University of Toronto Magazine University of Toronto Magazine

Meet the Neighbours

A thriving urban community surrounds and supports the U of T

Who serves the best slice? Where can you find the biggest selection of bargain books? Which cinema shows cult classics at cut-rate prices? Our guide to the U of T community identifies the people, businesses and organizations we count on for, well, almost everything.


The Bloor Cinema (506 Bloor W.) shows second-run films and cult classics at cut-rate prices, inspiring scores of movie buffs and future filmmakers. (Director Atom Egoyan [BA 1982 Trinity] saw David Lynch’s Eraserhead at the Bloor and reviewed it in a campus paper way back in 1979.) “Many alumni tell us they lived at the Bloor during their university days,” says cinema president Carmelo Bordonaro.

The student outreach program at Tarragon Theatre (30 Bridgman Ave.) offers discounts, tours and behind-the-scenes discussions. But the campus connection goes way back: Tarragon founder Bill Glassco (PhD 1966) directed his first play in a student lounge at Victoria College.

The Royal Ontario Museum (100 Queen’s Park) began as a joint venture between U of T and the Ontario government. While it is separate from the university today, many curators are cross-appointed to U of T, and they often involve students in their research work. The ROM has inspired (and employed) generations of students. “It was a great place in which you could be transported to another world. I remember gazing at the Chinese murals and the European collections for hours,” says Saverio Mancina (BA 1990 Victoria), a public-relations executive who landed his first marketing job with the ROM’s Visitor Services. Indeed, few students can resist the romance of the ROM, says information manager Julia Matthews. “They come here and fall in love.”

Buddies in Bad Times Theatre (12 Alexander St.) hosts the Hussihop, an occasional event for women staged by U of T’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered student group. Many students also enjoy the theatre’s transformation into a cabaret on weekends.

Factory Theatre (125 Bathurst St.) offers student discounts and opportunities to meet actors, playwrights and production people. Founder Ken Gass teaches at University College, and many students have followed him into professional theatre.

The Art Gallery of Ontario (317 Dundas St. W.) has been a close partner of U of T since its founding in 1900. Art history students benefit from the AGO’s collection, and many curators also teach at U of T.

Besides owning a pair of Elton John’s seven-inch platforms, the Bata Shoe Museum (327 Bloor W.) began a lecturing partnership this fall with the School of Continuing Studies. Topics range from Inuit art to art as an investment.

U of T students have always snapped up rush seats to the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (212 King St. W.). “In the 1990s when I was a student, $10 rush seats were a real bargain, and students would buy them so we could watch our instrumental coaches perform, and listen to great repertoire and works we were currently studying,” says Marilyn Brown (BMus 1995), director of development and alumni relations at the Faculty of Music. “It was a big deal to sit in the choir loft (those were often the only seats left) and look so closely at the instruments and to watch the conductor face-on.” Today, in addition to offering young-adult discounts, the TSO provides U of T with hundreds of cut-rate tickets for eager students exploring the city’s night life.

The Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art (111 Queen’s Park) is a restful place to contemplate 18th-century porcelain figures and ritual vessels of once-great civilizations. Plus, students get a 40 per cent discount at the door. “I still have the ancient figure I made when I joined my floor to take pottery classes at the ceramic art museum,” says Elaine Lai (BCom 2003 Victoria), who lived right next door for four years at Annesley Hall.

From low-rent taprooms to historic taverns, there’s no shortage of drinking establishments that have become legends to generations of U of T students, faculty and staff. Among the most revered:

The Madison Avenue Pub (or “Maddy”), at 14 Madison Ave., is a Toronto landmark. Older alumni remember it as a ground-floor oasis in a renovated boarding house; today’s students know it as a never-ending party that explodes across four floors and shady outdoor patios.

For 127 years, Ye Olde Brunswick House (481 Bloor St. W.) has been a favourite campus hangout. Some 900 students prove it every Saturday night in winter, enjoying frat and sorority package deals that let them fast-track the lines and avoid cover charges. “You’ve got to go at least once,” the newspaper advised U of T students this fall in its annual bar guide.

O’Grady’s Tap and Grill (171 College St.) lures you in with cheap grub and wins you over with its friendly atmosphere, says alumna Meg Sethi (BA 1992 New College). “Management really seem to care about their customers and make an effort to get to know them. General manager Sakie Bakoyiannis stops by regulars’ tables to see how they are doing and make sure they are enjoying themselves.”

