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Monday, December 29, 2014


Pioneer hasn't updated our 50 Reasons to Love Danforth East in awhile and it's that time of year when people tell their best friends on Facebook or their pet Tamagotchis about their resolutions for the new year. So, as the final countdown approaches we are prepping for 2015 with some new resolutions to share with you, actual people that live here and love it just like us:

1. Pioneer wants to bring you the new 50 Reasons! We're going to a) test lots of food b) drink lots of drinks and c) check out lots of things blossoming around the neighbourhood to make a stellar list.

2. This year will see some changes and possibly some blog posts too. We're tinkering with a format change and we might even get our act together to do some reader polls.

3. Our biggest resolution is that we want to get back to Pioneering. That means discovering the hidden gems and undiscovered wonders of this neighbourhood. Yes, we still want to cover new restaurant openings and cool shops but this is just a reminder to ourselves (because let's face it, Pioneer's memory belongs in a home for the old and creaky these days) that we can't forget our origins on this blog, or in this neighbourhood.

We hope you'll keep sending us your opinions! Email with your favourite things, comments and hidden gems that we can share with the world (before BlogTO does anyway...).

XO and Happy New Year,


Friday, December 19, 2014

Looking to the East

At Pioneer homestead we usually try and stick to a pretty healthy kitchen but with the pressures of work and the Juniors' picky palates, it's fair to say we hit the golden arches way more than we really should. If you're in the same boat, you'll be happy to hear about Danforth East's newest delectable destination called East of York Gourmet Food Emporium at 1904 Danforth.

When Pioneer popped in earlier today to meet chef and proprietor Ashvin (or Ash as everyone calls him), the space was already filled with delectable aromas as he prepped for his soft opening day. He wasted no time in helping us fill our belly with his first offerings while chatting happily about how East Of York went from dream to reality.

A former banker turned caterer, Ash had a vision to bring healthy (affordable) gourmet to the people of East York in a store-front catering format. He has lived in and around East York for practically his whole life and has witnessed the change in the neighbourhood first hand. He feels proud to be part of this community (and has a 1.5 minute commute to work!). In his own words he says "it feels good be part of something special happening here". Well, we're glad to have you!

All the East of York menu items are $1 each or 12 pieces for $11 and the offerings will rotate every few months. Ash promises they will be low in saturated fats, low in sodium but very high in deliciousness. It's mostly small fare, but enough of a combination that a family or four could easily fill up for dinner.

The international menu is currently highlighting Ash's Guyanese and Indian background. As soon as we popped (ok, crammed!) a samosa into our mouth, we realized Ash is a miracle worker. The warm little packet of kale and jerk chicken (which was baked instead of deep fried) was the best thing we've noshed on in a long time. And don't get us started on the caramelized walnuts....

East of York is open every day from 11 - 7 except for Mondays and holidays! Bon Appetit!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Follow-up to Local 1794

We have ALL been eagerly anticipating the opening of Local 1794 since Pioneer blogged about it back in the lazy hazy days of summer. The leaves are all falling now, and the sky is grey (cue the Mamas and the Papas) and the windows of this local gem are still papered up while the resto waits for the City of Toronto to upgrade water service. However, we have great news! Pioneer's sleuthing skills have determined that all the issues will soon be resolved and Harry is only weeks away from firing up his brick oven and opening up the 25 craft beer taps. Wowzers! Even writing that makes our mouths water. Looks like we better get moving on a reservation. See you there soon!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

London Calling!

Anyone who has ever tried to squeeze up to the bar, or waited patiently for a table at The Wren on any night other than Monday, knows that this neighbourhood is dying for more gastropubs - or really, anything that serves good food and has a few taps. The ironic sign at new Brit-inspired gastropub The Burough may have thrown a few people off, but after realizing it wasn't actually an outpost of East York city hall or a constituency office, we're certain many will be queuing up on September 30 when it opens its doors.

