The Danforth Guide: our 21 favourite spots along the east end’s main avenue
The east end’s main thoroughfare has long been known for two things: Greek food and the Taste of the Danforth. Over the past many years, though, homebuyers drawn to the subway line have slowly turned the long strip of two-storey brick buildings into a bustling neighbourhood that has attracted a rich selection of fine shops, independent coffee houses, Thai joints and haute cuisine restaurants. The Danforth has reached a wonderful maturity that we think should be celebrated. Here are 21 of the best reasons to cross the viaduct.
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Embrujo Flamenco has emerged from the tapas trend with its Spanish authenticity intact. Owned by three sisters who grew up in Barcelona, including chef Mali Fernandez, the restaurant’s interior is sultry and brooding, and the small plates include seafood, meat and vegetarian options. There is more than just food here: flamenco is performed five times a week, and the lower-level bar, Café Madrid, is open late on Friday and Saturday nights.
It item: The classic paella ($69 for two) uses short-grain rice from Valencia and is served with mussels, clams, shrimp, chicken and chorizo.
Embrujo Flamenco, 97 Danforth Ave. (at Broadview), 416-778-0007, embrujoflamenco.com.
At this locavore hot spot, chef Kevin McKenna applies the lessons he picked up from Eigensinn Farm’s Michael Stadtländer, mostly crafting international dishes out of Ontario ingredients. The breathtaking rooftop lounge is the ideal spot at which to enjoy one of the area’s most sought-after Sunday brunches.
It item: Pork. At dinner, it’s the Norfolk County pork belly app ($12), and at brunch, it’s the “swine and dine”— three eggs served with pork done six ways (Pingue sausage, double-smoked bacon, confit Tamworth pork, peameal from Cumbrae’s, cretons, and maple crackling, $14).
Globe Bistro, 124 Danforth Ave. (at Broadview), 416-466-2000, globebistro.com.
This space may have spent 17 years as an adult entertainment store, but these days, when the windows steam up, it’s because the espresso machine is producing some of the area’s best coffee. Popular with the stroller brigade, the café has a constant stream of locals pouring though its living room–like sitting area. Mike Cullen, the owner, knows many by name and drink order.
It item: A foam art–topped latte ($3.75, double) with any of the delicious baked goods from Bake Dessert Co. (apple-walnut cake with caramel–cream cheese icing, $3.25).
Broadview Espresso, 817 Broadview Ave. (at Pretoria Ave.), 416-553-3833, broadviewespresso.com.
If sister joint Allen’s is a touch of New York in Toronto, then Dora Keogh is a touch of Ireland. The 13-year-old pub has a cozy interior with a tin ceiling, wood-panelled walls, copper tables, bench and stool seating and, in winter, a crackling fire. Celtic musicians jam in Thursday and Sunday evening sessions.
It items: A pint of Guinness ($8), naturally, or the popular Scotch Mountain Meats lamb burger ($12).
Dora Keogh, 141 Danforth Ave. (at Ellerbeck St.), 416-778-1804, allens.to/dora.
The sign outside says “air conditioned,” but who cares? The legendary and charming back patio here features dozens of tables set in the shade of a century-old willow. On the Danforth for 24 years, Allen’s may no longer draw such celebs as Kiefer Sutherland and Bette Midler, but the hallmarks of the place—crisp service, mile-long beer menu—are as reliable as ever.
It item: One of the best (and most famous) burgers in the city ($10.25). The patty is made with nothing but pure Angus beef.
Allen’s, 143 Danforth Ave. (at Ellerbeck St.), 416-463-3086, allens.to.
Negash and Dessa
Geared toward professional (read: 30 and older) women with quiet but sophisticated tastes, this is the exclusive Toronto outlet for Negash’s understated leather bags, belts and notebooks. Many of the products are locally designed and made, including fun purses by Susana Erazo.
It item: Embossed, leather-bound notebooks held together by oversized steel bolts are a fresh alternative to the ubiquitous Moleskine ($125–$148).
Negash and Dessa, 161 Danforth Ave. (at Ellerbeck St.), 416-462-9306.
Although the name might be better suited to a James Cameron flick, this shop specializes in getting people into, not out of, the right pair of pants. Walls and racks of styles from over two dozen different labels—AG, 7 for All Mankind and Citizens of Humanity among them—might be daunting, but the friendly staff will help navigate.
It item: It jeans are firmly divided into two categories: skinny (like a dark blue pair from 7 for All Mankind, from $200) and slouchy boyfriend (a loose-fitting pair from AG, $265).
