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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

The most beautiful Dairy Queen in Toronto?

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While exploring the neighbourhoods along Broadview north of the Danforth last week, I stumbled upon what may be the most beautiful Dairy Queen in Toronto.

Perched on a ridge above Pottery Road, the DQ overlooks the Don Valley, affording a perfect view of Toronto’s skyline poking out of the forests along the Valley’s western bank.

Come summer time, the restaurant’s picnic tables will be a great spot to enjoy a sundae or Blizzard while thinking about the forests, highways, towers and rivers that make up Toronto.

by Daniel Rotsztain

Though many would think of the intersection of Broadview and Pottery Road as being part of downtown Toronto, this Dairy Queen reveals the area’s very suburban DNA (and Pottery Road’s history goes back even further). Surrounded by wide streets and parking lots, this cliffside DQ is a piece of the suburbs on the border of pre-amalgamation Toronto.

by Daniel Rotsztain

As it happens, Broadview and Pottery Road are part of Ward 29, where a healthy majority of the residents did not vote for Rob Ford in the 2010 municipal election. But it doesn’t matter to me whether this part of town is urban or suburban, Ford-land or Latte-ville — what matters is whether I can get there easily on the TTC. I live at another end of town, but I’m excited for the summer, when I’ll make the trek to Broadview Station, walk a few minutes north, and enjoy a Blizzard while taking in great views of the city.

Daniel is the Urban Geographer. Check out his blog or say hello on Twitter!



  1. Pottery and Broadview is suburban? It’s not downtown, but it’s pretty damn urban. Broadview is a four lane road, as is standard for most urban major streets, two lanes for parking, two for traffic, no turning lanes. Pottery is a two lane road.

    It also should not be surprising they didn’t vote for Rob Ford, as their MP, MPP and councillor are all NDP. This was Jack Layton’s riding.

    Finally, this Dairy Queen sits a block north of the East York/Toronto border. This isn’t pre-amalgamation Toronto, but rather, East York.

  2. Thanks for providing supporting arguments for my post Adam. It’s a suburban landscape (in my opinion), but has “downtown” values.

    I corrected the post RE: East York. Those dastardly pre-amalgamation borders, they sneak up on you!

  3. Unless it was added in the past couple months, this DQ does not have a drive-thru. Maybe they did many years ago but not since I’ve lived in the east end. I’d also say that there is almost nothing suburban feeling about this area – perhaps other than the existence of this DQ. The whole stretch of Broadview is lined with tall towers and jam packed with store fronts and tight residential neighbourhoods just like much of the rest of Toronto.

    Sure, it’s not the downtown core, but it’s vastly different from the sprawling expanses of the GTA.

    All that said, this is indeed one of the best spots in Toronto to sit and enjoy some ice cream on a hot summer day or evening. Just keep an eye on the raccoons who hang out around the garbage bins there.

  4. This is perhaps the most beautifully SITUATED Dairy Queen, but the building itself not beautiful at all. Just look at its crappy frontage.

  5. My parents used to take me there sometimes in the summer when I was a child (definitely not a new location!). I get the suburban feel – though on the Broadview side it’s not as much like that (and very close to the Danforth), looking out on the Don Valley side it’s a blur of roads built to the scale of the car rather than the person (which, I’d argue, is the very essence of the suburbs).

  6. I lived 5 minutes from this Dairy Queen for many years. Loved the view in the summer time. Depends on how you define suburban. Having lived in the Danforth/Riverdale area for 10+ years I always considered it very suburban – it feels that way to me. Everyone there owns 1 or 2 cars, you never have to leave the neighbourhood because the Danforth has a good mix of shops and restaurants. You could easily live there never participate anything else the city has to offer. This is one of the reasons I moved downtown. When I explain this opinion to people, especially those who still live there, they seem surprised – they feel it’s a very urban area.

  7. Thanks Daniel. I grew up not far from here and used to think of it as downtown before my south of Bloor friends indicated that no, I did not live downtown. I’d agree it’s a lot more urban than anything east of Victoria park. Perhaps we’ve got concentric circles – densely urban, urban, suburban, here in Toronto. I’ve corrected the situation since and now tell the same jokes they did (What do you call the area north of Bloor? Northern Ontario.) The real divide of course is the famed “tree line” north of the Danforth, which I’m sure Spacing has written about. As I understand it, way back when, Toronto had the budget to plant trees while East York did not. As a result if you head north from the Danforth on any side street between Broadview and Greenwood you’ll hit a leafy demarcation zone where the tree canopy suddenly stops and that suburban feeling begins to creep in. The temperature also goes up about 10 degrees in the summer. Time to plant more trees East York!

  8. As a kid I would go the the Harveys (where that condo is) and after go to Dq. A nice view and hell of a bike ride down the hill after.

  9. Spacing’s lack of knowledge of everything east of Don River is illustrated here.

    The borough of East York might have been considered a suburb of Toronto in the 1950’s, when it was built, but it’s hardly a suburb now.

    And what was the point of dragging the mayor into the article?

