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Going Greek - Downtown TO

s
SeeDee Jun 27, 2008 06:00 PM

Advice needed. Greek in-laws (much liked) joining us in Toronto. Where would out-of-towners find the authentic Greek experience? Staying @ Novotel on the Esplanade but we can handle the taxi fare if necessary.
Mile failte (you've guessed it, we're Irish).

  1. m
    millygirl Jun 28, 2008 06:47 AM

    Hi SeeDee, head over to The Danforth. It's chock a block with greek restaurants and patios and cafes. The food is pretty similar at most of the restaurants but some have their favorites. On a nice weather day the patios and sidewalks are bursting with people. Typically they don't take reservations. I suggest you take either a taxi or subway to Danforth and Chester and begin to take in the sights and sounds, choosing whichever restaurant appeals to you and your family. You didn't say when you will be arriving but if in August, the Danforth holds a 3 day street fair called Taste of the Danforth. I hope it's not then because it's wall to wall people morning, noon and night. I suppose if you don't mind crowds you'd love it! Hope you have a great visit.

    1 Reply
    1. re: millygirl
      pescatarian Jun 28, 2008 08:54 AM

      I agree with most of what Millygirl said. The only thing I would add is that while most of the restaurants are the same, I'd avoid the chain-like ones such as Mr. Greek, the Friendly Greek and Il Fornello (not Greek obviously).
      I like Mezes, Avli and I had a nice lunch at Pappas Grill recently on their lovely patio.

    2. Rabbit Jun 28, 2008 07:15 AM

      Millygirl has pretty much told you what you need to know. "Greektown" runs roughly from Chester to Pape subway stations (eastbound on the Bloor line), although it bleeds a bit on either side and also a little bit to the north along Pape.

      I agree that most of the restaurants are more-or-less the same so you should probably just go with your instincts and see which spot strikes your atmospheric fancy. I do like Avli, but again most places are quite alike. Note that Lambros is new-ish with some good reviews around here (http://www.dine.to/lambros). I haven't tried it, but I think it may be a little more "upscale" than the traditional flaming cheese places (which isn't a criticism, because I love a good flaming cheese).

      As well as restaurants, you will also find some Greek butchers, bakeries and coffee shops along this stretch. It's a pretty neighbourhood, and quite lively at night with people hanging out on patios and in the cafes. Although it's probably not going to be the best/most authentic Greek food you've had (especially if you have the in-laws cooking the real deal), Toronto's Greektown is still worth a visit.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Rabbit
        e
        estragon Jun 28, 2008 08:54 AM

        Agreed with pretty much everything, but... Avli has gone way down hill of late. The last meal I had there was super-bland and overpriced.

        Lambros, next door, is much better - small plates with interesting takes on Greek classics. For more traditional island/country food, my favourite is Pantheon: simple, inexpensive, and the best octopus I've had in Toronto. The other popular spots - Mezes, Megas, Ouzeri - are hit-and-miss. As Millygirl says, the menu and the inconsistency are all more or less the same. There are also the souvlaki joints - Astoria, Omonia, and the chains (Mr. Greek, Friendly Greek), which I personally would avoid.

        One more thing: skip dessert at the restaurant, and go to Athens Pastries (509 Danforth) for some loukoumades (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loukoumades).

      2. c
        captainhaddock Jun 28, 2008 02:39 PM

        real Greeks in toronto agree with estragon's post - parthenon is tops (especially for seafood) - and second choice for all round would probably be mezes - and i wholeheartedly agree with the 'athens pastries' dessert suggestion - the loukoumades are killer

        11 Replies
        1. re: captainhaddock
          s
          SeeDee Jun 29, 2008 01:12 AM

          Toppa de mornin to you all (being ironic here, we don't actually talk like that over here in Ireland).
          Thanks to all for the general consensus all round - one of the prime reasons for our first Canadian trip was to check out if Canadians were truly as nice as their reputation suggested - already proving to be an agreeable bunch from your replies! Not trying to find a chink in your case but Capt H, you have endorsed estragons recs (very Canadian, it would seem) but we need clarity on Pantheon / Parthenon.
          On the wider issue of Downtown dining, we got mutterings of tourist traps, poor food and overpricing when we sounded out the Canucks on the Western Canada board (we're doing Vancouver first). The nearby St Laurence Market sounds promising for quick eats but could anybody suggest a venue for a last night in Canada meal. The credit card may be reduced to a lump of molten plastic by then but hey! its only money (the bank's money tho).
          And tomorrow...............Happy Canada Day!

