The Winnipeg-Toronto equivalency test

In which Jess searches for places in Toronto that seem kind of familiar but not really 

When you’re a creature of habit such as myself, moving to any new city is a challenge. At home, you can get away with not making even small changes to your routine. Making a change on the scale of skipping town is a faster way to get out of a rut than it sounds.

But switching from Winnipeg, where the opening of an IKEA gets every bit of fanfare short of a parade, to Toronto? Holy shit.

To ease the transition, I’ve made it my goal to find parts of the city that remind me of Winnipeg. Bearing in mind that I still have a lot to see, and therefore I might make a lot of revisions, here’s the current list:

River and Osborne = Yonge and Eglinton

These two intersections share the distinction of being sought after by young single professionals looking to move out of someone else’s basement – namely, me, as my apartment is in the area. River and Osborne is much appreciated for its walkability; because so much of Toronto’s core area is walkable already, the next best thing is transit access, which Yonge and Eglinton has in spades thanks to Eglinton Station, the busiest in Toronto that isn’t a terminus or transfer point. The neighbourhoods also share enough chain development to make you feel at home, but enough independent establishments to keep things interesting. Most notably, on a recent walk, I couldn’t help but be struck by some architecture I could swear I’ve seen before:


That is uncanny.

Exchange District = The Junction

You may remember Indie Ale House, at the intersection of Keele and Dundas, from its mention in my first column. With a name like that, you’re probably thinking the Junction, the neighborhood housing the bar, is some kind of hipster haven, and you’d be right. Like the Exchange District, once the centre of Canada’s grain industry, the Junction has an agricultural past as the former location of the Ontario Stockyards. The present-day neighbourhoods both attract young people, especially artists, with vacated industrial space becoming very appealing real estate. They also have eclectic mixes of places to eat and drink; if Manitoba’s liquor laws were relaxed enough to permit actual bars, and not just restaurants with bars or hotel bars, the Exchange District would be a very likely spot for Junction-style watering holes to flourish.

If you visit, try to find the Hole in the Wall, almost directly across from Indie Ale House. When we visited, we happened upon an excellent blues rock band featuring a young guy in a hat and an older woman with a violin. We didn’t get their names.

Waterfront Drive = Harbourfront

The biggest difference between these two neighbourhoods is that the former abuts a river and the latter abuts a lake. Not that it matters, because, if you’re like me, any large body of water will do. In both cases, enjoy the passing boats on one side and raise an eyebrow at the condo developments on the other side. In the middle, you’ll find well-landscaped green patches that make excellent spots for solo walks. Once you’ve told others where you were, you may find yourself mired in an endless debate over what’s truly healthy for the character of the area and what needs to be stopped at all costs. For your own mental health, keep your mouth shut.

First floor of the Forks Market (and, OK, a little of the second) = Kensington Market

It may be cliché, but the Forks was my favourite part of Winnipeg, and I’m finding pieces of it scattered around Toronto. Kensington Market is what would happen if you put the Forks Market outside and made it at least five times bigger. The sheer variety of food around here is astounding – not just restaurant food, but groceries, with five or six bright and colourful displays of fresh produce to be seen. If there’s a world cuisine not to be represented here, I can’t think of it, although Chinese food dominates thanks to the market’s Spadina Avenue border. There are also some quirky shops – one appeared to specialize in ugly 40-year-old furniture – and services for nearby residents. But, fair warning: You will have a lot less to do if you arrive with a full stomach.

Holy Trinity Anglican Church = St. James Anglican Cathedral

This may seem like an odd thing to include, as I am not Anglican and churches probably aren’t high on the list of most tourists to Toronto. Winnipeggers will know Holy Trinity as “that church on Graham with the really nice little yard.” I pass by St. James on my way to work and know it as “that church on King with the bigger, nicer yard.” Seriously, feast your eyes:


Also, it’s not fenced off, and I have yet to see anyone sleeping on a bench in broad daylight. So you should have no trouble bringing a picnic.

Question for readers: If you recently moved or are planning to move to a new city, what part of your current city would you miss most? Let me know on Twitter at @JessC_MB.

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Jess Chapman is a TV producer and freelance writer, recently transplanted from Winnipeg to Toronto, who hasn’t visited Eglinton Park yet, but hopes it’s similar enough to Kildonan Park.