A taste of Toronto 2013

It's always a treat to visit a city you've seen a hundred times through a new set of eyes. Toronto can bring both disgust and wonder to a visitor, depending on where or what they end up doing. I headed down for a conference, which meant my evenings were free for me to roam around. And since I'm limited to the areas around my hotel, friends I saw worked around my schedule. We found/they introduced me to some pretty delicious and funky places.

Don Don Izakaya (130 Dundas St W  Toronto, ON M7A 2C7) 
You're likely to miss this unless you look up. It's a moderately priced restaurant located above some pretty obscure stores on Dundas. An Izakaya is how I would describe Japanese tapas. Dishes are small and full of flavour. My favourite item on the menu includes the pork belly buns which came to $7 for 2. It's a relaxed place where you could enjoy what's on the plate and people watch at the same time.

Java House (537 Queen St. W Toronto, ON)
Way down the part of Queen St. W known as the garment district, there's a dive-looking place that serves cheap drinks in a grown up college bar setting. It's a jeans and t-shirt kinda place, and I simply adored it. Small booths, dim lights and no annoying indie band playing crappy bass. You can kick back and just talk for hours without the wait staff giving you the evil glare. Drinks are cheap and watered down, but it's the company you bring with you that makes its enjoyable. The only downside is the hazardous trip to the washroom, which is through some tight turns and greasy floors. Did I mention that this was a dive bar?

Ai Wei Wei
The AGO always puts up a great show for the fall. This year, it's controversial artist Ai Wei Wei. I went in with low expectations since there was just so much hype surrounding him. I left very impressed with the small collection. It was beautiful, though-provoking and deeply touching. Those are all cliche adjectives, aren't they? It's hard to stand in front of a wall of names, birth dates and grades of children who died in the Sichuan earthquake due to poorly built government schools. How can you not feel something?

If I have any criticism to share, is that I wished the AGO had more space to properly display his works. They are so beautiful, they need  that much more space. This is definitely one my favourite shows in recent memory.
I only ever seem to visit Toronto for weddings and birthday parties now. It was lovely to go back to the city, just to experience the city itself. It only goes to show how even cities you've frequented enough in the past is never static and that there is always something to offer if you just make the effort to explore.