What’s Good Neighborhood: Roncesvalles
Roncesvalles or “Roncy’s,” as it’s called by laymen and down town folk, is actually a Spanish word. It’s pronounced “Ron-Sess-Veye-ez” and was named after the battle of Roncesvalles in Spain. It’s a quaint neighborhood that runs east of High Park, west of Brockton, north of Parkdale and south of Dundas and Bloor.
There has been lots written about it lately. Toronto Life even dedicated a whole page in last month’s issue to 21 new businesses that have opened in Roncy’s in the past year. But that doesn’t mean you’ll like it; Neighborhoods, like cities and people, are fickle — you can’t choose the ones you fall in love with. So here’s the skinny on why you should or shouldn’t go to Roncy’s:
History and Talking Points:
The BIA or RoncysWorks keeps the community tight. They are involved in everything from cleaning out the light blue, “butt out” ashtrays that line the strip to rallying for the Dundas Roncesvalles Peace Garden Project (more on that later). The neighbourhood used to be very heavily Polish, and the remains of that time are still seen in the Polish Catholic churches that line the strip, as well as the top of the line butchers, bakers, and pharmacies. There’s a Polish Festival each year, when they close off the streets and 300,000 people attend. And there’s the Dundas Roncesvalles Peace Garden, a garden to commemorate the area’s role in the war of 1812 when we resisted the landing of American fleets at the Humber Bay. It’s supposed to go in at the corner of Dundas and Roncesvalles, right in front of the Starbucks.
How to Describe Roncy’s:
We call it the Summerhill of the West End, mostly because High Park has always been referred to as the Rosedale of the West. There’s a saying in Parkdale and Queen West, that “only adults live in Roncy’s,” something local hipsters wear with pride. It’s got that Beaches-In-The-80s feel to it in that each shop is family owned and locally supported from the Revue Cinema, to the Sorauren Farmer’s Market to the restaurants, coffee shops and dog stores that line the strip.
If you ever went to the Fox theatre in the beaches when you were a kid, then you’ll have a special affinity for the Revue theatre. It is like stepping into the service and space of a theatre in the 80s with a fantastic mix of just-out-of-the-theatre releases, throwbacks and art house films.
The Westerly, just another new resto getting lots of buzz this year.
Here’s the thing about white people: the second you get a group of them anywhere, they will hurry up and open a pub. And it’s no surprise that a predominantly white neighbourhood like Roncy’s would have a pub called the Local which is packed almost every night, year round.
Cherry Bomb Coffee is the most coveted in Roncy’s. There is always a line up. They’re known for the best baked goods and also as a beacon for the local hipsters, who are an aging and more wealthy (though just as beardy) bunch.
Sister to the Dakota, The Ace has been rammed every night since it opened its doors less than six months ago; Great menu and a great spot to drop in for a drink. Just casual enough for a first date, but just fancy enough for an anniversary.
One of two decent sushi spots. It’s a bit overpriced, but consistent.
You want to eat at Barque Smokehouse? Make a reservation a week in advance. The service and potions are awesome, and the food is mad meaty awesome. I just wish they would turn the lights down 10% sometimes. The sexiness is on the very very low here.
Who Should Live Here?
Anyone who feels too old for Parkdale, but doesn’t want to leave the West. Anyone who works on King Street but can’t stand the over priced restaurants and busy weekends. You should live in Roncy’s if you like small towns, but you could never commit to Jack Astor’s and living in your car. If you like nature, having a dog, a back porch or enjoy talking to your neighbors. If you’re a yuppie, an aging hipster, a new weekend dad, or a left-wing old timer. If you checked off half or more of that list, then Roncy’s is most definitely the place for you.
A very special note goes out to the Kennel Cafe, a cornerstone of the community, that burned down on Saturday June 16th, 2012. Several cats died in the fire and one dog came close to death but was later revived. There now sits many bouquets and well wishes to the animals that perished outside the boarded up doors. No news as of yet where you can donate to help rebuild, but we will post as soon as we know. You will be immeasurably missed.
All photographs by: Samanthuh Wood