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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Radar: AGO 1st Thursdays, Support Local, Downtown Paint, Legally Blonde, Music in St. James Park

AGO 1st ThursdaysToronto events for Thursday, August 1, 2013

PARTY | AGO 1st Thursdays

It's the first of August, which means the AGO stays open late for their monthly after-hours party. Tonight's 1st Thursday event is best described as a kaleidoscope with genre-mixing artists in music and art coming together for an evening of dancing, drinking and gallery-wandering. Kim Adams' sculpture will be on display while rapper and electronic musician Cadence Weapon performs. DJ Casey Mecija of Ohbijou will play music throughout the night and the 1st Thursday exclusive exhibit Out of the Vaults will display tiny paper works. Tickets are available through the AGO website and at the door.

Art Gallery of Ontario (317 Dundas Street West) 7PM $12 advance, $15 door

MARKET | Support Local

Levack Block may regain some of its Ossington street cred with this one--Support Local is a community event, designed to bring artists and supporters together to share their works. A market with vendors selling jewelry, vintage collections, crafts, custom clothing, accessories and food, there will also be acoustic acts playing throughout the evening and dance performances. Proceeds at the door will go toward supporting the indiegogo campaign for Waack Revolt, a dance film by Sonia Hong. For the full list of vendors and performers, visit the Support Local Facebook page.

Levack Block (88 Ossington Avenue) 8PM

ART | Downtown Paint

Curated by artist Jimmy Chiale, Downtown Paint is the Brockton Collective's answer to the Garrison Creek Bat Company. Racquel Da Silva's show features her strongest works, which will include her new series Hoop Dreams. Basketball backboards that have been custom designed and hand-painted with designs ranging from eccentric to moody are the crux of this show, which opens today at Brockton's headquarters. This is the easiest way to see the pieces as they will only be accessible by appointment only from August 2-5. Stop by for food by Vegetarian Way, a NOZO pop-up shop, a performance by The 6th Letter from ΒΛΚΞΓ$CLUB and music by PISTOLAA. Donations welcomed.

Brockton Collective (442a Dufferin Street) 7PM Free

THEATRE | Legally Blonde: The Musical

When her boyfriend unexpectedly breaks up with her after being accepted to Harvard Law School, Elle Woods follows him there. While the blonde airhead has one goal--getting her boyfriend back--she discovers that she is more skilled with the law than she once thought. Legally Blonde: The Musical opens at Randolph Theatre tonight, performed by students of the Randolph Academy. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster.

Randolph Theatre (736 Bathurst Street) 8PM $26.75

MUSIC | Music in St. James Park: hobson's choice

The month of August means that St. James Park is retiring movies and sending in the musicians. Music in St. James Park brings acoustic sets to King East with musicians and songwriters paying homage to Canadian greats. Tonight, contemporary chamber jazz group hobson's choice performs a full set in the park as the sun sets. As with all St. James Park activities, this event is free and open to the public. Just bring a chair, sit back and enjoy the music.

St. James Park (105 King Street East) 7PM Free


Have an event you'd like to plug? Submit your own listing to the blogTO Toronto events calendar or contact us directly.

by Lauren Pincente via blogTO

Bed with a view

2nd subway platform at Union Station still a year away

toronto ttc union stationRelief is in sight for the more than 100,000 passengers who use the TTC's Union subway station every day. A new second platform has been roughed in just south of the existing station and should be up and running by mid 2014, according to project manager Malcolm MacKay.

Construction crews have been digging down on the south side of Front Street for over two years, since May 2011, creating much-needed new space for one of the system's most crowded platforms. As a former terminus of the Yonge line, Union was given a narrow 6.9-metre centre platform in 1954 that now feels claustrophobic, precarious and sometimes dangerous at rush-hour.

"We have measures in place to deal with crowding," says the TTC's Brad Ross "We close stairs, escalators, do slow orders, and those kinds of things when the platform becomes crowded, but once this opens up there won't be an issue."

toronto ttc union stationWhen the new south platform sees its first users, University and Yonge line trains will both have a dedicated platform like most other TTC subway stops. The new, 10-metre wide, south platform will be used by University trains heading north to King. The renovated centre platform will become exclusively for Yonge trains heading to Osgoode.

