Nadia Elkharadly: My Toronto

Nadia LogoI’ve often called myself a Toronto snob.  I was born and raised in this city, and no matter where else I go in the world, I’ll always think of it as home.  I love Toronto so very much.  There’s no better reminder of how much I love this city than when visitors from far away places come to the city, and I get a chance to show them my Toronto.  Not the CN Tower, the Skydome (I will never call it by its other corporate name thank you!)  I’m talking about the fun little places that I have come to love, and love showing off to people who come to town.

This past weekend a dear friend of mine got married to a wonderful man.  I have to say it was probably one of the most fun and enjoyable weddings I’ve ever attended in my life, and a lot of that had to do with the people.  Anne Marie (the bride) and Jit (the groom) are two incredible people, and by association have some pretty awesome friends.  And, wonderfully, so many of them came together to celebrate the pair becoming, well, a pair, in the official sense of the word.  Sometimes it takes an occasion like a wedding to bring people together from other countries and continents, sometimes entire oceans away.  At the wedding people from literally all over the world were among the guests; people came from the U.S., from Dubai, from India, from Italy, and of course from around Canada.  I myself played hostess to another dear friend, coming to Toronto by way of Dallas, Texas.  My girl, Texas Mary, is a gal after my own heart who loves food, drink and live music.  And of course, my Toronto has all of things amazing things to offer in spades.  Mary was also lucky enough to have tourguides besides myself take her out, and as a result got to experience a few difference sides of Toronto.  It was a fun weekend for me to not only show Mary a great time in my city, but for me to visit so many great places in such a short span of time.

Unluckily, I had to work the very first full day that Texas Mary came to town.  Luckily, one of our other lovely friends had the day off, and took the occasion to show Mary around one of my very favourite parts of downtown Toronto:  Kensington Market.  Coming to Toronto from Texas was a pretty sad deal for our tourist, considering Texas is usually hot as a crotch and Toronto is colder than a witch’s tit.  But last week gave us a couple of sunny, not too torturously cold days, and I can’t think of a better way to spend such a mediocre weather time than strolling around Kensington.  From vintage shops, cheese shops, tattoo parlours, butchers, bakers and its many many eating and drinking establishments, you can whittle hours away in that lovely section of streets.  Popping your head into Courage my Love, sampling a 200907-EmbassyBar-annvariety of divine cheeses at Globo Cheese, and an early afternoon drink at The Embassy Bar – there’s really no better way to spend a day.  You can only imagine how jealous I was to be stuck at work while all of this awesomeness was transpiring.

Mary was deposited back into my care just in time for a delicious dinner.  One of the great things about Toronto is the variety of amazing food we have at our disposal.  Every culture is covered and there’s always a small hole in goldenturtlethe wall establishment that can be counted on for delicious fare.  Mary and I are both lovers of Pho and one of the best places around is Golden Turtle.  Located at Ossington and Argyle, Golden Turtle is probably one of the most amazing places I’ve ever eaten at.  Their spring rolls, their salad rolls, and of course their hearty, fragrant and delicious pho are all completely delectable.  It’s definitely a must try if you’re ever in the Queen West/Ossington/Dundas West area.

Despite having fallen into deep pho-comas, once we got home it was time to get ready for a night out with the old boys club from Dubai.  Jit had attended high school in the wealthy arab Emirate, and he and his buddies took his wedding as an opportunity to have a reunion.  It was a great thing to see, all these guys reuniting, all of whom hadn’t all been in the same place in over a decade.  It was a bromance-apalooza, and us girls took the opportunity to pravdagush at the adorable display of bro love in front of us, as well as sample the dazzling array of vodka at the establishment that was chosen to host the gathering.  We were at none other than Pravda, Toronto’s famed Russian vodka bar.  With its blood red walls and larger than life paintings of Lenin hanging about, it felt like we’d stumbled into the mind of a drunken communist interior designer.  I don’t hang out at Pravda much (too many guys in suits and too much money required to purchase the vodka I love so much) but that night the bar felt like it was shut down just for our rowdy, punch drunk lovin crew.  And the vodka – wow.  If you are a vodka lover like myself, at least one trip to Pravda is in order.  There is literally every kind of vodka you can imagine lining the shelves behind the bar, and several that you’ve never heard of and would never see outside of that establishment.  Ketel One, Stoli, Belvedere, and my personal favourite Tito’s, a little bit of everything was imbibed that night, and very good (and very DRUNK times were enjoyed by all).

