Nadia Elkharadly: Where everybody knows your name – A Where’s Where according to Moi

Those who know me have likely heard me refer to myself as a desert flower.  I’m Egyptian and even though I was born and raised in Canada, I have never been able to embrace the cold climate.  Two and a half months of summer is hardly enough, so it’s around this time of year that I start to get the cold weather blues (and to me anything below 20 degrees is considered COLD!).  These blues usually result in me cursing my wonderful parents for choosing Canada over, say, California, or somewhere in Europe where the weather is mild all year round.  Although I have to say I am grateful to mom and dad for at least choosing Toronto over Ottawa, where they lived before I was born.

Being a fairly well travelled person, my travel bug really starts to act up around this time of year as well, where I start mentally planning long, elaborate vacations, usually to beaches or deserts or lovely European cities.  Along with the travel bug, I also get the little known but very persistent “damn I wish I lived there instead of here” bug.  It’s at this point that I enter the “hate” phase of my love/hate relationship with our fair city, and I’m sorry to say but this is something that happens to me pretty regularly.  But somehow, the charming city of Toronto always seems to sense when it may be losing me, because something (or usually somewhere) will always pop up to remind me of what an amazing city this truly is.  So here, in no particular order, are some of the places that I have come to love right here in the good ol’ Tdot.

1) Cherry Cola’s Rock and Rolla Cabaret and Lounge

Cherry’s has become my “Cheers” (if Cheers had been run by a vivacious vampy vixen and a burly

tattooed man with a heart of gold).  It’s where everybody knows my name and my drink order.  Don’t let the big guys at the door scare you, they’re the nicest and most welcoming bouncers in the city, unless you’re looking to start something or don’t mind your manners with a lady.  Then you better watch out.   It has the hottest bartenders (decked out in corsets and fishnets) and the cutest barbacks, and who doesn’t love some equal opportunity eye candy?  Between co proprietors Glenn Hughes and Cherish Stevenson’s film and music industry connections, you never know who you’ll be rubbing elbows or pounding back shots with on any given night.  Nicknamed the Void of Morality (by me and some of my other co-regulars), you also never know what trouble you’ll get yourself into.  It’s a place where rules and regrets are left at the door (Big tom will watch ‘em for ya if you like).  And it’s where I’ve had some of the most random, and most fun nights I can (barely) remember.

2)  The Dakota Tavern

Before I began frequenting Cherry’s on the regular, most Sunday nights I could be found with my butt in a barrel stool at the back corner of the Dakota Tavern.  The Dakota has the distinction of being one of the premier live music venues in the city, where the likes of Steve Earle and The Sheepdogs have graced the fairy light decorated, Persian rug carpeted stage.  Nearly every day of the week boasts a resident band, most notably The Beauties (which claims co-owner Shawn Creamer as a member) on Sunday nights.  Between the Sunday Blue Grass Brunch, famous Mac and Cheese and the delicious “finger pickin plate”, the Dakota’s kitchen offerings are as delicious to the taste buds as the music is to the ear.  And chef David Pild is a genius when it comes to grilled cheese – I’d go as far as to say they’re the best in the city.  And don’t forget to try his nuts (not like that!  Best roasted nuts in the world).

3) My new loft

This may be an odd addition to a list of my favourite places in the city, but it really is!  I moved into the Candy Factory lofts this past June and I truly think this is the best building in the city.  Nearly 100 years old, this hard loft conversion is absolutely stunning, residential spaces in a building that was once the Ce De Candy Company, the creators of Rockets candy.

No two units are exactly alike, and I am truly lucky to have found one I love so much.  Vaulted windows, brick and beam construction, a gorgeous kitchen (that I barely use) and the most amazing bathroom, all come together in a fantastic package.  It’s a shame I’m running around the city so much for all my various jobs and tasks, because it has truly become my safe haven, and for someone whose part time gig is writing at home, that is incredibly valuable.  Some people may criticize the lack of an outdoor space, but as I sit and type this on my awesome rooftop terrace I would have to beg to differ.  And besides, I have the best front yard in the city at my disposal, which brings me to:

4)  Trinity Bellwoods Park

Located on the north side of queen, stretching up to Dundas between Crawford and Gore Vale Avenue, Trinity Bellwoods park is an outdoor haven for people in the neighbourhood.  Dog owners can bring their furry friends to the dog park/pit on the north west side, the more sporty set can play tennis in the beautifully appointed courts on the east side, and the lazier folks can lay out with their friends in and around the whole park.  The park plays host to various musical events, including North by North East in the park and the Queen West Music fest.  With such a beautiful outdoor space right across the street, who needs a yard?

5)  The Various Queen West live music venues

To name every live music venue that I love on my street (yes, I do consider it mine;) ) would be a column all in its own, but I will attempt to name a few.  Starting from the east:

  • The Rivoli: with its secret back room and amazing burgers in the front.  Hear an awesome band play in the back, while sippin’ some beers, then wander out front to re-energize with some great food.  Can’t get much better than that.
  • The legendary Horseshoe Tavern, which has played host to some of the most amazing bands ever, from all over the world, in one of the most casual and intimate spaces this city has to offer.
  • The Cameron House, with its beautiful painted ceilings, warm and homey atmosphere, and a bathroom that forces you to walk practically through the stage (and the performance) to access it.  Talk about interacting with the artists.
  • The Hideout, with its Jameson wallpapered walls and huge patio to cool off on in between sets
  • The Bovine Sex Club, which hosts some of the edgiest acts, complete with artsy S&M porn playing on its hanging tv screens, to both titillate and traumatize its usually unsuspecting patrons.

So here we are, a thousand plus words in and I’ve only been able to get through five of my favourite places in Toronto, and I even cheated on that last one!  The fact is, Toronto keeps finding ways to entertain me, and keeps me coming back for more.  It’s apparently going to take several columns for me to truly enumerate all the places, things, people, etc that are unique to our great city, so be sure to check back soon.  Until then, maybe I’ll run into you over a pint somewhere? Surely you must have favourite places where you live. Please let me know where they are.

Au revoir,



Nadia Elkharadly is a Toronto based writer with a serious addiction to music. Corporate drone by day, renegade rocker by night, writing is her creative outlet.  Nadia writes for the Examiner(.com) on live music in Toronto and Indie Music in Canada.  She has never been in a band but plays an awesome air guitar and also the tambourine.  Check in every Tuesday for musings about music, love, life and whatever else that comes to mind.

One Response to “Nadia Elkharadly: Where everybody knows your name – A Where’s Where according to Moi”

  1. To hell with MY favorite places. I am setting up tours, ending at your place. Leave the key under the doormat.

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