Greektown, located on Danforth Avenue, was one of the early Greek immigrant settlements in Toronto and considered the largest in North America in 1970s and 1980s. It is a member of Business Improvement Area (BIA), the association of business people in the community established in 1981 whose goal is to attract more visitors by developing and promoting shops, restaurants and business districts in the area. In 1993, the city council agreed to change its name to GreekTown on the Danforth, known as Greektown or The Danforth.
Though there is no temple of Apollo or Parthenon to distinguish the town’s characteristic, it has unmistakable blue flags with an ancient pillar logo and Greek-English street names along the way.
GREEK FOOD UNDER $10
Spending less than $10 per person on delicious Greek food, why not?
Athens Pastries ‘ target market is crystal clear: people who want to taste Greek pastries and nothing else. Forget gyros, souvlaki and tzatziki. Forget French croissant and Austrian strudel. Eight traditional pastries costing less than $4 per portion (2011’s rate) are enough to lure its audience.
The appearance of loukoumades, a ping pong ball-sized fried dough glazed with honey and hints of cinnamon powder, reminds me of my favourite Dutch oliebol. However, non sweet-tooth people (like me) might say, “Leave the dough alone, honey!” Believe it or not, I drained the infiltrated honey in the dough in an oven toaster to finish the rest (without you, honey, it tasted great already). It’s just a matter of personal point of view, by the way. Other customers, mostly Greek descendants, didn’t seem to have a problem with that.
Suppose anybody has the same issue as mine, spanakopita or spinach pie with feta cheese will be the right option. Nothing sweet about it, except rich cheese that blends perfectly with light-flavoured mashed spinach. It was over the top and one of the best-selling menus in the cafe. To conclude my visit, I took Greek coffee, which is somewhat similar to Indonesian kopi tubruk (literally means collision coffee), where the unfiltered ground coffee is poured together with the liquid in a cup. Though caffeine doesn’t affect me much, I have to warn you that it could bring you trouble sleeping at night.
I wonder how come I missed them when I was in Greece.
Alexandros World Famous Gyros didn’t look world famous at a glance. The small restaurant situated near the fountain in Alexander the Great park had a very plain decoration and wasn’t even packed with people at dinner time around 7 pm. However, my sister recommended this place and my parents are crazy for it. Their addiction is contagious after I tried Alexandros’ pork (no lamb, unfortunately) gyros. The spices were strong in a good way, came out so well with the juicy and tender meat, salad and mayonnaise wrapped in pita bread that I forget taking a picture of it to put in my blog! Yep, that’s why I give you the fountain and the podium instead.
Later on, I saw customers approaching the cash desk and left with a few bags in their hands. The sales are made mostly from “to go” orders, therefore there were not many people in the restaurant itself. With $6 per portion, you get more than you pay, I promise you.
I have found a new hobby after visiting The Big Carrot, the famous organic supermarket on Danforth Avenue: shopping organic beauty products! Although the body care section was not that big, the store layout was pleasant to see with earthy atmosphere, huge variety of brands and attractive merchandise presentation to drive impulsive buying behaviour. The staffs were knowledgeable and all the products sold are paraben free. Being pricey for groceries on a daily basis, I still succeeded finding $2 2-in-1 shampoo bar and soap, probably the cheapest products from its shelves.
Since many Canadians are concerned with saver and healthier ingredients in the products they use, organic food and beauty products are also pretty easy to find elsewhere outside The Big Carrot and Greektown. Another drugstore nearby sells organic body care products and organic vitamins. My sister bought cocoa butter mixed with shea butter imported from Ghana, packed in a coconut shell. Quite a unique packaging.
Organic Juice Bar, still at The Big Carrot, was my next exploration of being organic. Blended juice with hemp and açai berry sounded like interesting ingredients to try, not because I know they are wonderful when mixed together. The controversial hemp as mostly linked to pot smokers and marijuana (although The Body Shop has hemp-based product series) and a superfood member açai berry, known for its high antioxidant capacity, were partners in crime to make my visit memorable.
Honestly, I couldn’t distinguish the difference between the taste of organic fruit and non-organic ones unless someone tells me so and I forget the name of the menu. Only a positive testimonial left: when both ingredients were mixed with other fruits like banana, strawberry and raspberry, it created refreshing taste for thirst quencher.
Since I didn’t have the luxury to browse all streets and alleys, I only know the surface of GreekTown. If I have more time in the future, here are my to-do lists: concentrate my visit on specialty stores with anything but mainstream, fine dining in a Greek restaurant and spending extra time to repeat what I love best: eating Athens’ spanakopita, Alexandros’ gyros and shopping more organic goods!