Novella Picks the Realest ‘Best Of Toronto’

Artwork by Michelle Cheung for Novella Magazine

There are Best Of.. articles everywhere these days — the best brunch, the best shops, the best bars, the best theatre, not to mention the best restaurant for a particular dish like pizza, ramen, etc. Despite the information overload in the internet, some categories, also essential to getting the most out of the city, have been egregiously left out. Hence this somewhat tongue-in-cheek but in all honesty a well-curated list picked by Novella’s motley contributors! Take notes.

Best Place to Get Shitfaced

Every crazy drunken night has started and ended at Sweaty Betty’s located at 13 Ossington ave. The bartenders are really cool, it has a nice patio, and the drinks are cheap enough to make you ask yourself the next the day “how the hell did I get home?”. — Drew Brown, Editor-in Chief

McQueen’s Pub on Queen East is a great place for a series of afternoon pints. Start at three and by the time dinner bell rings, you’ll be well into conversations with the barkeeps — whose names I, naturally, forget — and the nice usually older regulars around the bar (shout-out to the older gentleman always on a tablet, drinking pinot-grigio and the PBR tall boy lady), and find it hard to leave. Order another pint, some wings, and sit around some more. — Hoon, Managing Editor

When you need a place to chill out with your friends, have a good drink, and take your epic dance moves for a spin, you need to get yourself to The Beaver (1192 Queen Street W.). The atmosphere is warm, the bartenders are friendly, and the drinks are cheap. After dancing the night away, the bar has a back patio where you can get some air and cool off before catching your second wind and starting the boozy dance party all over again. – Michelle, Social Media Coordinator

To be honest, I feel like you can get shitfaced pretty much anywhere. But, if I had to choose, I tend to enjoy getting shitfaced at The Ballroom on John Street. The atmosphere is chill, the dress code is casual, the decor is creative, and there are two floors to choose from, including a bowling alley on the first floor and a large restaurant, bar, pool table, ping pong table, and dance floor upstairs. The best part? Live music. — Claire Ball, Contributor

Best Place to Get Over a Hangover

Caplansky’s Deli (356 College St) With all day breakfasts full of eggs, smoked meats, and loads of lovely carbs, Caplansky’s is the perfect place to nurse that raging hangover. The atmosphere is nice and cozy, the service is excellent, and the prices aren’t terrible. Not to mention, compared to other weekend brunch spots, there are never any huge crowds or lines to ruin your day. I’ve spent many a weekend morning/afternoon gorging myself on challah french toast and smoked salmon eggs (and endless cups of coffee). — Adina Heisler, Contributor

Wake up, get dressed, and look up a pho joint closest to you; the fresh noodles soak it all up; the broth flushes everything out; the tai (rare beef, eye of round), nam (brisket), gan (tendons) rejuvenate. In my case, the neighborhood go-to is Pho Linh in Brockton Village. There’s one closer, on Bloor, and we won’t name names, but there are reasons for the extra hungover ten minute’s walk down to Pho Linh. If you’re in Leslieville, where I used to live, Com Tam 168 was always a solid choice. And if any champion out there knows of oxtail pho in the city, please give me a shout-out. — Hoon, Managing Editor

Clinton’s Tavern (693 Bloor Street West) — Let’s get real, no one really makes it out for hungover brunch before 12 pm. That’s why I ask, why restrict myself to breakfast foods? The club area at Clinton’s may be the place that did the damage the night before, but allow it to be your spot to replenish and you will be widely impressed by the chill atmosphere and massive amount of delicious and creative pub food. Other bonuses include it being affordable and any dish can be altered for a vegetarian! — Meg, Contributor

Last year I went to an event at Starving Artists located at 810 College St. and I am still dreaming about the waffles. This west-end all day brunch restaurant serves delicious stuffed waffles or just waffles with the ingredients on the side. I had the waffles with bacon inside and it was sooo good. Yes, after a night of drinking there is very little that can drag me out of bed but the food at Starving Artists is great motivation. -Drew Brown, Editor-in Chief

