A trip up the hills that lead north, past Bloor, is great exercise that will make your bootie pop much more than if you limit your rollerblading to the plains of Church Street. But besides fine furniture stores, expensive antique shops, trendy salons and men’s clothing boutiques, what is there that would convince a downtown guy to make the trek? It might seem miles away, but this landscape is dotted with handfuls of gay men who call the north home and the many charming shops and services they frequent.
Uncle Betty’s - 2590 Yonge St
Why: A great Sunday brunch hangover cure
“Because of the name, we’ve had people ask if this is a transgender restaurant,” says owner Robert Lewocz, who is thinking of opening another location on Church Street. The name is actually inspired by his mother-in-law, Elizabeth, Betty for short, who raised his wife as a single mother and also helped out her best friend, a single mother with nine kids. Betty would take the boys to little league, and because they never had a father figure they called her Uncle Betty.
After living in Chelsea for four years, Lewocz and his wife brought back a touch of Manhattan to Toronto. Dreesen’s doughnuts (favourites of Martha Stewart and Bill Clinton), from East Hampton, are made in store and are used to create sweetish eggs Benedict. Housemade cream-filled twinkies are perfect, perhaps, for that guy you picked up at College Night. But their best seller is the ultimate grilled cheese (white and yellow cheddar topped with pulled pork or meat loaf, with garlic aioli), which has been featured on the TV shows Epic Meal Time
and You Gotta Eat Here
. They also specialize in adult milkshakes, which contain shots of alcohol. And the Uncle Betty's creamsicle is so good, you might just get drunk again.
The Sandal Man - 1181 Davenport Rd
Why: Your leather (chaps, Prada loafers, vintage Roots leather jacket) needs some TLC
Owner Cory Bernatt began creating custom sandals 30 years ago. Two such pairs can be found in the Bata Shoe Museum collection. His business, which also specializes in the restoration of jackets, handbags and furniture, has kept up with the times. Added to his repertoire are trendy belts, stylish computer bags and brightly coloured leather (and faux leather) carrying cases for your yoga mat. Reconditioning a jacket will cost anywhere from $150 to $200, replacing a quality drag-queen purse zipper starts at $50, and he’ll even make house calls to soften up a leather sofa (starting from $250). Your leather sling will probably be much cheaper. As Bernatt asks in his Proud FM radio commercial, “Is it wrong for me to love fixing leather as I do?” No. Not at all.
Wychwood Park - Davenport Rd and Bathurst St
Why: Sugar-daddy hunting
Formerly a gated community, this area was founded as an artists colony in the late 19th-century by painter Marmaduke Matthews and businessman Alexander Jardin. No, they weren’t lovers, as far as we know. The land was divided into irregularly shaped lots dotted with houses built in the arts and crafts style, with a central park built around a pond and tennis courts designed by the architect Arthur Edwin Whatmough. It is one of Toronto’s more exclusive neighbourhoods, with homes worth well over a million dollars. Bumping into a rich, frustrated husband out walking his dog is always a possibility.
In 2008, Artscape transformed the TTC’s nearby streetcar repair barns, vacant since the mid-1980s, into the Artscape Wychwood Barns. The 60,000-square-foot community centre brings together arts and culture, environmental leadership, heritage preservation, urban agriculture and affordable housing and is now home to 26 artists and their families, 17 individual artists and 11 non-profit arts and environmental organizations.
Starkmans Surgical Supply - 1234 Bathurst St
Why: It’s like a sex shop but it’s not
Do you get a lot of sex? Pleasure yourself regularly? Have an adult diaper fetish? Or just want some unusual items to wear to your next fetish party? Then you might want to consider buying some cheap industrial lube in bulk or investing in an inexpensive enema chair, adult diapers ($39.99), soft enema tubing ($2.99/foot), or white ankle-lock braces ($54.99) that would leave Gaga gagging. Starkmans is the perfect place to get them, without the prying eyes of certain Village sex-shop employees who will spread your business faster than you spread your legs.
Pain Perdu - 736 St Clair Ave W
Why: It’s cheaper than flying to France
As you lap up your bowl of café au lait like a thirsty dog, look over your shoulder and you’ll see a red, white and green Union Jack-like flag. It’s the flag of Basque, a small region that spans the borders of France and Spain and is the home of owner Yannick Folgoa. It’s an intimate cafe with lots of dark woods, a blue-and-yellow-tiled floor and a regrettable drop ceiling. Enjoy the French provincial music that plays as you pick up fresh baguettes or fresh French pastries, all made in-store for that elegant dinner party you have planned to introduce your parents to yet another boyfriend.
Copacabana - 150 Eglinton Ave E
Why: It’s better than a Church Street drag show
The large modern dining room is stylish, the front patio is posh, the food is delish, but the servers and the weekend shows are mouthwatering. Named after the famous southern district of Rio de Janeiro, Copacabana bills itself as an authentic Brazilian steakhouse. A variety of meats arrive at your table on skewers, then are sliced hot and dripping onto your plate. Serving up the meat are hunky cuts of prime beef - gorgeous guys in tight black shirts and swell-fitting pants. Reservations are a must. Two or three times a night on weekends, Brazilian carnival shows take place, with scantily clad female dancers in feathers and beads. Following them are muscular shirtless guys who perform capoeira, a martial art that combines dance and music. Meat, men and choreographed violence - it’s the perfect start to the night.
Rolyn Chambers travelled north of Bloor many times for this story and made it back alive.
There are so many great places to visit way up there in NoBlo. Let us know if we missed one of your favourite spots at fabmagazine.com.