Independent retailers and restauranteurs are
remaking The Queensway into a residential “main street”,
and a destination in and of itself
THE QUEENSWAY VISIONARIES
Today, The Queensway’s renewed vigour has attracted a growing number of independent merchants and restauranteurs. They have created a new retail mix that hints at the beginnings of a pedestrian-friendly urban boulevard, one that will be a popular shopping destination in its own right.
Meet some of The Queensway’s most dynamic entrepreneurs – the people who are reshaping the neighbourhood, giving it a fresh identity and a distinctly urban character.
GREAT LAKES BREWERY (Est. 1987)
Peter Bulut Jr. (Owner And Chief Brewing Officer)
Great Lakes Brewery is Toronto’s oldest craft brewer and a two-time Canadian Brewery Of The Year winner. A major employer along The Queensway, the brewery recently upgraded its public spaces: a longer bar in its taps room, a sprawling deck outside and an event venue upstairs. With these changes in place, GLB is poised to become a habitual community hub for local beer lovers, with regular programming — like Food Truck Fridays — making the patio a primo spot to cap off the work week. Celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2017, the brewer will release a string of unique, one-off brews that will be available only at the brewery. Tuned into the prevailing zeitgeist the limited run English Mild will be called “Alternative Facts.”
This year we’ll get to experience the new 1,200 square foot patio. Last year, Fridays were already way busier— we had picnic tables and people were just hanging out eating and drinking beers. We’re trying to create an Etobicoke destination for the community with lots of events and lots of fun here at the brewery.”
“Specifically here at Great Lakes, these are exciting times. We’ve obviously been blessed and had tremendous growth over the years. Basically, we’ve invested everything back into the company and into the people. So, we just hired another two employees, by the time summer hits we’ll be more like 50 people.”
“Now there’s more stuff closer together. Until recently, The Queensway was still a driving destination, almost like the burbs, but as more things happen there are more options to walk to now. As it matures even further that’s going to get even easier to do with even more options within walking distance.”
POSTICINO RISTORANTE (Est. 1999)
Antonio Pirone, Franco Filice & Michele D’Alessandro (Owners)
“The little spot” is a Queensway institution and has a clientele from across the GTA, including the professional athlete set. Open for nearly two-decades, it’s one of the oldest restaurants on the strip. The menu features fresh fish, meat and pasta, but for regulars there are many off-menu items depending on their whim. Seating 100 diners inside and with a sidewalk terrace for thirty during the warmer months, Posticino is a key node in Queensway Village’s budding pedestrian culture, a traditional gathering point for “in-the-know” locals and the spot of many boisterous evenings. For more recluse VVIPs, a table in the wine cellar can host private events for up to twenty.
“We were one of the first and have been here a long time. We’re a destination where you come because you know who we are. We have a nice diverse crowd. Everybody knows us.” – FD’A
“We’re a local place where everyone knows your name. It’s cool. If it’s your first time here it’s like you’re at home. Our customers are very friendly. So it’s a really fun place to hang out.” – FD’A
“The whole area is becoming a lot more trendy and a lot nicer. We’re with the BIA and know the Councillor very well. It looks like he’s doing some great stuff. His vision for what he wants to see the Queensway become, I think it would be fantastic for everyone.” – FD’A
THE PIE COMMISSION (Est. 2013)
Patrick Blessing (Co-Founder)
The Pie Commission’s secret location just off The Queensway is a popular takeout window among locals in the know. This savoury pie dispensary specializes in a variety of authentic updates to that staple of British cuisine: the pot pie. In just three and a half years the bakery has achieved critical success: nominated for numerous local awards and fingered by Toronto Life as one of the best places for savoury pies in the city. While the bakery’s co-founders, two Etobicoke natives, are proud of these mentions, they have their noses to the mill stone and the singular focus on making high-quality, rustic pies from scratch with whole ingredients— just like your English nan would at home.
“The Queensway is becoming more of a destination, especially for food. It’s about real food and cooking with real ingredients, I think that’s the trend.”
“The reception from the local people who have discovered us has been overwhelming. They’re so happy to have a nice independent bakery making what they feel are high-quality pies in their neighbourhood.”
“We thought South Etobicoke was perfect for that because of the mix of residential, commercial and food suppliers. The Ontario Food Terminal, where you can get some of the freshest produce in the world, is just down the street.”
