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The Best Tacos
in London

What’s trendier than tacos these days? Besides sushi burritos and pizza of course, not a whole lot! And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. From food trucks to pop-up shops, hole-in-the-wall’s, fast-food chains and locally owned family restaurants, authentic Mexican eateries and modern fusion taco spots are all the rage right now, and this trend shows no signs of slowing down.

London has recently seen a wave of new restaurants that’ll surely satisfy any hankering for a taco, and among the prevailing taco trend the locally owned, authentic eateries have seen an influx of foodies wanting to get their paws on the tastiest (and most authentic) tacos in town!

Read on to discover the best taco joints in the city, from authentic Latin cuisine to new and trendy spots, the Forest City has a ton to offer.

Neighbourhood: Downtown London
611 Richmond St. (map)
https://www.dostacos.ca/

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If you’re looking for a cheap, quick and reliable option, then Dos Tacos is the place for you! Dos Tacos is reminiscent of a classic taco spot that offers up the benchmarks, with a few twists. They’ve garnered an awesome reputation for themselves, with a premier location on the famous Richmond Row. Dos Tacos is the go-to spot for after the bar grub and weekday lunches.

The menu isn’t as extensive as others on this list, but for a quick service restaurant the options are diverse. They have five taco flavours – shrimp, chicken, cod, steak and sweet potato. Arguably the best part about Dos Tacos is the customizable menu options. Once you’ve chosen your flavour combo, you then decide if you want it in a taco, loaded on fries or in a salad. They have tasty salad dressings made in-house such as jalapeno lime and honey chipotle. We also can’t fail to mention their out of this world salsas that range from mild (red guajillo chili), to medium (green tomatillo and jalapeno) and up to hot (yellow habanero and pineapple). Dos Tacos has quickly become the local watering hole for western students and young professionals alike. Next time you have a hankering for a taco or loaded up fries, check them out and you won’t be disappointed.

We interviewed the guys down at Dos Tacos for one of our #BusinessOfTheWeek segments! If you haven’t checked it out, click HERE to watch! You can find out a bit more about where they came from and what their tasty tacos are all about. Our personal favourite is the Cod Father, a lip-smacking mix of delicious, lightly fried cod, always fresh pico de gallo, cabbage, salsa and their to-die-for guacamole!

Neighbourhood: Downtown London
580 Talbot St. (map)
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The Wolf brothers have done it again with their latest restaurant venture, Los Lobos. Riding fresh off the success of their previous restaurant, Wolf of Wortley, these brothers have provided London with an Instagram-worthy hot spot that’s not lacking in ambience or flavour.

They’ve taken the classic Mexican Day of the Dead theme and went full throttle. The restaurant is decked out with murals of skulls and vibrant decor reminiscent of badass Mexican nights and celebrations. While the decor is impressive, the food they’re serving up is even better. They have a multitude of appetisers including cauliflower queso and a variety of dips. Each taco is reasonably priced at $5, and the options are quite varied.

From the classics like lightly fried cod and pork carnitas to beef cheek, sweet potato, blackened cod, shrimp and scallops, the toppings are fresh, and the flavours are explosive! Pro tip: even if you’re a die-hard carnivore try the cauliflower taco and you won’t be disappointed. With perfectly fried nachos and radishes for garnish, the guacamole is a go-to at Los Lobos as a shareable appetizer. Always satisfying and fresh!

No Mexican restaurant would be complete without an extensive margarita list, and Los Lobos offers some innovative twists on this classic cocktail. If you’re feeling adventurous, we recommend the pineapple jalapeno and strawberry cumin margaritas! They’ll leave you feeling refreshed on the outside and warm on the inside, perfect to wash down those delicious tacos.

Neighbourhood: Old East Village
784 Dundas St. (map)
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Tacos are best when they’re done in authenticity. With the catch phrase, ‘keep it authentic,’ True Taco is a Salvadorian and Mexican restaurant located in the beloved Old East Village of London, Ontario. A family run hole-in-the-wall, True Taco has dedicated themselves to providing Londoners with authentic Latin food made with loyalty to the original cuisine. The atmosphere of the restaurant is welcoming and they do take-out, catering and regular dine-in service.

The soft corn tortillas come with your choice of chorizo, beef barbacoa, beef tongue, bean or veggie mix and are topped with onions, cilantro, lime and homemade sauce. The tacos fillings are perfectly spiced and juicy, leaving the drippings down your hand as you eat them – always a sign of a good taco! Next time you’re in the OEV don’t forget to drop in and grab yourself a quick bite to eat from one of London’s best kept secrets – True Taco!

Neighbourhood: Oxford Park
30 Wharncliffe Rd. (map)
http://underthevolcano.ca/

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Colourful Mexican décor and tasty Mexican food, this cheery family-friendly restaurant has become a hub for families and friends who want a casual spot with delicious and satisfying Mexican style grub. Located on Wharncliffe Road just past Riverside, Under the Volcano has been serving up classic Mexican entrees that are packed with flavour. Always fresh and delicious, the menu is seriously extensive with a ton of options including gluten, vegan and vegetarian items which Is always a win-win in our books! Not to mention, the portion sizes are huge, so you’ll never leave feeling hungry.

Their tacos come in either hard or soft shells, with a ton of options for fillings. Seasoned taco beef, medium spiced pulled pork, spiced chipotle steak, spicy cayenne beef, grilled chicken breast, mixed veggies, black bean, spinach and mushroom and jump shrimp. All the tacos are topped with lettuce, cheese, tomato and sour cream and come with your choice of two sides.

These tacos are the kind that’ll remind you of your childhood and how excited you’d get when your mom told you it was taco night! Next time you’re feelin’ like enjoying dinner in a vibrant and family-friendly atmosphere, definitely check out Under the Volcano. They do take-out express too! Take-out, vegan and vegetarian options are always a win in our books.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

Neighbourhood: Glen Cairn
772 Hamilton Rd. (map)
http://www.lonuestrolatinrestaurant.com/

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Do you value authenticity in your tacos? Do you prefer a hole-in-the-wall that serves up food you can tell was made with love and originality? Then Lo Nuestro Latin Restaurant is the place for you! A small eatery located on Hamilton Road in east London, Lo Nuestro has been serving up tasty and satisfying Latin cuisine since its opening. Their dedication to authenticity is shown in their meals that pay homage to Latin, Salvadorian and Mexican cuisine.