Recently I went to Insomnia on Bloor Street West and now I am obsessed. Their brunch menu is what dreams are made of. With a variety of benedicts to choose from, and the best coffee I’ve ever tasted. This place is a must try! Once you’re finished with your daily coffee dose, they have $5 mimosas! What better way to cure a hangover? — Claire Ball, Contributor

Best Place to Take Your Date When You’re Broke but Want to Look Rich

This really depends on how rich you want to look and how broke you actually are. But if I am to err on the side of optimism, let’s say you’re broke in the sense that Becky literally has no money but Ubers four blocks to a spa. In this case, consider Kintaro near Church and Wellesley. The dishes are conducive to sharing, the atmosphere feels cozy, if not swanky, and is nicely decorated, and pints of Sapporo are cheaper than glasses or a bottle of wine. A good night at Kintaro will set you back around $50~60 for two people. Not cheap, but not French bistro prices either. — Hoon, Managing Editor

I feel like this situation all comes down to the proper execution of the date. Going to any restaurant that’s not on the pricey side might just give you up right away, so why not play the “I’m too fly to want to go to nice places card” and maybe take the opportunity to show off the little places in Toronto you like to go to for fun. Some of my favourites are, hitting up Pancho’s Bakery in Kensington for a signature $1 churro and looking through the stores, putting some Baileys in a cup of coffee and heading up to the top of Casa Loma, or teaching your date your favourite card game over a tall can in Trinity Belwoods. Any of these will make a memorable date that will show them that you are a keeper despite your ever shrinking bank account. —Meg, Contributor

Best Place to Take Mirror Selfies

Nordstrom, The Eaton Centre — This is weirdly specific but the Nordstrom bathrooms are hella nice and are the perfect size and length to take full outfit pictures. The lighting is decent and it’s not too shabby to post a pic with a fancy af bathroom in the background. Maybe people will assume you shop at Nordstrom. You’re welcome. — Natasha Grodzinski, Contributor 

In the privacy and coziness of your private domain, be it the living room, bathroom, or kitchen countertop. Doing so also gives you extra good karma points for saving other people from having to see you try multiple times to get that shot right. As they say, way to hell is paved with publicly taken selfies then posted on Instagram. — Hoon, Managing Editor

Locals Only on King Street West has exceptional mirror selfie potential. Honestly, I don’t really take mirror selfies frequently, but I’ve already planned my next one to be taken here. The bathrooms have decorative wallpaper that makes for a great background, and the mirrors have a soft light around them so the lighting is on point. Mirror selfies from the Locals Only bathroom are definitely Instagram worthy. — Claire Ball, Contributor

Best Place to Buy Art When You’re not a Art Snob

Museum gift shops always have good selections of nicely printed posters, either framed or not. They also have puzzles that can be glued afterwards and framed, if you’re into that sort of thing, which I unashamedly am. So next time you visit the AGO or ROM or wherever, don’t skip on the gift shop! Mingle with the tourist group and discuss best bargains. — Hoon, Managing Editor

Once you walk into Kid Icarus (205 Augusta Avenue) in the eclectic Kensington Market, you will see beautifully well-designed posters plastered on the walls, handmade cards, and stationary goods. They are a design shop that specializes in printing, and if you feel like stretching your own artistic muscles, they offer workshops in screen-printing and linoleum carving. Be sure to give yourself at least thirty minutes to explore this little shop — it will be worth your time. — Michelle, Social Media Coordinator

Best Neighborhoods for Thrift Shopping

Bloordale — The strip along Bloor St. in the west-end between Dundas West and Ossington is filled with tons of thrift stores. You’ve got everything from Value Village and Vintage Depot to smaller independent stores all within a fifteen-minute-walks of one another. My personal recommendations are the Odd Finds General Store and Ransack the Universe. Perfect for spending a Saturday afternoon browsing away. —Natasha Grodzinski, Contributor

