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Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Taste of the Danforth

Every year for the past 16 years, the city of Toronto goes Greek for a weekend. The annual "Taste of the Danforth" street festival is one of our city's premier summer events; and it's all about the food, especially the Greek food. Since its inception, this yearly fete has grown to become North America's largest event of its kind. When all is said and done, over 1 million visitors are expected to attend "The Taste" this year.

The most striking aspect of "The Taste" is the sheer size of the crowds. It really is quite a spectacle; day or night, it's a people watcher's delight. In the first photo below, the view is looking east from Chester Avenue along Danforth Avenue, into the heart of Toronto's Greektown. All along the street, people line up to purchase all manner of tasty eats, or they stroll leisurely along one of Toronto's major city roadways. For the three days of "The Taste", Danforth Avenue is closed to vehicles and only pedestrian traffic is allowed. The second photo is a shot of the beer garden in the "Alexander the Great Square", located at the intersection of Logan and Danforth Avenues.

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What would a Greek themed street festival be without pork souvlaki? Yiannis, one of my past co-workers, is pictured grilling it up outside the Astoria Restaurant. Or, if you prefer seafood, you can always try a shrimp souvlaki, or some grilled squid tentacles from Avli restaurant, as pictured below.

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I'd wager that my brother's chums, Jimmy and Nick, from Kalyvia restaurant did not sleep a wink as I found them in exactly the same spot, two days running, cooking up chicken and pork souvlaki sticks. And for those of you who like a good gyros, there was plenty to go round and around. ;-)

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One interesting sight this year was a group of individuals dressed in 5th century BC Greek hoplite outfits. These folks are part of an organization called Hoplologia whose purpose is the re-creation of the past through what they call "experimental archeology". In addition to the food and history, it would not be a Greek festival without some Greek music, courtesy of Yiannis Kapoulas & his band Ena K’ Ena.

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Last but not least, the sweets: loukoumades, baklava, and kataifi... I think this picture says it all.

That's it for this year's "Taste". There is no doubt in my mind that this annual event is one of the greatest foodie extravaganzas on the planet. So, if you're in our neck of the woods next year, and you enjoy Greek food, be sure to visit Toronto's original and best street party.


Sam Sotiropoulos
Greek Gourmand™
Greek Food Recipes and Reflections
Copyright © 2008, Sam Sotiropoulos. All Rights Reserved.


mamaliga said...

Sam - wish really to be in your neck of the woods!!
It seems like a truly Greek fest by all means!
It sounds like the Taste of Chicago but more focused on Greek food as opposed to Chicago's Taste that's more Spanish and Polish. Greeks are not in such a high concentration here.
I bet if you want the real Gyros and Souvlaki - this is the spot to go!
Lovely review, Sam!!!


Stamatia said...

I've always wanted to go to this, and the party they have down in Halifax every year but the timing is never right. I enjoyed my trip to the Danforth on my way back home from grad at UWO in London, and hope to go back when I have the time and the money to head west again. Anyhow you mention the "Astoria" restaurant - does this place have a little blue-and-white patio out back, or was that Zorbas? We ate at one of the two, but I can't remember which one we chose...

Cynthia said...

If I'm ever in Toronto, I'd want to time my visit to coincide with this event and know in advance that I'll need to you be by guide as I make my way through this culinary haven :)

Bellini Valli said...

It has been years since I attended The Taste of the Danforth since I no longer live in that neck of the woods. It is a wonderful place to visit any time.

Antonia Z said...

I live around the corner and go all the time. Love it. Best thing for me is, I can go in one-hour-long bursts, and get away from the crowds and craziness.

It's a mistake, I think, to focus on the ubiquitous souvlakis. I like finding the more unusual stuff, like what Avli has on offer.

Best treat of the year was a modern take on Greek. That was the slow roasted pork with leek yogurt and arugala in the warm focaccia wrap at Globe Bistro.

Incidentally, Taste is the one time of the year I indulge in baklava -- and this year was very disappointing. Too much dry filo with no nuts.

Big mistake if you're hoping to draw repeat customers during the rest of the year.

Next time you do Taste, email me.

JennDZ - The Leftover Queen said...

WOW, sounds like an awesome and fun event! I remember things like this in the DC area, but not as big.

valerie de family blog said...

joli reportage
très intéressant
bon week-end

George said...

As always Sam a lovely read. I wish I could have been there :)

Sharon said...

Wowwwww this looks like a blast, and the food spreads really are beautiful, makes ya hungry!
I was looking for a recipe, and came across your site! Glad I did!

I am looking for a recipe that is a spread for the bread, I get it at this greek restaurant here in tampa, florida. It's thick full of garlic, I have asked for the recipe but they don't share. If you have any idea what this is I am talking about would you email me the recipe thanksssssss

Again loved your site :)

Xandrios said...

Looks really good! I missed it because, well, I was in Greece at the time..maybe another time!

Personally I am starting to dislike the pork souvlaki more and more...the kotopoulo version is much tastier and way healtier as well.

Núria said...

I would love to visit it! Too bad there's no busses from here ;D. I bet the aromas transport you to Greece! The food looks awesome Sam!

M's nemesis said...

I happened to be on holiday some years back doing the tourist thing we were visiting the CN tower. Strangely enough there was a tv on that was showing footage of Greece beating France in the semi finals of the European cup and we got superexcited and wanted to celebrate. We walked back onto the main street and saw all these people driving by with greek flags.

Somehow we made it down to Danforth and were overwhelmed by the biggest 'glendi' it was amazing! Hope to make it back there someday!

Gabriela Delworth said...


I live here as well and in fact learned some Greek words...Fun!
Looooove Greek food! Eat it all the time...including during the Taste...when I get my gyros {yes, one from each restaurant}! LOL!

My favorite is seafood, especially grilled calamari, squid with a nice glass of white wine from Santorini...a perfect combo!

For good chicken souvlaki and grilled quail I like to go to Zorba's.