Lo Nuestro is a quaint, no frills eatery that is less concerned about the atmosphere, and more concerned about the food. For authentic Mexican tacos that don’t disguise the fillings with a ton of sauces or extraingredients. These tacos are filled with spiced meat, tomatoes, onions and cilantro. Leaving the flavours to speak for themselves – we highly recommend testing out the beef tongue tacos, you won’t be disappointed!

The Best Bowling Alleys
in London

The premise of bowling has been around for centuries, and it’s become a pastime that everybody from all walks of life can enjoy. Whether you’re a six-year-old going to a birthday party with your classmates, or a sixty-five-year-old joining a tenpin league on Tuesdays and Thursdays, bowling is always a great time. Luckily for Londoners, the Forest City is home to some great bowling alleys. These classic London establishments have planted their roots as reputable businesses providing Londoners with incredible memories since their opening. Read on to learn about the best places to bowl in London, Ontario!

Neighbourhood: Oxford Park
720 Proudfoot Lane (map)
http://fleetwayfun.com/

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Fleetway is a classic London destination that since its opening has solidified itself as a reputable bowling alley of choice amongst kids and adults alike! The major appeal comes with their undeniably fun glow-bowling and the fact that Dairy Queen is attached to it. The family traditions that have formed at Fleetway have become engrained in many Londoners childhood memories.

While the classic London destination stuck in our minds as an awesome childhood memory, it was impossible to ignore its ageing interiors and atmosphere. It soon became an outdated and unassuming spot for bowling and billiards. Since its recent renovations though, it has once again become one of the most entertaining and fun destinations for both kids and adults!

The facility offers 44 lanes of bowling, with ten-pin and five-pin options. Their state of the art machinery and extreme lighting elevates the bowling experience. If you want to impress your kids, make sure you go to glow-bowling, they will be extra entertained by the black light effects and it’ll make the experience even better!

One of the newer additions to Fleetway is their 7,000 square foot miniature golf course! It is a full 18-holes of glow in the dark, fictional characters such as pirates, and fun landscapes. Perfect for a carefree date night or an afternoon out with the kids.

Fleetway’s brand new Kid’s Play Centre is a must-visit for those with children 12 and under. This playground offers five levels of fun for kids including slides, tubes, punching bags, trolley glides, a toddler area and way more.

Fleetway wouldn’t be Fleetway without its classic Billiards Room. The large room is home to fourteen Boston Pool Tables that are kept in mint condition. Novices and experts alike will enjoy practicing their skills on the professional surfaces.

The Fleetway experience wouldn’t be the same without a stop at attached Dairy Queen!  This became a tradition amongst families in early years, and still is today. There’s nothing better than grabbing a well-deserved blizzard after a few rounds of bowling on a Saturday afternoon.

Fleetway, in all its glory, is the perfect destination for date-night or just fun with a group of friends. It’s kid-proof in all the right ways, but offers up entertainment that’s perfect for adults only! 

Deals and Pricing:

Glow Bowling: Fridays 8:00pm – 1:00 am // Saturdays 3:30pm-6:30pm and 9:00pm – 1:00am

Shoe Rental Rates: Adults (13+) $3.75 per person // Kids (12 and under) $2.75 per person

Days:

Monday – Friday: $25.00 per lane per hour until 5:00pm

Saturday and Sunday: $29.00 per lane per hour until 5:00 pm

Nights:

Monday – Thursday: $29.00 per lane per hour from 5:00 pm – 11:00pm

Friday – Saturday: $34.99 per lane per hour from 5:00 pm – 1:00 am

Specials:

Tuesday & Sunday: $21.00 per lane per hour from 5:00pm – 11:00 pm

Neighbourhood: Westmount & Carling
141 Pine Valley Blvd. & 777 Adelaide St. North (map)
http://palasad.com/

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In a time where arcade-like bars that boast billiards and bowling alleys are becoming an increasingly trending business to get into, it’s hard to ignore the fact that London has been home to such an establishment for over twenty years!

Palasad has been providing Londoners with endless fun and entertainment since owner and founder Rob Szabo made his dream a reality. He felt that bringing billiards and bowling together in a cool and comfortable atmosphere complete with delicious food and snazzy drinks would be an asset to the London community.

There’s no doubt he was right as since Palasad’s opening back in 1994, almost 24 years later they have two locations and have established themselves as the go-to destination for events with people form all walks of life. Whether you’re a kid wanting to play at the arcade, a couple going on a date or an office looking for a place to host a work party, Palasad is able to cover every event!

Bowling, billiards, laser tag, ping pong and karaoke are all offered at both Palasad locations. Both venues boast an inviting and comfortable atmosphere complete with a life-size bowling pin for a mascot. London-based community events will often have the life-size bowling pin walking around, greeting children and handing out free-play cards for Palasad, further establishing the brand as a mainstay in the London community.

Both locations are equally fun but boast different decor and atmosphere. The north location is the tried and true original, flaunting a more casual vibe with retro decor, while the south location is more modern and upscale. There is an exciting renovation happening at the north location, so Londoners look out for the sparkling new Palasad north as we know it won’t disappoint, and will surely give Rec Room a run for its money. Both locations offer the most delicious wood-oven pizza that has become a favourite amongst those residing in the Forest City.

Palasad North has ten bowling lanes and ten pool tables and the South location has twenty lanes and six pool tables. Rather than bowling pins being secured on the lane by a magnet, they are attached to strings. This reduces lane issues and makes for a smoother bowling experience!

