Less theoretical than Darwin's notion of how fish leads to ape leads to Bowie is the rule of neighbourhood evolution: Cheap rent attracts artists, artists spawn galleries, and gallery goers like good food. It's what's made Parkdale a natural extension of the Drake-inspired West Queen West phenomenon a kilometre or so east along Queen.
Amid the laundromats and the bars with 11 a.m. regulars, there are now also places like Chantecler (1320 Queen W.), the perfect Parkdale spot, high-end food, low-end prices (people come for the moist and messy lettuce-wrapped fish and pork), with a wallet-safe tasting menu served to no more than 16 weekend patrons (Fridays and Saturdays) at the back of the room that competes with any in the city.
Formerly of Cowbell and chef de cuisine at Sidecar, Peter Ramsay's Geraldine (1564 Queen W.) is a little fancier, with an eye on oysters, absinthe (served à l'ancienne with water spigots, slotted spoons and sugar cubes) and upping the city's cocktail game with concoctions like Hemingway Goes Hunting with Oaxacan Leyenda mezcal, celery syrup, dandelion bitter and cilantro.
It's Ian Mcgrenaghan and Colin Tooke, both Jen Agg alumni, who put this strip on the map with their stripped-down decor, cranked-up, high-energy soundtracks, and—most of all—their tacos at Grand Electric (1330 Queen W.) and their Southern-style smokes and sauces—like the shrimp and smoked cheddar grits at Electric Mud BBQ (5 Brock), named for Muddy Waters' 1968 psychedelic blues album, though the common denominator to the spot's soundtrack, which includes rock, blues and metal, seems to be volume. —Bert Archer