Whether intimate or sprawling, these eight outdoor dining spots are selling escapism alongside coffee and cocktails.


By Kelsey Adams, NOW Toronto



The breezy rooftop oasis at Stock T.C. is one of many new patios that have opened up across the city


Toronto is rife with sidewalk patios. 


Thanks to the lifting of some lockdown restrictions in step one of the province’s reopening plan and the resurgence of CafeTO last weekend, the city felt revived.

 

Patios from Leslieville to Parkdale were packed, and streets lined with people dining and drinking bustled with energy. With case levels low and vaccination rates on the rise, it also felt a lot more comfortable to be out and about. 

Toronto’s always been a city that will wait in line for a good patio session but that sentiment has been tested by rolling lockdowns and the looming threat of the pandemic. Now that restrictions are lessening and socializing outdoors is permitted (to an extent), it feels like summer has truly arrived.


I still believe park picnics will be all the rage, but the return to a full dining experience – with table-side service and a server to banter with – is definitely welcome.


There are some new spots that stand out above the rest, whether because of buzz, novelty or really cool design elements. Some were unveiled for the first time this week, others got an artistic overhaul after putting together makeshift patios during last year’s scramble, and some had time to spruce things up.


Here’s a list of the best new Toronto patios, ready just in time for a sensational season.



C'est What


This charming spot near St. Lawrence Market has been a mainstay for local craft beer lovers for 32 years. It’s in the cellar of a historic building and never had a patio before last August. COVID made that situation no longer a plausible reality and C’est What kept the patio open well into the chilly nights of October. Throughout the winter the taproom was primarily operating as a bottle shop, but it’s now entering the summer patio season with an entire beer garden tucked on the side of the building. The patio has canopies to protect from rain and offers secure bicycle parking so you can pay full attention to your beer order. The offerings include local breweries Left Field, Collective Arts, Blood Brothers and Muddy York, as well as their own new release, Al’s Cask Ale. Food-wise the menu is heavy on comfort, with tostidos, poutine, burgers, fish and chips, and pulled pork mac and cheese.


67 Front East, cestwhat.com



Hector Vasquez / Courtesy Four Seasons Hotel



d|azur


Travel is a challenge these days, but the Four Seasons and d|bar are channeling the French Riviera. An enormous mural by local artist Jason Zante evokes the deep blue waters of the Côte d’Azur, as well as the region’s architecture. If you’re looking for a mini-vacation without having to go too far north or south of Bloor, d|azur’s seaside-inspired menu should do the trick: fresh oysters, caviar, ceviche, tuna carpaccio, octopus and more fruits of the sea are all on deck. The focus is on Mediterranean flavours and seasonal veggies. The dessert menu’s pièce de resistance is a tarte Tropézienne, a pastry originally created in St. Tropez, made of cream-filled brioche. 


60 Yorkville, fourseasons.com



Daniel Neuhaus / Toronto Life



Grape Witches

 

Grape Witches, the multi-faceted wine project from Krysta Oben and Nicole Campbell has taken on many forms. At the top of 2020, the pair signed a lease to open Grape Glass, meant to be a permanent space where they could host wine tastings and their signature variety of educational events. During the pandemic, they pivoted into a bottle shop and served natural wine on the makeshift patio behind the shop. Now they’re ready to relaunch as a proper patio with a fountain in the centre. With a focus on making natural wine more accessible, expect a relaxed vibe and impressive wine list – all 150 bottles available in-store are orderable on the patio. The floral mural by local artist Laura Dawe, the fountain centrepiece and mix-and-match seating gives the experience a very whimsical feel.


1247 Dundas West, grapewitches.com




Happy Coffee and Wine

A backyard but better is what a visit to the South Parkdale cafe and bar’s revamped patio feels like. With a no-fuss, two-level deck and flowers everywhere it feels immediately comfortable and familiar. The shop opened during the pandemic last year and quickly became a neighbourhood mainstay. The name says it all, so this is the type of patio where you could spend an entire day, starting with a catch-up over espressos that turns into happy hour. The food menu is small but mighty, with their iconic shrimp burgers selling out every single day they’ve been open so far. They’ve got a long list of mostly natural wines from all over the world available in their shop that you can now enjoy on the patio.