We were expecting some tongue-in-cheek British ambiance but the first thing Pioneer loved about this place was the archive prints of Danforth East adorning the walls. The pictures reinforce immediately that The Burrough is keenly aware of its place and its role within this local community.

Before talking about the menu, proprietors Richard and Jason walked Pioneer through the pillars of their gastropub dream: community, local, sustainable. Richard lives a few minutes walk away and loves that the Danforth East community feels like his neighbourhood growing up. This became his inspiration for jumping into the restaurant business. With his partner Jason in charge of the menu, the two dreamed up a vision that weaves community together with food. A British-inspired gastropub with a local twist.

They've not only committed to a local menu, but are practicing what they preach by using community resources as much as possible. The London-inspired exterior was created by a Danforth sign shop and the eight British and European style draught taps were installed by a local technician.

Getting back to the menu, Jason says he's keeping it tight so their tiny kitchen can stick to the mandate of staying local. Pioneer's mouth was watering dreaming about the bangers & mash or the Ontario pickerel fillet with roasted cauliflower. Richard insisted that the place will be family friendly and welcome kids just like a British pub (we're pretty sure the $17 Mac & Cheese with aged cheddar and goat’s milk parmesan will go to waste on the Junior Pioneers though).

It's a long way from London, but Pioneer thinks this sleek little pub will be a great place to have a pint and "support the economy"!

Borough on Urbanspoon

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Kids! Kids! Kids!

Everywhere Pioneer looks these days, there are kids! Young and younger, tweens and teens. Danforth East is alive with the jubilant laughter of the young. The only downside to this many young Pioneers in a saturated market, is what to do with them between 3pm and 6pm while you're hustling for a living. So, when an email popped into our inbox about Kaza Family Centre, a new family/community hub on Danforth, we thought it was worth a good old-fashioned Pioneer look.

Kaza Family Centre took over the old "piano" store between Linsmore and Monarch Park and turned a dusty, unused space into a welcome oasis for both little ones and their parents. Owner and chief creative officer Nadia Barakeh was inspired to open the doors on this little piece of sunshine after moving to the neighbourhood and falling in love with, what else, the community!

She calls Kaza a family hub to support a healthy community which jives perfectly with the rest of Danforth East. It's a place where junior Pioneers get actual homework support after school, can do some tumbling to get out those beans and be taken care of in a bi-lingual home away from home. You can (and should) read more about it here:!untitled/cc16.

What we think is totally awesome, is the added bonus of family workshops along the lines of "Improv  comedy for you and your kids" (kids are truly the funniest little creatures) and "Intro to Parenting"(Pioneer wishes this had been mandatory six years ago....!). Nadia's background in clinical psychiatry and development also means we've got a therapist on speed dial - if we needed it that is.

Nadia is also planning art workshops for kids and parents, plus, rainy day fun and PA day programming - more info will be posted to KaZa's Facebook page so stayed tuned!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Italian Connection

It was one of those days. A day where the Danforth continues to surprise and delight us, even after all this time!

Pioneer was tugging the juniors along the Danforth on a hot, sticky summer day when what to our wondering eyes should appear? A storefront window filled with colourful mannequins decked out in beautiful finery. Were we delirious? Was it the heat? No, it was not a mirage. At long last, a clothing boutique has finally opened at Monarch Park and Danforth. The newest icon of style for our 'hood is called Icons Boutique (1400 Danforth) and it is beautiful.

Danforth East and DECA have done a great job of  improving the retail strip, but there hasn't been a lot of clothing retail around here save for DECA's pop up efforts such as In This Closet (one of our FAVES!). But let's face it, there's nothing like walking into a boutique at the end of your street that's brimming with new, sexy Italian fashions.

Icons opened its doors in August after renovating a former salon space (hmmmm.....The Wren also renovated a former salon....). The chief stylist has connections in Italy and imports huge budget-friendly Italian brands such as Rinascimento and more. Perusing through the racks, Pioneer saw work appropriate, party appropriate and Friday-night appropriate items that were not only interesting but easy on the wallet. We think this might be music to the ears of style-hungry Danforthistas! Happy Shopping!

