Danforth Avenue is a long road. But when someone says The Danforth, they mean that amble from Broadview to Pape where restaurants with ample patio space proliferate and stylish young women promenade for diners’ enjoyment. Wear your contacts.
Many refer to the area as Greektown and most of the restaurants sell souvlaki. But this article (second and final in a series preparing you for the Taste of the Danforth Festival this weekend) suggests alternatives. There’s nothing wrong with souvlaki. Its sheer number of purveyors on Danforth underscore that fact. But one day you’ll want something different. This issue: Chester to Pape.
Silk Road Cafe
Now in its 13th year, the Taste of the Danforth Festival has become so influential that this long-time survivor has modified its sign to Taste of the Silk Road. Originally it was a theme restaurant offering foods from clear across Asia (it’s named after the historic trading route between east and west) but seems to have settled on Chinese food. Rich stir-fries, hot pork dishes, plus plenty of vegetarian options for those fleeing souvlaki for reasons other than variety. The patio’s tiny so get there early. Best news? After years of flying dry, they’re applying for a liquor license. Silk Road Cafe, 341 Danforth.
Because hangovers happen east of the Don River too. Welcome to the best all-day breakfast in Riverdale. Another long-time neighbourhood veteran, this greasy spoon is still recovering from the smoking ban. The sort of place that breeds mustachioed guys in Leafs shirts. Kudos to the owners for advertising their menu mainstays (burgers, etc) without listing souvlaki. Detroit Eatery, 389 Danforth.
It would get lost in that gauntlet of Thai lunch spots at Yonge and Bloor but here it sticks out like a green curried thumb. Heaping plates of pad thai make work in the afternoon a challenge. Sweet curries hotly smack of pepper a few seconds after you swallow. It’s cute, clean and fast. The white tile and bright colours don’t make you want to hang around but the prices will keep you coming back. Diner’s Thai, 395 Danforth.
This would be lost in the student ghetto on Bloor between Bathurst and Spadina. Not that you should ever trust cheap seafood but you sure get a lot of sushi for your buck. Three-course lunch specials are just $5.95. The nine-course Osaka box is just $8.95! There’s a patio but it’s smaller than a Tokyo hotel room, so you may not feel like lingering. Sushi Delight, 461 Danforth.
Mexican food so good, you’d swear you were in America. Three wonderful warnings: 1) Be careful not to fill up on the plentiful baskets of nachos they keep throwing down in front of you 2) White breads beware: the salsa burns on the way out too 3) The margaritas are lak rlly fhkin essillnt – leave the car overnight and walk two blocks either direction to the subway, or grab one of those ubiquitous taxis that patrol Danforth 24/7. Ole! Plaza Garibaldi, 467 Danforth.
Mocha Mocha Cafe
Nouveau cuisine in a charming atmosphere, this spot is a pearl. Subtle but hearty salads and sandwiches, old world crepes (not just for breakfast any more) and desserts she’ll regret for days but want to work off all night. Nice patio across from Alexander the Great Parkette (no really, he was city counselor for Pape in the ’70s) where you can people watch over excellent coffee. This is one of the treasures of the Danforth and the anti-thesis of the pub next door. Mocha Mocha Cafe, 489 Danforth.
Trapezzi Supper Club
Just because Lolita’s Lust got here first, it doesn’t mean this isn’t worth a visit. Trapezzi was one of the most popular destinations east of the Don during Summerlicious. It’s modern Italianesque fare magnificently rendered. (You sure can’t call tikka mussels traditional.) The food delicious, surprising and satisfying. The space is elegant and expensive enough to be seen in for hepcats slumming it up from King Street West. (Crantini and Stella anyone?) One warning: if the waiter didn’t get that part in the laundry detergent commercial, expect plenty of attitude. And they never think it’s funny when you ask if Supper Club members have a secret handshake. Trapezzi Supper Club, 505 Danforth.
Bamboo Dim Sum
For those dim sum junkies who can’t make it all the way to Markham and are afraid to drive on Spadina, welcome to your new home. There’s a cute patio out front – perfect for sightseeing – and a menu to rival any contenders in this well sinified city. You’ll notice Bamboo Dim Sum’s is the first address in this article with an even number. Apparently the souvlaki vendors prefer the north side of the street. Bamboo Dim Sum, 494 Danforth.
Another Summerlicious participant, this is perhaps the best dining experience on the Danforth. It’s proven no flash across from Pan (see below) now almost as old as the precocious Lolita herself. It’s not cheap and the a la carte menu is truly that. Meaning? You order a meat dish and you order a vegetable dish and you order a carb dish. While that gets expensive, you’ll appreciate the euphemism-free menu. The dishes are never “drizzled in a medley of garden greens and presented on a rainbow of rices.” But don’t order too many dishes. Observe and learn from the other diners, most of whom are squirming in ecstasy. Lolita’s Lust, 513 Danforth.
Lest you think we have anything against Greek cuisine, Pan (that mythical chap with the Zamfir flute and goat legs) is the evolution of the grill-based souvlaki hut. Gorgeous atmosphere, friendly staff who love talking about food and, oh yeah, a superb supper. While it could easily make the shortlist of places good meat-eaters go when they die, herbivores will love it too. The vegetable moussaka will leave you every bit as bloated as if you’d eaten half a cow. They do a Greek favourite, the roasted quail, like no one else in town. And if you haven’t been paying close attention to all we’ve been saying and really feel like a souvlaki, come at lunch. Pan, 516 Danforth.
Did you check out our map of Toronto Speed Traps yesterday? Several readers wrote to tell us that a favorite place for our boys in blue to entrap speeders is Eglinton Avenue West, just east of Leslie. Cops hide under the bridge and you can’t see them until it’s too late. It’s a favourite haunt on weekday afternoons and in the early evenings. Occasionally, they’ll be on the other side of Eglinton, trapping speeders heading east. You can’t see them there at all there, because they hide in a treed spot on the grassy knoll by the Celestica entrance.
We think these traps beg a question: if the police are really interested in deterrence and public safety, why not park a cruiser in plain view to get lead-footed drivers to ease off.
Got any other speed trap tips? Let us know.