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Go East: Restaurateurs Are Increasingly Looking The Other Way

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Photo: Jacob Burkhardt/Boots & Bourbon Facebook

In the last several years, Ossington and Parkdale have been noted as the city's trendiest neighbourhoods - so much that they've brought upon municipal government moratoriums preventing new restaurants and bars. Meanwhile, Queen East has seen plenty of quiet growth. In fact, The New York Times called Leslieville "the new Queen West" in 2005. And despite the lack of hipsters willing to travel east - for now - there are still restaurateurs attracted to opportunities on the other side of the Don Valley.

The County Cocktail & Snack Bar, Riverside's latest addition, also has a location (The County General) on Queen West. Its manager, Bobby Sharpe, sees the differences in the two locations as reflections of its neighbourhoods: "Here it's more refined and not as loud as the one in the west end; (they're) a little more punk rock and here it's just little more rock n' roll."

One could say a little more country, as well, given the popularity of owner Matt Dean Pettit's Boots & Bourbon. Since opening late last year, the western saloon has offered a destination for those looking to fill their cowboy boots with beer and brown liquor. Pettit clearly sees a lot of potential in the east side as Toronto Life recently reported that a third Rock Lobster Food Co. – boasting three patios, no less – will be opening on Queen East as well. Meanwhile, just on the other side of Broadview, Aft Bar has established itself as a neighbourhood favourite with a popular BBQ card and cozy back patio.

Despite the recent influx, opportunity is still available. "There a lot of action over on Queen East now. It'll be interesting to see what happens with some of our listings over there in the next several months," says OMG Real Estate's Ori Grad. Meanwhile, up on the Danforth, east of Pape, the operative word seems to be "community," as The Grid wrote about the area essentially gentrifying itself. "I started noticing it when Sauce was built and Red Rocket Coffee moved from Queen up to the Danforth," says Warren De Simone, who lives near Greenwood and Danforth. He also happens to own the new Greenwood Smokehouse (just east of Pape on Danforth). Despite only opening a few months ago, the hoards have been eating up the BBQ on offer. "I wanted to be local, close to the family. There's strong community support here and they're proud to be supporting us. I knew that was something I wanted to be a part of," adds De Simone.

Other new neighbourhood restaurants catching people's eyes include Southwestern–inspired The Wren – also locally owned – and Chinatown export Mother's Dumplings. Yesterday, Eater reported that Gusto 101 will open a second location on King Street East called Gusto 501. Though a few blocks shy of the Don Valley, Gusto 101 owner Janet Zuccarini, says the move east "is a gut feeling... It just makes sense to me." It also makes sense to the pop-up turned brick-and-mortar taqueria La Carnita, slated to open up in The Beach come summer. Sounds like a pretty nice way to round up an eclectic mix of east side eateries. And more and more people are beginning to head that way for a change. Except, of course, those who are waiting for a moratorium. — Nelson Tam