“They make movies in Toronto?”
On a recent road trip to Toronto that involved lots of rain, many bathroom breaks, and much traffic once we hit the Canadian border, my friend and I finally arrived at our airbnb rental late on our first night. Too exhausted to navigate strange city streets in the dark, we decided on a night in. We had plenty of time to explore the city within the week we’d be staying there, so instead we turned to Netflix for the night and fittingly selected Scott Pilgrim vs. the World to celebrate our successful arrival in Toronto.
For those unfamiliar the cult classic, based on the comic book series by Bryan Lee O’Malley, follows Scott Pilgrim, portrayed by Michael Cera, and his friends as he rocks out and fights off his new girlfriend’s seven evil ex-boyfriends. The movie was filmed in Toronto and highlights many of the city’s best bars, restaurants, and hang out spots. O’Malley was also living in Toronto at the time was writing the comics and many of the settings and backgrounds he created were taken directly from his sketches of the city. The plot is heavily based in the Toronto underground music scene and features great music along with being hilarious. Watching the movie for probably my fifth time and knowing that these places were around the corner got me hyped-up and motivated. With a bit of internet research and Google map planning, we put together our Unofficial Scott Pilgrim Tour of Toronto. Our first stop on the tour was Casa Loma (Spanish for House on the Hill). In the movie, this is where Scott faces off against his second evil ex Lucas Lee, a movie star who is using the location as a movie set. In reality, this castle-like landmark located in mid-town Toronto was built as a Gothic Revival mansion by a millionaire in the early twentieth century, but has since been converted to museum. The architecture of this mansion is truly stunning and the small fountain area in the front is a great place to sit, relax, and take in Casa Loma’s artistry. And if you’re anything like me, you might choose to make this moment doubly enjoyable with another Canadian landmark, the Canadian Maple doughnut from Tim Horton’s. (The doughnut has yet to have been declared an official landmark my the Canadian government, but it most definitely should be.)
Casa Loma is perched high up on a hill overlooking the city, but you don’t need to go inside to get great views of the skyline, though they do offer tours. Just adjacent to the local castle is a small park featuring another stop on our Scott Pilgrim movie tour– The Baldwin Steps. It is here where Lucas Lee meets his demise in the film and also a great place to goof off and have a mini photo shoot with the Toronto skyline. Note: Watch out for the highly-ambitious joggers running up and down the steps.
Our next stop was Honest Ed’s, a store that I can not fathom a classification for. Though not prominently featured in the Scott Pilgrim movie, it does appear in the background of one of the scenes and shows up a few times in the original comics. This store sells just about everything and anything you could ever need, from Canadian souvenirs, to dish ware, to school supplies, to clothes, to blankets, dvds, etc. It’s impossible to leave without buying something. No really, we had to ask a worker to let us out the secret exit because there’s no way to get out without going through the cashier. If you’re in a pinch for some unforeseen travel necessity or just want to spend a few hours getting lost in the endless maze of affordable goodies, then Honest Ed’s is a must-stop. It’s tacky as hell, but in all the right ways.
Our trip to Honest Ed’s also brought us to great little area of thrift shops, record stores, and comic book stores. On the intersection of Bloor and Bathurst, there’s plenty to entertain on a fun day of shopping in Toronto.
For our final stop on the Scott Pilgrim tour, we had dinner and drinks at Sneaky Dee’s. This is a frequent hot-spot for the characters of the Scott Pilgrim world, though like Honest Ed’s it was also not featured in the film. Again, this was more prominent in the comics, showing the characters eating here on what seems like every other page. And having eaten here, I can completely understand why. It was very difficult not to come back every night of the trip for what was the most amazing Tex-Mex I’ve ever had (and no I’ve never been to Texas, so Sneaky Dee’s will remain my record holder for now). If it weren’t for the fact that Toronto is overflowing with amazing restaurants, I definitely would have blown all my food budget here. I had the delicious chicken quesadilla and a life-changing appetizer by the name of Mexican Bruschetta. Unfortunately, the lighting in the restaurant/bar was very dim so I don’t have any photos. You’re really just going to have to see and taste for yourself.
On top of the great food, Sneaky Dee’s has a great atmosphere. It’s the love child between a Mexican restaurant and a dive bar, with a venue for rock shows upstairs. They play great music and the walls are plastered in fliers for local shows and other events. It seems like this place is a sort of epicenter to Toronto’s indie-rock community, providing the two necessities to any hip twenty-something, good music and Mexican food. So with our stomachs bursting and our bodies exhausted from a long day of walking, our unofficial Scott Pilgrim Tour had come to an end. If you’re going to Toronto and are into video games, indie rock, and maybe comic books, please watch this movie. This was a great introduction to the city and a great way to stay clear of tourist traps and absorb some of the local culture. Feel free to comment and let me know if I missed any other Scott Pilgrim stops or any other awesome places Toronto has to offer!