Hip staff and cheap suds make the Bedford Academy (36 Prince Arthur Ave.) popular with students putting off their term papers. The Academy offers a second-floor lounge with comfy couches and sports on TV.

The Dance Cave/Lee’s Palace (529 Bloor W.) is a two-level venue for alternative rock and dancing. “Ideal for younger undergrads,” says the newspaper. “The place is dark and the floor is hot.”

El Convento Rico Nightclub (750 College St.) is a popular gay bar that features flamboyant drag shows, beauty pageants and Thursday Havana Nights. Frequented by U of T students of all sexual preferences, “this is where many ‘straight’ students get their first taste of gay culture,” says one U of T staffer. 5ive Nightclub (5 St. Joseph St.) is renowned for its monthly “Homohops.”

Many students have found salvation – and decent tea towels – at Honest Ed’s (581 Bloor W.), the “world-famous bargain store” that has kept three generations of students in groceries, housewares, clothing and Elvis busts.

Gwartzman’s Canvas and Art Supplies (448 Spadina Ave.) has been looking after U of T students for 50 years. Architecture students come in for tracing paper and balsawood for models; engineers pick up rulers, set squares and tech pens. Says Ren Thomas (BLA 2000), “I have never come across such bargains, nor such in-depth knowledge of materials and processes.”

Kinko’s Copies (459 Bloor W.) has saved many students on deadline with its nine copiers, 10 computers and ’round-the-clock service. “Some days the place is full of students at three o’clock in the morning,” says manager Bob Champagne.

Active Surplus Electronics (345 Queen St. W.) is an electronics and oddities warehouse on trendy Queen Street West. It’s a lifesaver for engineering students seeking such treasures as tank periscopes, fog machines and light-emitting diodes. “Our tag-playing robot used Lexan [a type of plastic], motors, electronic components, gears and wheels procured at Active Surplus,” says Theresa Robinson (BASc 2000).

Yung Sing Pastry Shop (22 Baldwin St.) was a staple for Greg Terakita (BA 1985 Innis, MEd 1990): “Its savoury buns are absolutely essential for the starving U of T student to survive four or more years of intellectual baking.”

From dim and dusty used bookshops to cavernous superstores, the St. George campus enjoys a bounty of bookstores. Among the favourites:

Book City (501 Bloor W.) consistently tops Torontonians’ list of favourite bookstores. Worldly yet fun, it’s a browsers’ paradise. “I’d like to recognize Book City for carrying not only my textbooks, but books I wanted to read as well,” says Joanne Kourakos (BA 2002 Woodsworth).

You can also browse all day at the flagship store of Indigo (on Bay south of Bloor), although the ambience is definitely corporate.

Bob Miller Book Room (180 Bloor W.) is an off-campus institution specializing in the humanities and social sciences. “I remember the staff at this bookstore being very helpful and actually interested in the lives of students,” says alumnus Saverio Mancina.

Toronto Women’s Bookstore (73 Harbord St.) is an essential community resource and meeting place, the spiritual (and not-for-profit) home of U of T feminism.

Among used bookstores, Atticus Books (84 Harbord) is the most academically inclined. Also much loved are the Recycled Book Shop (162 McCaul St.) and Ten Editions Books (698 Spadina Ave.).

Queen’s Park (not the legislature, but the wooded park to the north) has been an urban oasis for thousands of U of T students. A perfect spot for a romantic walk.

Many a homesick frosh has raced out of class Friday afternoon to the Toronto Coach Terminal (610 Bay St.), the main hub for Greyhound buses and U of T students heading home for the weekend. “They’re a big part of our business,” says terminal manager Matt Turner.

For many freshmen new to the big city, Kensington Market (west of Spadina, south of College St.) offers a first taste of multiculturalism. Its narrow streets explode with vintage clothing stores, fruit stands and fishmongers. Says one recent alumna: “I went there every Saturday for four years, I swear.” Sue McClelland, an alumni development officer in the chemistry department, recalls it being more colourful 20 years ago, when you could buy live chickens and jackrabbits. “It was a much more old-fashioned market then.”

U of Ters – like everyone else – love the bustling cacophony of downtown Chinatown (the largest and most commercial of six GTA Chinatowns). New visitors are always welcome: you may find tonight’s dinner snapping its claws in a water-filled bucket, piled high in an outdoor bin, or hanging down with its legs tied together. The Varsity calls Chinatown “the exact opposite of traditional Anglo Toronto – it unapologetically confronts the passerby with all manner of sights, sounds and smells.”