1304 King West, happycoffeeandwine.com




Il Patio di Eataly

Eataly has turned the space outside of the Manulife Centre into an escape to an Italian piazza. It’s one thing to pick up a ready-made spaghetti carbonara and bring it home, but it’s another thing to be able to relax and have it brought out to you piping hot with a cold glass of white wine. Modelled after the way piazzas incorporate food and drinks from multiple establishments, the restaurant is partnering with Toronto-based retailers, bartenders and gelato-makers to elevate the experience. Every three weeks, they’re welcoming a new bartender from one of Toronto’s top bars and restaurants to serve up specialty cocktails, starting with Nick Kennedy from Civil Liberties.


55 Bloor West, eataly.ca




Little Sister

The Dutch-Indonesian restaurant has been a midtown staple for a while and expanded with a King and Portland location in the thick of pandemic winter. The patio is finally seeing some action. With more space to work with than the Yonge location, there is naturally more seating (i.e. an easier chance at snagging a table), which was difficult to do at Little Sister even pre-COVID. Following the recent trend of escapist patios, the Portland spot is going for an intimate Ubud vibe, with communal booths covered in palm leaf-patterned fabric and a burnt orange wood fence. Grab some shareable bites like nasi goreng (Indonesian fried rice), satay ayam (chicken skewers with peanut sauce), udang kari (shrimp in coconut curry) or lumpia (Jakarta-style spiced beef spring rolls) and nosh with a tropical cocktail.


102 Portland, littlesisterto.com




Rendezviews x Collective Arts

The massive outdoor patio at Richmond and John has re-emerged as a Technicolor dream world. Partnering with Hamilton-based brewery Collective Arts, the joint outdoor dining project from the Fifth and the Ballroom that was unveiled last summer has levelled up. Artist duo Clandestinos Art took the 30,000-square-foot space (15,000 for the ground and 15,000 for the mural) and turned it into a “a visual story of triumph, optimism and community growth.” The patio is open but artists Bruno Smoky and Shalak Attack are busy working away finishing the mural in preparation for a June 24 celebration. Eighty picnic tables are painted in vibrant yellow, pink, green and turquoise, giving the space a fun and playful energy. The food is equally casual, with menu items like buffalo chicken poutine, smash burgers and hot chicken sandwiches. They’re serving a mix of cocktails, hard seltzers and beers as well as some new Collective Arts canned drinks like their Dry Gin & Soda with Grapefruit, Lemon & Thyme and Mango & Pineapple Hard Tea.


229 Richmond West, rendezviews.ca



Kelsey Adams


Stock Bar


The marriage between Terroni and Cumbrae’s resulted in Stock T.C., a hybrid grocer-cafe-bottle shop that opened last summer. It’s midtown’s answer to Eataly but with a distinctly Toronto feel. They’ve now launched Stock Bar, with a separate selection from Stock T.C.’s takeout offerings. There’s a wrap-around terrace on the ground floor, just outside the main entrance where you can catch a glimpse of the hustle and bustle while sipping an espresso or afternoon cocktail. Upstairs, the rooftop garden patio is a lush oasis with a cozy, beachy feel that will likely become the new midtown go-to spot. The menu is extensive, to say the least. It’s doing a lot but it’s cohesive, bringing the best of Terroni and Cumbrae’s together. There’s the classic Neapolitan pizza that put Terroni on the map, tried-and-true apps like the calamari fritti and about a dozen pasta options. Cumbrae’s influence is all over as well, from the seared steak tartare to the cheeseburger and fried chicken. The wine list is a refined selection from Italy and France and the cocktails are a mix of classics and unexpected pairings. Some are even named after warm weather destinations like Oaxaca, Positano and Palm Springs.


2388 Yonge, stocktc.com



Which patio are you most looking forward to visiting this summer?! Let me know on my Facebook or Instagram page, or leave a comment below!



Source: Now Toronto


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Homeowners are eligible for a federal grant worth up to $5,600 for upgrades and energy audits 


When the federal government launched its Canada Greener Homes Grant a week ago, the interest level was high enough to crash the website temporarily. The program has received at least 30,000 applications so far.

Now, energy auditors and contractors say they're fielding a wave of inquiries from homeowners keen to apply for what could amount to $5,600 in federal support per household.

"There's literally thousands of homeowners calling," said Peter Sundberg, executive director of City Green Solutions, an energy efficiency non-profit in British Columbia. "I think there is extremely high demand already."

But despite the high uptake, there are early concerns about the size and scope of the grant program.

"There's a couple of challenges with this program," said Tom-Pierre Frappé-Sénéclauze, director of buildings and urban solutions at the Pembina Institute.

To answer some of those outstanding questions and explore the program's limits, CBC News took a deeper dive into the details of Canada Greener Homes Grant.

