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Kawhi Life: A movable feast in downtown Toronto

There’s a lot of hustle and bustle on the streets of the city, and things change faster than we can keep track of. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a way to see and do it all in Toronto.

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Toronto Raptors John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Kawhi Leonard is a Toronto Raptor — for at least one year. While the team’s on-court success has its part to play, we’ve decided to do our part in selling the city to the Klaw. Each week we’re talking Toronto, and letting Kawhi know what his life could be like here.

This Week in Toronto

Restaurants open and close all the time in this city, so it’s often difficult to make a recommendation. There are meals I’ve enjoyed at places I liked which have simply disappeared. Or worse yet: there are places I intended to go that failed before I got the chance to visit. (There are also seemingly indestructible spots that will likely outlive us all — provided the land on which they stand never achieves any higher development potential.) That’s life in the big city, as they say.

On King Street West, west of St. Andrew subway station, there are restaurants and theatres. (There is also Metro Hall, a municipal government building, and David Pecaut Square, some useful public space.) One stretch in particular, between John Street stretching out to Blue Jay Way (or Spadina Avenue, if you’re being charitable), hosts a bevy of eateries — Kit Kat, Fred’s Not Here, Nawlins, and more. You’d be forgiven if you have not visited these places. A question I often ask is: has anyone been to these places?

The Forget About It Supper Club is one such place, sandwiched between a Z-Teca burrito joint and the Red Tomato. I didn’t know it existed until it closed, despite strolling through that area (usually on my way to the TIFF Bell Lightbox to catch a film), indeed heading directly past it numerous times. Like many of the other restaurants on this strip, it seeks to capture a “downtown dining” experience, something fancy for the out-of-towners heading to famous King Street theatres for a live show. (That these places are so often Italian is a story for a different time.) That actual fine dining in this city, the real gourmet stuff, is nowhere near this specific area is funny when you think about it.

If you have indeed heard of any of these restaurants, it’s most likely because of the stink created from some of their owners (and the now-premier of the province) during the King Street Pilot launch late last year (and into Spring 2018). Al Carbone of Kit Kat, who appears as both man and cartoon, complained about the plan to improve transit through the area, saying it would kill the neighbourhood. I’m not sure he noticed that the density of people in the neighbourhood — potential customers! — had risen considerably in 30 years. He still gave them an icy finger. Now his neighbours, like the Forget About It Supper Club and Zazou, are long gone, and we wonder about what could be next. Given the influx of massive developments in the area, it doesn’t take a genius to guess.

Carbone is hanging on to his place out of what looks like spite. His recent bid to be councillor of Ward 20 failed. The King Street Pilot, which is no longer a divisive political issue, will likely continue on as the best low-cost option to move people along the busiest surface route in the city. (I won’t even comment on the irony of stalling subway construction for actual decades, and then fighting against street car improvements.) My only lament is one of enforcement: people should follow the signs as posted and use King Street as it is now intended.

All of this is to say: Kawhi should look elsewhere for dining options in Toronto. There are some delightful restaurants on Dundas West and Ossington (my current fave locales), entire neighbourhoods (like Gerrard East) dedicated to one type of food or another, places like Edulis and Beast tucked in out of way places, or spots like Alo in locations you’d never think to look. I had a delicious sushi meal at Yasu on Harbord Street, for example, which is scrunched near some delightfully rundown pizza joints and a surfeit of noodle-houses. Food is everywhere in Toronto, and despite what you’ve heard, the city is working to make it easier to go out there and get it.

Should Kawhi Care?

Well, no.

(However, as this LA Times piece apparently makes clear, Leonard is perhaps more about the east coast life than we realize. “It’s basically like being in New York,” Leonard said to the Times. “I’m enjoying [Toronto] so far, but I have a lot I’d like to venture off and see still.” Indeed there is quite a lot more to see, much I haven’t even be able to describe. I’d tell Kawhi to ask me about it, but I somehow doubt things will go that way. It’s at least nice to know he’s interested in exploring!

And who knows, maybe Kawhi would have been a fan of the dearly departed Forget About It Supper Club. Maybe, gasp, he’d even be a fan of the films of Frank D’Angelo.

Uhhh, on second thought: probably not.)