Cabbagetown is one of Toronto’s most picturesque neighbourhoods. It is bounded by Wellesley Street to the north, Gerrard Street to the south, Sherbourne Street to the west, and the Don River to the east. A site of historical interest, it contains within its bounds two of the city’s oldest cemeteries, St. James and the Necropolis. It’s also close to public transit and the Don Valley Parkway.
While Cabbagetown used to be filled with fixer-uppers, most homes have been fully renovated to take advantage of increasing interest in the neighbourhood. It now comprises the largest continuous area of preserved late-Victorian housing in North America, and is famous for its picture-perfect gardens. Semis and fully attached homes in every 19th-century flavour – from Gothic Revival, Queen Anne, Second Empire, and bay and gable – are available. Many artists, musicians, journalists and writers make their home here, as well as professors, doctors and social workers, many of whom are affiliated with the nearby University of Toronto.
The neighbourhood celebrates its sense of community every September during the Cabbagetown Festival, which includes a pub crawl, as well as a street and film festival.
There are many explanations for the name ‘Cabbagetown’, but the most commonly accepted one is that poor Irish immigrants, fleeing the Potato Famine, moved to the neighbourhood beginning in the late 1840s and grew cabbage in their front yards.
Old Cabbagetown, located at the intersection of Parliament and Carlton, was where the parliament buildings of Upper Canada once stood. Much of the original neighbourhood was razed in the late 1940s to make room for the Regent Park housing project. The Cabbagetown name came to be applied to the Victorian neighbourhood a few blocks to the north, which had previously been known as Don Vale. Corktown, to the south of Regent Park, dates to the 1820s and now includes some of the original Cabbagetown.
Wellesley Park (Wellesley Street East and Rosedale Valley Road) is a favourite with parents during the summer thanks to its wading pool for kids.
Riverdale Park (201 Winchester Street) is home to Riverdale Farm. Free to the public, Riverdale Farm is located on 7.5 acres of land. Visitors are welcome to walk its pathways through wooded areas, around ponds, and into its gardens. You can chat with the farmer during daily chores that include animal hay feedings, egg collection and cow milking (every morning at 10:30), or visit the Simpson House wood-fired brick oven on Tuesday mornings to watch volunteers preparing and baking bread. A farmers’ market is held every Tuesday from May to October (3:00pm to 7:00pm), and children’s birthday parties(1-8 years) can be hosted in the Meeting House.
Around for over 25 years, the Cabbagetown Co-operative Nursery School (2 Lancaster Avenue), located in a sunny room in the Cabbagetown Youth Centre, values play as its most important teaching tool. Parents elect the board that runs the school and are strongly encouraged to become involved with their child’s education.
Established 157 years ago, the Nelson Mandela Park Public School (440 Shuter Street) is the oldest school in Toronto still standing on its original site. Other local grade schools teaching Junior Kindergarten to Grade 6 include Regent Park-Duke of York (20 Regent Street), Sprucecourt (70 Spruce Street) and Rose Avenue Public School (675 Ontario Street), while Lord Dufferin Jr & Sr PS (350 Parliament Street) and Winchester Jr & Sr Public School (15 Prospect Street) go up to Grade 8.
The School of Toronto Dance Theatre (80 Winchester Street) was established in 1968 to teach contemporary dance to its students, and provides professional instruction, summer school and adult recreational classes.
Cabbagetown is a closely-knit neighbourhood serviced by a diversity of merchants catering to every taste and budget, many of whom have been in business for decades.
Around for twenty years, Rashnaa (307 Wellesley East) is a much-loved purveyor of South Indian and spicy Sri Lankan food. Favourites include flaky vegetarian samosas, Kottu Rotty (a Sri Lankan specialty of chopped naan sautéed with onions, bell peppers and egg) and Chicken Biryani.
Provences Delices (12 Amelia Street) has one of the city’s most extensive wine cellars, all the better for pairing your meal of French contemporary cuisine.
Neighbourhood favourite Big Mamma's Boy (554 Parliament Street) offers slow-cooked homemade food made mostly from locally sourced products. It’s also home to book readings, and the last Sunday of every month plays host to Psychic Brunch where Toronto’s best psychics provide reading while guests enjoy a delicious organic brunch.
Diners get to cook their own meals at Stonegrill (51B Winchester Street). The interactive dining experience includes being presented with your meal cooking on a volcanic granite slab. There is also an extensive tapas menu.
Like an understated living room, The Cobourg (533 Parliament Street) boasts a relaxed atmosphere lit by candles. There are three beers on tap, but wines and scotches are more apropos.
The eclectic cast of characters who populate the House on Parliament (456 Parliament Street) make for as satisfying an experience as the classic pub menu. The shaded patio is busy in summer.
All the needs of your feathered and furry friends are met at the Menagerie Pet Shop (549 Parliament). Around for three decades, Menagerie is an especially good source for bird supplies, and offers its customers a do-it-yourself dog wash. They do sell fish and reptiles but not cats or dogs. Instead, they encourage you to adopt from local shelters.
Yogis of all levels can get their downward dog on at Renaissance Yoga & Ayurveda (391 Ontario Street). They also provide extensive services to pregnant mothers, including private prenatal and birth preparation yoga, and Ayurvedic rejuvenation/recovery after birthing.
Gourmet bakery and deli Epicure Shop (473 Parliament Street) has been a Cabbagetown favourite since 1980 by offering locals a quality selection of cheeses, cured meats and breads. This can include Quebec farmhouse cheeses or unique pates like wild boar or duck with pistachio and peppercorn. They also sell ready-made and personalized gift baskets
Jet Fuel Coffee Shop (519 Parliament Street) is a favourite of bike couriers for a reason: they make good coffee. That’s it. If you have time, feel free to stay and read one of the many available newspapers.
Connoisseurs of funky vintage fashion will go wild for Foxy Boutique (251 Gerrard Street East). Its wide variety of fashions from the ‘70s and ‘80s are crammed together with little rhyme or reason, making that choice find all the sweeter.
Eclectisaurus (249 Gerrard Street East) sells "arts, antiques and brocante... from the ridiculous to the sublime", and that’s true for those in the market for bric-a-brac from ages gone by, including lighting, art, furniture and clothes.