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48 hours in Toronto to indulge your inner hipster: sake bars, ping-pong clubs and hip galleries

Montreal vs. Toronto. Habs vs. Leafs. Poutine vs....well, nothing can compete with poutine. Toronto is learning, though, with Montreal’s cool spreading through the downtown core – Parkdale (the "wrong side of the tracks") is now home to the most hipster bars per capita, and indie art galleries cozy up to posh supper clubs on Queen Street West. The French love affair means charcuterie is everywhere and sous-vide cooking is de rigueur. But Toronto has a few trends that haven’t made it to Quebec yet – a game of ping-pong with your punch bowl of booze? Yes, please. Looks like love is a two-way street after all, or maybe just a six-hour highway drive.

 

Ursa
Here, the former chef of the Italian national basketball team does healthconscious fine dining: lean venison tartare, homemade probiotic butter, and leafy greens cooked sous-vide. His pork loin with organic apple cider and bullberry mustard is even lacto-fermented. But the health benefits of the Spaghetti Western cocktail (Bourbon, Amaro Nonino, Licor Beirão and flamed orange) are questionable.

924 Queen Street West | facebook.com/ursa.restaurant

 

Guu SakaBar
In Montreal, izakayas are hot, but the Japanese snacks and drinks trend came to Toronto first (via Vancouver) in the form of Guu, whose Toronto sake bar crushes Quebec’s selection. You’ll need the yuzu-peppered pork cheeks, okonomiyaki pancakes and the creamy carbonara udon noodles to soak up Milky Sakura cocktails (plum wine, Japanese soda and grenadine) and sweet potato vodka with pickled plum. Save room for sake tiramisu before waving good-bye to the now-spinning bar on your way out.

559 Bloor Street West | guu-izakaya.com/sakabar

 

Girl Friday
Rebecca Nixon may be Ontario-born, but she got her start as a buyer and designer for Montreal’s Le Château. Now she sells her line of feminine, fun dresses alongside handpicked pieces from Montreal’s Ça va de soi and Vancouver’s Soia & Kyo at her women’s clothing and accessories boutique. 15% off and complimentary champagne and nibbles at collection launches turn one-time sundress purchasers into diehard fans.

776 College Street and 740 Queen Street West | girlfridayclothing.com

 

Gallery TPW
This former artist-run photography gallery recently expanded to include video and film projections, live performance, and a discussion series. Known for hip vernissages and fundraisers, it attracts a broad demographic and offers affordable purchasing options including a $50 limited-edition button set sporting prints from ten photographers. According to the gallery, it «makes a great gift for clients, friends and ex-lovers.»

56 Ossington Avenue | gallerytpw.ca

 

Revival Bar
From top musicians and DJs to hip-hop karaoke, funk dance parties, MC competitions and speakeasy dinner cabarets, Revival Bar is one of Toronto’s best venues all week long. The quality sound system keeps the party going upstairs while the downstairs fireplace, booths, and stone bar make for a more intimate place to sip the night away.

783 College Street | revivalbar.com

 

SPiN
While this self-declared «ping-pong social club» does host tournaments, offer professional instruction and sell memberships to serious ping-pong fanatics, anyone can rent a table for an hour at this geeky-chic lounge while working through a $39 fishbowl-sized Milwaukee rum punch. Don’t skip the snack menu of Ancho beef tacos, bourbon-bacon caramel corn and made-to-order donuts. But if your punchbowl becomes surprisingly empty, consider sitting the next game out.

461 King Street West | toronto.spingalactic.com