You know it’s time to kick your summer laziness up a notch when Taste of Danforth hits Toronto. That means there’s less than a month left to squish in all the sleeping in, lying in the sun (if it ever stops raining around here!), and stuffing your face with amazing food before hitting the books again.
It may be the same every year, but I love Taste of the Danforth. The one weekend when everybody in the GTA is Greek has come and gone, and I’m still feeling the aftermath of that food fest. It was raining all weekend this year, which is the first time I can remember it being anything but clear sunny skies. Even so, it takes a lot more than a little precipitation to keep Torontonians from their food fests. From 6 p.m. on Friday to 8 p.m. on Sunday, you can pretty much forget about trying to walk down Danforth Avenue if you actually want to get some place.
It’s more like swimming, but where there should be water, there’s people instead. Tons and tons of people. Tiny people with big dogs and big people with tiny dogs. Loud-mouthed families pushing three or four strollers. Sometimes those strollers have human babies sitting in them. More often than you’d like, those strollers have doggy babies sitting in them. Prissy chihuahuas with pink collars. But if you can stand all that, then Taste of the Danforth is the place to be!
I’ve been hitting the Greek food festival pretty much every year since 2006, but I’ve definitely started go to them every other summer or so since before I can even remember. There’s just nothing like it. The whole street smells like the single best barbecue in the world. No more than five minutes passes at a time before you hear another shout of “Opa!” Quails are spinning on spits over open flames. Skewers of lamb, beef, chicken and pork souvlaki lie side by side on the grill – so close together you can hardly see the grill through those succulent cubes of meat.
Loukoumades (deep fried honey balls) are sizzling in the fryer. Bees are buzzing around the baklava. And that’s only if you didn’t get distracted by the deep fried calamari, roasted lamb chops, corn on the cob slathered in melted butter, funnel cakes dusted in icing sugar, poutine with gravy dripping over the sides of the bowl, pizza in a cone, sliders, tacos and burgers. Toronto definitely knows how to put on a food festival.
For the untrained foodie, Taste of the Danforth can be at chaotic place. Where to go? Which lines are worth waiting in? Chicken or beef? Fortunately, this is not my first time at the rodeo. As of last year, I have discovered my all time favourite stop for the Greek festival.
Gobble up one of these monster pitas and you won’t have to eat anything else (not that you could if you wanted to). This is not for the faint-hearted. One pita will pretty much fill you up for the next 36 hours, which may be disheartening when you’re surrounded by so many options. At the very least, buy one, take a nibble and pack the rest home – that is, if you can stop after one bite. Trust me, you do not want to miss this.
It’s got everything you’ll ever want from a Greek food festival. You got your toasty pita, light and fluffy with that light charcoal taste that comes from heating it up on the grill. Slather some tzatziki sauce on there (they’re very generous), throw some tomatoes and onions on there, and you’ve got your perfect serving platter for the main event – the gyros.
Messini is the place where you don’t have to worry about ordering the wrong thing. Everything is good. Luckily there are already only two options, but you can’t go wrong with either. Chicken or pork, they’re both so juicy and tender. The meat is perfectly seasoned and slow-cooked to perfection on that famous vertical spit.
Just when you think there isn’t anything else that could make this any better, they add a sprinkle of fresh fries hot out of the fryer. It seems weird to eat fries in a pita, but it just goes (like the cherry on top of a sundae)! It can get pretty messy, and it’s definitely a two-hander, but one bite of this and I was in Greek heaven. Opa indeed!