These Queen Street West restaurants and cafés are top local picks for park picnics and coffee dates.
Have you ever spotted one of the famous white squirrels of Trinity Bellwoods Park?
If not, then why not make an attempt? Even if you fail to see a white squirrel (they’re extremely rare compared to the usual grey or black), you’ve created a fun excuse for a picnic in one of Toronto’s most popular spots for outdoor gatherings.
A leafy oasis that forms a buffer between the shopping and dining bustle of Queen Street West and the quieter residential streets immediately north, Trinity Bellwoods Park is ground zero for the hip and youthful, especially during the warmer months.
All the frisbee, flirting and French bulldogs might have scandalized some of the former owners of the land, especially the dour and elitist John Strachan, a powerful 19th-century Anglican bishop who didn’t mind sticking his crook into politics.
As a public park, “Bellwoods” (as it’s known to locals) offers playgrounds, tennis courts, a Tuesday farmers’ market—and fine people-watching. Even better, you might find, is the dog watching: there’s a leash-free zone, which attracts the local pooch population.
But best of all is the squirrel watching.
Eastern grey squirrels are sometimes born with white fur, especially—as local legend has it —within the Bellwoods gene pool. They’ve become an unofficial symbol of the area, even if spotting one is a rare privilege.
So gather a spread of local delicacies, plunk yourself down on a blanket and keep your eyes peeled. Here are some top suggestions for your basket.
Hooky’s Fish and Chips
Fish and chips from Hooky’s Fish and Chips, which fries everything up in the proper traditional British style. For full authenticity choose Marine Stewardship Council-certified cod for the fish and get mushy peas on the side.
North of Brooklyn Pizzeria
A piping hot, thin-but-chewy-crust pizza from North of Brooklyn Pizzeria. Locals swear by the Killer Bee pizza, which features sausage, jalapeño and honey.
Or treat your more virtuous side with a cornucopia of crispy tofu, power greens, roasted cashews and more in a Tiger bowl from Fresh. Specializing in vegan and gluten-free meals since 1999, Fresh was making bowls—as in, a bunch of healthy stuff piled on rice—before they were cool. (It also offers tacos, wraps, smoothies and more.)
Pick up some authentically Italian cannolis and bombolone from Sud Forno.
And more dessert, because why not? Try light-as-air, colourful, perfect macarons from Nadège Patisserie.
White Squirrel Coffee Shop
Finally, coffee from—where else?—White Squirrel Coffee Shop. If you don’t snap a photo of one of our furry white friends, you can at least keep the cup sleeve as a souvenir of your visit.
Getting to Trinity Bellwoods Park
Take the 505 Dundas streetcar to Grace Street or the 501 Queen streetcar to Strachan Avenue. (Some portions of the 501B Queen streetcar route may be replaced by the 501 Queen bus during street construction in 2023.)