“U of T’s best neighbour would have to be Baldwin Street,” the café-lined block just south of campus, says alumnus Dagmar Gross (MSc 1990). “The street as a whole, with its many restaurants that have changed over the years and the few that have remained the same, added immensely to my experience as a graduate student. The patios on that quiet little side street provided an opportunity to actually get outside and experience a bit of summer. In the winter, it was a treasured haven just a few steps away from the campus.”

Massimo’s Pizza & Pasta (302 College St.) has served up huge slices to the U of T community for 22 years. The university itself keeps an account, says co-owner Tony de Bartolo, “for business lunches.”

The Green Room (296 Brunswick Ave.), tucked away in an alley south of Bloor, feels like everyone’s secret. Alumnus Michael Leach (BA 1999 Victoria, MA 2003) claims he “wouldn’t have written any papers of any decent quality” without “the cheap, good food and lax ambience that allows you to occupy one table for hours – having ordered only one coffee.”

The Red Room (444 Spadina Ave.) is a regular haunt for philosophy students looking to get existential. Like its patrons, the place is a bit dark and moody. “It attracts the cool student crowd,” says Thomas MacKay (BA 1993 Trinity, MA 1994), “or the people like me who like to go back to being among cool students.”

Panzerotti Village & Café (635 Markham St.) serves Italian sandwiches, thin-crust pizza, pasta and, says alumna Julie Mollins (BA 2002 Innis), “the best green tomato-and-bocconcini salads in Toronto.” Owner Raffeale Sinopoli says he does his own shopping and “cooks most things to make sure everything’s OK.”

The Kom Jug Yuen Restaurant (371 Spadina Ave.) is a regular haunt for students (just don’t ask them to spell it). Most know the humble enterprise simply as “the Jug.” Alumni recall late-night runs for crispy beef, Shanghai noodles and Chinatown’s best barbecued pork.

Mars Restaurant (432 College St.) is a retro diner (circa 1951) with famous bran muffins and dinner specials that rival Mom’s. Former Ontario premier Bob Rae (BA 1969 UC) says he still visits for comfort food such as rice pudding.

Cora Pizza (656 Spadina Ave.) won the 2003 Independent Weekly Pizza Challenge for its fresh, imaginative ingredients. One former student, now in Hong Kong, writes, “Many of my undergraduate all-night essay-writing sessions were fuelled by a slice or two from Cora’s. If you hear any rumours about Cora’s expansion to Hong Kong, don’t hesitate to write.”

Harbord Bakery (115 Harbord St.) is much loved by students, staff and faculty. Tempting salads, quiches and empanadas are all produced by the tireless staff. Sue Ann Bourbonniere (BA 1976 UC) calls it “the best excuse for getting out of bed on the weekend.”

It’s not fancy, but one U of T staffer notes that Tim Hortons (246 Bloor W.) is the site of “millions of U of T people awaiting the magical call of ‘Neeeext pleeease!’” The action really heats up during exams, adds owner Jason St. Croix. “I make sure we’ve got lots of staff on, because that’s when everybody spends a little longer awake than they do asleep.”

Noah’s Natural Foods (322 Bloor St. W.) offers many students their first exposure to all-natural health foods. This organic café and food store sells bulk goods and vitamins, along with specialties such as bread and Fontaine Sante’s vegetarian pâté.

St. Thomas’s Anglican Church (383 Huron St.) has transformed more than a few lives at U of T. “I was a member of their choir for two years when I was a graduate student at U of T in the late 1970s,” says alumnus Simon Paul (MA 1979). “It re-inspired a love for liturgical choral music – sung in its proper context – in me that lives on to this day.” The church remains a refuge for faithful students today. “We know where we’re situated, and we have a definite yearning to be useful in the university scene,” says Rev. Dr. Brian Freeland (BCom 1951 Trinity).

Trinity St. Paul’s United Church (427 Bloor W.) is a socially and culturally active place of worship that enjoys a reputation for social activism and intellectual discourse. The church also provides meeting space for neighbourhood programs and performing arts groups such as Tafelmusik. A thin but steady stream of U of T students frequents the place – “but not as many as we used to get,” sighs longtime church member Marion Pope.

