This year marks the 15th anniversary of the Taste of the Danforth, and I have to admit I’d never been before. It runs from August 7-9 along Danforth Ave. between Donlands and Broadview. I’d heard both good (Tons of food!) and bad (So crowded! Overpriced!) about this celebration of Greek food, music and culture, so I definitely had some preconceived notions. There was only one way to separate the fact from the fiction, so I headed down on the first day of the festival to dispel some myths.
MYTH #1: It’s extremely crowded
This one is definitely true. I thought I’d dodged a bullet by arriving early at 6 p.m. on Friday, but as I walked west from Donlands, it got progressively more and more crowded. Sure, the streets are closed off but in some areas the swells of people hit a standstill. Organizers are expecting over a million people at this year’s festival so be prepared for the masses.
MYTH #2: Taste of the Danforth is all about Greek food.
This myth isn’t completely false. But there is definitely way more than just Greek food at the festival. From the more traditional side of things, I picked up a delicious Cheese Pie ($2.50) from the stall outside the IGA grocery store (623 Danforth Ave.). The phyllo pastry was flaky and filled with creamy melted cheese.
I also had a decent (but not spectacular) Gyro on a Pita ($5) from The Friendly Greek (551 Danforth Ave.). A man named Yani was manning the grill next to their Gyro meat and enthusiastically yelled “Opa” every time he fanned the flames.
I definitely was not expecting the wide range of non-Greek cuisines available. There was Thai, Japanese, Brazilian, Mexican, Indian and pub fare. Basically anyone who owns a restaurant on the Danforth has a stall serving up their tasty goods. I branched out and tried fried scallops ($6) from Captain John’s Fish & Chips (800 Danforth Ave.). They were served with a slice of lemon and delicious, but I didn’t like that their prices weren’t posted. Diner’s Thai (395 Danforth Ave.) served up a generous portion of their saucy Chicken Wings for only $4.
MYTH #3: All Greek food will be cooked to perfection.
Unfortunately for me and my tummy, this wasn’t true. I had been pre-warned that I should keep an eye out for undercooked meat because some stalls rush the grilling process in order to dish out high quantities of meat. Thank goodness for this cautionary advice because this is exactly what happened with the Pork Souvlaki ($3) I had from The Greek Grill (568 Danforth Ave.). As you can see, the pork was slightly raw.
That was partly my fault for buying food from a stall with a fairly short line-up because I was too hungry to exercise any sort of patience.
MYTH #4: There’s mainly meat at Taste of the Danforth.
This festival does heavily favour the carnivores. The most popular kind of meat seemed to be the quail ($5). Several stalls featured extremely long lines and these tiny birds rotating over a flame.
The best food experience of the night was actually a vegetarian option and (gasp!) not Greek. It was the Grilled Pineapple ($3) from The Red Violin Brazilian Steakhouse (95 Danforth Ave.). The whole peeled pineapples are covered with cinammon and brown sugar, skewered down the middle and then grilled.
After placing your order they slice off a section and cut it up into bite-sized pieces.
Is it wrong to admit I wanted to eat a whole Grilled Pineapple all to myself? Despite my reservations about the crowds, the line-ups and my actual experience with the undercooked souvlaki, I’d say it was a successful first time at the Taste of the Danforth for this newbie. Opa, indeed.