Updated: Jan 24
WHAT'S IN IT FOR YOU? The hidden gem in a garden Queen Garden Café + a lovely 2-km walk to and from Corktown Common.
A new piece of heaven in Riverside is the hidden café at Queen Garden Centre. And they serve De Mello Coffee, my favourite roaster in Toronto.
I’ll be taking all my visitors there this summer!
I live on the edge of Leslieville and Riverside, and over the years, I’ve seen the street corner at Queen East and Saulter go from a shabby used-car dealer spot to an upscale outdoor city gardens shop.
Make a bee line to Riverside
Queen Garden Centre (771 Queen East) opened in 2017, right underneath the beautiful mural created by Nick Sweetman the year before.
I can’t think of a better mural in Toronto for a garden centre! It is titled ‘A Time for Pollinators’, and features a giant bee, overlooking the shop’s plants. Many of Nick’s bees now grace the streets of Toronto.
During the spring, the locals noticed that the shed in the middle of the lot was converted into a small greenhouse, a normal thing for a garden centre. Little did we know that it would serve as the cutest coffee counter, self-proclaimed Toronto’s first glasshouse coffee bar.
They laid out many pretty chairs around small tables, adding a splash of bright yellow to the exotic decor. The elegant black iron fence is lined with shrubs, sheltering the clients from the effervescence of Queen East. When you’re seated, you’re surrounded by beautiful arrangements of thriving potted trees and plants. A genuine urban oasis.
Queen Garden Café is open daily from 8 am to 6 pm. They served all the caffeinated options one expects from a coffee bar, plus good treats. Apparently, they have also applied for an alcohol license. Fingers crossed! They confirmed to me that they had already started hosting events with a special alcohol permit. The site could accommodate up to 300 people (by rearranging their jungle).
I’m trying very hard not to get too attached to this little gems as it currently presents itself as a pop-up. Chances are it will become at least seasonal if not permanent. (I’d love to sip hot chocolate amidst the evergreens during winter time.)
While you’re there
The little gem is located in the Riverside neighbourhood. It is only 600 metres away from the Queen Bridge running over the Don River. You can access the Lower Don River Trail from a staircase on the south-west side of the bridge and explore the river banks north and south of Queen East.
If you continue westbound past the bridge and turn south on Lower River Street, you’ll reach the Underpass Skatepark and its impressive collection of murals painted on the pillars set under the Gardiner Expressway. Quite an urban sight! And they have a farmers’ market on Thursdays, from 4 pm to 7:30 pm.
A mere 200 metres further south, you will reach the entrance to the great Corktown Common park, surrounded by the modern buildings of the Canary District, complete with a pond, lively with ducks, frogs, and birds.
If you return to your starting point at the café, it is an nice and easy 2-km urban loop, which you can make as long as you want, thanks to the Lower Don River Trail.
This post is a complement to 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.