Dubbed the ultimate Red Rocket ride by some and the Vomit Comet by others, the 501 streetcar route in Toronto takes its passengers through many diverse and interesting neighbourhoods complete with beaches, boardwalks, outdoor cafés and restaurants. The 501 streetcar is one of the longest routes in North America. National Geographic recently named it the #1 Trolley Ride.
I spent a day riding the 501 to explore some of the great eateries along the near 25 kilometers of track; a mammoth task I discovered, but well worth it.
Starting at Long Branch and ending at Neville Park, my eastward journey — which normally takes approximately 93 minutes — took just over 11 hours as I made my way through more than 20 neighbourhoods and five restaurants along the route.
Fair Grounds Organic Café
I fuelled up for the day at Fair Grounds Organic Café and Roastery. Located in Long Branch, in what was once a butcher shop, Fair Grounds wakes you up with scents of rich coffee aromas. It is a cozy, welcoming café with a wide selection of coffees roasted on site, or at its second nearby location. With its comfortable chaise chairs, outdoor patio, and great selection of coffee, tea, muffins, bars and cakes, it’s a welcome change from the large chains.
Chippy’s Fish and Chips
Lunch caught me at Chippy’s Fish and Chips in the Trinity Bellwoods area. Located directly across the street from Trinity Bellwoods Park, Chippy’s has been in the neighbourhood for over 10 years. Its reviews are mixed, so it’s not for everyone. The music can be loud and not to everyone’s taste, but the staff are friendly and eager to please. Seating is at a premium with only 10 stools available between two counters. But it’s summertime and there is a large green space across the street. So do as I did: get your fish and chips to go, head over to the park and enjoy summer in the city.
Ed’s Real Scoop
Continuing east along the route, Ed’s Real Scoop is a Beaches landmark, scooping out some of the best ice cream in the city. With well over 100 flavours on a rotational basis, it’s tough to decide which one to have. Feeling adventurous, I picked the chocolate chili. With deep cocoa flavour and just a touch of chili, it left my mouth dancing with the perfect combination of cool-hot-chocolaty sweetness.
Rock Lobster served up dinner. This popular Toronto eatery recently opened its second location just east of Bathurst Street. The first thing you notice when entering Rock Lobster is the raw seafood bar. Wander over for your meal selection, or choose from the varied menu. The Digby scallops and the lobster roll are only two great options worth a try. There’s also a mean fish sandwich for just $5. If seafood is not your thing, don’t fret. Rock Lobster also offers other meat and vegetarian options.
The Gladstone Hotel
My 501 food adventure ended at The Gladstone Hotel with a celebratory martini. Built in 1889, The Gladstone has had many lives. Its most recent renovation has brought it back from the walk-fast-and-don’t-look days of my teens, to the chic, trendy and eclectic place it is today. With two bars both dishing out great food choices, friendly servers and music playing at just the right decibel, The Gladstone is the perfect place to kick back, reflect on the day and ponder: which joints do I hit next?