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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Stay ahead of the competition by purchasing a pre-listing home inspection

Getting a home inspection before listing your home allows potential buyers to find out everything about your house up front, which can help them put in an offer quickly and confidently. It also enables you to take more time prior to listing your home to research and secure the best price for any updates needed. Lastly, completing repairs before listing your home will give you more negotiating power when offers start rolling in! 


Stage your home to show off its best features

Staging your home will allow potential buyers to see your home’s worth, incentivizing them to present an offer reflecting its maximum value. Staging attracts buyers by adding contemporary and stylish furnishings create a clean aesthetic slate, enabling buyers to see themselves living in the space. It can maximize the full potential of your home’s floor plan, unique features, and ultimately its sale price.


Ensure the first impression is a lasting impression

Sprucing up the exterior of your home is equally important to getting the interior in top shape! Simply by keeping the front yard or porch clean, and brightening it up with a few shrubs or potted plants, you can create a fresh and inviting first look at your home. Give your front door a fresh coat of paint, clean the windows, and change the outdoor light bulbs to a warm hue to brighten up the front porch, so that potential buyers know your home is well cared for, and worth their attention. The same goes for the backyard area; trim any overgrown hedges and grass, and keep things bright and inviting with some outdoor lighting, cheerful flowers, or even a dedicated seating area for entertaining.


Clean, declutter, and make your pending move easier from the start

No matter what type of market you’re listing your home in, cleaning, organizing, and decluttering your space is a surefire way to attract a greater number of potential buyers and higher offers. Spaces with carefully chosen furnishings, lots of light, and minimal clutter highlight a home’s square footage, storage potential, and overall appeal, inside and out. Remove personal touches such as family photos, memorabilia, and personal keepsakes to allow buyers to see what they’re investing in. Move items to an offsite storage area, schedule a garage sale, or put things up for sale on Craigslist, Kijiji, or Facebook Marketplace to make your home feel more spacious. Lastly, keep in mind that cleaning out and organizing your closets, cupboards, and storage spaces will make it easier to move into your new space!


Record Recent Repairs

Money spent may equal money earned! Upgrades like a new roof, furnace, central air, or hot water heater are all important to track, and will increase the potential sale price of your home. Some questions to answer as you document your home’s updates include:


  • What was the cost? 

  • When was the work done? 

  • Who did the work?

These are also important questions that agents, buyers, and mortgage lenders will ask. Creating copies of receipts for installed upgrades or repairs will validate these costs to buyers. Placing this information in one handy spot (like a binder) can be a great idea, and will help to more efficiently promote your home when agents or buyers ask!




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Searching for your first home is so exciting, but it can also be stressful. If you are ready to start your journey into home ownership, here are 10 tips to help you get started!


1. Know how much you can afford

This is the first and most important thing you need to consider before embarking on the search for your first home!


Banks and other lenders have formulas to determine how much you can afford to borrow, but they don’t always have your best interest in mind. Just because the bank approves you for a certain amount doesn’t mean you can actually afford to carry a mortgage of that amount. Your dream might be to purchase a character home in an established neighbourhood, but you might only be working with a budget for a condo.


This is why it's so important to do your own research and crunch the numbers yourself to make sure that you feel confident that you can afford the payments. Don’t forget to factor in child care expenses, retirement savings, and the cost of your lifestyle, as well as any other expenses you may have or that you anticipate having. Start by using this mortgage calculator!


Once you've done your research, speak with a mortgage broker and get at least two quotes for your pre-approval. Getting pre-approved for your mortgage gives you an edge over other people who might be interested in the same property as you. The seller will know that you are a serious buyer, and you are able to confidently negotiate the purchase of a home.


However, don't make the mistake of overbuying on your first home. You would be better off with smaller payments on a starter home so that you have the freedom and flexibiliy to save and spend how you'd like. Remember that you can always move up to a larger property later on!


2. What’s on your wish list?

Before you start seriously shopping for your first home, you should determine what your needs and wants are. Create a list of features that you are willing to compromise on, and prioritize the ones that you need to have. By doing this, you will be able to narrow your house search down to properties that truly fit your needs, and will make your decision much easier.


