20 of our favourite places to eat and drink along the Danforth
Because the neighbourhood needs a little love right now
143 Danforth Ave., 416-463-3086, allens.to
On the Danforth for more than 30 years, the hallmarks of the place—crisp service, mile-long beer menu, a charming back patio shaded by a century-old willow—are as reliable as ever. The O.G. burger remains one of the most reliable in the city: it’s made with nothing but house-ground grass-fed beef sourced from the nearby Butchers of Distinction.
The Big Carrot
348 Danforth Ave., 416-466-2129, thebigcarrot.ca
You can find just about any virtuous food item at the Big Carrot, but the shop prioritizes non-GMO and local goods. Those needing a tour through gluten-free foods, Paleo diets, 100-kilometre eating or phthalate-, SLS- and paraben-free grooming can just ask any of the Carrot’s friendly, helpful staff.
463 Danforth Ave., 416-855-4240, fiorentinarestaurant.ca
It’s easy to mask a pedestrian croissant by pumping it full of chocolate or burying it in almonds. But a plain croissant has nothing to hide behind, and the one here is a lightbulb moment for viennoiserie purists. The shell shatters to reveal wispy threads of dough that compress with each bite into pockets of buttery decadence. If they were all like this, we could have skipped the cronut craze entirely.
2036 Danforth Ave., 416-425-2895, celenasbakery.com
Celena and Richard Cambridge have tucked a smart bakery into an otherwise desolate block of the Danforth (much appreciated by the families nearby). Rosemary-raisin bread tastes even better slathered with butter, and house-made cranberry and mango chutneys go well with a crusty baguette. A lunch menu includes pizza, sandwiches and meat pies.
479 Danforth Ave., 416-789-3300, cheeseemporium.ca
Spacious and organized, the Cheese Emporium is a calming antidote to the city’s other claustrophobic fromageries. Quebec finds, such as a 12-year-aged cheddar, are sold alongside offerings from France, Italy, Germany and Spain. Staff impress with their knowledge of unique treasures—a gruyère cheese aged in the Swiss Kaltbach caves, for example.
492 Danforth Ave., 416-463-4418, christinas.ca
The Danforth has plenty of places to eat souvlaki and saganaki, and everyone in Greektown seems to have their longtime favourite. Christina’s on the Danforth is one of those institutions, where the menu never changes, the portions are huge, the wine comes in those copper half-litre pitchers they use in tavernas all over Greece, and the conversation on the patio is mostly in the neighbourhood’s mother tongue. About that souvlaki: the hunks of meat have perfect char marks in all the right places, and the roasted potatoes appear to have been cooked in an ethereal nectar that lends them a creamy, melt-in-your-mouth consistency.
1352 Danforth Ave., 647-271-3949, citybetty.com
Keeping track of chef Alex Molitz is a full-time job. He first drew noticefor hunter’s feasts and bacchanalian brunches at Farmhouse Tavern, before sneaking off to the brilliant but short-lived Prohibition-themed Geraldine, and Waupoos Estate in Prince Edward County. Now he’s found his happy place at City Betty, allowing him to rediscover everything there is to love about farm-to-table cooking. In the weeks this spring when other chefs were dreaming up elaborate uses for ramps, Molitz simply pan-fried them in butter and highlighted their garlicky flavour with a sharp vinaigrette for unpretentious perfection. He inverted a stuffed avocado, layering creamy slices over pickled chilies and straight-off-the-plane Fogo Island shrimp. The basics-are-best ethos carries over to the desserts, like a plate of warm chocolate chip cookies, ready for dunking in a frosted glass of bourbon and almond milk.
141 Danforth Ave., 416-778-1804, allens.to/dora
Toronto doesn’t get more Irish than this. Pull up a wee stool (or grab one of the snugs, if you’re lucky), order a pint of Guinness (delight in the bartender’s brogue while you’re there) and let the fiddle music transport you to County Cork.
1276 Danforth Ave., 416-792-7792, thedylan.ca
The four-panelled fridge behind the bar, stocked with a vivid array of tallboys and bombers, confirms what you’ve heard about the province’s craft beer scene: it has blossomed to a degree no one in their right mind could have predicted. The bottles-and-cans list at the Dylan is 50 deep, with another 15 draft lines, and there’s not a single Molson or Moosehead to be found. Virtually everything is Toronto- or Ontario-brewed: expect to find plenty of small producers, like east-end locals Danforth Brewing and Muddy York, alongside bigger names like Collective Arts, Henderson and Blood Brothers.
East of York Gourmet Food Co.