Pricing and Deals on bowling at both locations:

Shoe Rental: $3.99 per adult // $3.49 per child

Monday: $2.00 per game + shoe rental

Bowling is priced per person, with lane time based on group size. 
1 person = 20 minutes 
2 people = 40 minutes 
3 people = 60 minutes 
4 people = 80 minutes 
5 people = 100 minutes 
6 people = 120 minutes

Tuesday:

  • All day / All night 11am-midnight 
  • $7/person 
  • Shoe Rental Included

Wednesday & Thursday:

  • Before 5pm $10/person 
  • After 5pm $14/person 
  • Shoe Rental Included

Friday:

  • Before 5pm $10/person 
  • After 5pm $16/person 
  • Shoe Rental Included

Saturday:

  • All day / All night 11am-11pm
  • $16/person 
  • Shoe Rental Included

Sunday:

  • Before 5pm $16/person 
  • After 5pm $14/person 
  • Shoe Rental Included

 

Neighbourhood: Argyle Park
2086 Dundas Street (map)
http://www.bowleramaroyale.com/

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If you’re a Londoner who is serious about bowling, then chances are you’ve been a regular for years, (or you’re at least familiar with) the classic of all bowling spots in the Forest City, Bowlerama Royale! Located at the east end of Dundas Street just west of Clarke Road, Bowlerama Royale is the tried and true, ultra-vintage yet consistently reliable bowling alley that will never disappoint.

The venue itself began as a bowling alley, Town Bowl, and went on to serve its purpose as a recreational facility hosting bowling alleys and roller skating rinks through the years. After a brief stint as a furniture store, the site returned to its roots as Bowlerama Royale. This is a destination that will bring back memories for Londoners as a place they either bowled or roller skated at in their younger years.

The facility needed much updating which was fulfilled when the new owners, Mark and Brenda came on board in 2011. Mark Decman has done professional bowling in the past, and is well known in the bowling world. He competed in the TSN championship and is auditioning for Team Canada. This in and of itself is a reason to check out Bowlerama Royale!

The bowling community is tight-knit and ranges from kids to adults. Bowlerama is home to many bowling leagues that run throughout the year. These leagues are open to people with all skill levels from beginner to competitive. Bowlerama hosts end of season banquets with prizes and offers discounted open bowling practice rates and shoe rentals for league bowlers. There is a Bowlerama Royale Youth Program which offers opportunity for scholarships and tournaments.

Bowlerama itself is an awesome place to go for a fun night out or to join a community of like-minded people who love to have fun. A unique aspect of Bowlerama is its bowling pro shop. The pro shop provides any avid bowler with every accessory they may need. From custom drilled bowling balls (who even knew there was such a thing?!) to customized individual training for people of all skill levels, the staff at Bowlerama will welcome you with a energetic attitude that will no doubt teach you something you didn’t already know about bowling!

The venue boasts 32 lanes of ten-pin bowling. If you and your friends are looking for a fun night of bowling, the building is licensed so you can get drinks while you bowl making it the perfect spot to go on a Friday or Saturday night (or any night of the week, really!). The area is 27,000 square feet and is perfect to host events such as parties, fundraisers, field trips and much more.

Pricing and Deals:

Shoe Rental: $2.75 for juniors // $3.75 for adults

Daytime:

Monday – Friday: Juniors & Seniors bowl for $4.00 per person per game // Adults $4.50 per person per game // OR daytime by the hour $21.00 per lane

Nightime:

Monday – Thursday: $26.00 per hour per lane after 6:00 pm

Friday and Saturday: $31.00 per hour per lane after 6:00 pm

Deals:

Monday: Cosmic Bowling // 9:00pm-11:00pm special game rate of $2.20 per game

Tuesday – Thursday: 9:00pm-11:00pm $15.90 per person including shoe rental for all-you-can-bowl

Wednesdays: Red Pin Bowling! Red pins are placed between the pins and if you bowl a strike on the head pin you get your bowling for free from 9:00pm-11: 00 pm

Thursdays: All you can bowl for $15.00

Weekends: Cosmic Bowling all weekend long!

Group rates are offered depending on how large the group is. Check them out or give them a call to see what kind of discount they’ll provide you and your party!

Neighbourhood: Fairmont
972 Hamilton Rd. (map)
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While tenpin bowling seems to be the game of choice for many, we can’t forget about the five-pin option. Whether you’re a five-year-old who can’t yet hold up a tenpin bowling ball or a 55-year-old who loves the difficulty of aiming the small ball at those pins situated pretty far from each other, five-pin should most definitely be your game of choice! Invented in the early twentieth century for those who deemed ten pin bowling too strenuous, five-pin bowling made its mark and is here to stay! There is a bowling alley in London dedicated to five-pin bowling. This bowling alley is called Fairmont Lanes.

This small and unembellished alley is located just west of Highbury Avenue North and Hamilton Road. Fairmont Lanes offers a combination of that classic bowling alley vibe, and a pleasant family-oriented atmosphere thus providing patrons with a sense of familiarity and nostalgia from those afternoons spent at the bowling alleys as a child. Especially those memories of being enthusiastic about bowling, yet not quite strong enough be like the adults and tackle those daunting yet alluring ten-pin lanes.

Fairmont Lanes has been around for 52 years and has cemented itself as one of London’s most steadfast establishments. Let’s be honest, bowling alleys normally aren’t recognized for their state-of-the-art equipment and flashy technology. What makes a bowling alley great is their loyalty to the game itself. Fairmont Lanes has stayed true to its devotion to bowling in its half-century run and has created an incredibly tight-knit community of bowlers from all walks of life!

Most of Fairmont Lanes revenue comes from bowling leagues which are primarily hosted during the week. They offer open bowling, but that’s mostly on the weekends. Their facility houses full twelve lanes and has a liquor license! While this is a smaller business than the others on this list, the quaint atmosphere brings people closer together, which is exactly why it’s such a great destination for bowling leagues!

Deals and Prices:

Free Bowling: Adults $4.75 per game // Kids $4.00 per game

Hour Rentals: $36.00 per lane (up to 5 people)

 

The Best Record Stores
in London

April 21st was International Record Store Day, so we thought we’d celebrate by rounding up the best spots in our Forest City for vinyl!

