Fuel up to explore this up-and-coming east-side Toronto neighbourhood.
It can be easy to confuse Riverside with Riverdale. The downtown neighbourhoods are adjacent to one another and both feature incredible city-skyline views from the valley park. Yet Riverside has its own charms.
Slightly industrial and refreshingly unassuming, Riverside is separated from the downtown core by the picturesque Riverside Bridge (or Queen Street Viaduct), which crosses the Don River via Queen Street East. Easily accessible by the 501 Queen streetcar (just hop off at Carroll Street, right after the bridge), Riverside is the perfect neighbourhood to grab a drink, snack, and meander, while window shopping, taking photos or simply stretching your legs along a side street.
But first, coffee...
Can’t-miss coffee spot #1: Dark Horse Espresso Bar
If you’re traveling east from downtown, the first coffee shop you’ll hit is Dark Horse. A local mini chain, this east end addition mixes modern and vintage furnishings in perfect balance. With its signature communal table and natural light, you’ll be tempted to take a seat.
Yet you’re going to want to grab-and-go because this is the start of some east-side exploration! Whether you get a classic Americano or something a little richer like a chai latte, you can’t go wrong. Don’t forget the pastries—notably the muffins and scones—most of which are baked in house. 630 Queen St. E.
Can’t-miss coffee spot #2: The Cannonball
Across the street from Dark Horse is a low-key café perfect for those who want more of a hidden gem. Fun fact: the name was inspired by Ed “The Cannonball” Crane, a pitcher and outfielder for the Toronto Maple Leafs Baseball Club, who played one of his best games at Sunlight Park, Toronto’s first baseball stadium. It’s found just a short walk from The Cannonball’s back patio, which feels a bit like a secluded secret garden. Check it out with a coffee in hand, plus one of the café’s famed grilled cheese sandwiches. 641 Queen St. E.
Can’t-miss coffee spot #3: The Broadview Bistro + Bar
Once Queen Street East meets Broadview Avenue, the strip kicks into high gear. From restaurants and markets to thrift and beauty shops, there’s a little bit of everything to browse.
Stop into the Broadview Hotel’s bistro-bar for coffee and a fresh-baked croissant or lunch if you’re still feeling peckish.
Then keep an eye out for such conscious thrift shopping as Common Sort (760 Queen St. E.) and Good Juice Box Vintage (768 Queen St. E.). A little further east, you’ll stumble on Arts Market (790 Queen St. E.), which supports local makers. And if that’s more to your liking, you’ll want to stop by Tiny Record Shop (777 Queen St. E.) and Token (777 Queen St. E.) gift shop for more trinkets and a nice selection of vinyl LPs. Also consider upgrading your hair care with handmade products from local cult-fave, JŪS by Oreya (724 ½ Queen St. E.). Don’t forget to pick up fresh blooms at Quince Flowers (660 Queen St. E.) for your hotel room! 106 Broadview Ave.
Can’t-miss coffee spot #4: Boxcar Social
Boxcar Social is a must-visit local chain that offers a little more than coffee. Nestled in a historical building with beautiful architectural details tempting you to stay in, it features a stunning owl mural on its back wall, painted by Vancouver-based artist John James.
The meticulous baristas whip up expert brews, but if you’re looking for something different, this Boxcar location also boasts a daytime slow bar. You can indulge in espresso flights for more of a connoisseur experience. Paired with pastries and other snacks from local bakeries, you can’t go wrong here. 4 Boulton Ave.
Can’t-miss coffee spot #5: Merchants of Green Coffee
Last but certainly not least is this purveyor of organically farmed and sustainably sourced green beans. Tucked away in a former jam factory close to Riverside Bridge, you could happily get lost along the tree-lined side streets—maybe starting with the famous De Grassi Street—before ending at Merchants of Green Coffee.
Eco-conscious in almost every way imaginable, their rustic Restoration Cafe offers more than some of the best coffee and baked goods in the city: it also conducts coffee education for those looking to learn more! 2 Matilda St.
Getting to Riverside
Queen subway station, then take the 501 Queen streetcar eastbound