1904 Danforth Ave., 416-421-9990, eastofyork.com
In this 10-seat spot on the Danforth, Ashvin Gahani’s mom and auntie fill and fold hundreds of crispy, creative and delicious samosas, sandwiches and sweets. Flavours are East and West Indian, ingredients are local and seasonal, cooking is from scratch and flavour combinations are traditional and otherwise. To wit: Brussels sprouts and paneer, and buttermilk beef curry.
372 Danforth Ave., 416-901-7130, ladiperie.com
The Quebec-based ice cream chain is putting a twist on the classic dipped cone by offering 30 flavours of chocolate coating. Flavours include honey-lavender and black licorice, but there’s also green tea, piña colada and white chocolate–maple fudge. The dipped vanilla soft-serve—in a regular cone or a doughnut-like pastry one—is then rolled through one of the 20-plus toppings; some of them are sweet (Oreo, coconut) and others savoury (crushed tortilla chips).
Louis Cifer Brew Works
417 Danforth Ave., 647-350-5087, louisciferbrewworks.com
Erin Gamelin and Craig Abbot, who also co-own the nearby Stout Irish Pub, oversee this massive brewpub on the Danforth. The 24 taps are divided between house beers and ones from Ontario craft mainstays like Great Lakes, Cameron’s and Nickel Brook. Beer cocktails, classic mixed drinks and house-made root beer are also available.
675 Danforth Ave., 647-340-0790, misterfrenchy.com
The signature French “taco” at this Greektown spot is more burrito than taco, but when it tastes this good, who cares what it’s called? Flatbread is stuffed with savouries and sauces, and pressed into an incredibly dense, tightly sealed brick sporting a grid of grill lines. The Lyonnais packs spiced ground beef, red peppers, french fries and a tangy, mayo-like Algerian sauce owners Mohamed Bordo and Youcef Boudouh import from France. These are probably the only “tacos” in the city that take 15 minutes to prepare, but everything is made to order, and it’s worth the wait.
The Only Cafe
972 Danforth Ave., 416-463-7843, theonlycafe.com
What began more than 35 years ago as a bohemian sandwich counter has morphed into one of the city’s finest beer emporiums. Behind a graffiti-muralled Danforth storefront, a snug backyard patio courts hops aficionados from both sides of the DVP. They come for the colossal list of 230 bottles and cans, 25 rotating beers on draft, including special nitro taps, at least one cask-conditioned ale and Ontario ciders.
550 Danforth Ave., 416-466-0400, pizzerialibretto.com
The Danforth location is a less frenetic version of the wildly popular Ossington pizzeria. Tables span two floors, so the space feels less cramped, and the owners have made the merciful decision to take reservations. There are two wood-burning ovens manned by pizzaiolos turning out Libretto’s signature blistered, charred and chewy Neapolitan pies. One superb version brings caramelized onion, pork belly and bomba, a spicy Italian relish. Aggressively attentive servers clear plates before they’re clean.
Red Rocket Coffee
1364 Danforth Ave., 416-406-0880, @redrocketcoffee
The coffee at this pretension-free shop packs a serious punch. A large version of the signature Red Rocket blends espresso, chocolate sauce and dark-roast drip—three uppers in one cup. There are four house blends—Deep Space is dark, Lift Off is light, Red Phoenix is extra-dark and Zero Gravity is decaf—made with fair-trade organic beans from Oakville’s Reunion Island.
1968 Danforth Ave., 416-421-1029, royalbeef.ca
As the name suggests, beef is the draw at Carmen Estrela’s shop, where hanger and tri-tip steaks from local farms are aged in-house. Plump chickens and succulent ribs draw the grill jockeys, as do additive-, gluten- and preservative-free house-made sausages and burgers.
479B Danforth Ave., 416-465-9002, thobors.ca
Parisian-born Marc and Sylvie Thobor’s cheery spot greets patrons with an intoxicating buttery aroma. Baguettes and seven-grain bread are specialties. Scrumptious pastries feature just about everything in the French canon, including croissants, macarons and the seasonal bûche de Noël.
713 Danforth Ave., 416-901-8663, vondoughnuts.com
The doughnuts at Von come in two basic varieties—cake and yeast-raised—but the flavour profiles are anything but ordinary. They range from classy (crème brûlée) to creative (peanut butter and dark chocolate with maple glaze and crispy bacon). Several confections are infused with booze, including one spiked with a red sangria glaze.
1382 Danforth Ave., 647-748-1382, thewrendanforth.com
This Danforth saloon is fully decked out with a wagon-wheel chandelier, framed needlepoints and barnboard wainscotting. The menu includes hulking sandwiches, burgers and a pulled pork chimichanga, and the bar rotates 12 Ontario craft brews on tap. The drinks list offers seasonal cocktails like an easy-sipping peach iced tea laced with bourbon.