Whether you’re someone who’s been thinking of dabbling in the wonderful world of vinyl or you’re a full-on record connoisseur, these spots will surely satisfy all your musical cravings and curiosities. 

London’s budding music scene is complete with small venues that showcase local bands and ranges all the way up to Budweiser Gardens, which is the largest venue of its kind in southwestern Ontario! What’s even better is the city is full of spots to purchase that new vinyl you’ve been eyeing down, and the staff are always in the know about the goings on of the music scene in the city.

It’s no secret that vinyl is trending amongst millennials. Whether you’ve just purchased that portable Crosley turntable from Urban Outfitters or you’re looking to break in your dad’s vintage Pioneer PL12D from the 70’s, we’ve got you covered with the hottest spots to start your LP collection or add to it!

Neighbourhood: Downtown
236 Dundass St. (map)
http://www.groovesrecordstore.com/

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A Forest City classic, Grooves Records has been selling an insane selection of vinyl, CD’s and DVD’s for years and shows no sign of stopping. Most Londoners will be familiar with their previous location on Clarence Street, but they’ve since moved to a fresh new spot just around the corner on Dundas Street.

Grooves Records made a reputation for themselves as a gathering place for music lovers since they opened. An awesome community of people who share a common interest, what’s not to love? One of the many remarkable things about Grooves Records is their commitment to showcasing local talent. They do this by holding shows right in their store! The small sets are always intimate and showcase local talent right in their city, and what better venue than one where music is always the star of the show.

Grooves selection of records is undeniably impressive; they’ve got pretty much every genre you can think of. From used vinyls to rare box sets, brand new recordings and the rarest of LP’s, Grooves has you covered. They even sell accessories such as record boxes, t-shirts, concert tickets and more.  They’ve even been known to do concert ticket giveaways for venues as large as Budweiser Gardens.

Grooves cares about their customers and always offers help to those lost souls looking for a new record to jam out to. Can’t find what you’re looking for in the store? They can order in certainly almost any record you’re lookin’ for if you don’t feel like hitting up Amazon yourself, they save you the hassle!

Grooves also sets up shop outside of their store at Home County Fair each year with a tent full of cool records for sale. Customers love shopping at Grooves because there always seems to be some sort of sale, whether its buy three get one free, for 25% off there’s always some money to be saved when shopping at Grooves! The customers always feel included and special at the shop, and that’s why it’s become a London favourite. They hold special events and sales, and even held a Kids Album Art contest at their Record Store Day event last year.

We can’t fail to mention the fact that Grooves has even set up their own label! They support local talent and were tired of seeing such talent come and go due to a lack of finances. This is what lead the awesome people down at Grooves Records to create a space for local bands to record and have their music pressed onto vinyl! The freshly pressed vinyl is then exclusively sold in-store. This is an impressive feat for a small store and a fantastic ode to the talent that London has to offer!

Neighbourhood: Old East Village
900 King Street – Western Fair Market (map)
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Saturdays just got a whole lot better for music lovers! Old East Village Vinyl has established themselves as an awesome one stop shop for finding those rare gems or beginning your LP collection!

Add this to your Saturday morning routine and you won’t be disappointed. Visit our friends down at the Fritter Shop to fuel up before spending your morning perusing the impressive collection of records for the limited amount of space allotted to Old East Village Vinyl.

They’re booming with rare finds as well as the classics and new hits. We can’t think of a much better way to spend a Saturday morning than grabbing a delicious blueberry fritter before purchasing a fantastically well-kept Bee Gees album to rock out to later in the day.

The best part about shopping at Old East Village Vinyl and the Western Fair Market is that you’re supporting local. Us at Santa Knows Best are passionate about sourcing locally and supporting the community. By incorporating the Western Fair Market into your Saturday morning routine, you’re undoubtedly giving back to the community by supporting multiple local businesses! And you’re getting amazing music and the highest quality records. What’s not to love!

We know we’ll be hitting up the market this Saturday to get our Fritter fix and to check out the new shipment of Old East Village records!

Neighbourhood: The Coves
294 Springbank Dr. (map)
http://speedcityrecords.com/

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Established in 1977, Speed City Records has made a name for itself as London’s longest standing record store with an indie focus. Located in southwest, London on Springbank Drive, what was a passion project of a former record store employee has turned into a twenty-year stint of being one of London’s most sought-after record stores.

The beauty of Speed City is their dedication to music. They opened as a record store and kept it that way, focusing on music and accessories and nothing more (except maybe a little bit of pinball).

The ambience of the quaint shop offers a no-frills, vibe that allows you to dive straight into their massive collection of records without being distracted by gaudy décor or memorabilia that’s not vintage records.

The music that’s available at Speed City is widely varied. They purchase a ton of different genres, more specifically rock, jazz, blues, soul, R&B, alternative, punk, heavy metal, reggae, electronic and hip hop. In addition to selling a ton of records, Speed City sells accessories for those beloved vinyls. These accessories range from turntables to amplifiers and speakers – new and old there is a wide selection at the store.

Speed City Records has been part of London’s music scene, providing avid music fans with collections and rare finds for over twenty years. Speed City is all about supporting London’s music scene, always open to selling local records, CD’s and cassettes as well as showcasing posters for upcoming shows!

Their online presence is awesome and they’ve brought some amazing events to the city, including the London Record Show. The London Record Show is a huge event held at Centennial Hall and is the quintessential vinyl collectors’ heaven. The event showcases a massive collection of all the London record store greats in one room, offering up hundreds of records for a ridiculously low price. There will be blood, sweat and tears at this show, for those dedicated metal heads and classical addicts looking for the last piece to complete their collection, but it’s worth it and has become a traditional London event since its inaugural show in 1983! It’s an important time for the music scene in London as it brings all the record stores and the music community together under one roof, because of one common interest: music.

Speed City has a major focus on music, but let’s be honest, everyone has a side hustle and Speed City is no exception to that. They are passionate about pinball and buy and sell pinball machines! They are also the business behind weekly local league night registered by International Pinball Flipper’s Association at Call The Office.