MOKSHA YOGA ETOBICOKE (Est. 2012)
Catherine Braund-Pereira And Gabriela Doiu (Owners)
Founded in 2004 and with more than 80 studios worldwide, Moksha Yoga is a fitness movement that’s gathering steam. A gentle discipline of hot yoga, Moksha’s mantra promises a calm mind, fit body and inspired life. For the most dedicated, Moksha begins a virtuous circle of regular practice and increased payoffs in day-to-day life, such as increased concentration at work and composure in traffic (the ultimate attainment). The 1,200 square foot studio can fit up to 45 but classes are usually smaller. Students come from the neighbourhood and trend young but Moksha is suitable for all ages.
“We grew up in Etobicoke and are friends from school. We just knew this was the right place. It was the perfect fit. There was a big void in the market when we opened our studio and the neighbourhood has been transitioning since. We have a Starbucks now!” – GD
“Younger families are establishing themselves here because it’s so close to downtown, just a hop skip and a jump away. So the demographics are changing. It’s close enough to the core and not too far from the suburbia.” – GD
“It’s been really cool to see that there are some awesome like-minded businesses that are growing in the neighbourhood that are green or eco-friendly. We were a little bit early on the scene but over the last five years there’s been a huge change.” – CBP
SEAN BOUTILIER ACADEMY SCHOOL OF DANCE (Est. 1983)
Sean Boutilier (Artistic Director)
With general, competitive and adult dance programs in traditional forms – like acrobatic, ballet, hip hop, jazz, contemporary, musical theatre, pointe and tap – this academy is a well-established local institution. For some of the 1,400 students it’s also a very serious endeavour; a select few have gone on to study at Julliard’s. For adults who like a progression to their physical fitness, the owner is a firm believer in dance for longevity and rejuvenation. Dance teaches grace, poise and presence, qualities that pay off in real-world settings, like at cocktail parties when the other guests
gossip about the dancer in the room.
IN AND OUT
“It’s just a very good location: it’s close to 427, it’s close to the QEW. You’re minutes to the airport. If you want to go downtown from here, I can take Dundas, I can take the Queensway, I can take Lake Shore. It’s very well serviced by many main arteries.”
“The Queensway has been off the radar for a long time. This used to be an old Humber College campus. I bought the building and gutted it. Now we have six studios that are all state of the art.”
UP AND UP
“A couple of years ago they began to talk about the Queensway’s beautification. Now, you’ve got the movie theatres and the restaurants. People are becoming more aware of the area and there are nice little niche restaurants.”
30 UP CLUB LATIN & BALLROOM (Est. 1983)
Marjorie White (President)
In part, reality TV is responsible for the upswing in this ballroom and latin dance club’s popularity. Still, this long-established club remains one of the best-kept secrets in town. The 30-Up Club hosts five dances a week on one of the largest sprung dance floors (40’ x 80’) in Toronto, and its size is a big plus for travelling dances like the quick-step, fox trot, waltz and tango. The night dances on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays include a hot buffet dinner and typically draw over 100 dancers. While the core demographic is 50-plus, in spite of its name, the club is attracting a younger crowd, particularly on Saturday nights.
QUICK, QUICK, SLOW
“We believe that the space should be used for dancing. When we’re not having a dance we have group lessons most evenings and most of the spare time Saturday and Sundays. The rest of the time we rent out the club to teachers for private lessons.”
“We get 20 or 30 non-members a night, maybe more on a Saturday. And it’s not just couples. Most people who phone us can’t believe it. They ask on a Friday if we’re running a dance. And we say, yes, we run a dance every Friday and Saturday.”
“Our ballroom is unique. You’re not going to find a place like this just anywhere. When we travel, we look around in the city we’re in to dance for an evening. And the rooms are never anything like what we have here.”
GRAPPA RESTAURANT (Est. 1992)
David Desousa (Owner)
Grappa?!?! Yes, that Grappa. With an eye for up-and-coming neighbourhoods, this former College Street restaurant made the jump to The Queensway five years ago. The two new open-concept dining rooms seat 110 guests so the restaurant is larger and more modern, but the rustic continental menu of Northern- and Central-Italian-inspired dishes remains largely unchanged. One notable addition is “Grappalicious,” a table-d’hôte consisting of a high-end three-course set menu for a moderate price that’s a new fan favourite among this establishment’s loyal clientele.
