A Day Out On The Danforth: What To Do, See, Eat And Drink

Celio Barreto

Known to locals for its strong Greek make-up, The Danforth is an ever-changing area that has transformed itself into one of the best neighborhoods for downtown living. The Danforth is an exciting cosmopolitan district filled with great food, impressive city parks, art and a multitude of cultures to complement its Hellenic fabric. Representative of what Toronto’s all about, follow this guide to have a great day out on the Danforth.

The Danforth

A Bit of Background

The Danforth is located just east of the hyper-modern downtown core. Serviced with with four subway stations by the TTC’s Bloor-Danforth line and a great number of streetcar and bus lines to the north and south, it’s studded with historical landmarks, five-star restaurants, one-of-a-kind shops, beautiful parks and side-streets. This cosmopolitan district stretches from Bloor Street and Bayview Avenue, in the west to Donlands Avenue and Danforth Avenue on the east. Leave the car at home or at one of the ample parking options around Broadview Station or along Danforth Avenue.

Broadview Espresso – Patio

1. Morning coffee at Broadview Espresso and Brunch in the Valley

Morning coffee at Broadview Espresso and Brunch in the Valley

To start the day off right, head north on Broadview Avenue to Pretoria Avenue for some great coffee at Broadview Espresso. Lean back on a Muskoka chair on the sidewalk patio, or get cool in its shady and comfortable interior while sipping on an iced café latte brewed from locally-roasted gourmet beans. The café hosts rotating art exhibitions and it’s a great little place to plan out your day and chat with locals. There’s no Wi-Fi and it’s cash only; two great ways to foster analog human interaction. After coffee, continue north along Broadview Ave till Chesterfield and make a left. Walking down this charming, tree-lined residential street affords views of some beautiful older homes and turn-of-the-century Canadian architecture. At the end of the street is a marvelous look-out point that affords incredible views of the city and the Prince Edward Viaduct to the south-west, the Don Valley straight ahead and the Evergreen Brickworks to the north-west. Broadview Espresso, 817 Broadview Ave, Toronto, ON, Canada, +1 416 553 3833

Carrot Common | © Celio BarretoCarrot Common | © Celio Barreto

2. Afternoon: Relax and shop at the Carrot Common

Market, Church, Market, Mosque, Shop

Afternoon: Relax and shop at the Carrot Common

Back on Danforth Avenue, turn east to enter this popular thoroughfare. This first segment of the main strip is studded with popular franchises but also some of the best known pubs and eateries in town. Head east at your own pace taking in all the sights and sounds of this busy avenue till hitting The Carrot Commons at Jackman Street. Cool down in its shaded courtyard, surrounded by an eclectic array of book stores, cafés and even an organic food market. Feeling adventurous? Then venture upstairs to another hidden gem, their roof-top garden café or better yet, make an appointment for shiatsu, aromatherapy, acupuncture, reiki, or join a yoga class ahead of time. Experience an oasis retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city. For the religious visitor, there are several places of worship, including the Church of the Holy Name at Danforth and Pape and the Madinah Masjid Mosque at Danforth and Donlands. Carrot Common, 348 Danforth Ave, Toronto ON, Canada, +1 416 361 1124

Athens Pastries - Patio | © Celio BarretoAthens Pastries – Patio | © Celio Barreto

3. Afternoon Snacks and Sweets

Afternoon Snacks and Sweets

On leaving the Carrot Common continue walking eastward. Along the avenue are scores of options for an afternoon snack, a refreshing desert or simply a post-lunch-pre-dinner culinary experience. The food choices reveal Toronto’s cosmopolitan character. Sushi, burritos, gelatto, sweet pastries and of course, gyros! Messini’s Authentic Gyros serve up a varied menu to sample Greek cuisine. Their popular pork gyro is superb and should be enjoyed with a very cold drink on their sidewalk patio. They have many other delectable picks as well. For a sweeter treat, head over to Athens Pastry shop where their loukoumathes (honey puffs) will indulge the sweet-tooth and keep bringing you back for more! Athens Pastries, 509 Danforth Ave., Toronto, ON, Canada, +1 416 463 5144

