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the insider

TTC streetcarDeborah Baic/The Globe and Mail

Um, the butter way?

Saturday afternoon, hungry history buffs will take to the 501 streetcar line, a nearly 25-kilometre route along Queen Street that cuts through the heart of the city and traverses notable neighbourhoods. Using the TTC's sturdy vehicles, Gloria Czomko and Steven Hellmann of Foodies on Foot will lead a flexible tour that includes talks, walks and stops for drinks and food in six neighbourhoods. We asked Mr. Hellmann to give us a taste, as it were, of what transit-happy tour-goers can expect.

Parkdale: "We talk about the history of the area, which includes the amusement park on the lake shore in the 1920s," says Mr. Hellmann. "Today, we can see the evolution of the area on the east and west fringes, where we see the highest concentration of restaurants and specialty food shops." A possible pop-in includes a stop for artisanal doughnuts.

West Queen West: The area's nerve centres are the boutique hotels. "It used to be heavy with art galleries, but since the Drake Hotel opened 10 years ago, we've seen a shift to more restaurants. I like the Gladstone Hotel very much, because it's a little spooky. It still has some edge."

Trinity-Bellwoods: If there's a buzz about the park-centred area, it's a caffeine buzz. "We recently led a media junket with international journalists from Latin America. They were heavy into the coffee culture, and were surprised by the amount of independent coffee shops along this stretch." That being said, a cup of java isn't guaranteed. The tour could just as likely go pinky up with a stop for tea at Tealish (728 Queen St. W.).

Downtown core: Mr. Hellmann is not excited with the caloric adventures found here, but notes that things are perking up if you venture off the rails, particularly the addresses just north of Queen Street at Spadina Avenue. "There's a lot of talk about restaurants moving into that stretch," says Mr. Hellmann, mentioning Strada 241, the rustic Italian joint that the Rubino brothers opened last year.

Corktown: As the red rocket shoots through a neighbourhood so named for its Irish heritage, Mr. Hellmann will likely mention the Distillery District to the south, but he'll also make a prediction about the depressed Queen East strip itself. "This is the next area to take off," he says. Ask him about it at Redline Coffee and Espresso (354 Queen St. E.).

Riverdale/Leslieville: "To me, pound for pound, this is the best area to dine in Toronto," says Mr. Hellmann. You can expect him to ding the request-stop bell near Leslieville Pumps. The gas station's main product isn't required for this public-transit tour, but you can fill up on southern barbecue fare instead.

501 Streetcar Food Tour, March 23, April 7 and 21, 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. $65 to $76 (includes tastings).

Taste of Iceland

Still hungry? Presented by Iceland Naturally, a four-day festival (March 21-24) promotes the Nordic nation's cuisine, music, film and culture. As part of the event, the Drake Hotel offers a $45, four-course Icelandic meal, as well as a concoction involving vodka and sea buckthorn syrup that puts the wreck in Reykjavík. For reservations, 416-531-5042; festival information at