Who is eligible?

Homeowners, obviously. But applicants must also meet some other conditions before applying online:

  • They must prove they live in the house; landlords who live off-site are not eligible.
  • The home must be a single or semi-detached house, a row house, a townhome, an all-season cottage or a certain type of mobile home or houseboat.
  • Although condos generally aren't eligible, condo owners in low-rise buildings may qualify.
  • First Nation band councils, land claims organizations and Indigenous housing management bodies can apply for the grant.
  • New homes are not eligible.

Which upgrades qualify?

According to Natural Resources Canada (NRCAN), the federal department that administers the program, these are the projects that qualify for the grant:

  • Insulation (up to $5,000)
  • Air-sealing to improve air-tightness (up to $1,000)
  • Replacing windows and doors (up to $5,000)
  • Installing heat pumps and hot water equipment (up to $5,000)
  • Installing solar panels (up to $5,000)
  • Resiliency measures like batteries, foundation waterproofing and roofing membranes (up to $2,625)
  • Installing a smart thermostat (up to $50 but must be combined with another retrofit)

Materials and equipment, NRCAN says, must be purchased in Canada or from a Canadian online distributor.

Are there strings attached?

Homeowners won't receive the money upfront. The grant only arrives after they've spent the money — in some cases a considerable amount. To qualify, a homeowner must first undergo an energy audit at their own expense, hire contractors, pay for materials and then pass a final follow-up energy audit — again, out of pocket.

 
 

Once the upgrades are certified, the government says it will reimburse homeowners and the money should arrive within a month. But a homeowner isn't guaranteed the maximum grant of $5,600. The amount of the grant depends on the audit conducted when the work is done.

The Pembina Institute says that the cost of extensive retrofits to cut energy bills and reduce emissions likely would exceed the value of the grant. Such work can range in cost from $30,000 up to $100,000 for a single family home.

"This is not free money," said Frappé-Sénéclauze.

How can a homeowner get the most bang for the buck?

Experts say that homeowners should carefully consider their renovation priorities before jumping in. Is the house too hot in the summer? Is it drafty in the winter? Is it time to fix that leaky foundation? How big is the building's carbon footprint? Homes and buildings account for 18 per cent of the country's carbon emissions.

Because the surge in demand for the program is driving up wait times for energy advisers and contractors, applicants probably will have to wait longer than they'd like for repairs to begin.

"I think there's such high demand right now, and there's only so much capacity in all the provinces and to be able to respond to this," Sundberg said. "It's probably best to pause for a moment, think about what the upgrades you might want to do, potentially think about what kind of contractors you would want to work with."



And there's no rush; the Greener Homes Grant will be available for the next seven years. In fact, by thinking through their home retrofit goals in advance, many homeowners may decide it's quicker and cheaper to do the work without waiting for government help.

On the other hand, it might be better to wait before applying — because other orders of government may end up getting into the grant game themselves. Although B.C., Quebec and Nova Scotia already offer similar supports, other regions could soon announce their own programs, which could be combined with the federal one.

Meanwhile, some municipal governments — including Edmonton and Toronto — are offering their own home retrofit assistance tied to a homeowner's property taxes. Such municipal programs are better known as Property Assessed Clean Energy, or PACE for short.

"So with the federal government getting involved, the hope is that this grant can really work in a larger system of supports for Canadians," said Brendan Haley, a policy director at Efficiency Canada.

 
 

And sometime over the summer, the federal government is expected to roll out an interest-free retrofit loan program that could provide up to $40,000 in loan capital per household.

Here's another possible reason to wait. Home renos frequently require multiple contractors. As demand for retrofits increases, we might see more companies offering homeowners one-stop or "turnkey" solutions, said Frappé-Sénéclauze.

What's available to those who don't qualify for this program?

Energy efficiency advocates say this is the glaring problem with the program: it leaves out renters and homeowners who can't afford to spend the money upfront.

"A policy gap is the lack of a program that's specifically targeted to low-income Canadians in particular," Haley said.

One non-profit that works with multilingual and multicultural communities suggests that, where possible, renters should upgrade to programmable or "smart" thermostats and plug any cracks in doors and windows that let cold air in.

"Heating your space and heating your water is what 60 per cent of your bill is made of," said Yasmin Abraham, the vice president and co-founder of Empower Me.

Ultimately, however, there's a limit to what low-income households and renters can afford to do. Abraham called on the federal government to provide programs that serve the needs of every Canadian household.


Source: https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/retrofit-grant-green-homes-1.6051064

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