Neighbourhood: Old South
135 Wortley Rd. (map)
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The Village Idiot is located in the beloved Wortley Village of London. The beautifully named record store is a direct reflection of its location. Charming, quaint and independent. What more could you want in a record store?

Shopping in this small store jam packed with records is always a delightful way to spend an afternoon after charging up on some much-needed coffee from any of the cute café’s located in the village.

Not only those who live in Wortley are privy to the awesomeness that is The Village Idiot, music lovers from all around town known this is a place to go if they’re in the market for a rare find. There are lots of hidden gems to be found in this store, and quality is never sacrificed. The Village Idiot is also the place to go to brush up on your vinyl knowledge, as the employees are full of interesting facts and info, always teaching you something about the music before you head out the door!

Like other record stores in the city, this spot of course supports local. You can also purchase tickets for local concerts through the store.

Neighbourhood: Downtown
356 Richmond St. (map)
http://www.citylightsbookshop.ca/

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City Lights Bookshop has been around since 1975 and is one of those stores that you never forget. A quaint, ever-trendy spot in the heart of downtown, London, this place has been offering pop culture odds and ends to Londoners with its unique flair, and will likely continue to do so for many years ahead.

Not just a record store, City Lights sells used books, vinyl, movies and music. Because of its vintage flair, it has become a spot that music lovers go to find that one rare vinyl they haven’t been able to get their hands on, or to score that little-known gem that’ll add the perfect amount of spice to their growing collection.

An inviting atmosphere complete with two floors of vintage items, pop culture paraphernalia, adult magazines, postcards and used books. While it’s easy to get lost in the labyrinth that is City Lights Bookshop, the upstairs is dedicated to entertainment and music.

The cosy atmosphere is reminiscent of what you’d picture a traditional used bookstore to be like, but sloshed with trinkets and items that give it a unique throwback feel. This London gem, while located in a drab part of the downtown core, has made a name for itself as a classic hotspot for bookworms and music lovers alike. Check them out next time you’re craving a new (used) addition to your collection and you’ll surely leave feeling satisfied like a kid in a candy store!

The Best Charcuterie Boards In London

Food trends come and go, but there are those that are tried and true. The art of charcuterie seems to have kept its momentum rolling with even more demand for it in today’s culinary world.

This form of food can be served at a dinner party as an appetiser, or act as the star of the show as the main course. Charcuterie is ideal to pair with a pint of cold draft beer or a flight of wine tasters. Hey, it’s so versatile it can even teeter between savoury and sweet and act as a dessert tray at the end of a light meal.

From a wide array of spiced and cured meats and aged cheeses to delicious fruits and sweet jams and chocolates, charcuterie is fully accessible all across our Forest City.

There’s even a spot you can go to order vegan boards, which is always a win-win for us. Each restaurant adds their panache to the classic trend that is charcuterie. Read on to find out about the sweetest spots around the city for the most mouth-watering, flavourful and unique offerings.

Neighbourhood: Old East Village 
1018 Dundass St. (map)
https://10-eighteen.myshopify.com/

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We couldn’t make a charcuterie list without an honourable mention to the one and only 10Eighteen Coffee Bar.

While the primary focus for this cafe is coffee, the food is next level. They source their ingredients from local artisan bakeries and shops. In addition to this, they commit to catering to any dietary needs. Gluten-free, vegan and vegetarians can feel entirely welcome in this comfortable and cute cafe.

The selection of charcuterie here is pretty vast. They offer boards of meat and cheese, cheese only, kids size boards and they even have a vegan option, which features dairy-free, nut-based cheeses! They’ve made it a mission to source local ingredients and the quality is evident in the flavour. Not to mention the way they are serving up these boards is so aesthetically pleasing it’ll be hard not to take a picture.

One thing to note about 10Eighteen is that they are not your run of the mill cafe. This is evident in the fact that they serve sensational charcuterie, but also due to their liquor license! That’s right; this coffee shop has a liquor licence. This is perfect for those who want to elevate their charcuterie to the next level by pairing it with an ice-cold draft beer or a refreshing glass of wine at the end of a workday. As a menu item that a patron would typically visit a nice restaurant for, charcuterie and liquor has become accessible in a relaxed atmosphere such as a coffee shop. That’s a win-win for us! Visit 10Eighteen today for a wide array of charcuterie, and you’ll undoubtedly leave already craving more.

Neighbourhood: Downtown London
420 Talbot St. (map)
http://www.pubmilos.com/

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Milo’s joined London’s pub scene about five years ago and has no doubt made a name for themselves since. The location on Talbot Street just north of Dundas Street makes for a premier destination to those attending a game or event at Budweiser Gardens.

The Craft Beer Emporium is committed to sourcing local ingredients, and the result is a menu that boasts a modern flair on traditional pub grub. The focus at Milo’s, however, is their beer tap selection. They put an emphasis on craft beer, and have been supporting local breweries ever since their opening. With a variety of over twenty-three taps, there ought to be a beer for everyone who walks in the door!

What pairs great with an ice-cold draft beer? Charcuterie of course! Aside from their insane beer selection, Milo’s has become known for their scrumptious Canadian Cheese Board, Ontario Charcuterie and house-made natural pickles. Combine these with the perfect pairing of beer, and you’ve got yourself an ideal pre-game snack!

The large board is complete with a selection of cured meats such as salami and prosciutto, an assortment of Canadian cheese, some fruit, nuts and toasted bread. This board is perfect for sharing as an appetizer or a main, and there will always be that ideal craft-brew to complement the ever-changing selection of locally sourced and gourmet meats and cheeses.

Neighbourhood: Old South
147 Wortley Rd. (map)
http://wolfeofwortley.com/

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It wouldn’t be a Forest City charcuterie list without the Wolfe of Wortley. Since it’s opening in 2016, this eatery has become a nationally renowned and locally celebrated spot. It earned itself a place on Air Canada’s list of Canada’s Best New Restaurants. If that’s not enough to take a trip to Wortley Village, then I’m not sure what is!