It's a vital piece in an exhaustive overhaul of Canada's busiest transportation hub that includes a new retail concourse, train shed roof, GO terminal, and PATH connections. For the sake of comparison, Union as a whole handles almost double the number of passengers as Pearson airport on a daily basis.

toronto ttc union stationThe pedestrian bottleneck in the moat area between the Union Station proper and the subway entrance is also being addressed with the addition of wider stairs and wheelchair and stroller ramps.

"There be twice as much capacity as there was previously, so the crowding that's experienced at the centre platform will be cut in half," says Malcolm MacKay, project manager. "It's the busiest transit hub in Canada and it's an investment that's necessary for us to move forward."

Construction work, which is being carried out by EllisDon, will cost $161.5 million, including tax, and is currently (touch wood) on budget and schedule. The TTC expects to open the platform in an "semi-finished" state and then commence work re-tiling the centre platform next July.

toronto ttc union station"This is a huge job," MacKay says. "It's a technically challenging job in that we're excavating straight down beside an existing facility, it's logistically difficult because we're trying to operate our business. We have to keep our eye on that because that's what we do for a living."


toronto ttc union stationtoronto ttc union stationtoronto ttc union stationtoronto ttc union stationtoronto ttc union stationChris Bateman is a staff writer at blogTO. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisbateman.

Images: Chris Bateman, TTC

by Chris Bateman via blogTO

What's breakfast + lunch? It's delicious, that's what! Oh, and brunch is an acce...

What's breakfast + lunch? It's delicious, that's what! Oh, and brunch is an acceptable answer too:

Cheap, Tasty Brunch in Toronto portal

by torontodotcom via torontodotcom's Facebook Wall

The 10 biggest tourist trap restaurants in Toronto

Tourist Traps TorontoTourist trap restaurants in Toronto are, for Torontonians and visitors alike, generally like hell on earth. Unless you have one of those cheesy yet masochistic senses of humour, and/or really enjoy mediocre food and overpriced booze or whatever. Long and short of it is that the fourth largest city in North America attracts its fair share of tourism, and in these ten places, you will find people who fall for the worst gaffes or just go to places they saw an ad for in the inflight magazine on the way in.

Here, 10 places you probably avoid if you live in Toronto.


The 10 most famous restaurants in Toronto

The 10 most famous bars in Toronto

CN Tower 360

Looking at Toronto without the CN Tower in the picture is a pretty strange experience. The food is a tad overpriced for what it is, but it's nowhere near as bad as you might expect. Meals are basic, with your classic meat or fish and rice or potatoes options, but everything is dressed up enough to make it count. Generally, you have to pay to take in the views from the tower, but with the purchase of a main, it's complimentary. Some people come here because they think it's romantic: don't fall for that. Ain't no romance in waiting an hour for an elevator ride that will make your ears pop and then hollering at one another while the children of tourists crawl on your feet 351 metres in the air. Though the food isn't awful, this is one to avoid. Dill that salmon at home, y'all.

Old Spaghetti Factory

The Old Spaghetti Factory is actually an Old Blacksmith Shop. Despite being filled with tourists and thus, yangy children, there is some undeniable historical value that comes along with paying a visit. The warehouse was built in 1898, and converted into a restaurant in the '70s. On the menu, you'll find quintessential, vanilla, touristy foods like a handful of different spaghetti dishes (forgive the obvious, but really), seafood linguine and penne with chicken.


Tappo is an Italian and Mediterranean-themed restaurant in the Distillery District. There's a strong wine focus (PDF) here, and in fact, the restaurant's name means corked in Italian. (This will have bad connotations if you're an actual wine connoisseur. Go with your gut, I say). The Distillery is one of the city's most touristy areas, so places like Tappo are usually cram-jammed, and can get away with charging prices that rival what you'd pay for fine dining, but for less remarkable food.