    If you needed space to fill the article, a history of the Dairy Queen would have been more interesting and flowed with the article, or a mention of the Todmorden Mills that the Dairy Queen over looks.

    Argh… Toronto is bigger then Front St. to Bloor and Ossington to River Street.

  10. daniel, when you do come back, walking north from broadview station, make a left turn just past 980 broadview avenue, here –>

    there’s a path which goes down the hill, through an area from early toronto history called “helliwell’s bush” to a wildflower preserve, past a river oxbow pond (the don river was diverted from here for the dvp), and eventually emerging in the todmorden mills parking lot

    much of the way along here, you’ll be able to see the dairy queen at the top of the valley

  11. My favourite DQ in the city. I love the view over the valley.

  12. I appreciate your comments Hobbs and Goblin.

    This article is an effort to expand Torontonian’s notions of what their city is. In my opinion, beyond the financial core, the whole city is suburban in character. I brought the mayor into the article because I would like to collapse the illusion of a downtown-suburbs divide in Toronto.

    I am certainly interested in the history of the area, but that is content for another post.

  13. I hate to be a big downer…. but you know your city looks like dogsh*t when a crummy fast food restaurant jammed next to a McCondo, surrounded by salt strewn, traffic heavy roads is called out for being “beautiful.” This article really draws attention the the dearth of beautiful spaces in Toronto.

  14. It is indeed a beautiful view there – a sunset from their back patio is a real sight to behold. If last summer is any indication, though, the warm weather brings with it an uncomfortable number of raccoons that love to hang out on that very patio. Just fair warning for any who plan to make the trip.

  15. Did Adam really provide you with “supporting arguments,” Daniel?

    If anything, I believe that he politely disagreed with you.

  16. Hi J,

    Forgive my coyness. I meant to say that I disagree with him, and think Pottery and Broadview has quite suburban characteristics (wide roads, parking lots, houses with front and back yards). I think the issue is context. In Toronto, Broadview and Pottery is indeed quite urban relative to its surroundings. But compared to other cities, this landscape is not downtown-ish.

    He did support my arguments by providing more information that a suburban-like neighbourhood votes for supposedly downtown friendly politicians.

  17. DR: In my opinion, beyond the financial core, the whole city is suburban in character.

    DR: I meant to say that I disagree with him, and think Pottery and Broadview has quite suburban characteristics (wide roads, parking lots, houses with front and back yards).

    If your criteria for suburban means roads that are as wide as they are downtown (same speed limits), a parking lot or two sprinkled here and there, and houses with tiny yards then 99% of the city is suburban.

    When most people use the word suburban, they typically mean the post-war car oriented form and not the streetcar suburbs which have more in common with the “financial core” than what came after 1950. There are huge differences in zoning and land use between the two and that would be immediately obvious if you had actually walked down this street versus any arterial or collector road in say Scarborough.

    Or maybe your frame of reference is calibrated differently from the rest of us? Anything not Hong Kong or Manhattan is suburban?

  18. The only time I’ve been to Dairy Queen in many years was this one – and the view eating outside was indeed rather more interesting and attractive than you’d expect from a fast-food restaurant.

    There is a noticeable difference in urban form when you cross the old East-York/Toronto boundary – it’s visible in the housing as well as commercial properties. East York quite clearly had city planning policies that were somewhat more suburban than Toronto, even if they seem urban compared to newer suburbs.

    It’s funny when people refer to “Spacing” as some sort of monolithic group. If you read the blog you’ll see Spacing has many individual contributors, all of whom have different sets of knowledge, experience and interests.

  19. You should check out photos of “the most beautiful Dairy Queen” before they remodeled it a couple years ago. It looked like the combination of a Mexican villa and a fish aquarium!

  20. I guess I don’t get internet journalism. My gut tells me you should just eat your Buster Bar, enjoy the view and not wax poety about politics and urban form. Correct or not, your insights are not just not that interesting,

  21. Thanks for your response, Wow.

    I do think that 99% of Toronto is suburban in character. Its history is a series of amalgamations, swallowing villages that were often self-described as suburban (see the history of the Annex, and the plaque in front of the Danforth Music Hall, which describes the Danforth as Toronto’s first great suburb!).

    A lot of the city, including the downtown neighbourhoods, are little houses that have their own private outdoor space. If you’ve been to other cities, especially in Europe, you’ll know this is a feature unique to Toronto, and maybe a handful of other North American cities.

    Since the term suburban carries a lot of negative connotations, I want to avoid using it to describe Toronto. (I did so in the post to simplify reality a bit to make an argument.)

    I would love a new way to describe Toronto’s form. Even downtown, it’s a much different kind of space than European city centres. So it’s not quite downtown, it’s not quite suburban. Is it super-urban? Is it densurbia? Is it just straight “Torontoism”?

  22. Agree with Daniel, Toronto’s roots are suburban right into the core. Compare to, say, Montreal, urban to the edge of the island in many directions.

  23. Well, for my ice cream dollar, the most beautiful Queen I’ve ever seen –on either sides of the DVP– is Dale Duncan.

    No matter where you stand, best views ever.