Owned by brothers, Justin and Gregg Wolfe, this is not their first or their last restaurant venture. The brothers began with the Early Bird downtown before opening Wolfe of Wall Street. Their latest venture is the highly anticipated and positively reviewed Mexican inspired restaurant, Los Lobos.

So let’s talk charcuterie! The reason they landed themselves on this list is their dedication to fantastic charcuterie in many varietals. They cure all of their meats in-house and are dedicated to serving the most delicious and fresh ingredients. The menu is always evolving with the season, but patrons can always count on the eatery to offer a broad charcuterie selection. From mustards and pickles to go with the meat and select cheeses to devilled eggs and tuna tartare – this charcuterie is basic at its core yet sophisticated in flavour and presentation.

Neighbourhood: Southcrest
449 Wharncliffe Rd. South(map)

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Craft Farmacy is the new-kid-on-the-block but that doesn’t mean it isn’t receiving acclaim from the London locals. As a farm-to-table eatery located on Wharncliffe Road, patrons can find an array of traditional ingredients in a creative and elevated form. From duck poutine, lamb burgers and mushroom polenta to a vast selection of oyster varietals, Craft Farmacy is fresh, delicious and unique in its food pairings. They are dedicated to sourcing local ingredients and that fact alone is impressive to us.

Along with their other great menu items, their charcuterie board is amazing. It is the perfect size for sharing while enjoying a pre-dinner cocktail, glass of wine or craft brew. The board itself offers a selection of salami, spreads, pickled fruits, crackers, toasted bread and various meats. It is presented beautifully and makes for an excellent start to any meal! In the mood for charcuterie as your main course? Go ahead as this will surely leave you feeling full and satisfied.

Craft Farmacy puts an emphasis on sourcing local ingredients, hence the name “Craft Farmacy.” As this is a growing trend, especially in London, we have absolutely no doubt that Craft Farmacy will continue to expand its horizons and churn out delicious and creative meals. This is the perfect eatery to head to for some dishes that you may have not previously tried and classics that you know you’ll love – like their fantastic charcuterie!

Neighbourhood: Downtown & Old South
420 Talbot St. & 175 Wortley Rd. (map)
http://londonwinebar.ca/

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The mission for the London Wine Bar is to offer a refined and elegant, yet quaint and cosy spot that is reminiscent of a traditional European Wine Bar. With two locations, one on Talbot next to Milo’s and the other in Wortley Village, it’s safe to say that London has welcomed this establishment with open arms.

Both locations don a welcoming atmosphere that is sophisticated in design yet cosy and charming. Wine Bar is perfect for a glass of wine after a long workweek, an intimate date night or a girls night out!

As obvious as it may seem, the sole focus of these establishments is to drink and experience quality wine in an approachable manner. Wine novices and connoisseurs alike can visit the Wine Bar and come out of it learning something new each time.

While wine is the focal point for London Wine Bar, charcuterie comes a very close second (if not tied). The food menu is less extensive than that of a traditional restaurant. What they lose in menu variety, they gain in quality and pairing. From meticulously picking and choosing an assortment of cured meats, to fruits, pickled items, fresh bread and locally made jams, the charcuterie they are serving up is a must-try.

The downtown location focuses on charcuterie and melt-in-your-mouth chocolate. The Wortley location offers the same traditional artisan boards but expands their menu to appetisers and entrees such as panko-crusted brie, beef carpaccio and coffee hazelnut crusted Ontario lamb.

Whether you’re looking for simple meat and cheese board to pair with your wine (Talbot Street), or an insatiably delicious meal (Wortley Village), check out London Wine Bar and you won’t be disappointed.

Neighbourhood: Downtown
481 Richmond St. (map)
http://garlicsoflondon.com/

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When you think of locally owned, reliable and delicious restaurants there’s no doubt that Garlic’s of London will be on the top of that list for many. Located on the famous Richmond Row, Garlic’s has been impressing patrons for over twenty years. The intimate atmosphere mixed with a menu that boasts a wide selection, it comes as no surprise that Garlic’s has stayed on the London restaurant scene for so long.

Unique appetisers such as spiced chickpea fritters and slowly roasted garlic bulbs to a selection of pasta, pizza, salads and classic mains are reminiscent of many brasseries out there. The apparent difference between Garlic’s of London and other higher-end restaurants is the use of garlic in most of their dishes. Garlic is the sole focus of this restaurant, and their charcuterie board is no exception!

The charcuterie option is dubbed the “Garlic’s Artisan Board”. It boasts your typical charcuterie such as house-cured boar bacon, dried chorizo, local and imported cheese, pickles, house smoked trout, prosciutto and roasted nuts. What elevates this appetiser (or main course if you so decide) is their house made garlic mustard and chutney. These sauces are just packed with flavour, perfectly complementing every bite on the board. There’s no doubt that the garlic in these sauces is the ingredient that brings this charcuterie board to the next level. If you’re a fan of garlic and charcuterie (who isn’t?), then this establishment must be on your list of restaurants to visit in Downtown, London!

 

Neighbourhood: Downtown
476 Richmond St. (map)
http://thechurchkey.ca/

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The Church Key has become a London favourite. It is a pub with a sophisticated edge. Residing in an old Heritage Building complete with a beautifully decorated courtyard, the Church Key does not lack aesthetic or atmosphere. This bistro is serving up Sunday brunch, appetisers, lunch, dinner and even offers both extensive vegetarian and gluten-free menus. Their versatility and consideration for dietary choices and requirements are exceptional.

With dishes such as ale and onion soup, fish and chips, beef pot roast and bacon steak mac and cheese – this bistro gives off sophisticated English pub vibes. And they’re certainly winning at it. The Ploughman’s Plate is their take on charcuterie and is in the entree section of the menu. While it is offered as an entree, it’s an excellent option as a shareable appetiser.

The sophisticated English pub feel stays consistent with this board. It is complete with English cheeses, crusty bread, paté, smoked salmon rillette, duck bacon, Branston pickle, pickled quail eggs and vegetables. This board is one of the most extensive and unique charcuteries we’ve seen thus far! It has received rave reviews from those who have been lucky enough to taste it; the Church Key has even become known for their aptly named charcuterie. Fun fact, a Ploughman’s Lunch is a traditional English cold meal that focuses on bread, cheese and onions!