Big Daddy's

Big Daddy's Bourbon Street Bistro & Oyster Bar, in case you're unfamiliar with the joint, is exactly what it sounds like, only a little less awesome. It's perched on the corner of King and University, perfect receiving position for unsuspecting, fannypack-clad folks roaming around the downtown core. Seafood, clearly, is the specialty here, with the seafood fondue earning rave reviews. Oysters are a major draw as well, and tourists get their fill with the prix fixe menus, which can be had for either $26 or $31. Big Daddy's does its best to take on that Louisiana feel with the decor, too, which harkens back (sort of) to an old school jazz bar vibe.

Sultan's Tent

If you've never had the...experience of visiting the Sultan's Tent, you may have at least noticed the ads around town for this tourist trap at Front and Church. You will, as the ads promise, be able to catch live belly dancing performances here every night, accompanied by four-course dinners, Moroccan style. Check out their menu here and you'll get an idea of the cheese factor in this place. While the whole idea is just dripping with fromage, there are somewhat authentic options available, like fekkous and, of course, hummus and olives.

Mr. Greenjeans

Mr. Green Jeans can't help but be steeped in a little tourist trap cred: It's been catering to those who frequent the Eaton Centre for no fewer than 34 years. You'll find the standard steaks, burgs, pizza and "noodles", but they've also hopped on the gluten train. They cater to vegetarians, too, and their menu lists over 200 items (PDF). While it may be an undeniable tourist trap, at least Mr. Green Jeans offers a good variety of stuff, and it's all made in-house.

Le Papillon on Front

Le Papillon at Front and Church serves up French and Quebecois fare, and they aim to offer a relaxed approach to fine dining. They opened the city's first creperie in 1974, and you'll also find escargots, French onion soup and a selection of steaks and duck. The class factor is amplified by $5.50 pint specials. The decor is pretty lovely, though and the menu, though slightly overpriced, is decent. Le Papillon is not the most villainous culprit on this list but if you must eat at a Toronto restaurant with this name you'd be better off heading to the other one on Eastern Avenue.

Fred's Not Here

Fred's Not Here has been serving up steaks and seafood to ravenous tourists for a quarter of a century. Located right in the midst of Restaurant Row, Fred's Not Here is ideally situated to soak up the masses that spill from the Lightbox, Rogers Centre and Royal Alexandra. Their lobster and crab soup is a standout dish, as are their jumbo shrimps, which are roughly the size of a small kitten. They're also known for speedy service, even when it comes to groups, in case you need to make it to a show in time.

Wayne Gretzky's

Wayne Gretzky's is a giant web of a sports bar, perfectly positioned on Blue Jays Way so as to swallow up the hoards of jersey-clad folk streaming out of the Rogers Centre. Though this is one of the more obvious tourist traps on the list, diehard hockey fans who live in the city have been known to check it out because it's home to Gretzky's own collection of memorabilia. There's a rooftop patio, too, so that doesn't hurt. The dinner menu includes just about everything a sports fan could want, from pub food to steaks. That said, beware the cocktail list, which includes gems such as the Gretzky on Ice, made of Polar Ice and Gretzky ice wine. (Also beware patrons whose teams lost the game).

Panorama Lounge

I'd question whether people of any other city love their own skyline quite as much and in as masturbatory a fashion as Toronto. It's no surprise, then, that tourists love it, too, and they come to Panorama, on the 51st floor of the Manulife Centre at Yonge and Bloor, to take it all in. Views are served with tapas-style apps and cocktails, and during the warmer months, people flock to the patios, which the restaurant says are the highest in Canada.

Did we miss an especially touristy outlet? What would you add or remove from this list? Add your 2 cents to the comment thread below.

Photo by Fion N in the blogTO Flickr pool

by Sarah Ratchford via blogTO

3 new flower shops that are prettying up Dundas West

Flowers Dundas WestFlower shops on Dundas West are a dime a dozen. Most of them are flower/grocery hybrids, and few have much in the way of specialties going on. Stem, Griffin, and Sweet Woodruff, though, are three newish spots that are starting to change that trend. All three are completely adorable and offer niche services, including produce, interior decor and incredibly affordable bouquets.

