille lands on a table made of potato.

If you have a soft spot for gin, they stock over 70 gin varieties, a line up of tonic waters, and will consult with you table side to concoct the ultimate Gin & Tonic garnished with anything from pink peppercorns to fresh fruit.

Boutique Shopping

Bergo designs  curates a selection of home decor, kitchenware, and lifestyle items that are anything but ordinary. The aisles here could entertain you longer than a museum. 

Featuring a range of brands including Alessi, Kikkerland, Georg Jensen, Umbra, Jonathan Adler, and Eva Solo. Items range from sleek + modern, to mid-century, and quirky conversation pieces.

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Canadians are not the best at bragging, but Fluevog is a Canadian treasure. Started in the 1970s by John Fluevog in Vancouver, they offer traditionally-made shoes with untraditional styles.

Some shoes are subtle, but most are statement pieces that would make you stand out at your next event.  It’s no surprise that Fluevogs have been donned by Madonna, Alice Cooper, Beyonce, and Lady Gaga.

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A vintage shop in a historic neighbourhood is the perfect context to admire artifacts. Blackbird curates antique dishes, furniture, decor, and Canadiana. You can also purchase new items such as soaps, candles, jewelry, and some of the best post cards we’ve seen in Toronto. One item we couldn’t resist was a Poutine t-shirt with the famous Canadian dish across the front. C’est Sublime!

Hoi Bo is defined by the symbiotic relationship between shape, structure and process. The aesthetic sensibility arises from the essence and functionality of the product; nothing is superfluous. Because we care passionately about quality, all pieces are made by hand. Their bags + clothing are designed to become what they will once they leave the shop, softening and shaping to become a personal reflection of you.

Beer + Spirits

As one of the first craft breweries in Toronto, almost every local has downed a dozen or two of their Mill Street Organic Lager, but not everyone has had the pleasure of checking out their seasonal pours in the tasting bar nor their exciting Pilot Program. This line of beers is made in their Nano-Brewery. Experimental batches are sold onsite in bottles limited to a few hundred per batch. Stop by for a tasting!

The first distillery to open in the district since the closure of Gooderham & Worts in 1990. Spirit of York is a play on words, alluding to the name York which was used for the settlement until 1834 when it was changed to Toronto. Reviving the ‘spirit’ of the area by producing craft whisky, gin and vodka among other limited-run products, you can also sip their creative cocktails and stay a while in the stunning bar lounge.

Activities

Soulpepper is Toronto’s largest not-for-profit theatre company, with an integrated mission which includes: industry-leading youth outreach initiatives; the Soulpepper Academy, Canada’s only multi-year paid professional training program for theatre artists of all disciplines; and a year-round diverse repertory season which is grounded in the classics and committed to the creation of new works, new forms and innovative practices.

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Go Tours Canada is an award-winning tour company with locations at Toronto’s Distillery District and Ontario Place. If you’ve never taken a Segway for a spin, this is the perfect place to learn; zipping through the cobbled lanes. Tours can also be enjoyed on foot, and range from Distillery History, Prohibition + Canadian Whisky, The Distillery Ghost Tour, and a Food Tour of the area coming soon. 

Eating Through TO readers receive 15% off using code ETTO15

The Toronto Light Festival offers a visual journey and a playful adventure throughout the walking streets of The Distillery District. After the busy Christmas season, the Light Festival is a more calm oasis.

During the cold, dark days of winter, The Toronto Light Festival offers visitors a reason to bundle up, get outside and celebrate the season, creativity and life in the big city.

One of the most popular events in the city, every November + December the city gather in the Distillery District to enjoy the magic of Christmas. Based on traditional European Christmas markets, you can enjoy seasonal street food, purchase gifts, sip mulled wine, or hang out in Mill Street’s beer garden. 

We  suggest coming during the week to avoid the crowds.