Body Blue, 199 Danforth Ave. (at Broadview), 416-778-7601, bodybluedenimlab.com.
It was always owner Andre Wikkerink’s ambition to open a food shop, but it took 20 years of working in the tech sector before he got his chance. Open since 2004, the cozy, cheerful shop specializes in a rotating lineup of seasonal, prepared meals to go, though local favourites like mac-and-cheese ($5.50) are always on the menu.
It item: “Gorgeous” and “meatloaf” might not be words that go together very often, but these muffin-shaped turkey meat pies ($7.25), glazed in shimmering molasses, are both sweet and subtly spiced.
Dash Kitchen, 236 Danforth Ave. (at Playter Blvd.), 416-463-3274, dashkitchen.ca.
Empire by Bullet
After 14 years operating Bullet, a hard-edged, masculine decor shop, owner Creig Stearne traded in stainless steel for soft linen and changed his emporium’s name to Empire. Focusing on products made in France and Britain, Stearne has lined one wall almost entirely in French beauty products and the opposite wall with English food goods and accessories (like Marmite and pottery from Emma Bridgewater), subtly suggesting, we suppose, that the French know how to stay clean and the Brits know how to eat.
It item: A hand-carved basswood ram’s head ($700) to add a touch of English manor to our living (without harming animals in the process).
Empire by Bullet, 239 Danforth Ave. (at Bowden St.), 416-603-0009
Started by a trio of best friends (two of whom also own La Di Da gift shop down the street), this small, bright shop is like a decked-out dorm room overflowing with the clothes popular with shopaholic girls in their late teens and early 20s. Lockets and charm bracelets are on hand to accessorize the abundant stock of flouncy dresses.
It item: A stunning white beaded French Connection sundress, colourfully embroidered around the bust line ($170).
Social Butterfly, 315 Danforth Ave. (at Jackman Ave.), 416-466-5872, socialbutterflyboutique.com.
In a time when shops seem to open and close like Rob Ford’s mouth (both frequently and abruptly), Erietta Gatos’s wee clothing store in the Carrot Common is a welcome revelation for those who don’t already know it. Not only has Gatos been in business for close to two decades, but she knows many of her devoted clients by name and has a knack for stocking exactly what they like. The inventory is updated weekly with such brands as Dex, Mexx and Ca Va de Soi.
It item: Free People floral cotton camisole ($60).
Erietta, 320 Danforth Ave. (at Jackman Ave.), 416-778-8363.
Over its 27 years, the mother of all natural food stores has become both a community gathering centre and an innovative food seller, having spawned a juice bar and a dispensary. The bustling market remains the heart of the operation, with its compostable take-away deli containers and for its stand against artificial colours and refined sugar. Employees are usually co-owners, which may explain why the cashiers are cheerful despite the crowds.
It item: The Carrot offers classes and seminars on food and food issues, such as introductory vegetarian cooking classes with chef Nettie Cronish ($350 for five sessions) and free lectures every Thursday night (topics include Designing Your Own Skincare).
Big Carrot, 348 Danforth Ave. (at Chester), 416-466-2129, thebigcarrot.ca.
Finding a Greek restaurant on the Danforth is like finding sand on the beach, but Avli stands out for its warm Old World feel and above-average fare (traditional, but not limited to greasy souvlaki). The narrow, arched ground-floor room has recently been expanded to a more spacious second level.
It item: Any one of Avli’s signature dips—taramosalata, tzatziki, hummus, kopanisti, melitzanosalata, skordalia—served with grilled pita ($5.50 each, $12.50 for a trio).
Avli Restaurant, 401 Danforth Ave. (at Chester), 416-461-9577, avlirestaurant.com.
Mong-Kut Thai Gold
Forgettable decor is instantly redeemed by the portion of the menu titled “Home-Made Section Thai Style.” This list of authentic (fish sauce yes, ketchup no) Southeast Asian dishes includes many jewels, including the delectable tom yum moo num sai (pork soup, $11). Owners Seksan Luechapipat and his wife, Rawiwan Pongmorragot, opened the Danforth’s first Thai restaurant down the road in 2002 (Mong-Kut Thai), but the “Gold” version far surpasses its predecessor.
It item: Kanom jeen num ya kai, somen noodles, Thai curry, basil leaves, galangal and zucchini ($12).
Mong-Kut Thai Gold, 471 Danforth Ave. (at Logan Ave.), 416-850-7222, mongkutthai.com.