Consider Knox Presbyterian Church (630 Spadina Ave.) a home away from home. “My two older brothers and younger sister and I were all at U of T in the late 1950s and early ’60s,” recalls alumnus Paul Walker (BA 1961 UC). “All four of us were challenged and encouraged spiritually, intellectually and socially by the church.” Alex MacLeod, Knox’s director of university and young adult ministries, today runs a Bible study group for undergrads who come to the church “to ask questions about purpose.”

The First Narayever Congregation Egalitarian Synagogue (187 Brunswick Ave.), a tiny temple that seats 200, attracts “decent numbers” of U of T students on high holidays, along with a few regulars throughout the year. “We love students,” says Rabbi Edward Elkin. “We’re there for them if they want us.”

Volunteer Organizations
When student groups run into trouble, U of T’s office of student affairs often calls in St. Stephen’s Community House (91 Bellevue Ave.). This social service agency specializes in mediation and conflict resolution, as well as conducting much of the university’s student leadership training. “We’ve helped groups that have tied themselves in knots,” says Peter Bruer, manager of the conflict resolution service.

Faculty of Pharmacy staff deliver Meals on Wheels for the Scott Mission (502 Spadina Ave.) once a week. Many U of T volunteers prepare meals in the kitchen/dining room, stock shelves in the food bank, and sort and hang items in the clothing centre.

Canadian Blood Services (67 College St.) operates donor clinics on campus, particularly in the Medical Sciences Building. Says communications manager Doug Brenner: “We’ve had a long association with U of T and we get a pretty good response.”

University Health Network is a triumvirate teaching hospital (Toronto General, Toronto Western and Princess Margaret) for the university, and virtually every doctor at UHN has ties to U of T. “It’s an essential relationship, almost a marriage more than just a partnership,” says Dr. Richard Reznick, vice-president of education at UHN. “It’s a philosophical agreement to pursue a similar mission.”

U of T’s hospital links extend well beyond UHN. A recent Faculty of Medicine publication notes that “association with the Faculty of Medicine is the tie that binds together a community of 5,000 scholars and teachers, and 6,000 students and trainees, working at scores of different sites.” Specifically, U of T has full affiliations with eight other teaching hospitals (Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care, Bloorview MacMillan Children’s Centre, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, The Hospital for Sick Children, Mount Sinai Hospital, St. Michael’s Hospital, Sunnybrook and Women’s College Health Sciences Centre, and Toronto Rehabilitation Institute), and partial affiliations with 11 teaching hospitals and five public boards of health. “We feel there isn’t another place in Canada where you can experience such a cutting-edge practicum,” says Heather Ferguson, director of development and alumni relations at the Faculty of Nursing.

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Toronto’s major psychiatric health facility, provides numerous services at 250 College St. (former site of the Clarke Institute). A teaching hospital as well as a research facility, it’s also home to U of T’s department of psychiatry.

The Centre for Global eHealth Innovation (190 Elizabeth St.) works to study and promote technological innovations that will improve human health and make better use of health resources. The centre was created in 2000 by U of T and the UHN. “We want to work with anybody who’s interested in changing the health system into a good companion for people,” says centre director Alex Jadad.

Sheldon Levy, vice-president of government and institutional affairs, says U of T is so large that it has relationships with virtually every ministry at nearby Queen’s Park, from transportation to environment. Closest provincial partners include the ministries of: Training, Colleges and Universities, for funding and planning assistance; Health and Long-Term Care, which assists U of T in its role as the largest health sciences university in the country; and Enterprise, Opportunity and Innovation, which provides research funding mainly in sciences, engineering and medicine.

Toronto’s City Hall is a key partner in university planning and approval decisions. And now it’s also a next-door neighbour, given U of T’s recent opening of a residence at 89 Chestnut St. (the former Colony Hotel).

Research Partners
The headquarters for the new Medical and Related Sciences (MaRS) Discovery District are starting to bloom on College Street at University Avenue. Founded by leaders from Canada’s academic, business and scientific communities, MaRS aims to bring together the best scientific and business minds to accelerate commercialization of scientific discoveries and create new jobs and opportunities for Canadians. U of T is a donor to the project, and vice-presidents John Challis (research) and Felix Chee (business affairs) sit on the MaRS board. As well, U of T’s Innovations Foundation will be a tenant, along with The Exceler@tor, its new-technology business incubator.

