WHAT'S IN IT FOR YOU? Oh, what a great combination for foodie explorers! Brunch at Pasaj Restaurant in Leslieville + 1-km stroll to discover some hidden urban gems.
(Note: This little self-guided tour is not included in the author's Toronto guide.)
Pasaj, or Istanbul in Toronto
At first, it was just a pastry shop and the pandemic prevented us from enjoying the few tables the space allowed. But it was already pretty, the counters offered original pastries and we were very happy with this addition to the neighbourhood.
This year, Pasaj (1100 Queen Street East, brunch menu served every day from 9:30 am to 3 pm but they are open from 8:30am to 4pm Monday to Thursday and from 8:30 am to 5 pm Friday to Sunday) revealed itself in all its glory! The adjoining room opened up into a sunny space with high ceilings and dark cobblestone floors, and we discovered the true vocation of the place: brunches.
Apparently, all-day breakfast restaurants such as this one are current in Istanbul.
We tried their eggs Benedict served on zucchini croquette. Delectable! They were dressed in a light and lemony creamy sauce, accompanied by small fried potatoes. Other dishes feature the wonderfully chewy Turkish bagel called simit.
Their version of French Bread was made with a walnut loaf, perhaps not the best choice for absorbing the eggs. But my neighbour, who had chosen the pancakes, giggled with delight as the waiter arrived with a stack of pancakes that looked very much like Japanese soufflé pancakes. I eventually got to taste them and they are not as fluffy as the Japanese version but the ultimate comfort food, topped with sour cream to balance the delicate sweetness. Who can resist a plate of precariously piled puffy pancakes? Not me!
At the counter, we can get different flavours of Turkish brioches called Acma. They sell "tea picnic boxes" with a selection of small cookies. And they also have a little market corner.
Hidden alley, hideaway park
When you exit the restaurant, head north on Brooklyn Avenue and take the small lane on the west side. Follow it and it will lead you to an alley that goes up to Dundas Street. It runs alongside pretty houses and old wooden garage doors that give it a country charm.
Eventually, you'll reach... a hidden park! This is the little Hideaway Park, with a few benches to sit on to enjoy coffee and pastries from Pasaj! It is connected to an off-leash dog park.
You will notice a trendy garage door at the end of the alley. By its look, we already feel it's not your average garage. It is a former stable and is now home to the art studio Gagné Contemporary, with temporary exhibition of local artists. The last one, the Winter Parade, took place before Christmas.
Turn right on Dundas, then right again on Bertmount Avenue. Once again, the houses are cute, but the pièce de résistance is the little Doll House, so popular it's listed on Google Map!
For years, its original owner has been adding to the collection of dolls and figurines that cover the front of her house. So many details to see! Kitsch to perfection!
Then turn right on Queen Street. The next block is the prettiest in Leslieville, with its line-up of colourful façades. The trio of businesses of Doll Factory by Damzels, Bronze Home Decor and Greta Solomon's are particularly adorable.