          1. re: SeeDee
            e
            estragon Jun 29, 2008 06:18 AM

            Definitely Pantheon.

            St. Lawrence Market is a must, esp. on Saturday morning. Keep in mind, it's closed Sundays and Mondays.

            Last Night in Canada meal? How gourmet do you want to go? Canoe and Splendido, two of the best restos in town, specialize in high-end local ingredients, but you'll drop between $300 and $500 for two.

            1. re: SeeDee
              Edith S Jun 29, 2008 07:32 AM

              Skip the Greek grub. The Danforth is very touristy. You've got one of the best restaurants in Canada about a block away from your hotel — Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar. Not Greek, but completely Canadian.

              And not terribly expensive.

              http://www.jkkitchens.com/v1/restaura...

              1. re: Edith S
                Rabbit Jun 29, 2008 08:47 AM

                Ahhh, I don't think "the Danforth" is too touristy (brief geographical note: Danforth Avenue is the name of the street Greektown runs along... it's the same as Bloor Street, but the name challenges once you cross the Don Valley Parkway). It's not CN-tower keychain territory. I think it's actually a very livable Toronto neighbourhood, which is part of what makes it interesting to see (and why it has good butchers, bakeries, upscale and alternative groceries... all of which might be of interest to food-keen tourists).

                However, you might keep in mind that some of the best food on the Danforth is not Greek. If you feel disheartened by the Greek options, keep walking toward Broadview and there are many other good not-Greek choices... Allen's (good upscale pub food with a pretty back patio), Seven Numbers Danforth (Italian small plates) and the Globe Bistro (more "Canadian cuisine"... fresh and local ingredients - rooftop patio).

                That said, I definitely do second the JKWB rec - great spot.

                1. re: Rabbit
                  e
                  estragon Jun 29, 2008 09:27 AM

                  Agreed, the Danforth is actually one of the liveliest NON-touristy neighbourhoods in town. It's busy day and night, and most of the people who are out on the street and on the patios are local. Whatever you think of Toronto's Greek restaurants, one thing that life in Canada hasn't changed about the Greeks is their love of going out. At Athens Pastries you will often see elderly couples sharing a bougatsa and Greek coffees next to a gaggle of pretty young things on their way to Myth.

                  As for the rest of the Danforth, remember that the OP wasn't asking about the neighbourhood -- they are looking specifically for Greek food.

                  1. re: estragon
                    Poorboy Jun 29, 2008 09:46 AM

                    Have to chime in here.
                    If you want touristy for Greek food, in downtown area there is one place that sticks out in my mind.
                    That would be Penelope's on King Street W.
                    I had lunch there this past Thursday.
                    There were 4 of us and we ordered a few selections from the menu.
                    While the food was "passable" for Greek food, it was very indistinctive and lacked flavour.
                    The service was poor and I got the feeling that we were being ignored at times.
                    Had to flag down a waiter to get refills of beverage and water.
                    Too bad as we weren't dressed the part of hillbillies, we were all in business attire.
                    The Mrs. has gone there for late night dining in the past a couple of times. Whereas when you order a Souvlaki dinner we have come to expect a side of so-called Greek salad, you will have to order as a side for about $6 and change.
                    Prices are also a couple of dollars more per main compared to the Danforth.
                    I guess rent is higher in that area and tourists will pay it?
                    I would not go for Greek there again.

                    1. re: Poorboy
                      m
                      millygirl Jun 29, 2008 12:32 PM

                      Hey folks, I know we all mean well but read the post....the poster is asking for authentic greek for entertaining in-laws. Why make it complicated. The Danforth is the place.

