Local insider tips on where to eat for a proper intro to the Gerrard East neighbourhood.
Part of what makes Toronto so spectacular is its neighbourhoods, which have their own distinctive personality and charm. Already home to established communities, like Leslieville, Cabbagetown, and The Beaches, Toronto’s east end also comprises one of the city’s emerging hot spots: Gerrard Street East.
Previously, you might have only passed through en route to ethnic enclaves, East Chinatown and Little India. But over the last few years, Gerrard Street East has become a veritable hot spot for locals and visitors alike.
Affectionately dubbed #Gerrones by locals (after Gerrard and Jones streets, where much of the action is concentrated), here you’ll find plenty of restaurants, coffee shops and bars to give you a great introduction to this hip Toronto neighbourhood.
Dineen Outpost is the east end location of Dineen Coffee Co. Its space is marked by arched light fixtures, a large wrap-around bar and pink marble tables. The gold “Toronto” floor tiles provide an Instagram-worthy photo op! The outdoor patio enclosed by a white picket fence is a great place to post up along bustling Gerrard Street East.
You can find all the usual suspects here, from lattes to flat whites, in addition to baked goods, locally-sourced sandwiches and salads, charcuterie and alcohol. Head to their online shop to pick up coffee beans, tea, and coffee accessories (with free shipping above certain minimums within Ontario and Canada).
Known for its minimal aesthetic, white floor tiles and premium coffee, Hailed Coffee quickly became a neighbourhood institution after opening its doors and has since opened a second location at College Park.
My picks: the Hailed cappuccino with cardamom syrup or get a Hailed shot in your coffee. If you’re in the mood for something sweet, Hailed sells its own chocolate, Cardamella (Cardamom salted caramel chocolate), and desserts made in house by their pastry chefs, including gift boxes and dessert boxes.
Coffee and Clothing
Want to shop cool vintage pieces while caffeinating at the same time? Then check out Coffee and Clothing—a hip store selling coffee made from in-house roasted coffee beans and individually hand-picked vintage clothing.
Prior to COVID-19, their space served as a community hub for showcasing local artists, producers and creatives. You can now purchase their coffee beans and clothing online via their website or Instagram shop. They offer both curbside pickup and free delivery within Toronto.
Eats and Entertainment
La Cubana Gerrard
La Cubana serves up some of the tastiest Cuban food in Toronto. It’s my personal fave for the best rice and beans in the city. Head up by a brother-sister duo, Pablo and Corinna Mozo, La Cubana Gerrard is the east side location and third in their empire. Like the other Roncesvalles and Ossington locations, La Cubana Gerrard is an inviting retro-style diner with bright floor tiles, teal subway tiles on the wall and leather booths.
Order the Guava BBQ Beef Short Ribs, which are braised in coca-cola in the oven for 4 hours and dressed with smoky guava BBQ and chimichurri, then topped with crispy onions. Order online from their website for pickup or via Uber Eats for delivery.
Known for their handmade pasta, Wynona is a more upscale option on Gerrard Street East, offering dinner service from Thursday through Saturday. On the menu, you’ll find appetizers like Burrata & Smoked Capocollo and Fresh Focaccia, and mains like the Whole Branzino served with a brown butter sauce and a variety of meat and vegetarian pastas.
The interior is bright, neutral and minimal, and during the warmer months, they have an inviting outdoor patio. Wynona currently offers meal baskets for sale (including a build-your-own option) that consist of food prepared in-house and items sourced locally, as well as wines-to-go through their Bottle Shop. You can also order from their regular menu online for pickup or delivery.
Lake Inez is a restaurant with big character in Little India! Chef Robbie Hojilla (formerly of The Harbord Room) cooks up pan-Asian cuisine, partly inspired by his Filipino heritage, made from locally-sourced ingredients. Plates on the regularly changing menu are small, tasty and meant for sharing. There is an excellent selection of craft beer, including 24 on tap.
Prior to COVID-19, it was the place to be on evenings, when the dining room—marked by a large, handmade stained-glass mosaic—greeted patrons. Guests could also opt for the mystery patio tasting menu. Presently, they offer a popular takeout menu that can be ordered in advance for pickup on Saturdays, as well as a monthly wine subscription.
Pinkerton’s Snack Bar
Go to Pinkerton’s Snack Bar for delicious Asian-inspired bar bites, like kimchi French fries and pork neck pancakes. Pinkerton’s also serves a variety of baos and a good selection of cocktails, spirits, mead and beer (including tall cans). The menu is compact and changes often, based on what chef Andy Wilson can get seasonally from local markets.
Named after a Weezer album, this hip bar has a loud and lively atmosphere with friendly service and was the perfect place to grab a drink and late-night eats in the neighbourhood. Now, order food through their takeout menu or alcohol through their Bottle Shop Thursday to Monday.