AVLI Restaurant - Moussaka | © Celio BarretoAVLI Restaurant – Moussaka | © Celio Barreto

4. Dinner at AVLI Restaurant

Dinner at AVLI Restaurant

Evidently, The Danforth pretty much equals foodie heaven. So many great restaurants to chose from that it’s hard to settle on just one. Chinese, Japanese, Mexican, German, Lebanese, Greek, Italian, Spanish. The Danforth has it all. One of the best dining experiences can be had at ALVI Restaurant. The ambience, great service and traditional Greek fare round up a great meal. Start off with the traditional dolmades. This classic stuffed vine-leaf dish opens up the appetite and sets a very high bar for the rest of the meal. Order the signature meat moussaka, it’s to-die-for. This traditional Greek dish consists of sumptuous layers of zucchini, eggplant, beef and potato, bathed in a succulent béchamel sauce and baked in its own little crockpot dish. Pair it up with the dry and ruby-red thalia shira merlot for a refreshing balance. Finish off with the bougatsa for desert. This handmade filo apple and pear custard wrap covered in icing sugar and cinnamon caps a dining experience that’s very hard to match. AVLI Restaurant, 401 Danforth Ave, Toronto, ON, Canada, +1 416 461 9577

Mambo Lounge - Rear Patio Stage | © Celio BarretoMambo Lounge – Rear Patio Stage | © Celio Barreto

5. Music & Drinks at Mambo Lounge

Bar, Restaurant

Music & Drinks at Mambo Lounge

The music scene orbits the legendary Danforth Music Hall where Guy Lombardo, James Brown and The Police have graced the stage. Long-standing clubs The Dora Keogh, The Black Swan, The Old Nick and The Mambo Lounge are the musical mainstays with their blues, rock, folk, and latin vibes. Of special note is The Mambo Lounge; as Cuban as Cuban gets. This restaurant / tapas / bar lounge has some tremendous offerings on the menu such as Havana Club mojitos, lots of tapas choices and on stage are some of Cuba’s greatest talent straight from Havana. The back of the lounge is an open courtyard during the summer months, when they host monthly Carnaval nights. They serve up a mean all-you-can-eat cuban pig roast; cuban chicken, rice and beans, yucca and cuban greens to accompany the music of such famous artists as Evaristo & Rojitas on these special evenings. Mambo Lounge, 120 Danforth Avenue, Toronto, ON, Canada, +1 416 778 7004

The Luminous Veil - Prince Edward Viaduct | © Celio BarretoThe Luminous Veil – Prince Edward Viaduct | © Celio Barreto

The Luminous Veil

At the end of the night, there’s no better way to conclude a day filled with culinary exploration and musical delight than being immersed in one of Canada’s most meaningful art installations and partake of its resounding positive impact on the soul. Heading west towards the Broadview and Danforth intersection lies an unparalleled immersive visual experience. Spanning the Don Valley, The Prince Edward Viaduct is now bathed in light from end to end, all 494 meters of it on both sides. This is the work of noted architect and artist Dereck Revington whose winning design for the Luminous Veil now graces the viaduct.This beautiful piece took 12 years to finish. The veil barrier component went up first, being completed in 2003. Its cantilevered metal braces and over 9000 rods gracefully envelop both sides of the bridge, like an endless harp.The luminous component is a sophisticated LED lighting system that stretches the length of the structure, creating the completed Luminous Veil. These lights respond to real-time weather conditions, such as temperature, wind direction and speed on the bridge. The lights cycle through various hues within pre-determined gradients at each season and create light oscillations that travel the length of the harp-like veil. The technology behind the color interplay has been likened to a musical instrument itself as complex as an orchestra.
By Celio Barretto Celio is a transnational artist/curator/gallerist/researcher/photographer/writer, active in Asia, Europe and North America. Check him out at www.celio-barreto.strikingly.com

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