WHAT'S IN IT FOR YOU? Another great combination for food explorers/walkers!
I've been to the Namwan Thai Cafe in Riverdale twice now with girlfriends, and we still haven't gotten around this tiny restaurant's menu!
You can then walk around this cafe in Toronto's second Chinatown to look for the Seven Wonders of the World murals on a short 1.3 km circuit.
Namwan Thai Cafe
On the outside walls of the small restaurant, you can still see the birds from Elvy et Fils Café, its predecessor. On a new mural is a curious product, prominently displayed inside. It is one of the sweet drinks served in a bag with a straw, which made Namwan popular in the world of food trucks before it opened a restaurant.
Namwan Thai Cafe (713 Gerrard St. E., open Tuesday-Thursday 9 a.m.-7 p.m., Friday and Saturday 9 a.m.-8 p.m., and Sunday 10 a.m.-6 p.m.) is small but cute, with a few tables and a long counter that suggests the place only serves drinks and snacks. Don't let the first impression fool you. Its menu of light meals makes you want to leave with enough take-out to last you the week!
Since it's off the beaten path, there's a good chance you'll find a table free after 1pm... on a week day.
You can go there for a smooth pandan leaf latte and share with friends their trio of purple sweet potato pastries (made with the finest flaky wrapping I've ever tasted). Or warm up with their fragrant soups, their pork and basil "pinza", or their fun "Sticky Piggy Burger" with blue rice.
Note that they don't have a public restroom. (You can always go to the A & W on the corner of Gerrard and Broadview).
The Seven Wonders
To explore this colourful neighbourhood from Namwan, I recommend first walking down Bolton Street to enjoy the lovely homes of Riverdale, also called East Chinatown. The beautiful old church at the corner of First and Boulton avenues (built in 1887) reminds us that we are in Chinatown since it is now home to the Toronto Chinese Alliance Church.
Then, turn right on Allen Avenue, very pretty with its quiet little park and the beautiful historic row houses. You will notice a private garden, open to the public. It has seen better days but its origin is charming as it was donated to the neighbourhood by a former resident.
You then walk north up Broadview Avenue. As you go, you'll pass the famous Lady Marmalade breakfast restaurant. Then the real Chinatown comes into focus, with its lacquered duck windows and the colour red dominating the street. This is where you'll notice the first murals by the artists who set out to paint the Seven Wonders of the World.
On Broadview, you will see the Great Wall of China and the City of Petra carved in the Jordanian rock. I'll let you find them! The Romeu Coliseum is at the corner of Broadview and Gerrard.
Turning east on Gerrard to complete the loop, you'll look for Rio's Christ the Redeemer (my favorite), Yucatan's Chichen Itzá Pyramid (which is already starting to be covered in graffiti), and then the ambitious murals of the Taj Mahal and Machu Picchu, facing each other in a large parking lot.
In addition to the exotic grocery store displays on Gerrard, foodies will be happy to find Soul Chocolate (serving great coffee and chocolate but also a creamy cocoa rose tea latte), the cheese store Good Cheese, and the French restaurant Batifole. In short, this is a little nook of Toronto worth a visit!
Need a longer walk?
You can add one extra km to your walk by heading to Bridgepoint Healthcare, west of Broadview on Gerrard.
The walkway along its western flank will take you to the hospital's various terraced levels, featuring some 20 sculptures of moving figures, created by Bill Lishman. Whimsical hidden treasures! You can then continue into Riverdale East Park and up the big hill to Broadview and the utterly cool Rooster Coffee House.
If you choose instead to cross the pedestrian bridge over the Don Valley Expressway, you will reach Riverdale Park West and Riverdale Farm. Beautiful Cabbagetown awaits beyond.
This post is a complement to mini-walks #44 and #45 in local author Nathalie Prézeau's latest walking guide: Toronto BEST Urban Strolls available in Toronto’s major bookstores, on torontourbangems.com/shop and amazon.ca or indigo.ca. We also deliver or contact the author directly at email@example.com to arrange for a pick up with a discount at 299 Booth Avenue, in Leslieville.