BACK TO THE FUTURE
It reminds me a quite a bit of 25 years ago back when we opened on College Street. The new location is basically a throwback. No one really knew where College was then suddenly it became very hip and popular. And I think with The Queensway, it’s going to happen too.”
“It’s nice and clean and you can see the change that’s happening. Across the street from us about 50% of the retail real estate has changed hands. And the storefronts are cleaning up. They’re second-generation shopkeepers that own them now.”
“A lot of our old clientele followed us and we also picked up some new clientele that’s local. Many of the locals come much more frequently than at the old place because the parking’s a lot better. It tends to be a mature clientele of 30-somethings and up.”
BEST PORTUGUESE CHICKEN (Est. 2007)
Betty & Kyle Nascimiento (Owners)
Best Portuguese Chicken, or BPC, is a Portuguese churrascaria that specializes in rotisserie and grilled chicken and has been open on The Queensway for a decade. Seven years ago a mother-son duo bought the business, rebranded as BPC, tweaked the house recipes and have since garnered a GTA-wide, word-of-mouth reputation for mouth-watering chicken. While the rotisserie chicken is available on a walk-in basis, the more authentic, Portuguese-style, grilled butterflied whole chicken is made to order and takes about an hour to prepare. Fresh off the grill, the meat is at its peak moistness.
“Well as you know, The Queensway is changing a lot. When we first came here there was no Business Improvement Association in the area and now we have a one. That’s accelerating the transformation here and the landscape of what The Queensway looks like.”
DOWNTOWN BUT NOT REALLY
“This pocket is the last little pocket of Toronto where you’re downtown but not really. That’s why it’s starting to develop. And that’s why we bought here too because we saw the changes coming to The Queensway.”
“We have Highways 427, QEW and 401, right here off of Islington. Going east, you get to the King Street/Queen Street split. So you have the highway right there or you’re in downtown Toronto in about 10 minutes, not even. The location is really, really ideal here.”
FAT BASTARD BURRITO (Est. 2009)
SUKHI NATT (Owner)
Despite its cheeky, Austin-Powers-inspired name, Fat Bastard Burrito is serious about being a healthy fast-food option by serving a wide array of Mexican-inspired wraps. This new franchisee maintains that his menu’s made-to-order nouveau Tex-Mex burritos are healthier than a sub. And they also come in traditional and fusion flavours with lots of vegetarian options. Chipotle, who? Today, Fat Bastard Burrito is one of two local chains that battle mano a mano for Torontonian’s hearts and stomachs, as the perennial finalists for the top two spots in the “Best Burrito” category of the GTA’s readers’ polls and rankings.
“The Queensway is full of variety. You name it and you can find a quality option. The nice thing is that everyone in the restaurant business here gets along. We all eat at each other’s places — so that says a lot about the area.”
“The Queensway has changed drastically. It’s changing by the day. There are new buildings going up all around us. The demographics are changing, in my opinion – shifting from an older to a younger generation. A lot of homes are being rebuilt. The shift is definitely there.”
“Traffic flows great on The Queensway, we have all the banks around us and a great mall down the road. It’s very central. Downtown’s just up the road. We’re not that far: no traffic and to the foot of Yonge Street, you’re there in less than 15 minutes.”
THE GRILLE (Est. 2006)
Jim Parghemos & John Tepelenas (Owners)
A family-friendly establishment with an all-day breakfast every day, The Grille’s also an outpost for after-hours dining on weekends. This newly-renovated, latter-day diner with a Greek soul is open 24 hours on Friday and Saturdays, making it a popular pit stop for people going home after a night downtown. The proprietors pride themselves on cooking good food using high quality ingredients, with huge portions of comfort food, like souvlaki dinners and “Scary” double burgers. After just over a decade in business, The Grille has earned landmark status and attracts a loyal clientele from as far away as Oakville and Rexdale.
“There are more people coming to the area. I’ve noticed more and more condos are coming up. There are also more and more businesses actually on The Queensway between Kipling and Highway 427 that are opening. It’s a very busy street, actually, and so far so good.”