Geared toward the young and label-loving, this tiny outpost, with a sister store in the Vaughan Mills mall, carries such sought-after brands as Religion, Gentle Fawn and Soïa and Kyo.
It item: A marine-blue jacket from Scotch and Soda ($140), for people who want to look like they are driving a yacht when simply out in a rainstorm.
Fiveoseven, 496 Danforth Ave. (at Logan Ave.), 416-466-5677, fiveoseven.com.
The ornate decor, like the lone Ionic column in the middle of the room, might suggest Mediterranean pastiche, but the authentic Greek seafood is consistently excellent. The sidewalk patio is a great place to watch the Danforth’s human theatre.
It item: The tender grilled calamari dinner ($15) with extra-virgin olive oil and fresh herb emulsion is a standout.
Ouzeri, 500A Danforth Ave. (at Logan Ave.), 416-778-0500, ouzeri.com.
The Cook’s Place
There’s a method to the cluttered madness of this kitchenware store: point to any item and a staffer will give a rundown on how it’s used and whether or not they recommend it. Living up to its name, the Cook’s Place is an excellent destination for the latest gadgets and gifts for home chefs.
It item: Fire Wire flexible barbecue skewers ($15) are a 30-inch stainless steel alternative to the average wooden skewer—a bit like upgrading from an iPhone to an iPad.
The Cook’s Place, 501 Danforth Ave. (at Logan Ave.), 416-461-5211, thecooksplace.com.
With cupcakes voted best in the city by Susur Lee’s son Jet and an apple pie adored by Michael Stadtländer, it’s no wonder the fresh-baked sweets here sell out almost every day. The menu changes seasonally, too; the manager assures us that in the fall, the pumpkin pie is among her top sellers.
It item: A rich, dark chocolate cupcake ($3.50) topped with fresh raspberry icing (the odd seed is still present) and a delectable chocolate ganache.
Sweet Tooth, 508 Danforth Ave. (at Logan Ave.), 416-778-8800.
With a limited selection of Greek pastries, Athens is one of the best bake shops on the strip and has been for over 30 years. The no-frills shop’s signature phyllo pastry is renowned far beyond the Danforth and is available to buy fresh ($2.50 per pound) for home use.
It item: One of the city’s best spanakopitas ($3.30), packed with feta and ricotta but somehow not greasy.
Athens Pastries, 509 Danforth Ave. (at Logan Ave.), 416-463-5144.
The giant words “Must Have,” painted in black on the front window, might be brazen, but they make sense once we’re inside the store. Even non-foodies will delight in the vast array of kitchen gizmos, like Whisky Rocks—ice cube imitators that won’t dilute Manhattans ($25 for set of nine).
It item: Two-tone maple serving boards from New Brunswick’s Brent Rourke turn mere cheese and crackers into impressive hors d’oeuvre.
IQ Living, 542 Danforth Ave. (at Carlaw Ave.), 416-466-2727, iqliving.com.
Jennifer Park’s brand new shop (her first, which she opened after spending years as a designer for Le Château) combines vintage pieces that she refurbishes—by adding a modern hemline to a classic summer dress, for example—with such new, up-and-coming lines as BB Dakota and Left on Houston. The formula (focused on keeping the price point low) is working so far: people have been coming in from all over the city.
It item: Alternative Apparel unisex baseball jerseys in red, green and blue ($38).
Tabula Rasa, 745 Broadview Ave. (at Danforth Ave.), 416-465-4450, tabularasaclothing.com.
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45 thoughts on “The Danforth Guide: our 21 favourite spots along the east end’s main avenue”
You missed El Pipil – -I love this store as I can always find interesting gifts whether they be something for the dining room, clothes, purses, or jewellery. And, it’s very affordable
Broadview Espresso is worth the trip alone.
Cyclemania is also worth mentioning, and Balisi for great shoes.
You missed Pulp paper shop. I love going in there – I always find something.
Strange that Grassroots Environmental Products is not on the list – I feel like this store is the glue that holds together the funkiness, the consciousness and the convenience of the Danforth. Check them out at http://www.grassrootsstore.com
Oh, I would add Moksha Yoga Danforth to that list as well – what a great place to get a good sweat going on in a cozy and friendly atmosphere!
you didn’t go very far east !
there’s a plethora of magnificent restaurants, boutiques, art & craft stores, bakeries, butcheries etc…all the way to Woodbine Avenue and beyond…
This should really have been called ‘The Riverdale Guide” for the two blocks it encompassed.
an ok list, i guess, but how did you miss the only cafe?!
