Updated: Jan 24
WHAT'S IN IT FOR YOU? The best sourdough bread + a funky little walk around Harbord Village.
When my ex-Torontonian friend asked to stay overnight the next Tuesday, I took a mental note to pay a visit to Emmer Bakery on the morning of. We are both obsessed with their sourdough bread!
Then I remembered that this bakery is unfortunately closed Monday to Wednesday. Then my pinging phone announced that a client living 5 minutes from that bakery had just ordered a book! What do you call it? Serendipity? I wrapped the book and hopped in my car.
Whenever I have the chance, I like to deliver the guides myself. It’s an opportunity to explore new parts of town or revisit places I have not seen for a while.
I was reminded how funky and eclectic the neighbourhood in that part of town.
Here’s a little 1.75 km stroll around Emmer. Note that you can more easily find free parking in the streets north of Harbord. The bakery is a 10-min walk south of Bathurst Subway Station.
I was glad to discover that the large mural I enjoyed when the place occupied by Emmer belonged to The Boulevard Café is still there, for the time being. Weather allowing, we can admire it from outdoor benches.
Emmer (161 Harbord St, open Thursday to Sunday, 9 am to 3 pm) is nestled in Harbord Village, just east of Little Italy. The bakery’s small counter offers some of the best croissant I’ve tasted in Toronto)and other pastries, gigantic sandwiches, quiches… There’s also a menu for people who want to eat on the covered (and heated) patio or order a take-out.
On side shelves, enormous loafs of sourdough bread await, fresh from the oven and really moist inside. The reason we love this bread so much is that its texture is as marvellous the next day, and the day after. By Day 3, it still makes great toasts. The country white bread is $12 but twice the size of an average artisanal loaf.
Down Croft Street
For a cool stroll after visiting the bakery, walk westbound past Borden and turn left into Croft Street, which has the looks of an alley.
It’s fun to walk down Croft to College. There are plenty of interesting murals to be seen on the garage doors, including the strong work of Bruno Smoky featuring two formidable fish, facing the minimalist deer of Andrea Manica.
Beyond Ulster Street, you’ll find to your left one of the sweetest murals in Toronto. It features a cat’s dream: a bounty of birds and fish, and is an ode to a local cat called Monty. Take a minute to read the poem…
In this great 2013 article by Brenda McMillan, I learned that the resident at 94 Croft Street (across from the mural) is responsible with her mother for this cat mural, and a smaller one you’ll spot a bit further to your right.
The poem reads:
Did you know Monty the Cat?
King of Croft and all that
(Ask your dog! Ask your cat)
Did you give him a pet
Once you had met?
Or tickle his soft silken tum-tum?
Did he tell you his tale in articulate meow
And share his affection with a rue of his brow?
If so, then we truly must thank you
His loss here has left us really quite blue
But remembering all of those of you.
Who knew to share a sweet kindness true,
Who would pause on the way,
In midst of each day
To offer wee beastie affectionate feastie
- In memory of Monty
One finds many laneway houses in this section of Croft. We’ll see more and more of them in the future as the City of Toronto is now allowing their construction, under certain conditions.
There used to be a large mural on the building at Croft & College, explaining how the street got its name (see the picture I took years ago). It commemorates John Croft, a part-time dynamiter who was killed while volunteering to help blow up the ruins of a building left after the Great Fire of 1904.
Up Lippincott Street
There are many pretty streets in the area but Lippincott features such an eclectic assortment of houses that I really enjoy walking up that one. I especially like to observe how the halves of semi-detached pairs have gone a different direction.
Victorian meets mid-50s. Tiny old cottage houses sit next to modern ones.
While you’re here
The small sections of Harbord and College included in this stroll are packed with interesting stops.
Amongst others on Harbord Street: the unique African fashion boutique Kwesiya (171 Harbord), the classy sex shop Good For Her expertly caters to women (175 Harbord), the very funky Bampot Bohemian House Of Tea And Board Games (201 Harbord) where I was introduced to the game Crimes Against Humanity, La Diperie (203 Harbord) and Krispy Kreme (215 Harbord).
Amongst others on College Street: Hogtown Vegan (382 College) where comfort food is all vegan), Voodoo Child Espresso & Cocktail Bar (388 College) serving coffee, cocktails and snacks, the cool windows of Makom: Creative Downtown Judaism (402 College) and Alchemy Vintage by Stephanian (412 College), two colourful restaurants Pomegranate (430 College) serving Persian food and its Mexican neighbour Hacienda Las Americanas.
Manic Coffee (426 College) has been serving excellent Coffee since 2001. Other veterans have not survived. We can still see the blue sign of Mars Food, the first greasy spoon I checked when arriving in Toronto. Their muffins were gigantic! Another go-to address in the area was the tiny breakfast place Aunties & Uncles (74 Lippincott Street). Apparently, French bakery Ma Maison will soon take over that spot, next to Happy Burger (serving waffle fries).
This post is a complement to local author Nathalie Prézeau's walking guide: Toronto BEST Urban Strolls. You already own this book? Check Nathalie's WEEKLY WALKS calendar available on her site www.torontourbangems.com/calendar. It's free, easily printable by season, and it includes page references which should help you enjoy urban walks year-round.
Nathalie's guides are 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.