Parkdale — Personally, I’ve always been an avid Queen West vintage buyer (usually between John and Bathurst). However, the other day I sat on the 501 streetcar a little longer and was in absolute clothing bliss. From Public Butter to House of Vintage, my Levis collection has doubled in size and expanded in quality! A definite must go! — Meg, Contributor

Best Thing to Buy at LCBO When You’re Hosting

Jive Elderflower Pearl Edition Sparkling Wine $8.30 — Not only is this one of the LCBO’s  best-kept secrets, it clocks in at just about $9.40 after taxes. Making it unbelievably cost effective when hosting a party. But don’t let the price fool you, this stuff tastes like citrus, flowers, Paris, and sunshine in a bottle. The stuff is so good you could probably bring loved ones back to life by just sprinkling this elixir of the Gods over their grave. I stand behind Jive sparkling one so much that if it was socially acceptable, I’d pour some into a travel mug and start my day with it. — Chris Zaghi, Fashion Editor

Bulleit Rye is $40 and that may seem like a lot until you consider that it’s a multi-awards winning Rye and that you can make Sazeracs, Old Fashioneds, and Manhattans, drink it on the rocks, drink it neat, drink it out of the bottle, cook with it, and still have some left over for the day after in case you need the hair of the dog. You may ask, I like it fine but what if my friends don’t like whiskey? Well, nothing wrong with a party of one. — Hoon, Managing Editor

This may sound strange but Twisted Tea Original is a great go-to drink to have stocked in your fridge if you’re hosting. They’re refreshing, delicious, and, just in case things get a little rowdy, they go super easy if you need to start chugging or shotgunning. So make sure you buy the cans instead of the bottles! You never know when you might need them. — Claire Ball, Contributor

Best Place to See a Band You’ve Never Heard Of

I don’t know that many bands, so I’m not sure if the bands I’ve never heard of are necessarily bands everyone’s never heard of, and I’d hate to frown and have malicious thoughts at someone who’s supposedly known the said bands since they were in utero. But the last couple of times I’ve been to REX on Queen West, the bands, some of them student bands, were really great. — Hoon, Managing Editor

The Hideout (423 College Street) — I was personally offended when the Hideout closed the doors of their always bumpin’ Queen West location but ecstatic when learning that they’d be just down the road at a new location on College! The venue does a really great job at hiring bands that will play for the people in the bar. Even if you’ve never heard of the band, you’re bound to join the dance floor and hear a great mix of the bands personal songs and covers! —Meg, Contributor

Self-claimed as the best place for live music and cold beer, it’s hard to argue with The Dakota Tavern (249 Ossington Avenue). When I feel like visualizing myself in an indie folk music video, this is my go-to. The bar, with low ceilings and Christmas lights strung on stage all year around, offers a more intimate experience with bands. Order a few beers with your friends and you might even find yourself belting out some tunes. – Michelle, Social Media Coordinator

Best Underrated Festivals

TURF (Toronto Urban Roots Fest) — I wouldn’t necessarily call TURF underrated because it is quite popular, but it’s definitely not on the level with other music festivals you see come through the area. The headliners get attention but the rest of the festival is low key. The line up is a mix of bigger names and small bands touring around the country – some of those smaller bands draw small crowds, but those shows are a blast to be at. You can absolutely find one of your new favourite bands here and take in some of the amazing food options they have at the same time. — Natasha Grodzinski, Contributor

Corn Fest on St. Clair, happening later this year in August, is just something I’d like to attend. I expect a lot of varieties of corn, cuban corn, grilled corn, popcorn, tortillas, tamales, and more. Apparently there will be free BBQ as well. — Hoon, Managing Editor

Best Place to Workout and not Feel Judged

The YMCA — There’s a reason there’s a song about it. You get your regular gym nuts at the Y, but there are also so many people of all ages that go for so many different reasons. We have seniors chilling, kids running around and everyone in between just trying to do their thing. Everyone’s going at their own pace. Just avoid those in the middle of a personal trainer session. They can get intense. — Natasha Grodzinski, Contributor