***Just a side note that Pioneer was recently in active service as a bridesmaid wearing a Rinascimento dress and we can personally vouch for it's comfort, elegance and affordability!

Monday, August 4, 2014

1794: Another #Local Option

It's only been a year since gastro-love hit a fever pitch in the nabe when The Wren opened, but it seems like an eternity in comparison to the pace that restos open and close in the west end. Pioneer's been eying the sleek new sign and trendy garage doors at 1794 Danforth with anticipation, wondering what's behind the craft paper obstructing our view. Never one to let something like that get in our way, we decided to pop in for a surprise tete-a-tete with Harry, the owner of new restaurant Local 1794.

The old Columbo's space is unrecognizable - what was once 85% kitchen and 15% fast food counter, is now a beautiful, sophisticated space lined with comfortable booths, cedar wine racks and probably the longest wooden bar on the Danforth. Harry said he's going for the casual comfort look and feel, designing the space himself to get the right atmosphere where the Junior Pioneers can feel comfortable throwing around pizza at kiddie happy hour, and Pioneer and her gal pals can guzzle red wine and appies late into the night.

Speaking of pizza, the old Columbo's pizza oven was completely rebuilt and Pioneer is just waiting for the green light to head over for some mouth-watering, hand rolled stone baked pizza pie. Harry's menu won't be focused around Italian food, but will be a mix of some solid mains with lots of fresh appetizers, salads and rotating specials from the smoker.

The beer list promises to be intense. Harry has 24 taps installed and is working closely with local breweries and craft beer makers to get it just right. Pioneer knows a fella or two in the neighbourhood (Pete!) who will be keeping a shine on the bar with the sleeves of their coat....

We bet you're wondering about the magic question: when will Local 1794 open? We'll have to wait and see. The City of Toronto is holding the water pipes hostage at the moment, and we all know how these things work. So keep your eyes peeled on 1794 Danforth for the opening of a very welcome addition to the block - but until then, it will have to be a surprise!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Danforth: Home of #wethemeat

We've been meaning to post this for awhile, but sometimes summer & wine & life on the Danforth just gets too fun to find time to write. So, it's not really news that we have a new butcher shop called Stock N Trade (1272 Danforth). By now, I'm sure you've all tried their fresh, hand made mouthwatering sandwiches or picked up some of their made in Ontario meat. So since it's Friday, we'll just post one quick photo of something that we love about this new place: they make picnic baskets made to order!

If you're out pioneering at the jazz fest, or heading out to pioneer the actual northern wilderness, Stock N Trade will pull together a fantastic picnic basket assortment of marinated meats, cheeses, sauces and the like. No need to sweat the small stuff if your in-laws are dropping by dockside - just throw something on the grill and grab a fresh margaritas!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Homegrown Delight

Pioneer has been known to have a teeny bit of an obsession with homegrown, local Ontario wine and so when we heard this little news tidbit we are about to share, we couldn't hold back our excitement.

At the beginning of this month, just days before the election call, the Wynne government passed legislation on a pilot program to allow Ontario wineries to sell their delicious and mouthwatering vintages at farmers' markets. This works out perfectly for Danforth East, since we have not one but TWO farmers' markets here.

The energetic and passionate team behind the East Lynn Farmers Market was on this like a toddler on fish crackers - they obviously know their audience here: hardworking young, hip parents who like to relax with local wine after the juniors are in bed.

Starting next Thursday, June 5, three Ontario wineries will be selling their wares at the market: 13th Street Winery, Pillitteri and Tawse (which is the one we are most excited about!). The 2010 Tawse Sketches Chardonnay was one of the best values at the LCBO for Ontario chard, and in recent years, their beautiful wines have won not one but 11 awards at the Ontario Wine Awards. 13th Street is also a rising star who has some great vintages on their hands this year.