Next time you’re in the mood for an indulgent meal that will surely satisfy your taste buds, head to Church Key and take in their cosy and welcoming atmosphere.

Do It Yourself!

While going out for charcuterie is always a good idea, so is making your own! Thankfully for us Londoners, there are plenty of bakeries and butcheries that can supply you with the goods to make a charcuterie board like a pro! Here’s a list of our top recommendations if you’re on the hunt for quality ingredients. A visit to these shops will ensure that your guests will be impressed by the flavour and won’t believe you did it yourself.

Western Fair Farmer’s and Artisan’s Market (Every Saturday 8am-3pm):

All Bout Cheese

The Harvest Pantry

Artisan’s Bakery

The Village Meat Shop

 

Covent Garden Market:

International Bakery

Havaris Produce

Kleiber’s Deli

 

Other:

Alicia’s Fine Foods

Nuts for Cheese

 

 

The Best Vegan Friendly Restaurants in London

Have you ever experienced the urge to go out for lunch with your friends, but soon remember that you’re trying to adhere to a strict organic/vegan/vegetarian lifestyle? Are you tired of going out for lunch and your only option is to order the “house greens” salad, and even then you’re not sure how healthy it is?

Many of us have been there, but luckily for us, our beloved Forest City is emerging with tasty and innovative health food restaurants. These spots guarantee you a good time with friends at a super busy spot and let you leave with a belly full of goodness and little regret. That’s certainly a win-win for us. Well, unless you opt for the truffle fries or triple thick peanut butter almond milkshake, make good choices people! Read on to learn about London’s delicious organic and vegan-friendly spots.

 

Neighbourhood: Old South
162 Wortley Rd. (map)
https://plantmatterkitchen.com/

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The flagship location, Plant Matter Kitchen has been serving up organic and plant-based vegan, gluten-free fare since 2016. Since then, the brand has earned itself a badge of honour amongst plant-based Londoners and those looking for a healthy meal in a restaurant atmosphere! Plant Matter was such a hit that they’ve since expanded to two other locations in the city. Patrons will notice the same branding and similar menu items, but the different locations have their own flare. Plant Matter Kitchen is the largest and offers the most extensive selection of food. From baked goods to lunch and dinner – there’s no shortage of variety here. For those looking for a cosier dining experience, they can head to Plant Matter Bistro, which is located downtown and offers similar menu items sans the baked goods! The newest venture for the Plant Matter brand is its amalgamation with the Ground Up Café – Plant Matter Café. Once it’s fully up and running it will offer delicious gluten free baked goods, small meals and vegan grab and go fare. It’ll certainly be a hit amongst Londoners, especially those students looking for a cosy place to study that offers healthy food.

Neighbourhood: Downtown 
71 King St. (map)
http://zenzapizzeria.ca/

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Three words: guilt-free pizza.

Who doesn’t love the idea of indulging in a delicious and satisfying ‘za without crying in agony the next day from consuming so much cheese and carbs? Everyone of course!

Zen’za Pizzeria is one of those little-known restaurants with a quaint, no frills atmosphere offering insanely delicious pizza that’s so good you just want to keep the secret to yourself. On the other hand, you’re dying to tell anyone and everyone who’ll listen to you because the restaurant deserves the business. Us at Santa Knows Best love Zen’za so much that we go almost every other week. The menu offers mostly whole-wheat thin crust dough, with a gluten free option. The entire menu is completely customizable, but they’ve also made up their own creations. You can choose from seven flavour combinations from balsamic marinated mushroom to a greek ‘za. Our personal favourite is their Thaco ‘Za! Perfect for Thaco Thursdays, this pizza features all the favourite taco toppings, but on a pizza! The most important thing to mention about Zen’Za is their commitment to providing vegan and lactose free options. Every single pizza they make comes in a vegan/lactose free version using ingredients like coconut bacon, nutritional yeast, vegan cheese and sausage!

Neighbourhood: Downtown London
252 Dundas St. (map)
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While it isn’t a sit-down restaurant, we just had to include Globally Local on the list. This vegan fast-food restaurant emerged a couple years ago and has been wowing vegans and meat-eaters alike. With the majority of their customers being meat-eaters, it’s easy to assume that Globally Local isn’t a plain vegan restaurant. It’s a one-stop-shop for twists on most classic fast-food items. From the “Vopper,” to the “ChickUN preTenders,” and tacos, sausage and ham breakfast sandwiches, scrambled eggs and gyros, there’s sure to be something for everyone on the menu. This is the ultimate destination for comfort food after a night out, or to satisfy that hankering for a hamburger at 4:00 am. Yes you read that correctly, 4:00 am – Globally Local opened up a 24h drive-thru location in early 2017, making it the first vegan fast food restaurant in the world! And you bet they’re serving up fries and a choice of drink with each meal – definitely a game changer for those thinking about going plant-based, as you’ll still be able to indulge in those greasy meals, but in a guilt free, cruelty free way. All while supporting a local business! Us at Santa Knows Best value the importance of supporting local, and Globally Local is no exception to that!

Neighbourhood: Old East Village
623 Dundas St. (map)
http://rootcellarorganic.ca/

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The Root Cellar has established itself as a favourite London restaurant for carnivores and herbivores alike! Organic in its roots, this restaurant has made it their mission to provide patrons with twists on classic casual restaurant fare. From wraps and poutine to salad, taco cups and Buddha bowls – there’s no shortage of choice here. They serve lunch and dinner every day as well as an impressive brunch on Saturdays until 1:00 pm. Visit the Root Cellar today and order the sweet potato taco cups with a kale Caesar salad or the water buffalo burger and coconut butternut squash soup- you won’t regret it!