3. Be flexible!

You should of course have fun with the home buying process, but remember that to be successful, you need to be realistic and open-minded. You may not be able to find a home with everything you're looking for within your budget, so be prepared to prioritize and compromise if necessary. Being flexible to the possibility of exploring other locations or types of homes will go a long way in helping you land the home that's perfect for you.


4. Understand your different payment options

You can pay for your mortgage in a variety of ways, including monthly, bi-weekly, and weekly payment options. Paying off your mortgage sooner will save you thousands of dollars in interest costs, while a longer amortization period will reduce your regular payments and frees up cash in your budget. You can use this online mortgage calculator to help you decide what payment schedule is right for you.


Some mortgages also give you the ability to make extra lump sum payments, or the option to skip a payment. Make sure you understand what your options are, and that you are comfortable with the terms.


5. Aim for a 20% down payment

Your down payment should be at least 5% of the price, but it is highly recommended that all first time home buyer aim to put down 20% of the value of the home in order to qualify for a conventional mortgage. If you have money in your RRSPs, you can use up to $25,000 towards the purchase of your first home.


If you want to buy a home with a down payment of less than 20%, you’ll need mortgage loan insurance. Your lender pays an insurance premium on mortgage loan insurance. It’s calculated as a percentage of the mortgage and is based on the size of your down payment. Your lender will likely pass this cost on to you, which you can pay in a lump sum or add it to your mortgage and include it in your payments.


Also it is crucial to remember that what you have saved for a down payment isn’t necessarily the amount you will end up using. You will want to keep back a little cash for closing costs, minor repairs or furniture for your new home, and moving expenses. Which brings us to our next tip...


6. Keep a budget for closing and incidental costs

Closing costs can range anywhere from 1.5% to 3.5% of the total cost of your home. You can expect to pay for some or all of the following:


• Home inspection fee

• Legal fees
• Property transfer tax
• Appraisal fee
• Land transfer tax
• Title insurance
• Interest adjustment

• Moving costs

• Property and fire insurance

• Another month of rent (in case the closing date is extended)

• Renovations you may want to make before moving in


If you'd like to get a better idea of what each of these costs may be, please reach out to me, I'd be happy to walk you through this.


7. Find your own Realtor

So you've been scrollng through listings online and come across the one that looks absolutely perfect. You decide to hit the Contact Me button to connect with the listing agent. Stop there! Why, you ask? Because the listing agent's obligation is to the Seller and they work for their best interests, not yours as the Buyer.


It's so important that you find a Realtor that you connect with and that represents you, as the Buyer, in any transaction. It's the job of your Realtor to look after your needs and to negotiate on your behalf. So don't make the mistake of going with the listing agent of that property you love - always do your research and find your own Realtor, no matter what you may hear!


8. Request a home inspection

While it's true that including a condition for a home inspection (if it's not already available) may affect your offer being accepted in a highly competitive market, the risks truly outweigh the consequences in this situation. If you have a tight budget with limited allowance for necessary home improvements (no matter whether it's an older home or a newer build), it's important that you don't blindly commit without understanding what you're getting into. This is a surefire way to prevent buyer's remorse.


9. Don't be afraid to ask lots of questions

There are no silly questions when it comes to buying your first home! If you're not sure about something, need more information or need clarification, always ask. As with anything, it's always better to ask lots of questions, especially when it comes to one of the biggest financial decisions of your life.


10. Once you find your home, stop looking!

It’s the golden rule for choosing anything from a car to a wedding dress to a life partner – once you’ve found what you are looking for – stop looking! The same goes for a house. Once you’ve gotten the keys to your home, instead of looking for something better than what you have, focus your energy on making the space your own.



If you found these tips helpful, please share this blog post with others!


Questions about any of these tips, or about the home buying process? Please reach out to me, I would be happy to help!



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As we all know, Ontario is still operating under a state of emergency, as it has been for the last 7 weeks, and the public is being instructed to socially distance — so, most of us still have no social plans for the foreseeable future.


If you're seeking a little more enrichment in this indefinite period of partial lockdown, there are fortunately a number of major attractions in Toronto and abroad that you can visit from the comfort of your home!


Virtual Collections

The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM)

The Royal Ontario Museum is home to a world-class collection of 13 million artworks, cultural objects, and natural history specimens, featured in 40 gallery and exhibition spaces. Their online collections are a working database with a team of experts continuously adding new objects. More than 45,000 of the ROM's objects can be viewed virtually. You can explore them here!


