Gyros stuffed with fries (as they do in Greece), Ethiopian coffee ceremonies and an extensive whisky selection await you in this bustling neighbourhood.
By Solmaz Khosrowshahian
COVID-19 Disclaimer: Toronto follows public health measures enacted by the Ontario government to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Your access to shops, restaurants and attractions may be impacted in 2021. Call venues or check their websites for updates before visiting.
Home to North America’s largest Greek neighbourhood, authentic Ethiopian restaurants, bustling patios, spacious parks and some of the oldest businesses in Toronto, The Danforth is filled with talking points. It’s made for the curious, the hungry and those who want to feel the pulse of a tightly-knit community. I may be biased (it’s the neighbourhood I chose to call home), but I think The Danforth should be on everyone’s bucket list. Here are some spots I highly recommend checking out when you visit:
Tried, tested and approved by countless Greeks since 2003, Messini’s is the real thing. The cuisine here isn’t only delicious, but the portions are huge so you’re in for incredible value. Order the pork gyros or chicken souvlaki (they stuff fries inside as they do in Greece), roasted potatoes, Greek salad and do NOT forget the tzatziki!
This Ethiopian restaurant is very popular and for good reason: the food here is amazing! Flavourful stews and spongey injera bread await. They specialize in Ethiopian and Eritrean cuisine and have something on the menu for everyone, including vegetarians and vegans. Stay for the coffee ceremony after your meal to get a complete cultural experience.
Craving authentic Jamaican food? Simone’s Caribbean Restaurant on The Danforth serves up some of the best in the city. The owner, Simone Lawrence, makes everything from scratch and her dishes are always bursting with flavour. The jerk chicken, oxtail and rice and peas are my personal favourites.
If you’re on the hunt for a sun-drenched patio on The Danforth, I highly recommend Allen’s. This restaurant has been around since 1987 and is loved by regulars for many reasons, including their local fare, whisky collection (over 340), VQA wines (over 100) and friendly service. Head here for some of the best burgers in the city and a warm ambiance that will have you going back time and time again.
A taste of France on The Danforth. The owner of this much-loved shop carefully curates goodies from talented artisans in her native France. She’s passionate, quality-obsessed and very helpful. Pop by for a great selection of French cheeses, pastries and premium chocolates made by a Master Chocolatier based in Lyon.
This flower market opened its doors in 1911 and is one of the oldest, if not the oldest, businesses on The Danforth. Quality is their top priority so you can expect vibrant, fresh flowers arranged with finesse. If you’re unable to drop by, they also offer flower delivery across the GTA.
Head east on Danforth Ave and north on Coxwell Ave to shop at East York Farmer’s Market every Tuesday, May through October. This is where you’ll find me and many other locals buying fresh produce, chatting with farmers and indulging in locally-made treats.
At Treasure Island Toys, you can purchase amazing products AND feel good about supporting an independently owned and operated business that’s been around since 1988! These guys know their stuff and can help you find the perfect gift for kids of all ages (newborns to teens). They also carry eco-friendly and locally-made products.
This worker-owned, natural food market has been an integral part of the community since 1983. They have a huge selection of local, organic, non-GMO and Fairly Traded products. The juice and smoothie bar is also worth a visit!
Featured in countless magazines (from FASHION and Elle Canada to Flare and The Kit), this nail bar has a devout following thanks to their technical skills and creativity. Book an appointment at their original Danforth location for some of the best manicures and pedicures in the city!
A visit to The Danforth isn’t complete without dropping by this mouthwatering, Greek street food shop. Known for their spanakopita (spinach pie) and loukoumathas (honey balls), they’ve established quite the following since 1978. Everything is made from scratch and their original recipes have been passed down through generations so you’re in for a treat!
Unassuming on the outside, delicious on the inside. This Italian bakery is a hidden gem on The Danforth. Serving up traditional family recipes since 1973, it’s the kind of place that will immediately transport your taste buds. Expect nonna vibes and quite possibly the best cannoli in town.
This family-run bakery first opened its doors in 1994 and is where you’ll find me buying freshly-baked goods. They have a huge selection of Greek and European pastries, breads, custom cakes and a Greek food market. And yes, it’s worth the lineups.
“The Birth Place of Coffee” sign will lure you in the first time, the great coffee will have you returning as a regular. These guys are serious about their coffee: it’s an inherent part of Ethiopian culture after all. Great care is taken when roasting their single origin Ethiopian coffee in small batches so each customer gets served the perfect cup.
This much-loved coffee shop is a staple in the neighbourhood. A place where locals gather (when it’s safe to do so) to enjoy quality coffee and devour baked goods in the coziest of spaces. All their pastries are baked fresh in-house daily and their scones are some of the best in the city!
This park is a true community hub. There’s an outdoor pool, ice rink, playground, an off-leash dog area, street art, a community garden and plenty of green space for family picnics and outdoor fun.
You’ll find this 8-hectare park in Riverdale just south of Danforth Avenue. It features two outdoor tennis courts, a volleyball court, two baseball diamonds, a sports field, wading pool, playground, ice rink and a dog off-leash area. It’s a great spot to gather with friends and family!
Founded in 2015, The Coal Mine Theatre is one of Toronto’s most critically acclaimed Off-Off Broadway theatres. Although it’s currently closed due to the pandemic, they are hoping to re-open in the fall. Expect thought-provoking, well-written and challenging plays when upcoming shows are announced.
Originally constructed as a movie theatre back in 1919, Danforth Music Hall is one of the only historic venues that still operates as a venue in Toronto. Over the years the technology inside has changed, but the intimate community vibe has not. The shows here are always memorable, the sound is fantastic and the sightlines are even better. I’m counting down the days to future concerts!
See it. Snap it. Share it. In every neighbourhood, around every corner, through every door
there's something that begs to be discovered in Toronto.
See it. Snap it. Share it. In every neighbourhood, around every corner, through every door there's something that begs to be discovered in Toronto.#OPENYOURCURIOSITY
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