As its name suggests, Anglr is a restaurant with a pescatarian focus that also offers Canadian classics with a twist, like spicy chorizo poutine and plant poutine. Run by a brother duo, Anglr aims to use sustainable products where possible.
Here, you’ll find menu items like shrimp dumplings, crab cakes, fish tacos and classic fish & chips. Dine-in options when available include their cozy dining room with exposed brick or plant-filled back patio which has been completely winterized. Order online for pickup or delivery via Uber Eats, SkipTheDishes & Ritual.
1 of 2 locations in the GTA, Blackjack BBQ on Gerrard Street East serves up a little bit of Southern Hospitality in the neighbourhood. They take a slow approach to their food with an emphasis on great taste, as should be expected with barbecue.
You’ll find everything from dinosaur beef ribs, buttermilk fried chicken, and brisket with all the fixins, like charred corn and mac and cheese. Order online for pickup or delivery through all major delivery apps.
Yard Sale Bar
Well-positioned at the corner of Gerrard Street East and Jones Avenue, Yard Sale Bar is a cocktail bar with a retro-style dining room and a dog-friendly rooftop patio.
On the menu, they have craft cocktails using high-quality ingredients and internationally-inspired small plates, like spicy “KFC” wings, bolinhos (salt cod croquettes), falafel roulade and yum kai dao (Thai egg salad). As of the date of writing, they’ll soon be launching an online store with meal kits, cocktail kits, mulled wine kits, beer party packs, and doggie gift baskets.
From the same group that owns Pinkerton’s across the street and Vatican Gift Shop a stone’s throw away, Poor Romeo is a bar in the #Gerrones ‘hood with a rock n’ roll kind of attitude. Known for their smash burgers (my favourite kind of burgers), you can also order small bites like Buffalo cauliflower, queso n chips and wild zero wings. Check them out for takeout from Thursday to Sunday.
Gardel is a Euro-Latin inspired restaurant and wine bar that bravely opened mid-pandemic on Gerrard Street East. Guests could previously dine indoors or on their heated patio.
Now available for pickup on evenings Thursday to Sunday, menu items include beef or veg empanadas served with housemade chimichurri or roasted jalapeno crema, yuca gnocchi, shrimp ceviche, ancho chicken and breads made from local Breadhead Bakery.
The place to get an authentic Egyptian brunch, Maha’s could be said to have a cult following in Toronto. Long lineups were often to be expected at this family-owned and operated restaurant, serving up tasty dishes like Maha’s Mind Blowing Chicken, shakshuka and sunny eggs and foole.
If you want a good sampling of their offerings, opt for the Cairo Classic platter—loaded with tomatoes and onions, fava beans, sliced boiled egg, falafel, creamy homemade tomato feta and balady bread.
Dining in felt like a family affair, with guests having a good view of the Barsoom family cooking as the intoxicating scent of the Egyptian specials permeated the cozy restaurant. Maha’s now offers family dinners on Fridays and weekends and their full menu for takeout. Check their website for the latest info on ordering.
The Real Jerk
An institution for authentic Jamaican food in Toronto, The Real Jerk is famously known for being the location of Rihanna and Drake’s “Work” video. Portions are generous and the food is bursting with flavour. The jerk chicken with rice and beans is the main event, but really everything on the menu is Irie! Tip: to try more of the offerings, order a jerk chicken combo and choose a side of oxtail, curry chicken, goat, or jerk pork to go with it.
Another family-owned and operated restaurant, it dates back to 1978 in St. Ann’s, Jamaica. Coming to Canada in 1987, it had many incarnations, before settling at its current home on Gerrard Street East at Carlaw (there is another location in The Beach). They’re available for takeout and delivery through all major delivery apps.
Chula Taberna Mexicana
Chula Taberna Mexicana is a local spot for Mexican-fusion eats in the Gerrard East neighbourhood, known for good tacos and margaritas. Inside, you’ll find two bar areas, a dining room with ample seating, and two heated patios. The colourful mural in the dining room was hand-painted by the same Mexican family that makes Chula’s tortillas. They’re currently offering takeout service 7 days a week and delivery through major apps.
Your new go-to for Levantine cuisine in Toronto, Madame Levant is a newcomer to Gerrard Street East. They serve dishes like Levantine chicken, lebneh egg salad and falafel, but their menu changes often.
Pre-order one of their Friday Feasts for an authentic taste of a Levantine family meal. Chef/owner, Himi Hunaidi, cooks dishes like Ma’loubeh and Dawood Basha with love. Their full menu and Levantine groceries are available 7 days a week for takeout and curbside pickup.