Sully’s Boxing Gym is an old school boxing gym up on Dupont by Dufferin. You might get yelled at and pushed to do better but nobody will judge you, as long as you keep trying. The crowd is always friendly and Tony and Winslow, the two beyond fantastic coaches, are always helpful. — Hoon, Managing Editor

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Tried and Tested: Levi’s New 501 Skinny Jeans

It’s hard to argue that Levi’s® is not synonymous with jeans. Over the years, the denim market has grown tremendously, and while some brands have come and gone, the iconic denim brand still remains. When we heard about the next member of the Levi’s® 501® family — the new 501® Skinny — we knew we wanted to try them on and put them to the test. Our fashion contributor Liat Neuman got her hands on the SUPERCHARGER wash for women, and our Editor-in Chief Drew Brown was able to try out the HILLMAN wash for men.

Both pairs of jeans are a new kind of skinny jeans, featuring everything we all love about the classic 501® original, but with that skinnier fit. The 501® Skinny adds an authentic, vintage feel to your closet that only the creators of the blue jeans can offer.

“We are very careful when we touch the 501®, and we do it with a lot of respect,” explains Jonathan Cheung, the Head of Design at Levi’s® Brand. “People have been altering their vintage 501® jeans for a snug, skinnier fit for years, so we followed that as inspiration and created a vintage-looking 501® Skinny.”

Liat and Drew headed to Nordstorm and selected items that will take their jeans from day to night and over the weekends.

Drew’s Day look:

For my day time look, I paired the 501® Skinny with a faux fur bomber jacket from Express and a Trovata t-shirt from my own closet. This look can take me from the office to drinks with friends, or to one of the many work-related events. I have been a fan of Levi’s for many years and I love the fact that they always work well with items from my wardrobe, and, unlike the designer jeans I have purchased, my Levi’s still look brand new.

Drew’s Evening look:

I dressed up the skinny jeans with a Paul Smith printed button-up and a blazer for a chic nighttime look. The fit of the jeans and the blazer makes the look sharp and dressy rather than casual. Being vertically challenged, I love skinny jeans because they make me feel and appear a bit taller.

Drew’s Weekend look:

I fell in love with this sweatshirt from KENZO and they look great with the jeans. This look is perfect for brunch on the weekend or running errands around the city. You can style them with a pair of cool white kicks or your favourite pair of shoes. One thing I did notice during this test was not only did the jeans make everything I picked look great but they are also  super comfy, which is a plus.

Liat’s Day look:

Blouse: Theory, Jacket: BCBG, Heels: Bata

During the day, I am usually juggling business meeting and my duties as a mom, so I was looking for an outfit that will be comfy yet put together. You can’t go wrong with a classy pair of Levi’s that creates a professional look. I chose a structure black blazer for a slightly serious appeal and paired it with an office-friendly crisp white button down shirt with cutout details. I completed the look by adding nude glossy pumps for an instant elegant-polished touch.

Liat’s Evening Look: 

Shirt: Robert Rodriguez, Heels: Guess

After a busy work day, the night requires a more glamorous and sexy outfit, so I decided to transform my day look into a night one without changing my favourite Levi’s jeans. I picked up this playful off the shoulder top, since it’s not only a huge trend this season but also very flattering to any body type. To add a gorgeous pop of colour, there is nothing like pair of stiletto heels with floral prints to finish the look.

Liat’s Weekend look:

Shirt:The Kooples, Sneakers: Adidas

During the weekend, wearing a comfy outfit is my first priority. As such, I decided to adopt the classic Canadian tuxedo,  the denim on denim ensemble. It’s effortless, easy to wear, and never goes out of style. I pair the jeans with a embroidered button down denim shirt and a pair of Adidas floral sneakers because of the cool fun-vibe they create. Since these jeans are high waisted, they give my body a great shape and allow me to tuck the shirt in without having to worry about my imperfections.

The new edition will be available for men and women in a variety of finishes and in light to dark washes with the true original 501® button fly. For more information, visit the Levi’s website here.

