Five Places to Visit in Toronto, With Eugene Levy

Five Places to Visit in Toronto, With Eugene Levy

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As you might guess from the title of Eugene Levy’s latest series — “The Reluctant Traveler” — he’s a guy who’s happy to stay put.

The show, now in its second season on Apple TV, follows Mr. Levy, a 77-year-old comedy legend known for his roles in “Waiting for Guffman,” “American Pie,” “Schitt’s Creek” and more, as he defies his anxieties about airports, heights, temperatures, textures and vast swaths of the animal kingdom. With great consternation, he leaves his comfort zone — Canada, as he often reminds viewers — to shadow an expert moose caller in Sweden, herd 600 sheep through a German resort town and politely avoid an octopus aboard a Greek trawler.

Raised in Hamilton, Ontario, about 40 miles southwest of Toronto, Mr. Levy got his big break in 1972 alongside Martin Short, Gilda Radner, Victor Garber, Andrea Martin and Paul Shaffer in a celebrated production of “Godspell” at Toronto’s Royal Alexandra Theater. He has since called the city — and one historic, leafy neighborhood — home.

“Rosedale is a residential area that is right in the heart of Toronto,” he told me over coffee at Tavern on the Green, in New York, where he’d joined the cast of the fourth season of “Only Murders in the Building.” With new skyscrapers going up “a mile a minute” in Toronto, he said, the scene from our table in Central Park looked a little like his view from Rosedale. He and his wife, Deborah Divine, are neighborhood loyalists — Avant Goût, a local bistro, has been their go-to for decades — but spots in other areas rank high, too.

Here are five of Mr. Levy’s favorite places in Toronto.

“Deb and I would usually do our daily constitutional in the morning and end up at Bar Centrale for a latte and some of their fine pastries,” he said, adding that the croissants are especially good at this spot in Summerhill, a neighborhood that borders Rosedale. Occupying the ground floor of the multistory Terroni Price restaurant in a 19th-century brick building, Bar Centrale forgoes the Wi-Fi you might expect with your coffee in favor of a wall’s worth of international magazines and — according to Mr. Levy — a staff full of good conversationalists.

The flagship of this family-run men’s wear emporium on Bloor Street is one-stop shopping for Mr. Levy. “I hate traveling around to different places to get different things,” he said, very much on brand. This place “has every designer, if that’s what you’re into, and everything from socks to tuxedos.” There’s also a sumptuous grooming department, a tailoring service and an array of coffee table books on topics like racecars, rockers and tattoo art.

Touristy? Sure, Mr. Levy acknowledged. Still, this approximately 1,815-foot communications and observation tower offers unrivaled views of the city and Lake Ontario, even if — like him — you avoid the acrophobia-inducing glass-floored sections. “We used to take the kids there when they were young,” he said. “I couldn’t even put my toe on the edge of the glass, but my kids would just destroy me — they would lie down on it.” A less stressful view: Rogers Centre, the stadium next door, where you can see the Toronto Blue Jays play baseball. “I’ve been a Jays fan for, I guess since they started in ’77,” Mr. Levy told me. He clarified his brand of fandom during a Season 2 episode of “The Reluctant Traveler”: “I don’t go and paint my face,” he told the Spanish footballer Héctor Bellerín, but “in a championship game, I’ll stand up and give them, you know, a thumbs-up.”

“The musicianship coming out of the Royal Conservatory is just awesome,” said Mr. Levy, quick to note that his wife “would go there when she was a kid taking piano lessons.” (Students at the 138-year-old institution have included the pianist Glenn Gould and the singer Sarah McLachlan.) Mr. Levy loves concerts at the attached Koerner Hall — “the acoustics are impeccable” — where you can see top students or international stars.

The 1972 “Godspell” role became Mr. Levy’s first steady acting paycheck: “That was huge,” he said. And with his windfall (“140 bucks every single week”) he started enjoying meals and late-night cocktails, or cake and coffee, at the Windsor Arms, a 10-minute drive from the theater. The hotel was popular, he said, because it was “quiet and more residential” than others. (The suites feel like genteel prewar apartments, with musical instruments and plenty of plush seating.) One of Mr. Levy’s favorite old haunts there — the Courtyard Cafe — is now the Courtyard, an event space worth a quick wander to see where, among other things, Elton John and David Furnish held an engagement party. Mr. Levy, now a connoisseur of 5:30 p.m. dinners, is no longer the late-night cake-and-coffee guy he once was — but he still gives the place, you know, a thumbs-up.



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