Toronto’s Polish neighbourhood is a long stretch of one-of-a-kind shops, local cafés, hidden foodie nooks and so much more. These are some insider tips to the best Roncesvalles Village has to offer.
Welcome to Roncesvalles Village! This neighbourhood, affectionately known as Roncy, was one of the first places I visited in the city and I eventually moved to the area. The 1.5 km stretch in Toronto’s west end became popular with Polish immigrants after WWII and those roots still run deep today.
Running from Dundas West, down Roncesvalles Avenue to Queen Street West and west to Sorauren Avenue, the neighbourhood has a small-town feeling you can’t escape. You’ll spot Polish grandmothers picking up flowers and baked goods, classic Polish restaurants, general stores, cafés and churches along the main stretch. For me, Roncy is one of the coolest spots in the city with bike lanes for cycling, streetcar access and loads of character.
Most action happens on Roncesvalles Avenue. It’s where you’ll find all the shops, restaurants, characters and bustle. Though the street has new, hip storefronts and dining options, luring in Queen West lovers, it still sticks to its Polish heritage. You won’t find chain businesses here (minus the one Tim Hortons!). But instead an eclectic mix of long-standing and newer, locally-owned small businesses from shops to cafés to restaurants. While it’s impossible to list out all of my favourites, these are the top highlights.
But first, coffee (and sweets!)
I love a good café. To me, it’s the hub of an area and holds the vibration of a neighbourhood. Oh, and a good cup of coffee is also a bonus! Roncesvalles is dotted with a bunch of cafés so it’s easy to grab some caffeine while you explore. These are a few of my favourites stretching the entire neighbourhood and all with a different vibe.
As one of the busiest cafés along the street, Reunion is my go-to spot for coffee (and where I love to work when it’s not a pandemic!). Reunion Coffee Roasters opened their flagship location in Roncy at the corner of Roncy and Lynde. They serve up direct trade, organic, Rainforest Alliance and Fair Trade certified coffees. The best part? They don’t charge extra for milk substitutes, so oat, almond, soy or coconut it up! 385 Roncesvalles Ave.
I DEAL Coffee
Located west of Roncesvalles Avenue, this coffee shop (which has other locations on Ossington and Nassau) is tucked amongst residential houses and just steps away from Sorauren Park. Sorauren Park is the epicentre of the area for local activities with an amazing flea market, produce market and little festivals. I love to start a summer weekend by walking to I DEAL, grabbing a coffee and a croissant and then heading to the park for the farmers’ market or to take part in an outdoor yoga class. 221 Sorauren Ave.
Cherry Bomb Coffee
If you’re making your way up Roncy from the intersection of Queen West (Parkdale), King West and Roncy, you’ll find Cherry Bomb Coffee. And, I’ll say it, they have the best croissants in the area. As the owners say, “Our customers are people from the 'hood. We’re young, old, single and married. We’re all different, but we all have one thing in common: we love coffee and baked goods!” And who doesn’t love coffee and treats?! 79 Roncesvalles Ave.
Heads up. There is almost always a lineup outside of this bakery. And for very good reason—it’s worth the wait. Mabels opened up in 2008 by local residents who wanted to bring baked goods, bread, pre-made comfort food meals and cheeses to the area. I happily wait in line for the scones (get two, trust me!), the pies during the holidays, and the cupcakes. 323 Roncesvalles Ave.
Gifts, books, flowers and treats
One thing Roncy is known for is having unique, one-of-a-kind finds mixed in with a few other Toronto-centric brands. That’s what makes Roncesvalles perfect for any kind of shopping. Here are a few of my favourites.
Another Story Bookshop
If you love a traditional bookstore this is the place for you. Another Story has been open since 1987 (and in its current location since 2006). Founder, the late Sheila Koffman had a mission to provide the neighbourhood with different perspectives and ideas through literature. The store still rings true to her idea today. It’s independent, and in non-pandemic times hosts indie author meetings and focuses on books about social justice, equality and representation. 315 Roncesvalles Ave.
Scout is my go-to store in the neighbourhood for gifts since it opened in 2011. It has something for any type of person on your list. From cute, locally made note cards to local jewellery, newborn onesies and accessories, pillows, stoneware, books and fun games. They seriously have the best card selection. It’s a gem of a store full of gems for gifts. 405 Roncesvalles Ave.
Willem and Jools Flowers
Willem and Jools Flowers is a Dutch-inspired flower shop with imported Dutch flowers, but also a great selection of Ontario-grown florals. I often stop by here to pick up flowers as a gift, but also as a pick-me-up for myself. Pick up a unique bouquet or potted plants from their airy, bright and colourful shop. 125 Roncesvalles Ave.
