Insider’s Guide: Toronto with
In this new series, we asked our in-the-know friends to give us a glimpse inside their favourite cities, adopted hometowns, and current locations. These Insider Guides will take you on a specially guided tour, stopping at our guest’s favourite spots, and hidden gems in food, drink, shopping, art and culture. Our collection of taste makers, artists, designers, and creative professionals will show you around their city, giving a local perspective that might not otherwise make it on the map so to speak.
By Lauren Walker- Lee
Amy Shio , Artist – Toronto
Amy Shio is an artist and former financier who has found herself as a person of interest as social media marketing and Instagram rose to prominence. Her enviable stye, great taste, and lovely personality has made her a go-to ambassador for local and international brands alike. The fun she has with fashion, mixing high end and vintage, can be seen on her IG account @lesbest where her coveted personal aesthetic shines through. When it comes to her art, the brightly coloured brush stroked pieces align with both her own eclectic styling and current interests. Amy is the perfect person to kick off the new series with her Insider’s Guide to Toronto. Her Kensington Market entry alone has you covered for a weekend in the city.
On why she loves Toronto:
“Toronto is home. Being born and raised here, I’ve seen its growth and development in the arts, food and wellness scene and it’s beautiful. It gives you both the feeling of a big city and small town all at the same time.”
Restaurants, Cafes, & Bars
Humble and elevated all at the same time, this spot was opened by a couple of alums from Momofuku and the food and cocktails speak for themselves. The vibe is relaxed and super welcoming. There is no Donna, so don’t go asking for her. Ask for “Jed” instead. He’s honestly the nicest human you could ever meet. Also, ask him for the recco of the day – the menu is rotates weekly based on the fresh produce of the week.
A neighbourhood bar, located in Little Portugal, with an everyone-knows-everyone vibe, Northern Belle is a bar where the cocktail program is on fire. Ask for my favourite, the “No Cointreu” extra spicy.
If you like vodka, please don’t come. This is the spot for well-crafted, delicious cocktails in a very cozy setting where the lights are always at the perfect dimness and the vibe is always right. My personal fav is “Big in Japan” – ever had a cocktail with sesame oil? Don’t try it at home, just come here.
If your dream is to eat Asian-Jamaican and while listening to reggae and soca, then this is the spot! Pro Tip: if you’re a party of two, sit at the bar. The jerk chicken served with scotch bonnet sauce is my personal favourite. They have a tonne of vegetarian options too, like the double down patties and fried rice.
Le Swan Diner
In the same family as Cocktail Bar, this restaurant in the Queen West area gives you the option of classically French bistro cuisine and classic diner comfort food. The lighting, sound, food, cocktails hit as do all Jenn Agg’s establishments, so let’s just say everything hits. Get the omelette from the French Side and a Hot Chicken Sandwich from the diner side and split it, but don’t split the fries – get your own and thank me later.
Cultural Landmarks, Museums, Art Galleries
The Power Plant
A contemporary public gallery (read: free!) filled with local and international artists. Located on Queens Quay, this space is devoted to contemporary art. I love
going sometimes when I’m on my run to get inspired for pieces of art I’m working on.
The Art Gallery of Ontario has over 90,000 works of art, as well as a members’ lounge where you can have some lunch or a tea and catch up on work privately in between seeing the massive gallery. It has become even more accessible to patrons at $35 for the annual unlimited pass which grants you access to every single exhibit.
Boutiques and Shopping Areas
Located in between Chinatown, Little Portugal and Little Italy, the Kensington Market neighbourhood is like no other. Vintage shopping, cheese boutiques, wellness supplies, vegan eats, juices and crystals, this market has it all. It’s me in a market. Some of my favourite spots are AAA army surplus (clothing), Courage My Love (vintage), Kid Icarus (paper goods), Tribal Eye (body care), Sub Rosa Vintage (vintage), Sanagans (produce), Essence of Life (produce and vitamins), Little Green Planet (adapotogenic herbs), Grey Gardens (cocktails and dinner), Bunners (vegan desserts), and El Rey Mezcal Bar (cocktails and snacks). Also every last Sunday from May – October PSK is held in the market, Pedestrian Sundays Kensingotn, where the streets are closed to traffic and many of the shops open up outside of their stores. There are street performances and you’ll see local artisans selling a variety of items like jewellery and body care. This is a neighbourhood not to be missed.
Located in the heart of Yorkville, this is the spot for luxe, elevated pieces. In its minimalist space, the style is maximal. Beautifully curated Dries, Haider, Balenciaga, Stella, Rick Owens and the list continues. It’s the place I go when I want to play and find those specially curated pieces for my closet that other shops won’t take the risk to buy.
This space is all about movement, mindfulness, the human body, and finding a deeper connection to the self. Classes can be described as a blend of pilates, yoga and dance – you’ll recognize hints of each modality, but it’s actually its own unique method: the MISFITMETHOD, created by Amber Joliat. It’s a space where you won’t feel judged and you’ll leave feeling empowered! I’m obsessed! My personal favourite class is “Get Your Glute On” – a full body workout on the Reformer that pays extra attention to the glutes, which I need from all the running I do. There are a variety of classes from floor based to trampoline, barre, and bosu. Some are high intensity and some are more chill.
FIT SQUAD TRAINING
Located in the downtown core, FIT SQUAD is the spot for personal training and group classes that involve weight training, conditioning and mobility. I personally love the Hybrid class, which combines bodyweight training and metabolic conditioning. You can schedule your one-on-ones at your convenience in their fully equipped premium training facility which includes a 90-foot runway of black turf, ski ergs, rowing machines, curved treadmills (my favourite) and air bikes all of which are used in the various classes offered to give your training a little spice and burn.
Netflix and sweat? This place has you covered. This is the spot where you can detox and purge your body of all the toxins and reap benefits like a glowing complexion, increased metabolism, relief and rejuvenation for eczema/ dermatitis and muscle recovery all while you’re wrapped in an infrared blanket watching your favourite show on Netflix. It’s the perfect self-care sanctuary.
Hammam Spa by Céla
The newest location of the Hammam Spa originally located in the King West neighbourhood has moved its way up to Bayview Village. The spa brings you back in time with the entire vibe and decor that leads into the treatments. From the traditional Hammam steam to my favourite treatment, the Hammam Turkish Bath, which involves a full body exfoliation on a marble bed, lathered with black eucalyptus soap and bubbles and washed down with metal buckets of water, it’s like living your best life like a person of luxury time warped back in time and a baby all at once. Heaven.
CHANEL Privé Treatment at the CHANEL Beauty Boutique
Located in the concourse level of 50 Bloor St W, the CHANEL Beauty Boutique is home to a private skincare treatment room which holds two people – you and the aesthetician. You start off with a 1:1 consultation about your skin and lifestyle and then based on you conversation, there are four treatments to choose from. There are 3 targeted treatment add-ons such as Le Regard (focus on the eye contour to act on signs of fatigue), La Main (a complete hand treatment, and Pureté de la Peau (deep cleansing for a fresh complexion) as well as customized makeup application services. For the Privé treatment, I love the LE SOIN FERMETE (the toning treatment). There are no tools involved – just a steamer, the art of facial massage, and the magic of touch coupled with masks and concoctions only used in the treatment room. The techniques used in this treatment give the face more redefined facial contours. Each treatment has a different scent used in the room and music composed specifically for each treatment. This is a whole visceral experience that ends with a juice to compliment the lymphatic drainage and overall complexion. There are only 3 appointments available daily, so you know this’ll be an extra special moment for you.