Meet three of the newest, sweetest flower shops on Dundas West.


Griffin opened up two weeks ago, and it looks like someone came and half-filled an empty Dundas West shop with the contents of a farm. That's exactly what's going on here. They've got a gorgeous assortment of fresh and affordable stems (a bunch of sunflowers can be had for $2!), focusing on whatever's in season. Recently, it's been the sunflowers, peonies and dalias. Griffin sells produce, as well. Containers of pesto, pickles or olives are $2 each, and local leafy greens are $3. They even sell preserves, done up by owner Nathan Isberg, proprietor of the Atlantic across the street. Whatever doesn't sell by the end of the day he just takes to his restaurant.

The Stem Flower Market

The Stem's focus is on the floral. Lisa, the owner, can put together virtually any custom order. As I drop in to visit, she's got huge buckets of red and orange roses for a huge Indian wedding, and she's doing up corsages for another couple's nuptials, too. Her flowers are, for the most part, local as well. If you're looking for a bouquet for someone you love (including yourself), she sells stunning single flowers for $3, and they're huge, fluffy breeds like hydrangeas, meaning they'll be sure to impress. She also sells mini-orchids ($12), which would make great hostess gifts. Lisa is up at 5 a.m. every day working on custom creations, and she does delivery throughout the GTA, too.

Sweet Woodruff

Sweet Woodruff is the place to go if you need interior decor taken care of as well as various flora. Its proprietor, Lisa Collins, is formally trained as an interior designer, and she opened up shop last year just east of Dundas and Gore Vale. They do a lot of weddings, but they also prepare smaller gifts and arrangements, such as little gold 'Julep cups' filled with delicate blooms ($30 to $50, depending on their contents). In terms of specialty flowers, that changes with the seasons. But most of what you'll find here is local. When I drop in, thick birch branches are for sale ($14) for use in home decor projects, which Collins can help you to plan. And, if you happen to need any terrariums, those can be had for as little as $35.

Photo from the Stem's Facebook page

by Sarah Ratchford via blogTO

What's open, closed August long weekend in Toronto 2013

What's open and closed August long weekend in Toronto 2013:



Government offices and banks as per normal schedule


  • Major attractions like the CN Tower, Toronto Zoo, ROM, Science Centre, and Canada's Wonderland

  • The Eaton Centre, Pacific Mall, Vaughan Mills, and Square One shopping malls

  • SteamWhistle Brewery (255 Bremner Blvd.)

  • Most Beer and LCBO store locations will operate under normal hours

  • Wine Rack locations

  • Most grocery stores

  • Many stores in the downtown core will operate under normal hours, but call ahead to confirm


Normal service



  • Government offices and banks

  • No mail delivery


  • 350 LCBO stores will be open across the province. Check the store locator to see if one will be open near you.

  • Major attractions like the CN Tower, Toronto Zoo, ROM, Science Centre, and Canada's Wonderland

  • SteamWhistle Brewery (255 Bremner Blvd.)

  • Some locations of The Beer Store will be open. Check their store locator (PDF) for a full list.

  • Most Wine Rack locations

  • The Eaton Centre (10am-6pm), Pacific Mall (11am-8pm), Vaughan Mills (10am-7pm) and Square One (11am-6pm) shopping malls

  • Many grocery stores will be open (and operating under regular hours)


The TTC will be running on holiday service (Sunday service with a start of 6 am)

by Staff via blogTO

Yonge and Eglinton gets a new izakaya and sake bar

Sake Bar KushiThis sake bar is a newcomer to the Eglinton Way, taking over the space formerly occupied by Kiiro Miya Sushi House. Their extensive Japanese menu and sake options listed in the dozens might make it a veritable destination for izakaya and sushi fiends.

Read my profile of Sake Bar Kushi in the restaurants section.

by Jason Finestone via blogTO