Found a really cute little local store on my lunch hour the other day. (I work in the Queen West/Parkdale area of Toronto.) It's called Madam Vintage.

It's a tiny little corner shop, located in a space that probably started life as a convenience store.

I was lured in by the flapping cowboy shirts displayed on the front patio. Nathan's been obsessed with plaids and snaps lately, so I thought I might find something for him.

I definitely found a lot of options but decided not to buy anything until he was there to try things on. In addition to the cowboy shirts, boots, and other plaid paraphernalia, I noticed some cute heels, purses and blouses.

According to its website, Madam Vintage carries "cowboy chic" and "80s vintage" for both men and women. The lady working there when I popped in (the owner, I believe, who looked like she was still in her 20s), told me she imports a lot of her stuff directly from Alberta - that is to say, the Canadian hub of cowboy-land. So I think it's all pretty authentic.

The one thing I REALLY wanted to buy was a black and white cow hide rug, but it turns out the rug wasn't for sale and while I asked, the owner was unwilling to part with it.

Madam Vintage is an out-of-the-way place, but I found it (and the owner) to be surprisingly cute, casual and friendly. I'd like to see it succeed. So if you're in the neighbourhood and you have a penchant for plaid, I suggest you stop in.

Madam Vintage
168 Gladstone Ave. (between Dundas and Queen)
(647) 348-2264

So I recently returned from a road trip around the Maritimes and during our last stop (in Fredericton), I came across a lovely bookstore that I just had to write about: The Owl's Nest.

I. Loved. It.

It's a place to get lost in. You walk in, and are immediately confronted with a large room, piled high with used books of every variety. And then you realize that there's another room beyond the front room. And another room beyond that. And ANOTHER room beyond that. AND AN UPSTAIRS. It's intense, man.

Intense and wonderful.

Stylistically speaking, the store is pure kitch. It's filled with odd owl figurines from the '70s, and papered with snarky little notes that say things like "Hardcovers are NEVER $1!" And "There used to be an owl here. Did you steal the owl? Why would you steal the owl?"

I dunno. I thought it was funny.
I took home a few paperback tomes that I loved when I was a girl for about $2 a piece. (Paula Fox - that sort of thing.) And if I ever go back to Fredericton, I'll be buying a whole lot more.

* Store front image from the Owl's Nest Biblio site; Store image from their Facebook page.
* Creative commons owl image by Mikenan1 from Flickr.
So Nate and I ventured out to a new(ish) place in the neighbourhood for burgers last night: Chuck and Co.

We'd been meaning to go for awhile, but only just got around to it.

The menu and website promised "globally inspired" fare, but frankly, the burgers were really just burgers. Sure, some of them had some interesting spices (like marsala) worked into the mix, but they're still just burgers.

Still, they're good burgers.

Nate had the much-lauded Montreal Burger $7.50 (apparently called one of the "best burgers in the city" by Toronto Life). I tasted it, and while I'd say it was good, I wouldn't go that far. The smoked meat is ground right into the chuck and it was a little dry for my tastes.

I had the cheapest burger on the menu: the Chuck Burger ($6) and was certainly satisfied. The meat tasted like real meat (as opposed to those horrible patties you get at fast-food joints) and the ciabatta bun was hearty and satisfying. My only complaints would be that there was a little too much mayo on it, and it didn't come with a pickle. (I love my toppings and like it best when there are lots of options. You get your usual lettuce, tomato, onion, here, and ketchup, etc., but nothing fancy, really.) I NEED MY PICKLES!

We also tried the fries. I had the 50/fifty fries -- a half-sweet potato, half-regular combo, which was a nice option, but not cheap at $4.50. The sweet potatoes were pretty mushy, but good nonetheless. The regular fries were better.

Nate had "twice-fried" fries, $4. They tasted the same as mine...exactly. Maybe twice-fried fries are their standard? I'm not sure. Regardless, they were crispy, chunky and good. We had to ask for salt for the table, however. As a lover of the white and artery-hardening stuff, I hate to have to ask for it. Vaguely embarrasing.

It's like, "I know it's unhealthy and I know I'm a horrible person who's sure to bloat later, but could I have some salt please?" MOAR SALT. Sigh.

Anyway. We enjoyed ourselves and will definitely go back. I'd even say that the Chuck and Co. burgers were better than those from the much-talked-about Stockyards across the street.  (Ya. I said it.)

*Update: after posting this, I received a tweet from @chuckandco that mentioned that they DO have pickles and that I should ask for them next time. Word to
Chuck and Co.
672 Saint Clair Ave. W.
Toronto, ON M6C 1B1
(416) 533-3500

* image from the Chuck and Co. website.