So, next Thursday evening, instead of waiting in line at the ElCee for your generic, sugary shiraz blend from Australia, head on over to East Lynn Farmer's Market and take a taste test for yourself. Cheers!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Destination Curry

This blog has always been about exploring along Danforth East, but sometimes you don't have to go too far to discover something new. On Friday night, Pioneer and the juniors left Daddy Pioneer at home to slave away on our current renovation project while we enjoyed a 5-star meal at the Bus Terminal. You might think we are joking but here is one of those golden local tips that always amazes us! 

Previous to this dining adventure, the Pioneer clan had never ventured into the retro diner at Coxwell and Danforth past a certain hour of the morning. Eggs and bakey were pretty much all we've ever ordered. We blogged here years ago about a summer sangria special at the Terminal, but what's Sangria without the patio? It was only due to an invitation from another EEWSK (east ender with small kids) that we ended up at the empty, child friendly resto at dinner hour where the junior Pioneers and friends embarked on a (not so) quiet riot with their chicken "dolphins" and fries. 

A diner is a diner, so we expected the usual 'specials' menu but did a double take when we noticed a lamb curry and a lamb and lentil stew on the board. My inside source, who is a Friday regular, let it spill that the Friday curry is "to die for". Although we can't confirm it happens every Friday, the Sri Lankan staff and owners apparently make their own special curry from scratch. Pioneer couldn't resist a steamy (reasonably priced) bowl of stew and the verdict is that it IS to die for. 

So next time you're craving the slow burn of a lamb curry, don't walk south to Gerrard, head on over to the Bus Terminal for a one-way ticket to delicious! 

Monday, May 12, 2014


This past weekend found Pioneer and the Juniors trudging happily along Danforth East looking for a snack. From the caboose (ie. the red wagon) the Juniors were happily chanting "cupcakes, cupcakes, cupcakes". What's a Pioneer to do? After coming up empty at the Patisserie, a friendly passer-by pointed us westward to a brand new bakery called Sweet Serendipity which was exactly what a tired mommy was looking for.

Sweet Serendipity (1335 Danforth) opened April 19 and we are very sorry we didn't find this gem sooner. The airy space with it's white walls and hardwood floors is soon to be a favourite local hangout and a welcome addition to the block between Monarch Park and Linsmore. We didn't get a chance to chat with the owner Pina, but that's ok, because she was busy whipping up more of her delectable homemade baked goods.

The fridge packs a colourful selection of cupcakes, pastries, cookies and cakes into a mouthwatering display - all of them baked at the back of the shop by Pina herself. Pioneer could happily slip into a sugar-induced coma in this place. We chatted with Stacy behind the counter who mentioned they are now also offering fresh cinammon rolls and scones to nibble on with your latte.

The Juniors picked out their treats and it was love at first bite. Not that we are conoisseurs but we do eat a lot of cupcakes and these ones are excellent - light and fluffy icing and a moist, non-crumbly cake. Yum! Pina does custom orders for anything from cupcakes to cheesecake.

Sweet Serendipity could easily be an every day destination for this Pioneer (other than Monday's when they are closed) - how many cupcakes a day is reasonable do you think??

Thursday, March 27, 2014

DECA Is A Star! (But you knew that already!)

Well, spring has almost sprung, and Pioneer is back for another season of exploring #DanforthEast. It's almost our 5th anniversary and to mark this milestone (and in the spirit of spring and renewal) it's time for a look back at where it all began.

TheGrid.TO wrote a lovely piece about DECA and it's urban renewal efforts. They have played a key role in making this a safer and more interesting place to live. It's worth reading, if only to get a glimpse of what our neighbourhood looked like when Timmy's at Shoppers was the only place to get (gross) coffee.

The story is here:

If you don't already read their blog, you should! It's over here at

Reading our first blog post five years ago was a real throw back: As you can see, nothing has changed. We still feel the same way. We heart Danforth East!