Toronto’s newest hot spot isn’t something you can keep bottled up for long. The city’s craft brewery scene is on the rise, and the Distillery Historic District — located just east of downtown — is fast becoming a go-to destination for locals and tourists alike. While you’d be remiss not to sample the local brew in the area, the district also offers a hearty selection of shops and eateries just begging to be explored. Here are the can’t-miss stops to fill an afternoon:
Start your journey at Mill Street Brewery’s (55 Mill Street) new beer hall, Mill Street BrewPub, which is home to the craft brewery’s super-potent beer schnapps. Yes, beer schnapps — it’s a house specialty and a must-try. Equipped with a covered patio, a huge fireplace for colder nights and enough seating space to seat a generously sized group, it’s not a bad start to your Distillery District jaunt.
Before you head out to tour the shops and galleries in this vintage Victorian period factory neighborhood, mingle with Mill Street Brewery’s guzzlers and order a stick-to-the-ribs hearty lunch. A nod to Toronto’s old hog town days is evident in the menu’s delicious short rib poutine or stout-braised steak sandwich. Wash everything down with one of the various beers on tap, such as its Tankhouse Ale or E.S.B. (Extra Special Bitter).
After filling up on lunch and suds, venture out to the eclectic one-of-a-kind shops in the neighborhood. Biltmore Domicile (11 Tank House Lane) is big on Canadian-made sofas, antique finds and old industrial wares. Bergo Designs (28 Tank House Lane) caters to a more modern aesthetic. You’ll find everything from a stainless-steel Tiffy fruit bowl to Menu candleholders.
Other notable stops include A Taste of Quebec (52 Gristmill Lane), which features special cheeses and one-of-a-kind handmade jewelry from the neighboring province of Quebec. The theme continues next door with the Thompson Landry Gallery (32 Distillery Lane), celebrating contemporary works by Quebec artists and masters such as Paul-Vanier Beaulieu, Fritz Brandtner and John Hammond, among others.
For an afternoon sugar fix, make your way to Soma Chocolatemaker (32 Tank House Lane). The tasty shop showcases heavenly pure chocolate — made fresh onsite — alongside yummy hot cocoa and seasonal treats, including gingerbread toffee and burnt white chocolate bars. Watch chocolate makers in action as they employ an ancient Spanish-made melangeur to grind the cocoa beans just like in the old days. If the chocolate leaves you sleepy, head for a cup of coffee at Balzac’s (1 Trinity Street) for your final stop. The charming spot displays Victorian Industrial architecture and a mesmerizing vaudeville chandelier inside, but an alfresco seating area means you can sip your java while enjoying neighborhood views. Inside or out, it’s a calming way to wrap up your jam-packed afternoon in the district.
Photos Courtesy of Stephen Smith