Nortel Networks has updated the computers at the McLennan Physical Laboratories and contributed to the new Bahen Centre for Information Technology. “Its long-term support of the physics department and the computer science department truly enhanced my university career,” says alumnus Anthony J. Moots (BSc 2003 UC). Nortel has also provided many student internships through U of T’s Professional Experience Year co-op program.

The Fields Institute for Research in Mathematical Sciences (222 College St.) supports research in pure and applied mathematics, statistics and computer science. Founded in Waterloo in 1992, it moved to U of T in 1995, where it offers research and collaborative space to serious mathematicians from around the world. Director Kenneth R. Davidson says Fields “fills a niche for students,” giving them access to top scholars they’ve read about in textbooks.

The Royal Canadian Institute for the Advancement of Science (700 University Ave.) is best known for its free Sunday-afternoon science lectures, held at the Medical Sciences Building’s Macleod Auditorium. Upcoming lecture topics include Microbial Engineering (November 2), Globalization and Infectious Diseases (November 9), and Physics for Kids (November 30). Call (416) 977-2983.

As a fine arts student, Charles Pachter (BA 1964 UC) admits he found the department to be “uptight, close-mouthed, and lacking in enthusiasm about just about everything.” But Pachter, now one of Canada’s most prominent artists, remains true to his school. He has contributed two life-sized steel moose statues to U of T, one in the courtyard of Grad House, another at the corner of St. George and Harbord. A longtime area resident, Pachter has also donated a collection of his letters and documents to the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library.

Film buff Reg Hartt is famous for his collection of cartoons, classic silent films and early “talkies,” which he exhibits almost daily (accompanied by his uniquely acerbic commentaries) in the living room of his Bathurst Street home. Hartt calls himself a good neighbour to U of T, saying “I wisen up the kids who come here. I turn them on to things they didn’t expect to be turned on to and spark their creativity.”

Author and urban planner Jane Jacobs, who lives near Bloor and Bathurst, helped save the campus. She was instrumental in stopping the 1960s-era Spadina Expressway, which would have devastated the area. By and large, she considers the university a good neighbour: “It employs lots of interesting people who are often very constructive and useful in a neighbourhood.”

Judy Matthews (BA 1962 Trinity), a retired urban planner who lives at Bloor and Bedford, is concerned about the beauty of the campus. “I’d seen it all before the trees were cut down, and I remembered how lovely it was. I wanted to try to bring it back in a 21st-century way.” In 1995 she contributed $1 million to help revitalize St. George Street (narrowing the roadway and planting trees). More recently, she contributed to the greening of a key walkway between St. George and King’s College Circle. For a while, Matthews even worked for the university as a greenspace planner.


For alumni looking back at their rosy student days, many memories are linked with neighbourhood institutions that have since fallen off the map. Among them are eateries such as Switzer’s Deli, where students met for latkes, borscht, cheese blintzes and glimpses of the autographed celebrity photos; United Bakers, which buzzed with lively political discussions; and the Crest Grill, where conversation more often turned to pool and the track. And the great standby was Murray’s Restaurant: “great for tea and raisin toast for poor students who could not afford a real meal,” recalls commerce grad Brenda Williams.

Bob Bradstock (BPHE 1962, BA 1966 Woodsworth) remembers both the Dell Restaurant and Steak N’ Burger as fun, cheap places to get together. “They were great for those of us who had daytime classes and worked at U of T at night.” And many alumni still mourn the passing of the Park Plaza’s King Cole Room – both its men’s beverage room and the larger room reserved for “Ladies and Escorts.” William Russell (BA 1961 UC) recalls retreating to the KCR for “often lively discussions of the war, women, financial problems, assignments, lectures, exams – not necessarily in that order.”

And who can forget such former cultural hotspots as the McLaughlin Planetarium, where ’70s students blissed out at laser light shows, or the Riverboat and the Purple Onion, early Yorkville coffeehouses that featured new artists such as Bruce Cockburn, Ian & Sylvia and Gordon Lightfoot. And from the early 1970s, Larry Cimino (BA 1973 St. Mike’s) fondly recalls dropping in on the War Amputees of Canada social hall on Wellesley Street. “We would spend time with the old gents drinking beer, playing pool, singing songs and listening to their old war stories. It was a great way to learn a bit about Canadian war history, mix with the generations, and procrastinate away a few hours under the rubric of not letting homework get in the way of a good education.”

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