It’s hard to pick just 21! I have lived here for 20 years with three kids….so we’ve been around. I would have added Lolita’s Lust, for it’s fab food and great low-keyness (!), Moss, for it’s great indoors-out merchandise, and Mezes, a traditional Greek place where my kids have known the same waiters since birth.
I agree! Sweet Tooth is the best and the staff there are very friendly and helpful!
How is Drysdale & Co not on this list?? Best place for fun cards, gifts and accessories…could spend hours in there! http://drysdaleandco.com
Also Envelop for simple, beautifully made clothing and El Pipil for affordable clothes and good gifty items too.
Wow, so The Danforth! It’s Called 21 Favourite Spots. Not, Heres a list of every store on the street. Stop your whining and self promotion of your own business, you didn’t make the list get over it. As for the stores you miss, perhaps if people who live on the Danforth Shopped the Danforth the store’s would still be there and we would not have endless Dollar Store, Nail Shops and empty store fronts. This street is dying a slow cruel death thanks to self importance of the people who live here. Shop were you live, support the small business and get over yourselves.
Um, Douglas, “comments” sections are for people to add their 2 cents, which people have done constructively and with enthusiasm, pointing out that beyond just 21 places there are even more great things in the area. You’re negativity and nastiness isn’t helping anyone.
LOVE dash kitchen. Scones are the best in the city! and the meatloaf and the chicken are my faves. Also the only place i can find that carmelized onion compote in the city.
Well BOB, my 2 cents was my option. If you don’t like, tough the truth hurts. When I may my comments there was only 2 positive remarks about the stores they talked about. The rest was whining “why isn’t” ” I would have chose ”
Reality is there once was tons on wonderful stores on this street, that was until they all started shopping at the box stores. ” we have to say money for our kids”. Now there is empty store front, bums everywhere, crime is up, and the people are self important. And you proved my point BOB, you made no comments on the street stores listed, you just attacked mine!
How far East is this Neighbourhood? You missed Walima Cafe- the first Moroccan Restaurant to be on the Danforth (just west of Coxwell). Nice atmosphere with lanterns and carpets. It’s a small resto but cozy and serving tasty tagines and couscous. There are more than just 21 stores on Danforth, I guess if they listed everyone it wouldn’t be a favourite list. Maybe making separate shopping fave list and a dining fave list would help.
This was a pretty bleah list. Nothing exciting. Also, having one per page is annoying. Click, re-adjust screen, look at entry, re-adjust screen, click….
Love the Globe Bistro.
However, it’s utterly odd that whoever wrote this piece equates professional women with women who are 30 and older (Negash & Dessa). There are plenty of professional women younger than 30, and there are plenty of women 30 and up who are not professionals, and/or unprofessional.
OMG! I used to go there a lot when I was a SWAPPER! such nice memories :)!!
My wife and I live east of Toronto in Newcastle and whenever we are in the city, we finish off our day with a sumptuous meal at Mezes. We were recommended to Mezes by friends 12 years ago. We have now developed a personal relationship with the staff and the food has remained consistently delicious. A recipe for satisfied customers! OPA!
i think in regards to the fact that everyone has different needs and wants the 21 favourites of ONE magazine at a certain point in time should just be something to inform you about cool places..i’ve found word of mouth travels faster in this neck of the woods anyways so this should give people more of a perspective, if anything, on who they deem worthy of their business
and i for one am glad tabula rasa made the list! fashionista’s everywhere: this shop is for you!
My favorite Danforth haunts are Drysdale & Co. and Mocha Mocha. I got to MM every Friday for eggs! Also, I know there’s one in every neighborhood, but the Danforth Book City is fantastic!
If you want to head a little further East to Woodbine and Danforth, Relish is a great little restaurant. Delish!!!
Where is Grassroots, Bookcity and Ten Thousand Villages?!
I would have added Seven Numbers , they always continue to amaze me .uhmn sexy duck
I have lived in the Danforth/Riverdale area since 97. I can’t say it is better or worse than it used to be. All I know is that it is a geat place to shop, dine, and drink. No neighborhood is perfect, but I feel very fortunate to live here. There really is something for almost everyone.
I don’t agree that Sweet Tooth belongs here. They don’t bake anything themselves – it’s all ordered in. There are better bakeries in the area that bake their own goods.
For the people moaning about the list not including anything further east, let’s face it. There isn’t much to offer. Sure there are some great places like The Only, Danforth Pizza House and Relish, but for every good place you will find ten horrible places that you would not step foot in.