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TRIED AND TESTED PARTY DRESSES — NORDSTROM

The hunt for the perfect party dress during the holiday season can take lots of efforts, mentally and physically. It can get somewhat stressful, trying to find the time to spoil yourself with a new dress (or more…), while taking care of shopping for gifts, attending parties, or planning parties for your own friends and family.

For most of us, it’s the busiest time of the year, so to make things easy for you, I went on a pilgrimage to Nordstrom, searching for the one of a kind dress that will hang off the body just the right way, make one feel special from head to toe. Like in a fairy tale, I used three magic words: fancy, comfortable, and confident. And they were the key to finding a dress’s way into my heart and hopefully into my budget, too. To help you see through the festive period, here are some of the options for the endless parties you are bound to attend.

The LBD Update

You can never go wrong with the little black dress, this is one of the wardrobe essentials that always does the trick. The key is to glam up your LBD so it will look festive and fun. Either dig through your own accessories for some golden assembles that resemble the Christmas and New Year’s eve spirit or find a dress with dedicated metallic details that gives it a glamorous touch. These two dresses are a great way to kick off the party season: Just swap out flats for heels and choose a statement clutch before making your fashionable entrance.

Dresses: Ted Baker

Rock the Ruffles

Here is another playful take on the little black dress — ruffles and frills. They are two of the biggest trends this season and will add drama and elegance to your outfit in a charming way. And that what makes an ultimate evening look. Afraid of looking too tacky? Opt for a structured lace dress or slip on an off-the-shoulder dress that embraces your inner femininity. Pair it with classic heels and minimal jewelry for a sophisticated appearance.

Dress: Cinq à Sept

Shine Bright

Turn up the fun factor with a shiny material that defines the holiday season: Sequins! For all the fashionistas out there, this is the perfect time to get out of your comfort zone and dress up big time with one statement piece that scream pure fun. I chose this colorful wrap dress because it’s a perfect match for parties. For starters, simply pair the exotic texture with a chunky cardigan or leather sports jacket and avoid wearing it with stilettos.

Dress: Kate Spade

Dare to Wear Pink

Even though red is the signal that the holiday season is upon us, in my opinion pink is the refreshing version of red. Since holiday fashion is all about celebrating the joy of life, I choose fuchsia as the best candidate for the season. Beside the fact that pink has been a dominant colour on the Fall/Winter 2016-2017 catwalk, there is something about this colour that speaks of a desire for the carefree days of childhood. I picked this easy breezy dress because I love how it’s full of movement. It’s a perfect piece that can take you from day to night and it can easily accommodate accessories depending on the event you are aiming for. To give it an edgy touch, pair it with ankle boots and solid colour tights.

Dress: Kate Spade

The Funky Way

If you consider yourself as a fashion forward girl, this dress might be the ideal dress for you. While browsing the women’s department, this dress immediately caught my eyesThe structured party dress, in an hourglass silhouette, with lipstick & mascara cosmetics prints is a good reason to jump out of bed for a night out. Just put on your dancing dress and get into the celebratory mood. There’s a truth to the statement that fashion doesn’t need to take itself too seriously and this is the proof that a sense of humour never hurt anybody, even when it comes to high-end fashion.

Dress: Alice + Olivia

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Holiday Beauty Gift Guide 2016

Christmas will officially be upon us in only a few short weeks, so it’s crunch time if you haven’t already put a dent in your holiday shopping. Everyone needs a little help when it comes to gift giving. If you’re unsure what to get the beauty guru and makeup junkies on your shopping list, have no fear, Novella is here to help. From makeup to skin care, to scents and body treatments, we’ve got gift or stocking stuffer ideas for everyone on your list. These treasures are sure to please the beauties in your life.

Mèreadesso Clear/Tinted Lip Treats

3up

These are an awesome gift for someone who loves lip colour and chap sticks. Not only are they lightweight, but they are also a great primer for any lipstick, gloss, or liner. Plus, they’re perfect for the winter because they are super moisturizing! Can someone say mistletoe?

