Top 10 Things To Do In Toronto's Annex Neighborhood

Photo of Chloe MacPherson
9 February 2017

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.

Lee’s Palace | © Andrzej Wrotek/Flickr

Lee's Palace/Dance Cave

Music Venue, Building, Shop
Map View
Lee's palace rock Concert hall on Bloor street, Toronto
From local musical legends to world-renowned musicians, Lee’s Palace hosts the best rock gigs in the city | Roberto Machado Noa / Getty Images
With its vividly colored graffiti-style exterior, it’s hard to miss Lee’s Palace, The Annex’s staple concert venue. The drinks list is simple, but not what Lee’s is known for – its iconic status as a grungy spot where concert goers can get close to the musicians attracts not only unsigned local bands but also big names like Blue Rodeo, Nirvana, and Mumford and Sons. Above the concert space, on the top floor, is the Dance Cave – a student favorite in the area. Unlike most dance clubs, the Dance Cave’s music collection leans more towards alternative and modern rock, with some remixes here and there depending on the DJ.

BMV Books

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

Madison Avenue Pub | © Chloe MacPherson
Madison Avenue Pub | © Chloe MacPherson

Madison Avenue Pub

Bar, Pub, Beer
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What started as a few floors in an old Victorian house quickly grew to become the bar everyone knows today; Madison Avenue Pub, or the Maddie, consists of three mansions, several patios, and even an underground tunnel to connect them. This mega-pub is sure to entertain anyone with its multitude of TVs, billiard tables, dartboards, and even live entertainment some nights. Because of its location on sorority row and specials every night, the Maddie is very popular among students. With its sheer size and expansive number of beers on tap, it’s easy to see why the Madison pulls thousands of patrons each week.

Salt & Pepper Catering Co.

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

Bloor Hot Docs Cinema

Cinema, Movie Theater
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Snakes and Lattes
Snakes and Lattes | © Laura D'Alessandro/Flickr
Since its renovation and reopening in early 2012, the over century old movie house – that once was more of a second-run theatre – has taken on a new life as a documentary-focused cinema. The renovated façade, refurbished seating, and technological improvements do nothing to take away from the historical character the theatre has, which was a key design point during the restoration. The Bloor Cinema also hosts special screenings of fan favorite movies and events where individuals in their respected fields discuss topics like censorship and life in a technology-obsessed world. And on the last Friday of every month, a Shadow Cast performs the cult classic Rocky Horror Picture Show– which has called the Bloor Cinema home for over twenty years – that strongly encourages the audience to participate in every call-back.

Snakes and Lattes

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

Honest Ed’s

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

Annex Pawn

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

Future Bistro | © Chloe MacPherson
Future Bistro | © Chloe MacPherson

Future Bistro

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

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