Taste your way through Toronto’s Little India
By Tanya Enberg
If you’re a foodie with a love for authentic Indian or Pakistani cuisine, the Gerrard Indian Bazaar — an east end Toronto enclave — is where to find it.
Visitors will notice several empty storefronts and ample urban grit in this transitioning area, but don’t let that be a deterrent. This stretch is well worth a visit.
Spicy aromas spill out onto the street from the myriad of inexpensive takeaway, full service and buffet-style restaurants, as well as South Asian marketplaces that pepper Gerrard Street between Greenwood and Coxwell Avenues.
On warmer evenings you’ll find shop owners roasting spiced corn on the cob outside as traditional music plays on old stereos in the background.
Wander to Lahore Tikka House, a bustling Halal Pakistani restaurant that boasts a frenetic, festive vibe on weekends.
Lineups are frequent, especially during the evenings, however service is speedy so securing a spot at the mostly communal tables doesn’t typically take too long.
Local insiders seek out this alcohol-free hotspot for its array of well-priced and flavour-packed dishes, among them savoury butter chicken, delicious palak paneer, and must-try karahi chicken, all of which pack a spicy punch of heat and are perfectly complemented by an order of buttery or garlic naan and basmati rice.
Sizzling entrees are served up in piping hot cast iron pans, but expect to eat from Styrofoam plates in this spacious eatery.
While not listed on the menu, ask for an order of pani puri, a bite-sized snack filled with layers of tasty ingredients, such as tamarind chutney, potato, onion, chili, chaat masala and chickpeas.
Best known for its high-quality food, Lahore Tikka is also appreciated for the aged rickshaw parked out front and the kitschy appeal inside, including strings of small light bulbs hanging from the ceiling, bright makeshift curtains and plastic patio chairs.
Those looking for the ultimate in taste bud variety and a quieter ambience should try the lunch or dinner buffet at Gautama, which is offered daily and teeming with palate-pleasing delights.
If all-you-can-eat sampling isn’t your style, Gautama also offers a large menu of appetizers and meat and vegetarian Indian mains (among them fiery chicken vindaloo, curry, lamb masala and veggie korma).
When exploring the Gerrard Indian Bazaar area, be sure to admire the colourful saris for sale, stop by the light-filled Gerrard Art Space, featuring exhibits and classes, and sample the irresistibly sweet desserts available in abundance.
The TD Festival of South Asia takes place annually in early July, featuring music, talent shows, cultural programs, jewelry, clothing and food.
For more information or to get help planning an outing, visit gerrardindiabazaar.com.
Tanya Enberg is a Toronto-based freelance journalist and editor. She has worked as a senior daily newspaper editor and nationally-syndicated columnist. Her work has appeared in dozens of magazines, newspapers and online publications. She is the co-founder of ChicSavvyTravels.com and is a regular contributor to Yummy Mummy Club (yummymummyclub.ca/blogs/tanya-enberg-unexpected-mother) and Huffington Post Canada (www.huffingtonpost.ca/tanya-enberg). She has been featured on numerous TV and radio shows, including Oh So Cosmo, Discovery Channel, the W Network, Rogers TV, CFRB 1010, 680 News and Iron Mike in the Morning on 97.7 and gives public talks about the power —and importance — of travel.