If you ask any Torontonian to pick the centre axis of the city, they'd probably reply "Yonge and Bloor Streets". Serving as the gateway to the very chic Bloor Street and Yorkville retailers for fashion and home furnishings, as well as the central pivot point of the Yonge and Bloor subway lines, no location in the city offers as many amenities within walking distance.
What I especially adore about Yonge and Bloor is that even though it has that "Bright Lights Big City" vibe, it also has an amenity-rich neighbourhood synergy that makes it an amazing location to live. The Manulife Centre has one of my favourite Cineplex movie theatres with its large screens and plush seats, plus there's an Indigo Bookshop, a liquor store and a grocer. Dotted on Yonge Street south of Bloor amidst the shoe and clothing retailers are a whole slew of take-away cafes like the Green Mango at 730 Yonge Street which, since the early 90s, has offered freshly prepared tasty Thai food for a super reasonable price. Basically, this is the kind of neighbourhood where, if you had a long day at work and you were too beat to cook, you could just stroll from your cool pad and pick up dinner in a matter of minutes. It's one of the reasons my stylish listing Casa Condominio on Charles Street East is such a brilliant place to live! Click here to learn more about it!
So the other night my friend and I were admiring Casa Condominio which, in my opinion, is a much welcomed architectural edifice to uplift our city's otherwise staid existing building stock, when we decided to walk a block south to Gloucester Street to try out the cafe 'Fire On The East Side'. This little cafe opened in December of 2002 by Keir MacRae, Michael Schwarz and Ian Malcolm. Offering southern inspired cooking with a global twist, this charming bistro uses fresh seasonal ingredients and simple cooking techniques to win a repeat clientele.
Given it was a hot steamy summer eve, we passed dining on the patio and took refuge in the cooler dining room. The decor was inviting and comfortable...more stylishly appointed than a pub but not so fancy that you feel you need a collar on your shirt. It had an amazing cocktail menu - I choose the "Oh Pears" made with Absolut Pears, Uphoria Asian Pear Liquer, 7-Up and Pear Puree - Yum! It's a perfect summer drink.
My friend and I both chose the Ancho-Maple Glazed Roast Chicken served with roasted corn-smoked bacon hash and seasonal vegetables priced at $22. Smartly presented, I particularly appreciated the chef preparing the vegetables so they're steaming hot yet still crisp - I consider it the artful equivalent of cooking pasta 'al dente'. The chicken was juicy and the corn and bacon hash was a great way to balance the flavours on the plate. Sorry for the blurry photo below!
As bang-on the food, so was the service. Our server Ian was friendly, engaging and attentive. Having spent twelve years in the restaurant industry while completing my housing education, I have a sixth sense now for knowing when a server is 'just going through the motions' versus 'caring about your dining experience'. At Fire On The Eat Side, the service and food are both reasons to return. My only critique is that I despise oversized laminated menus...they're typical of pubs, theme-restaurants for children, and any other place that needs to wipe down their menus often. If the menu had been printed on a decent quality paper, it would have better conveyed this restaurant as elegant, fresh and current. Why is this so difficult for restaurants to do?
After dinner, my friend suggested we stroll up a block and across Yonge Street to 7West Cafe. Located at 7 Charles Street West, this three storey Victorian row house has been a seven-day-a-week 24-hour cafe for over twenty years. It is one of my favourite places to go late at night for coffee and dessert, like after a movie at Manulife Centre! Each of the three dining levels (with rooftop patio) have their own personality yet all are romantic, charming and convivial. The menu leans to standard fare, though there are loads of veggie options, and it's extremely affordable. One goes here for convenience more than their culinary creations (it's the only charming 24 hour cafe I know), though the desserts are always sensational. We had a couple of coffees and shared a Cafe Con Leche Cheesecake to round out our evening while tucked under the eaves in the air conditioned attic atelier. 7West Cafe is a great place to frequent.
7 Charles Street West, Toronto, Ontario
730 Yonge Street, Toronto, Ontario
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