Google Arts & Culture also offers a 360° walk-through for a sample of the ROM's exhibits!



The Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO)

Much of the Art Gallery of Ontario's collection is available to view online, including special exhibitions like the Lodz Ghetto Photographs of Henryk Ross.

You can search the entire AGO collection here

Also, they will be regularly sharing art from their galleries with their followers on Instagram. Check out their profile here to #AgoFromHome!


Gardiner Museum

Explore one of the world's most enchanting specialty museums, for hand-crafted ceramics. Peruse the collections

at the Gardiner Museum here.


Aga Khan Museum

The Aga Khan Museum provides visitors with a window into the artistic, intellectual, and scientific contributions of Muslim civilizations to world heritage. Visit their site dedicated to #MuseumWithoutWalls, complete with curator talks, virtual gallery tours, activities for the kids and more - explore here.


Virtual Museum of Canada

Another big one to check out is the Virtual Museum of Canada (a service some people may not have known existed before now), which offers more than 600 virtual exhibits and nearly one million images to explore.


The Canadian War Museum

The Canadian War Museum also has many of its exhibitions available online for any history buffs that want to check them out from home. Explore their virtual exhibitions here.


The National Gallery of Canada

The National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa is home to the world's most comprehensive collection of Canadian art. You can search their virtual collection here.


Toronto Public Library

For some Toronto-specific content, learn about the city's history with the more than 55 virtual exhibits the Toronto Public Library has on offer.


3D Tours

Casa Loma

Historic Casa Loma is one of Toronto’s top tourist attractions, but for now it's available for virtual tourism! Hop on YouTube or check out their site for a virtual tour of the 200,000 square foot castle.

Hockey Hall of Fame

You can also virtually visit another hugely popular tourist attraction, the Hockey Hall of Fame. Take a 3-D tour of the Great Hall, the core sanctuary of hockey's proud history.


Go on a Sightseeing Tour of Toronto- From On or Above the Ground


Hit full screen and away you go! Take a panoramic “helicopter tour” of the city. “Walk” around the base of the CN Tower, then check out the view from the top (even better: peek their live cam view). Explore the stunning exterior of the ROM.


Other 3-D Virtual Tours You Can Take


The Legislative Assembly of Ontario and all of the Hamilton Civic Museums also have full-on 3-D virtual walking tours that you can take while sitting on your couch. You can even take a guided tour of a Canadian penitentiary!


Virtual Experiences

Ripley's Aquarium of Canada Livestream

If you're like us and social distancing is causing separation anxiety from our manta ray friends, Ripley's Aquarium of Canada can help. Go here to check out their schedule of live events with Aquarium staff educators, who will be your guide to live feedings, educational encounters, story time, and much more.

They've also got different live cams streaming on their site! You can sit back and watch all-day live streams of the sharks at Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, or the penguins at their Myrtle Beach and Gatlinburg locations! Catch every move, every swim, and every snack! Talk about quality entertainment.


Canada's Wonderland - Virtual Roller Coasters

Canada's Wonderland has been ahead of the online experience trend for years with videos that let you take dizzying rides on coasters from the comfort of your home. Canada's largest theme park recently reminded everyone that they can experience all 34 of its rides and coasters on their YouTube channel!

Virtual rides on 16 coasters, 11 thrill rides and seven family rides have been captured for years from a point-of-view perspective. The video for the world's tallest dive coaster that opened last season, the Yukon Striker, is especially satisfying to watch.


Virtual Experiences Around the World

For those looking for a more worldly education, some of the most famous galleries and museums on the planet — such as the Guggenheim in New York City, the British Museum in London and the Louvre in Paris — have made their assets accessible to the public on their websites.

In a lovely gesture, NASA has made its entire media library of images, sounds, and videos available to the public. That means that over 140,000 photos along with all the other resources can now be yours to do with whatever you like! You can also check out their live events here.

No theatre? No problem! For a 7-day free trial, viewers can log onto Broadway HD and access classic and new musicals.

And of course, there is always the tried and true option of taking a little international vacation via Google Street View.




Have fun in your virtual travels! We're taking a break from the news to watch the relaxing Ripley's Aquarium of Canada Shark Cam.



Sources: BlogTO / SeeTorontoNow
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