Which coast is the best coast?

Graphic by Keven Vaillancourt @kindaokev

A local’s perspective on how to eat and explore your way through two of Canada’s biggest cities in 24 hours.

One of my friends told me that I’m going to keep moving east until I end up right back in Vancouver, and that isn’t too far-fetched. I have been constantly migrating east ever since the end of high school— first Toronto, and now Montréal.

As a proud Vancouverite, I know the city like the back of my hand. Seriously, you could plop me down in the middle of Sapperton and I’d know how to get home. The same goes for Toronto. 

Any local of any city has their go-to places and I am proud to have culminated my own lists for both Vancouver and Toronto. I’ve got a lot of food and to-do recommendations; so in honour of summer plans being made, here are my *local’s* recommendations in the two cities.

Up first is my home base, Vancouver—prefacing this with the fact that I grew up in Kitsilano, which is ten minutes away from the University of British Columbia, so these recommendations are in and around that area.

Start the day off on a sweet note at Grounds for Coffee for the best cinnamon buns in the world. My mum and I have been frequenting Grounds since I was a toddler, so that should speak volumes. Alternatively, head up to Blue Chip at UBC for a bite (make sure to grab one of their iconic cookies), and explore the UBC campus. It is genuinely the most beautiful Canadian campus in my opinion and always has something new to check out. 

From there, hop on the 99 B-Line bus and get some sushi from Masa Sushi on Broadway—their Secret Garden Roll is definitely a must. If you aren’t in the mood for sushi, go to Sing Sing on Main Street and order an assortment of appetizers to nosh on. Dodge into a couple thrift stores or any of the hole-in-the-wall antique shops for some unique finds. 

For dinner, head over to Marcello Ristorante on Commercial Drive. Dubbed as Vancouver’s “Little Italy,” this area offers some pretty stellar Italian food, as well as some more thrift stores and parks. Wind down with some ice cream from Earnest Ice Cream on Quebec Street and East 2nd. They’ve always got the most unique flavours—such as whiskey hazelnut and London fog. 

That’s a pretty decent day spent in the main areas of Vancouver (excluding downtown, which is an entirely different world in and of itself ). 

Moving east to Toronto: home to big buildings and the best soup dumplings ever. These recommendations are mainly in and around the downtown neighbourhoods, with the exception of Roncesvalles. Start off your morning at Fran’s for some Toronto staple diner-style brekkie—I am partial to their College Street location. 

For lunch, head to Juicy Dumpling in Chinatown for the cheapest and best soup dumplings ever – I am forever grateful to my friend for introducing me to my now go-to. Explore the Chinatown area for some cool thrift stores and unique memorabilia finds. Or, go to Grillies on Dundas for an amazing pulled pork sandwich. 

Madras Kaapi on College is a haven for some South Indian style coffee; you can also check out the little stores in and around the area for some unique collectibles. My friend and I have spent hours there trying out the various pastries and food. Reunion Coffee Roasters in Roncesvalles is also great to grab a coffee and explore the picturesque little neighbourhood. I love poking around the main strip and wandering in the inside roads—I could easily spend all day there, especially since it’s the first place my Opa lived when he immigrated to Canada in ‘58.

Finally for dinner, check out Vivoli for some killer Italian food! After the surprise birthday party that my friends organized there for my 20th, it is forever a kindred spot for me. 

And there you have it! How to spend 24 hours in two of Canada’s biggest (and polar opposite) cities. 

Hopefully this awakened the tourist within!

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