                  2. re: Rabbit
                    JamieK Jul 1, 2008 03:43 PM

                    Have to weigh in here to agree that Greektown on the Danforth is NOT touristy.

                    1. re: JamieK
                      Manybears Jul 2, 2008 06:48 AM

                      I sort of think it's a little touristy, but it hasn't made it bad-- so of interest to tourists, but not a tourist trap, if that makes sense?

                      Incidentally, on visiting Greece a couple of years ago, the unanimous response I received from the locals when I told people I was from Toronto was, "Oh! Toronto! --Danforth!!!"

                      1. re: Manybears
                        pescatarian Jul 2, 2008 10:50 AM

                        I think that the only time the Danforth is touristy is during weekend of the Taste of the Danforth, when it should be avoided as far as I am concerned.
                        However, I live in the area and am around there often, and most of the time it seems very "local" in nature. Saturday nights might bring more 905-ers but, for the most part it's local in nature.

                        1. re: pescatarian
                          Manybears Jul 2, 2008 01:12 PM

                          I think I agree, I just meant it has some tourist appeal (it gets mentioned in guide books as a destination), not that it's full of or oriented toward tourists. I think I may have just mis-used the word "touristy".

            2. c
              captainhaddock Jul 1, 2008 12:53 PM

              PANTHEON. if you go to the st. lawrence market you may be interested in a great peameal bacon sandwich at the north entrance (very canadian) or perhaps a st. urbain bagel inside. for greek - the danforth is the only place to go. other 'last night' spots i would add would be 'one' in yorkville by toronto celebrity chef mark mcewan - his other restaurant north 44 is also highly regarded. i personally wouldnt spend the high dollar but would sample the local greek, indian and esp. chinese cuisine in toronto which is affordable and exceptionally tasty! :)

              1. m
                mac n cheeze Jul 2, 2008 05:02 AM

                See Dee -- good luck. I am Greek, and I would say that a lot of the Greek food on the Danforth is disappointing. As other posters have mentioned, avoid all the chains restaurants -- Mr Greek, Souvlaki Hut etc

                I have not yet been to Lambros, but have heard good things. Mr Cheeze and I usually go to Mezes (not to be confused with Megas - which is awful!!) It is the closest to real Greek food. Also, the meat dishes are not over cooked like most places on the Danforth and the calamari is not rubbery. Nice atmosphere for a sit down dinner.
                If you are looking for just a souvlaki joint, Astoria or Omonia

                Do not order Greek wine

                Skip dessert at whatever restaurant you choose to go to and go to Athens Pastries (as others have also suggested) -- I love the "bougatsa" there -- esentially puff pastry filled with custard/cream and topped with a sprinkling of icing sugar and cinammon

                And Greektown is decidedly not touristy

                4 Replies
                1. re: mac n cheeze
                  j
                  julesrules Jul 2, 2008 10:08 AM

                  I have been to Lambros and I did enjoy it, but it is more "Greek-inspired" than traditional. Here is their menu (also check out the info link):

                  http://www.dine.to/profile_features.p...

                  1. re: julesrules
                    e
                    estragon Jul 4, 2008 04:26 PM

                    What does that mean, "more 'Greek-inspired' than traditional"? Does that mean that a national cuisine is frozen in time, so that anything that wasn't made by your yiayia (grandma) isn't authentic? Would you call Paul Bocuse "French inspired"?

                    1. re: estragon
                      j
                      julesrules Jul 5, 2008 04:56 AM

                      Eh, whatever. I'm sure this could be an interesting conversation if I cared. I just meant that *if* the in-laws are looking for certain dishes, they may not find them at Lambros. All the other Danforth places have many menu items in common, Lambros does not. That's why I linked to the menu. I probably should have specified " Toronto Danforth-Style Greek food of the 90s and 00s" rather than Greek, my mistake.

                      1. re: julesrules
                        f
                        food_whiz Jul 5, 2008 05:08 AM

                        The Danforth is not "touristy" it is a neighbourhood strip. I would suggest Asteria--a small family run greek restaurant with a small, traditional menu (just a few blocks east of Broadview--not the Astoria). Nothing fancy--but good food.

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