Head to Danforth Avenue this summer (and every summer), located on the eastern side of the city, for a weekend filled with souvlaki, gyros and meat skewers – here you’ll find massive outdoor barbecues lining the streets along with food trucks and local restaurants serving up some of the best Greek cuisine in the GTA. Indulge in saganaki, the famous ‘flaming cheese,’ or spanakopita, along with games, face painting, dancing, music, and, of course, plenty of beer gardens.
Started in 1993, Taste of the Danforth was modeled after the popular and extremely successful Taste of Chicago festival – held annually in Illinois – to celebrate Hellenic food and culture and showcase both Greek heritage and the multicultural landscape that is ever present in Toronto. A group of local restaurant owners on The Danforth gathered together and tried to come up with ways to get people to come to The Danforth and try their authentic Greek cuisine. Together, they decided to hold their own ‘tasting’ festival, setting up tables outside for guests to try their food, allowing visitors to experience cuisine from 23 different restaurants.
By pooling their resources and advertising their festival together, the festival was a success, bringing in over 5,000 attendees, and by the next year, it was up to 100,000. By 1996, Taste of the Danforth was so popular that the streets had to be officially closed in order to accommodate the 500,000 guests. After 23 years, Taste of the Danforth continues to grow, bringing in over 1.5 million people annually for this sought-after event.
The festival not only is a celebration of Greek heritage, but it also benefits the local community. The profits from the festival are donated by the GreekTown on the Danforth BIA (a non-for-profit organization) to various locations in Toronto – like the Toronto East General Hospital, who received two million dollars from them over the years, and the William McCordic School and William Burgess School, who were given $10,000 for use by children with special needs.