Jeff and I used to live in a little-known neighbourhood called Corktown. It sits a few blocks east of the city-centre, and south, towards the lake. The rowhouse we lived in was built in 1895 and served as low-income housing for employees of the Distillery District, which lies along the southern end of the neighbourhood. Toronto's Distillery Historic District accounts for the largest remaining collection of Victorian Industrial architecture in the world, outside of England. Cool, huh? (This area deserves its own entry, someday.)
Corktown is up-and-coming, as they say, and will soon explode with new development/gentrification. The original neighbourhood is only a few narrow little streets, really, so they will shine with historic charm when surrounded by newer buildings.
The shift began a few years ago when the Distillery began a massive restoration project. They brought the buildings back from the brink of collapse and turned the area into a bit of a high-end artists community, with galleries and artists' studios. This moved north a block or two and started to shift Corktown, taking it from a dilapidated non-neighborhood to one that now houses cute shops, auction houses, and restaurants.
The Gilead Café is owned by Jamie Kennedy, one of Toronto's premiere (and most swoon-worthy) chefs. Much like Mark McEwan, he's known for high-quality ingredients, local sourcing, and a total lack of affordability. But you certainly get what you pay for. (Especially if Kennedy himself happens to be around. Gush!)
A couple of years ago he took a leap of faith and opened a small café in a back alley in Corktown. It started as a catering/production kitchen for his other restaurants, but also offered lunch and a few foodstuffs (housemade and packaged cured meats, croutons, sauces, etc.) The décor is lovely and simple, his preserves lining the walls, ready to purchase or use in his seasonally-appropriate menus. The Gilead is now open for dinner, when it shifts into Bistro-mode, though I haven't yet had the pleasure.
Yesterday I had lunch at the Gilead with the brassy Cameron MacNeil - He's a designer, blogger, and design editor at Canadian House & Home. (You might recognize him from the Ask a Designer™ column in the magazine.) It was nice to sit down with him and have a chat over delicious sandwiches and that flakey-amazing butter tart.