taste of the danforth
I was at Taste of the Danforth last night - ended up ordering fried calamari from Mezes ($5), a lamb rosemary phyllo pie ($3) from the Ouzeri, and a custart tart from Europa ($2)....
Mezes: The calamari was unusually rubbery and tasted slightly off in the first few pieces, but I hit one piece at the end that was absolutely off. Considering the volume they are serving, and the popularity of the restaurant, I was surprised this would happen, esp. the first night of the T of D.
Ouzeri: The phyllo on the pies was perfect- flaky and buttery without being heavy or greasy. The filling in the lamb rosemary phyllo pie was ok, but the chicken rosemary pie my friend ordered contained more meat, and was tastier...And I usually like lamb more than chicken!
Europa: The custard tart (pasteis de nata) was fine, but I was surprised when I handed the employee a toonie, and she gave no change. I mentioned I thought they were usually $1.25 at Europa and she said that they are $1.25 during regular business hours, but the price is raised to $2 during taste of the Danforth. Although I have recommended Europa several times on the board, I was disappointed that they would try to profit from the public like this during the taste of the Danforth. Especially considering the volume of sales is incredibly increased during a street festival, and considering most bakeries in Little Portugal charge around $1 per tart (or even less). My friend was disappointed with the baklava she bought at Europa- it was literally soaking in syrup, and she ended up eating only a bite or two before discarding it.This might be the result of a baklava being made by a non-Greek (the owner of Europa is Portuguese).And, we might be a little more critical of baklava, being of Greek descent. Caffe Demetri was selling waffle cones for only $2, and several places were selling their souvlaki at either the regular price, or even lower prices than usual. The line-ups were considerably shorter closer to Pape- if you're hungry when you get there, head east.
I will only go to TOTD if it is raining, that is the only time you can walk around without being herded like cattle.
The organizers add to the crowding problems by placing amusement rides and beer gardens in the centre of the street, creating massive bottlenecks.
I think TOTD should take a hint from Taste Of Chicago, and move the whole festival to a large park
Instead of visiting TOD on a packed Saturday night like last year, I have actually went there on Sunday afternoon after 4pm. The crowd was definitely a lot smaller than Friday/Saturday. Also some of the food stalls have actually started to lower their price a couple of hrs before the event was over. I have enjoyed my walk on a nice breezy Sunday afternoon. My gyro was not cheap, but it was very filling.
I have gone to TOD once, and will never return. This was due to the crowds, and not the food. I have never been in a crowd so packed as TOD. This may have been an unusual occurence (4-5 years ago when Crash Test Dummies played). It was like a water baloon being overfilled with nowhere to go. People were fighting, parents holding their children over their head and above the crowd. I lost the 2 people I was with. Craziness. Eventually, the police opened the barracades and it was like the flood gates opening. People being stepped on who fell. Scary! Is it usually like this?
Re: when to eat. I concur with the above who say the real TOD is on the TOD 'off season'.
I, too, was dissapointed in some of the food quality and the prices. I had a good souvlaki on a pita but the rest of the food I tried was mediocre at best.
On Saturday night, the crowds got so bad you could hardly move! Not a an enjoyable experience. Took about 20 minutes to get free of the mob scene!!
I think I will "taste the Danforth" another time when the festival is not on. It will be much more enjoyable!
I think the appeal is the atmosphere, just being able to walk around on a blocked off street on a nice summery day.
Food is secondary, and there is the aforementioned price gourging involved. It is interesting to watch the basis of economics at play, the inverse being people lining up for whatever free crap said corporate sponsors are giving away.
Best bet was ocean's trading w/ their selection of seafood offerings (cuttlefish, octopus, salmon, shrimp, crab au-gratin).
I took some pics......
Disappointed to hear about Europa as I too have been a big supporter of this place: great custard tarts, they make their own phyllo, their cakes are terrific and I love their almond cookies.
Having said that, the gouging at TotD has been going on for years, with ALL the vendors, and I have personally seen guys making up prices as they go. It's shameful but everyone seems to do it. The worst in years past have been the hand-lettered signs where they scratch out the old price and add the new one when they realize that people will pay more.
I wish that the organizers would have people submit and approve all the prices before hand, and insist on printed unchangeable signs. And enforce a maximum premium policy, for example 10-20% over usual prices.
I still suggest going to Taste of the Danforth- I just wanted to warn chowhounds which opportunists were gouging the crowd.
I wish I had ordered the grilled ortikia and cutttlefish like another poster...it's the only time that you'll find Greek restos grilling that stuff outside!
After living near the Danforth and subsequently moving to Little India, my advice to people about ToftheD is this:
Wait until after this weekend, then go sit on a patio on a lovely evening (at any one of the restaurants previously, recently mentioned on this board), without the throngs of people and mediocre, touristly, overpriced food. THAT is the true Taste of the Danforth.. (same goes for the Jazz Festival in the Beach skip it for another weekend, minus the decent food... sadly not the Beaches' strong point...)
I was at TOtD last night as well.
Gouging was rapant-$3 for a grilled corn on the cob!!
However, the large serving of cuttle fish for $4 was worthe the price as was the delectable spit roasted quail. I paid in time however since the line up snaked toward the delicious smell of roasting meats for about a block.
We gave up on Taste of the Danforth years ago. It's become too big and in some instances, lost the spirit that Zengarden refers to. Visit Greektown and try the restaurants but not during this festival. Generally, you'll have a much better time and get a true sense of what's good or not.