Frock is one of those cool, independent clothing shops when you’re looking for something that is unique. They’ve been on the street since 2003, making Frock one of the mainstays. A step inside and you’ll find a mix of local and international independent designers, all with ethical and environmental focuses. 97 Roncesvalles Ave.
A little sliver of Italian in the Polish neighbourhood, Alimentari is the spot to go for any Italian/pasta fixings you need for dinner. Sauces, pasta, cured meats, pre-made meals and a whole lot more. It’s also home to some seriously deliciously addictive bombalone (deep-fried dough balls doused in sugar and often filled with Nutella). Don’t blame me if you go back for more bombalones—I warned you! 325 Roncesvalles Ave.
Yummy food (Polish and otherwise) + drinks
A Roncesvalles staple for over 30 years, Cafe Polonez keeps the Polish heritage alive and well. It’s a spot to dive into authentic Polish home-cooked food, in a traditional rustic setting. This spot takes me back to my Eastern European roots—from the cabbage rolls to the best pierogies in the city, to homemade cold borscht soup and hot zupas (soups), goulash and schnitzel. It’s like being back in my grandmother’s kitchen! 195 Roncesvalles Ave.
At the bottom of Roncesvalles at the corner of Queen West is a little hole in the wall that serves up some of the best brunch in the neighbourhood. The walls are lined with classic movie posters (including the Easy Rider poster with Jack Nicholson), they have delicious milkshakes, and Mexican-inspired breakfast and brunch options. I’m partial to the huevos divorciados but the burrito, steak and eggs and more are also top picks. You never know who you’ll spot at Easy Restaurant—on occasions I’ve seen members of the Bare Naked Ladies, local TV hosts and Canadian artists. 1645 Queen St. W.
Chicago European Deli
Don’t ask me why it has Chicago in its name—I have yet to figure this mystery out! But, what I do know is this is a true European bakery/deli with lots of great Polish treats. Stop by if you have a hankering for delicious European egg bread, Danish pastries or Kaizer rolls. They also have a big selection of deli meats and one of my personal Polish favourites—pickle soup! If you haven’t tried it, make sure you do at any Polish restaurant on Roncy. 289 Roncesvalles Ave.
In 2011, Pizzeria Defina started making Napoletana-style pizzas in their Roncy restaurant in their wood-fire oven. And it has been a staple on the strip ever since. Their award-winning pizzas have taken top nods at the International Pizza Expo and they’ve even been featured on The Food Network’s You Gotta Eat Here! and in The New York Times. All the fame and accolades are worth it—that crispy thin crust takes me straight back to Naples every single time. 321 Roncesvalles Ave.
Inspired by German beer gardens, Bandit came into the Roncesvalles neighbourhood at the north end on Dundas West with the mission to bring good, locally-crafted beer in a relaxed, airy, comfortable setting (which is actually perfect given the pandemic!). I love sitting at the long picnic tables on the large patio space on a breezy summer night. In the winter, the indoors is roomy and spacious, still with that beer garden vibe. Stephane and Shehzad met at a local Toronto craft brewery in 2012 before starting Bandit Brewery, and brew only beers that they’d like to sip on—lucky for me, we have the same tastes in beer! 2125 Dundas St. W.
Landmarks and must-sees
A staple in any neighbourhood is a gathering spot. And Sorauren Park is that for Roncy. It’s just west of the main village, tucked away next to residential areas, but it’s closer to get to than High Park and has a strong community feeling. I love hitting up the farmers’ market during the summer and fall, or any local festival that happens here. 289 Sorauren Ave.
This historic United Church is a hub for the Roncy community. They host local events from the Roncy Flea Market, Pilates classes, programs for kids and a "Dinner With Dignity" every Sunday for those in need. The rainbow painted steps will be what grabs your attention (welcoming people to pose for photos), but knowing all it does for the community makes it even better. 240 Roncesvalles Ave.
The Revue Cinema
The Revue Cinema, constructed in 1912 is a designated heritage building thanks to its Art Deco design. It’s also Toronto’s oldest operating movie theatre, showing today’s flicks and old classics. When news of its closure became public a while back, the community sprang up and saved the cinema, keeping the tradition alive. When they’re back up post-pandemic, don’t miss their Drunken Cinema events (where you get to drink and play games along with a movie). 400 Roncesvalles Ave.
The Polish Festival
Each year in September, Ronvesvalles closes itself off to traffic to make it pedestrian-only for the Polish Festival. It’s a celebration of the community's roots and a welcome to new traditions too. It’s where you’ll stuff yourself with Polish pierogies, breads, sauerkraut, lots of beer and sausages while you listen to Polish music and take in some performances.