Available at Nordstrom: $28

Laura Mercier Translucent Powder

lauramercier_transpowder

This powder is the holy grail in the world of beauty bloggers. If the YouTube beauty guru in your life doesn’t already have this, it’s the gift that will make their Christmas.

Available at Sephora: $47

The Good Bar Soap “Goodie Bag”

goodbar_goodiebag

This little bag of body treats contains the perfect variety of soaps and body care to give your special someone the chance to dabble in a variety of Good Bar Soap products (so they can pick their favourite). Not only are The Good Bar’s soaps handcrafted, and all-natural, but they are also made in Toronto.

Available at The Cure Apothecary in Toronto or at TheGoodBar.ca: $12

L’aromatica perfume “Dapper” Eau de Toilette

dapper_5ml

This is the ideal gift for the tomboy in your life who doesn’t necessarily wear a lot of makeup or use a lot of beauty products. This unisex scent is one of L’aromatica’s most popular. This fragrance is masculine, woodsy, and spicy, but sexy nonetheless.

Since it is made from alcohol in Oregon, it can’t be shipped to Canada. However, you can find it at The Cure Apothecary in Toronto: $30

Doe Hair Pact “Bora Bora” hair mask

borabora

For the person that is always colouring and changing their hair, gift them with this moisturizing mini escape. The “Bora Bora” hair pact mask contains coconut and avocado oil and is meant to nourish the driest and dullest of hair. Plus, it smells like a mini vacation.

Available at The Cure Apothecary in Toronto, Urban Outfitters, or DoeIt.ca: $17

Kunye Nourish Face Mask

nourishfm

Known as the “green smoothie for your face, this organic vegan face mask is perfect for the health conscious, all natural, beauty lover. Its gentle formula combined with wheatgrass, neem, spirulina, sea kelp, and Canadian bentonite clay is great for all skin types.

Available at The Cure Apothecary in Toronto or Kunye.ca: $38

L’Oreal Telescopic mascara

telescopic

I know drugstore mascara seems like a rather unconventional gift for the holidays, but mascara is arguably one of the most important items in any girl’s makeup bag. This mascara is the gift that keeps on giving, but without the scary price tag.

Available at Shoppers Drug Mart: $15

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Surprise! Toronto Fashion Week is (sort of) back?

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Photo: CAFA

When it was announced that Toronto Fashion Week (TFW) had been cancelled, the reaction was a mix of sadness and acceptance–most people had seen it coming and were not surprised. But on October 16 and 17, 2016, Toronto’s fashion industry were treated to something almost exactly like TFW: FashionCAN. Hosted by Yorkdale Mall, in partnership with The Canadian Arts and Fashion Awards (CAFA)if you hadn’t known fashion week had been cancelled, you may not have been able to tell at all!

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Photo: CAFA

Toronto Fashion Week favourites such as Greta Constantine, Stephan Caras, Jennifer TorosianUNTTLD, and Mackage (who opened a store in the mall) showed marvellously on a catwalk constructed in the newest Yorkdale expansion. Spring/Summer 2017 collections from Canadian designers, including all-stars Maison Marie Saint Pierre and Pink Tartan, worked brilliantly in the beautifully-windowed space with Nordstrom and Uniqlo as the tempting backdrops. All the usual bloggers and Toronto editors and photographers (even George Pimentel!) were present and even Jeanne Becker was at centre stage, interviewing designers after each show.

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Photo: CAFA

Without the tents and the chaos, this mini TFW disguised as something entirely new was actually a very pleasant way to see the pieces. The setting was intimate, no more than two rows, and between shows you could sip tiny bottles of champagne, explore the FashionCAN pop-up shop, or even slip into the mall.

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Photo: CAFA

A shopping mall may seem like an odd place to host a “fashion week” (well, two jam-packed days), but it was oddly fitting. The event showed the guests that the talent coming from Canada cannot be stopped and that a new way to show that is possible. We look forward to what will come next.

All photos sourced here