Neighbourhood: Downtown
344 Dundas St. (map)
http://www.zen-garden.ca/menu_selection.html

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Zen Gardens is a small vegetarian chain restaurant serving up plant-based Asian fare. Don’t let the word “chain” scare you because the beauty of this restaurant is their mission to serve meals that are never bland and packed with nutrition. Their meat substitutes are completely natural with no added chemicals and they inform you of all the health benefits you gain from each entrée. From crispy soy fritters to spring rolls and udon noodle soup, sushi platters and curry vermicelli – the menu is not lacking variety. Our personal favourite are the pan-fried dumplings, order these and you won’t regret it. Asian cuisine is generally very meat-heavy and vegetarians no doubt miss this fare that is always full of flavour and satisfying. Zen Gardens is the answer to those cravings and will leave you excited for your next visit!

Neighbourhood: Hyde Park
1700 Hyde Park Road (map)
http://www.curleybrewing.com/index.html
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100% vegan food, coffee, beer and kombucha. What more could you possibly want? Our friends down at Curley Brewing Company are brand new to the London food and beer scene but have already created quite the name for themselves.

Located on Hyde Park Road just north of Gainsborough Road, this is not your average distillery. Owner and operator, Nigel Curley has masterfully combined two emerging forces in the London food and culture scene: vegan food and craft beer.

Curley grew up making beer with his dad and felt the natural next step would be to open up a nano-brewery. Since they didn’t have their manufacturing licence just yet, they decided to turn it into both a brewery and cafe. The result is a humble destination that boasts some tasty vegan eats and flavourful craft beers!

The menu at Curley Brewing Co. offers casual items such as pretzel bagels with an option to add house-made Curley mustard (yum!). Their TLT sandwich which is a vegan twist on the classic BLT – tempeh, lettuce and tomato. The curried chickpea salad sandwich is packed with protein and flavour. They also offer pesto and tomato grilled cheese and a tempeh Caesar wrap! Pro tip: try their gluten-free vegan chocolate chip cookie, and you’ll leave thinking about it for a week – trust us on this one.

While Curley Brewing mainly focuses on their beer, the food selection is undeniably delicious. In addition to providing some excellent in-house eats, they sell some of London’s favourite vegan foods. These items include, but are not limited to Nuts for Cheese which is an artisan based cashew cheese company, and Culture Shock Kombucha. There’s no doubt we’ll be back to Curley Brewing, not just for beer but their mouth-watering vegan food too.

The Best Places to Walk Your Dog in London

It’s a beautifully breezy mid-July afternoon, and your beloved pooch just arrived from the groomers. His or her heavy fur coat is gone, and they are free to run around outside without succumbing to the heat. They’re used to flopping in the shade and panting after a thirty-second jog, but now with their new haircut, they deserve an extra long walk.

Where do you take your canine best friend? To the river trails? Around your neighbourhood? Downtown? It’s almost impossible to decide which area to take your dog to in our beloved Forest City. That is is likely because we are so fortunate to live in a town that is home to over 200 parks and 100 kilometres of trails and green spaces. With winter coming to an end, we’re eager for those hot afternoons spent outside with our pups.

The options are endless! We’ve talked to numerous Londoners to find out which parks are the best for you and your dog! If you have further suggestions, please comment on this post! After all, I think our office dog Maya would appreciate any and all suggestions for an afternoon out basking in the sun.

 
2A Grosvenor St. (map)

Gibbons Park is one of the most expansive green spaces in the city. It has a ton to offer including trails right along the river, recreational basketball and tennis courts and trails to walk your dog. It has been a family favourite destination for years in London. Also it is a popular spot for downtown-based summer camps to visit on day trips. Whether it’s walking or running with the dog, feeding the ducks or having a lazy afternoon – Gibbon’s Park is always a safe spot to go with your pup!

Neighbourhood: Downtown London
580 Clarence St. (map)

As beautiful as it is imperative to London’s culture and history, Victoria Park is a favourite place to take dogs. It is located in the middle of the city and has been the venue of concerts, festivals and events for much of London’s history.

Dogs love Victoria Park park as it is full of pathways primarily canopied by towering trees. There are numerous tables throughout the green space making for a pleasant walk with spots to sit and have a picnic or just to take a breather from the heat!

Pet owners beware: this isn’t the best spot to avoid other dogs, so if yours doesn’t do so well with other pets it’s probably best to avoid this park.

Neighbourhood: Kilworth
503 Gideon Dr. (map)


Situated just twenty minutes west of London, Komoka Provincial Park boasts some of the most beautiful trails along the river. Disclaimer: if you don’t like paying for your parking, then avoid making the trek out here (even though it’s totally worth the $6).

The trees are so built up and broad that they tower above trail-goers and provide just the right amount of shade with spots to catch the warm sun in between. You can come here for a short or long walk, really get a work out in if you try (there are numerous slopes and hills), and take in the undeniable serenity of the preserved provincial park!

Neighbourhood: Arva
11 St. Johns Drive (map)

Weldon Park

Weldon Park is about five minutes north of London in the small community of Arva. It offers expansive green spaces and most importantly, an off-leash area for the dogs! Aside from green areas, there are plenty of recreational sport facilities such as baseball diamonds, tennis and basketball courts. Because of this, Weldon Park attracts numerous people in the warmer months. The beauty is consistent all year round, and the trails always make for a lovely walk.

Neighbourhood: Byron
1085 Commissioners Rd. (map)

How could we not include the one and only Springbank Park in this list? This widely expansive park (140 hectares) is situated along the Thames River and boasts 30km of trails! It is the ideal spot to take your dog as they’ll never get bored snooping around the trails, lazing out by the river and taking in the scenery. From rollerbladers to bikers to hikers and dog walkers, this park is busy. Especially in the warmer months! Because of this, it’s an excellent place to go only if your dog is friendly to its fellow canines along the trails.

 

Neighbourhood: Riverbend Community
1615 N Routledge Park #23 (map)

Located in the southwest end of London, Kains Woods is a preserved area of town complete with trails situated along the Thames River bend. This ESA stretches across 28 hectares of land. Many joggers enjoy these trails and are often greeted by pet-owners out for a stroll with their dog!

 

 

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