Think of that Taco King joint at Donlands. They opened up, served disgusting food and closed in a couple weeks. That’s the Danforth east of Jones.
Plenty of young people are moving in the area so hopefully some decent bars, restaurants and shops will follow. When Tim Horton’s or does not have a shop for blocks, that says something (although Esso is bringing one in the coming weeks).
Wow TL – you made it all the way to Carlaw. Another article about all the places the white people like to go. How about you get out of the BMW next time and walk a little further down the Danforth to find some more restaurants.
How Messini is not on this list shows the writer doesn’t venture past Jackman that often. Great gyro which comes close to what you’d have in Greece. You can take a picture of the line up at 2:30am and decide where people favorite spot is.
You missed one of the most unique spots on the street- a small business person opening up a shop that reflects the passion of the owner. Fermentations, a Danforth fixture for 17 years has been a mecca for people that love great beer and wine, and want to have a hand in making it their own. The shop has constantly punched above its weight, producing wines and beer that consistently outscore commercial products costing three times more. Danforth needs more stores like this- high quality, owner operated, and unique.
This list is simply an example of the writer being snooty, thinking that quality equals to anything that is an imitation-Yorkville lifestyle. The fact that this list barely pasts Chester and that most stores on this list seems like a yuppie’s wetdream rather than a reflection of true gems give this no credibility whatsoever. There are some great little mom and pop type shops that aren’t the most glamourous but great little spots and are worthwhile to check out. They won’t charge you an arm and a leg for pretentiousness either.
Funny how there was no mention of the mediterrainian club Cutty’s Hideaway. Hmmm, I wonder why.
I think the list is good. As a Danforth dweller and shopper, I think all of the 21 places you listed are great. My only question is, how come only 21? ;) I agree with many other posts that there are other terrific places on the Danforth I can’t imagine mornings without the Detroit Diner. Evenings without The Auld Spot Pub and organic supplies from Grassroots. Thanks for putting the Danforth in the limelight~
Mm, it’s an okay list but 2 of the places are on Broadview, not the Danforth.
last couple years danforth really changed .i hope people still wants to come here,shop and dine.i noticed so many empty stores on the danforth.i believe bussiness not as good as before..
Parade Boutique at 261 Danforth is an excellent addition to this list.
The staff are knowledgeable and very helpful. The fashions are WOW, supporting North American Designers as well as their own line (which I love).
Great accessories to top it all off!
I’m glad the the Auld Spot didn’t make your list. Bad service, and the food went downhill years ago.
Not sure why iQ Living made the list — it’s overpriced goods are a rip off. Much better deals for similar items can be found at Cayne’s in Thornhill. Well worth the drive from the Danforth.
On the other hand, Mezes and Messini are always great choices.
Sweet Tooth?? That place closed by March 2011 and their baked goods were sub par with terrible service! Not a surprise it shut down.
I do not believe you have not mentioned the Messini restaurant with the best gyro meat in town.
The TTC really needs to learn how to opreate shuttle buses. Making buses pull into the station bus platforms as planned, just wastes a ton of time. Keep the buses on Danforth-Bloor. Further they should have point to point shuttles that pick up people at say Main, and go non stop to Bloor-Yonge. They do not need a bus every minute stopping at every station, while most people are going straight to Bloor-Yonge.
Last couple of years (2010-2011) were looking a little bleak for businesses, especially east of Pape but I noticed new thing popping up as of late.
I agree with those who mention that there are a lot of fun things east of Chester. I would add Ziliotto to the list (and no, I am not the business owner, just a customer); it’s a fun boutique with locally designed/made garments that won’t break the bank. I discovered it on Queen West and am so glad it’s now close to my house!
I find it interesting that from the clothing shops featured, the one not featured is Bebe Children’s Clothing on Pape Ave just north of the Danforth. While the other places feature sweatshop-made wear, this little store makes dresses and little suits for kids in house. They’ve been around for over 35 years. Big miss!
I’m sorry, but I don’t find Broadview Espresso to be that much of a ‘must see’ on a list that definitely should have included Moksha Yoga and Grassroots. It’s a decent coffee shop, but average at best. No internet, not overly friendly staff and nothing that stands out on the menu.
This list definitely needs to be updated. There have been many changes and new additions to this stretch of the city since this list was last submitted. Arguably, other than Roncesvalles, no other strip has seen as much change in the last two years as The Danforth. Lots of things to add / change.
in USA :D :D
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