After slowly recovering from our booze filled Thursday, Friday by day Mary was shuttled off to the suburbs to spend time with the grooms family, and I went to work with images of vodka bottles clinking in my head.  Being the night before the wedding, I planned to take Mary on a little Queen West bar horseshoehopping jaunt.  No visit with ME in Toronto would be complete without at least two very specific stops – the Horseshoe Tavern and of course Cherry Cola’s.  Being a fellow music lover, I felt I would be remiss if I did not show Mary the bars where some very serious legends have played.  Now open for sixty five years, the Horseshoe stage has felt the feet of the greats; The Rolling Stones, The Band, The Police, Etta James, the Ramones and pretty much every amazing Canadian band and singer you can think of, like , Stompin’ Tom Connors, Big Sugar, Our Lady Peace and so many more.  While we didn’t actually get near the stage (there was a sold out show going on), we did have a shot and a beer in honour of the fine, if not divey establishment that has hosted so much amazing music in its six plus decade tenure.  Once we were done our bevvies it was westward to Cherrys, or as I like to call it my home away from home.  Yet another bar that has hosted some amazing talent (from Eagles of Death Metal to Jack White and Kyuss just to name a few), I spend way too much time at that bar not to take every person that visits me there for at hairbyroseleast one drink.  After a couple of drinks there, it was time to get home and get some beauty sleep before the big day.

And boy did we ever look beautiful on the day!  I’d like ot give a little shout out to miss Rose Huggett, my reality TV survival pal and hairdresser extraordinaire, who made our manes gorgeous and completely impervious to all the dancing and carousing that ensued on Saturday night.

The wedding, of course was beautiful.  We laughed, we cried, we ate, we drank, and we danced the night away.  You’d think after all that excitement we’d be done with our wild weekend, but by Sunday I had one day and night left to show Mary some more great Toronto stuff.  The first order of business was food.  flosdinerBrunch at the amazing Flo’s Diner in the morning (ie early afternoon) in Yorkville was the first stop.  The upscale neighbourhood’s old school style diner is a wonderful place to chase away the last vestiges of a hangover.  From delicious eggs benedict in several permutations, a delicious bagels/smoke salmon/cream cheese plate and coffee that flows like a fountain in heaven, we were ready to face the rest of the day.  Which, of course, included more eating.

You never eat at restaurants so much as when you have an out of towner with you, and Toronto has so many great restaurants that it’s just another great mothersdumplingsexcuse to sample as many as you can.  Dinner required a trip to a China town staple – Mother’s Dumplings.  Dumplings have always been my favourite part of a Dim Sum experience, and the good folks at Mother’s have taken dumplings to a whole new level.  Between the four of us that dined on Sunday night we must have ordered at least 7 kinds of dumplings, including pork and bok choy, shrimp, tofu and melon and my personal favourite, beef and chives.  We ate until we thought we could eat no more, and even then managed to stuff several more little doughy envelopes of goodness into our faceholes.  There is nowhere else like this in the city; the food is truly amazing.  If you haven’t tried Mother’s Dumplings yet GO. GO IMMEDIATELY.  What are you still doing here? GO.

And finally, a Sunday night (with me) in Toronto requires a pint at the Dakota Tavern.  The Dundas and Ossington staple music venue is always the-beautieshosting great bands, but Sunday is extra special because Toronto country rock legends The Beauties take that beautifully carpeted stage and hold it for three enthralling sets.  I wanted to see what Mary thought of a Canadian take on country music, and was tickled by how perplexed she was hearing Canadians sing in a southern style, complete with slight southern accents.  Sipping on pints of Dakota Brew, we took in two of the band’s sets, the second featuring all my favourite Beauties songs that I hoped my guest would hear:  “Tired Fired Blues”, “Devil Do” and the sweet and lovely “Hearts are Down”.  Thanks to Derek Downham and Shawn Creamer and the rest of the Beauties’ boys for helping me show my friend a wonderful last night in Toronto; you’ve got a new American fan who I’m sure is singing your praises down south.

Where would you, my lovely readers, take a friend visiting Toronto for the first time?  Share your Toronto with me using that handy dandy comment box.  Also, if you’re in the mood for some more fine reading, check out the sexy new online magazine I write and edit for.  It’s called Addicted and you can click on the glossy photo at the bottom of my column to check out the latest in fashion, music, film and so much more.

Until next time,

Xo

N

 =NE=

Nadia’s column appears every Tuesday

Contact us at: dbawis@rogers.com

DBAWIS ButtonNadia 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.

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