FREEWAY OF ACCESSIBILITY
“If you live in the area, The Queensway helps you get to other destinations as well. Whether you’re going to the 427, 401, QEW or Gardiner, they’re all here and very accessible. Being on The Queensway as a business, I can get to all these highways within two to five minutes.”
HOLMES AND CREW
“Mike Holmes is a great customer of ours. He’s like family and is always here. He and his crew come in quite a bit. Our city councillor comes through and Toronto’s police chiefs come through. We’re known as one of the nice places to go as a family.”
CALIFORNIA SANDWICHES (Est. 1967)
John & Immaculata Kantelberg & Cathy Bertucci (Owners)
Two families founded California Sandwiches in Toronto’s Little Italy back in 1967. Today it’s a third-generation family-owned-and-operated local chain of Italian sandwich shops featuring its signature veal-parmesan sandwich smothered in home-made marinara sauce and served on freshly-baked kaiser rolls. The restaurant’s name can seem misleading for would-be customers hungering for tofu and bean sprouts. In fact, this sandwich shop began as a grocery store so these restaurateurs know fresh. Each California Sandwiches location has a butcher that oversees the meat that’s delivered daily and made-to-order on-site.
“When I first opened here, it was very blue collar. I noticed my customer base was a lot of mechanics, factory and plant workers. And in the last five years my crowd has become very trendy. Hence, I’m selling more salads now, more veggie sandwiches, more eggplant parm.”
You’re going to see the money flow in here. It’s a very, very attractive area and the thing that actually set the tone was the big renovation of Sherway Gardens. They really renovated Sherway with a vision to accommodate what was coming. They actually did their homework very well.
DINNER AND A SHOW
“Another thing for us was the Queensway Cinemas and people doing dinner and a movie. The same thing with sporting events. Downtown has become so congested with construction and other stuff that some people would rather grab something in Etobicoke instead of battling traffic downtown and then just head straight to the game.”
TARTISTRY (Est. 2013)
Michele & Steve Roberts (Owners)
Tartistry is an outpost of 20th Century Canadiana and a must-see menagerie of antiques and china. It’s also a purveyor of oh-so-sensual baked goods made of highest-grade, barrel-churned butter. This artisanal bakery’s specialty is the butter tart, that quintessentially Canadian dessert. A hybrid bakery/antique shop, the front is filled with dining-room sets and lighting fixtures, phonographs, picture frames, hutches and upholstered furniture (all for sale) that double as the bakery’s homey decor. Tea, tarts and tables to-go. Stick around on Saturday afternoons for the house jazz band. Despite heavy doses of nostalgia, Tartistry is a high-touch and au courant retail concept.
THE MOMAS AND THE PAPAS
“We lived in the neighbourhood and it had a definite vibe for what it was; I sometimes call it ‘small town in town.’ Toronto is very big and multicultural but there are these smaller places that still have their own distinct characters.”
THE QUEENSWAY’S ARC
“Sometimes if the future’s already arrived, you can’t as a small business get into a space. I like to say we’re still ahead of the curve here, whether it’s five years or two years when it comes but The Queensway is changing and becoming more of a boulevard street.”
“You know, when I think of some of the other places, whether it was a natural decision by everybody to pick The Queensway, the business community does have an artisanal vibe, starting with Great Lakes Brewery where they’re focused on a craft beer.”
OSTERIA PAZZIA (Est. 1997)
Franco And Vittorio Galloro
Twenty years ago, two-brothers, each a restaurateur in his own right, joined forces to open Pazzia— Italian for “madness.” This osteria specializes in veal and pasta and the Southern Italian dishes these siblings grew up with at their family table. One is the chef and cooks the fresh pasta to the perfect degree of al dente. The other is the host and personally sees to the perfect level of attentiveness. Prices are piano and everything’s made on premises from scratch. Pazzia is all-the-craze among locals and has built a loyal following of regulars from the surrounding neighbourhoods.
“When the movie theatre came in that was a big deal. There’s more people coming to the area and for some of the smaller restaurants that’s also meant more customers.” — FG
“The Queensway has changed quite a bit. They say it’s up and coming. How much or how soon, I don’t know but it’s already a lot different than it was 20 years ago.” — FG
“I would say that our main clientele comes from nearby. Most probably live within a five-kilometre radius.” — FG