Food Crawl: From Cuban sandwiches to handcrafted chocolates in Roncesvalles

With its construction past long gone, the Roncesvalles strip has blossomed into one of the best spots for foodie finds

After two years of construction, Roncesvalles residents were growing weary of diverted traffic, makeshift plywood sidewalks and being woken up by heavy machinery. The period from 2009 to 2011 saw many a Roncy shop shutter, and Toronto’s main Polish artery was ailing. Although the stalwart Polish eateries, like Café Polonez, never cease to please with their fab borschts and perogies, a flock of new restaurants has joined the strip. Today, Roncy is one of T.O.’s dining destinations, and here are six places worth a visit.

To kick-start the morning, head over  to Extra Butter, where the only thing buttery are the croissants. Co-owner Cassie Germann pulls chocolatey shots of espresso made from Toronto-roasted Dark City beans. If java and you don’t jibe, the chai lattes will ease — rather than jolt — you into consciousness. The bench out front is the perfect spot for a casual quaff with a side of people-watching. 283 Roncesvalles Ave., 647-340-7791

The Westerly takes brunch classics and kicks up the oomph factor. The french toast, for example, gets the crème brûlée treatment. Vanilla custard–soaked challah bread is griddled and then topped with brûléed cream for a truly extravagant dish. For dinner, chef Geoff Kitt offers bistro staples and plates like citrus-braised short ribs served with creamy coconut polenta. 413 Roncesvalles Ave., 416-551-6660 

If you’re suffering from eggs-and-bacon ennui, a better brunch destination might just be La Cubana. A flaky chorizo-stuffed empanada topped with poached eggs and pickled raisins will kick you out of that breakfast rut. For the less daring, a plate of pineapple-glazed pork belly with sunny side up eggs is familiar without evoking yawns. Hemingway probably wouldn’t have noshed at this perennially packed Cuban eatery; it’s a bit too cheery for the curmudgeon. 392 Roncesvalles Ave., 416-538-7500

Chocoholics would be remiss not to pop in to the Chocolateria. Chocolate-dipped chips should come with a warning: addictive. The house-made turtles, in dark or milk chocolate, are one of our favourite treats, filled with gooey caramel and crunchy pecans and dusted with fleur de sel. 361 Roncesvalles Ave., 416-588-0567 

At the northern edge of Roncy,  Stasis owner Julian Katz prepares some of the city’s best preserves. (Strawberry rhubarb isn’t just a combo that works well in pies; it also makes a delightful toast-topper.) This wee bodega is packed with artisanal Canadian goodies, such as vinegars and oils from Niagara and Forbes Wild Foods’ foraged milkweed pods and spruce tips. Although you can buy all the fixings to make a great sandwich at home, Katz is more than happy to whip up a ’wich for you. The maple bacon grilled cheese is a ’hood favourite. 476 Roncesvalles Ave., 647-766-5267

For a perfectly fire–blistered pie, head over to Pizzeria Defina. Its pizzas rival those of trendy Queen West trats (ahem, Terroni) but are served with none of the pretension. Meat lovers will go gaga for the Pumba, which tops wild boar meatballs with fior di latte, ’shrooms, grana padano and caramelized shallots. Order the caramelized plum salad. It’s the kind of salad you can make friends with; at the very least it’s large enough to share. 321 Roncesvalles Ave., 416-534-4414 

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