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HANGOUTS | Sarah Slean's Favourite Toronto Hotspots

By Sara Schabas on December 10, 2017

Singer-songwriter, poet, visual artist, occasional actress and Toronto-resident Sarah Slean gravitates towards Toronto establishments with a sense of purity. Though she’s lived in Paris, Montreal, Pouch Cove, Newfoundland and even briefly toyed with settling down on a farm near Port Perry, Slean has found herself drawn to Toronto since she first moved here at age nineteen.

“I always come back to Toronto,” she tells me over half-caf cappuccinos at Te Aro, Slean’s favourite coffee shop in Leslieville.

Slean has spent most of her life in Toronto living in the city’s west end, though she recently bought a home in Riverdale.

“When I was young in the West End, we didn’t even know about Roncie,” she describes of how her view of the city has expanded over the years. “Dufferin was the far west corner, Yonge was the far east corner, Bloor was the north corner, and that was our little square.”

Now a firm advocate of both sides of the Don Valley River, Slean shares her favourite haunts with Ludwig Van Toronto.

Select Bistro, Toronto (Photo courtesy of Select Bistro)

Select Bistro: Slean loves the old school elegance of this locale on Wellington St, where patrons can sip Cabernet Sauvignon in Audrey Hepburn-esque little black dresses, which reminds her of France.

“I feel elegant there,” she says. “I make an effort to dress elegantly when I go. I’m usually there with Jonathan Goldsmith, the film composer who made ‘Sea’ with me, and he’ll wear a suit jacket and order a 12-year-old Maccallen before we even start… it feels so dignified.”

The Rivoli, Toronto

The Rivoli: “That’s where I got my start,” Slean tells me of the Toronto landmark established in the early ‘80s. “I just remember being really excited about performing and having an audience, even if it was sixty people. That’s where all those feelings started.”

Roy Thomson Hall (Photo: Kelly Yuen)
Roy Thomson Hall, Toronto (Photo: Kelly Yuen)

Roy Thomson Hall: Slean first performed at Roy Thomson Hall in 2003 with the Toronto Symphony – her “favourite thing,” as she describes. But Slean especially loves visiting the TSO’s home when she’s not performing, particularly for their recent initiative of performing film scores live while the movie plays.

“As an audience member having a listening experience, Roy Thomson Hall is the one,” she says. “I’ve performed at Koerner and it does sound exquisite but I don’t know what it is about Roy Thomson Hall…”

Philosopher’s Walk, Toronto (Photo: Daderot/Creative Commons)
Philosopher’s Walk, Toronto (Photo: Daderot/Creative Commons)

Philosopher’s Walk: During Slean’s time as an undergraduate at the University of Toronto Faculty of Music, the young music theory and composition student would take refuge in the stretch of beautiful trees and benches between the Royal Conservatory and U of T’s music school. Now a busy professional, she frequently returns to the area for rehearsals with the Art of Time Ensemble, Slean’s pick for one of the city’s most exciting things on offer.

Sarah Slean at Te Aro, Toronto (Photo: Sara Schabas)
Sarah Slean at Te Aro, Toronto (Photo: Sara Schabas)

Te Aro: A bustling coffee shop at Queen and Pape, Slean loves this place for its delicious Pilot Coffee Roasters espresso and gluten free cookies. When the two of us meet here, the place is filled with milennials, young parents, and middle-aged business people alike, as a playlist of The Shins and other hipster nostalgia plays in the background.

“Leslieville is really hopping,” she says of her new neighbourhood. “When I’m out in the West End, I always feel like I have to look a little presentable. Here, I can roll out of bed and get coffee in my pajamas,” she laughs.

Withrow Park, Toronto (Photo: Sarah Slean)
Withrow Park, Toronto (Photo: Sarah Slean)

Withrow Park: An advocate for the merits of meditation, this park off Logan Ave. serves as one of Slean’s favourite places to recharge. “The only way to get to your essential creative self is to subtract,” she relates of her meditation practise. “You have to give the brain a rest.” Slean is a huge fan of walking around the city aimlessly, where some of her best creative ideas come in.

“Walking in general, with nothing in your ears. I need to get sunlight in my eyes, especially at this time of year otherwise I go bonkers.”

So next time you’re wandering Toronto’s busy streets, keep an eye out for Sarah Slean, who might just be dreaming up her thirteenth record as she takes in the city’s topography.

Slean can next be heard on stage on December 12th at Harbourfront Centre, giving back to her city by raising money for the St. Felix Centre, where Slean previously worked as a volunteer.


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Sara Schabas
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