Danforth Dining: Beyond Greek

All year round, not just during the upcoming Taste of the Danforth Festival, many of Toronto’s finest women dress up and flock to the Danforth to promenade between Broadview and Donlands. They display a European flair and pride in femininity that most of the city lacks. Window or sidewalk seats are de rigeur. But maybe you want something other than Greek food.

Let us be clear: there’s nothing wrong with souvlaki. Indeed, burnt flesh and garlic electrify the y-chromosome as much as a wardrobe malfunction or overtime goal. But eventually, even the most ardent barbecue lover will want to eat something else, and maybe wash it down with good wine. (Retsina is so called because it actually involves resin.) Here are some bars and restaurants where you can imbibe away from shish-kebab. Our first installment: Broadview.

Allen’s
You’ll love the big bar in this distinctive bistro. And when you die and go to heaven, the back patio and beer menu will be there. Over 20 quality draft beers were featured here when people still thought Black Label was cool. The front patio’s festooned with bloated burgundy-faced smokers, but a great spot for observing the local talent. We assume nobody told the largely Irish wait staff, imported for colour and sales no doubt, that the economy’s booming back home. The food’s playful and ample; they haven’t updated the menu much in the past few years, but if it ain’t broke you could always go next door to the Dora Keough, which is owned by the same non-purveyors of souvlaki. 143 Danforth, 416-463-4086.

Dora Keough
God knows the Irish-themed pub is tired but this place has true charisma and style. Take the aptly named snug, for instance. With its private access to the bar and closing door, it’s reminiscent of a confessional, whispering Catholic shame over good times and alcohol. Now that’s Irish! Beware, they do take the whole hiddly-hiddly Celtic thing a bit seriously – we wish it were less James Joyce and a bit more Roddy Doyle. The food’s hearty and rich, the beer excellent, and three thumbs up for those fey, bookish Riverdale girls in tight black sweaters who hang out, writing poetry over Guinness and coffee. 141 Danforth, 778-1804.

The Black Swan
Find your inner hoser and buy him a round. Like Montreal’s cheesiest brasseries, any place that never stopped calling itself a tavern is going to be interesting, if nothing else, from an anthropological POV. The drinks are honest Ontario –Molson, Labatt, Domaine D’Or — and the atmosphere is Honest Ed’s. (We didn’t try the food.) What the tribute bands and blues rockers upstairs sometimes lack in talent, they make up for in volume. Stop in for one drink (bottled beer, not draft) and count your blessings and teeth. 154 Danforth, 416-469-0537.

The Auld Spot
A refreshing change in a town where pubs have become franchised and insist on adding apostrophe s to their names. It’s comfortable like a favourite old pair of shoes. The huge speckled pig attached to the sign wards off prudes and hints at the relaxed, sometimes chaotic, atmosphere within. The menu is hearty stodge with the odd surprising nod to sophistication, a reminder that you’re in a restaurant neighbourhood. But if it’s not interesting or spicy enough, just stay for a beer then go next door on either side. 347 Danforth, (416) 406-4688.

Sher-E-Punjab
A 25-year veteran of the Danforth, Sher-E-Punjab wisely zigs where souvlaki ubiquitously zags. It’s not exceptional Indian fare but being your only sub-continental option in the area, it doesn’t need to be. Try the butter chicken, a long-time fave, exquisitely created. Hungry vegetarians will appreciate the fragrant and filling saag paneer and daal. If you like your curry hot, be sure to ask. Good news: they do a brisk trade, so if there aren’t any seats, there will be soon. 351 Danforth, 416-465-2125.

This year the Taste of the Danforth Festival happens on the weekend of August 11 – 13. We’ll bring you one more installment in this series to prepare you to navigate around the souvlaki. Next week: Chester to Pape!

A manly pink drink? Guys are often justifiably leary of pink drinks. Not just because of the look of them; they’re usually mostly sugar. But we at XYYZ like to shake up such conventions (for we are, of course, secure in our manhood). So here’s a pink drink you can confidently embrace without fear of emasculation: the Whisky Rose is a summer cocktail which is tart and cool and delightful on the porch at the end of a sweaty day. Fill a cocktail shaker with ice; add 1/2 oz rye whisky, the juice of 2 fresh lemons, and 2 tsp grenadine syrup. Shake, serve over ice, with a maraschino cherry and a lemon wedge. It’s dramatically pink, but don’t think it’s the least bit girly: it’s more sour than sweet, and that’s enough whisky to make you go easy on them before dinner.

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