I’ve been a resident of the Danforth area for most of my life, but with my childhood home being just north of Coxwell subway station, the bars, restaurants, and entertainment associated with Greektown and Taste of the Danforth were always a little out of walking distance. My old neighbourhood has recently undergone a bit of a rebrand. Now known as “The Danny” as part of an effort by the Danforth Mosaic BIA (formed 2008), this particular stretch of the Danforth seems to be enjoying a new energy. I’m happy for the old stomping grounds, and I’d like to share some of my favourite hangouts to open in the past few years with those of you who might still think the Danforth is just about Greektown.
Hands down my personal favourite. Since they opened their doors in 2013, they’ve been a neighbourhood staple. I don’t think I’m exaggerating to credit them with starting this influx of excellent new restaurants. The staff is friendly and the food is on point, with a great mix of southern staples and Asian fusion. Their rotating specials never fail to impress, running all across the culinary gamut but always coming back to delicious basics on burger Mondays. Ontario Craft Beer and an excellent bourbon and whiskey selection are on hand to help wash it all down. The dining room has a rustic charm from its beautifully faded wood construction, with a bar, long trestle tables, and a big booth in the back for large parties. Vegetarians should try the Smokey Gnocchi.
From the oldest to the newest, The Dylan opened its doors just last fall at the corner of Greenwood and Danforth, and it already feels right at home. Inspired by the famous Dylan’s Bob and Thomas, the place has a great rock’n’roll vibe, a fridge stocked with great craft beer cans, and a tight menu with bar classics like burgers, chicken wings, fish and chips, and mac and cheese. The checkered floors, high stools, and great cocktails give the bar a great New York feel late at night when the lights are low and the music is loud. My personal favourite dish? The Jerk Wings.
The Shore Leave
Another relatively new arrival, and a fresh take on an old concept, The Shore Leave is a Tiki bar done right. With colourful drinks (umbrellas optional) and an equally vibrant menu, they’ve been getting a lot of good press lately, and rightly so. With events such as buck-a-shuck oysters, live jazz music, and life-drawing lessons, these guys are as bright an addition to the neighbourhood as the lights around the palm-trees in their dining room. My cocktail of choice? The Suffering Bastard. Make of that what you will.
Sometimes you don’t need a gimmick, it’s just nice to have a big space with great food where you and your ten best friends can park yourselves and catch up for a few hours. A few school friends and I recently did that at Local 1794. They’ve got a good selection of Ontario Craft Beers and cocktails, but both the menu and the wine list are quite a bit longer than the other establishments I’ve mentioned. I can recommend the mesquite smoked half-chicken dinner from personal experience.
Ok, you got me, it’s not like the neighbourhood was entirely dead. I have to at least give a shout-out to some of my old favourite hangouts. Specifically The Only Café, which probably has the best back patio in all of Toronto; and Sarah’s, where the lovely atmosphere and lighting makes it a great first date spot. Order a cheese board and sip some wine at the window bar and watch the world go buy.
Each of these restaurants have something different to offer; find your favourite while enjoying each of these restaurants’ unique atmospheres.