The Annex is one of Toronto’s oldest and most prominent neighborhoods; it is most recognized for its turn-of-the-century housing plus its vicinity to the University of Toronto. But outside of the residential area, on the main streets, is a wealth of independent restaurants and businesses that are rooted in a bohemian lifestyle, which the area maintains. Here are some must-visit spots in The Annex.
There are many bookstores in the area, but BMV Books is one of Toronto’s most beloved independent bookstore chains, and their Annex location was warmly welcomed when it opened a few years ago. BMV specializes in used and remaindered books, and its familiar setup, similar to a big box store, is easy to navigate through. Although the likelihood you’ll find something published in the last two to three years is slim, this three-story site, which has an almost warehouse feel to it, has mountains of books, magazines, and videos being sold for cheap. It’s easy to get lost browsing through BMV’s varied selection and finding some real treasures.
BMV Books, 471 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON, Canada, +1 416 967 5757
On Davenport Road, north of the UofT campus and large Victorian homes, Salt & Pepper has expanded from catering company to quaint café. Although it is tucked away in a smaller corridor of The Annex, the petite takeout-designed eatery gets very busy come lunch time due to its unique twist on familiar favorites made from fresh ingredients and baked goods made on-site. To founder Stefanie Tortorella, who formerly worked in the fashion industry, presentation matters just as much as the flavor. Each meal, in its simple and familiar nature, is presented beautifully and with care.
Salt & Pepper Catering Co., 287 Davenport Rd, Toronto, ON, Canada, +1 416 924 0715
Snakes and Lattes is North America‘s premier games café and since the few years it opened, it has quickly grown to become one of Toronto’s favorite specialized coffee shops. A mixture of friendly waiters and gaming expert staff are always on hand to help; and if need be, become an extra player. The open concept layout – now three storefronts wide – allows for a communal-feeling atmosphere. Along with its expansion in space, the café portion of the place has had a major upgrade, but the menu remains simple, as the games will always be the main attraction.
Snakes and Lattes, 600 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON, Canada,+1 647 342 9229
Lit up like an old theatre marquee – using up to 23,000 light bulbs – Honest Ed’s stands prominently on the corner of Bathurst and Bloor. Ed Mirvish opened the bargain house in 1948, and due to its popularity, expanded into the neighboring building, which is connected by an enclosed walkway over Honest Ed’s Alley. As a result of its rapid growth and extension, the inside is like a labyrinth with uneven floors that ironic signs like ‘Only the floors are crooked!’ poke fun at. The merchandise inside varies from simple clothing to offshoot/name brand appliances, which are always stacked and displayed in bulk.
Honest Ed’s, 581 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON, Canada, +1 416 537 2111
Helmed by Massimo Capra, one of Toronto’s most recognized chefs with his approachable personality and TV appearances, Mistura is one of the city’s most favored Italian dining sites. This established restaurant blends old world classics with Massimo’s knowledge and experience to create some of the best dishes served in the city. Mistura is on top of food trends, and although certain Italian dishes will always be popular, this restaurant is always evolving to maintain its reputation as one of the finest places to sit down and enjoy a truly wonderful meal.
Mistura, 265 Davenport Rd, Toronto, ON, Canada, +1 416 515 0009
Like their slogan so aptly states, this is ‘more than just a pawn shop’; Annex Pawn deals in great finds in furnishing and fashion, from the functional to the sometime fatuous. Located south of Dupont on Bathurst Street, the window display is a peek into the well-curated treasure trove that the store holds. For their condition, the vintage items are reasonably priced and unlike anything else you would find in your average pawn shop. With their eclectic collection of oddities ranging from the 1920s to the 1990s, it’s easy to find an item for any individual.
Annex Pawn, 1044 Bathurst St, Toronto, ON, Canada, +1 647 725 5561
Once the snow starts melting and the weather starts to warm, Future Bistro becomes one of the best places to sit down, get something to eat, and people watch with its garage-style windows, which open up the entire space, and large patio on Brunswick Avenue. This iconoclast restaurant has a cafeteria method of service at times and self-service policies on cutlery and drinks, which really is the affinity of the Annex bohemian lifestyle. The food has an Eastern European influence like cabbage rolls, beet borscht, and pierogies – which are all-you-can-eat on Wednesdays. During the colder months, this comfort food and large, warm space is the perfect place to relax with some friends.
Future Bistro, 483 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON, Canada,+1 416 922 5875