<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=294326554740919&ev=PageView&noscript=1" /> Danforth Village / Greektown - Wilson Sisters

“όμοιος ομοίω αεί πελάζει” – the meaning of this Greek expression is similar to that of “birds of a feather flock together,” and with the blue-and-white plume of Greek flags flying proudly on front porches and displayed in shop windows, this expression well portrays the thriving Greek community of Danforth Avenue: redefined on Canadian soil, yet proud of history, heritage, and home. Encounter men and women who left native lands over the last 50 years and eavesdrop on random conversations — you may or may not be able to understand the friendly banter depending on your mastery of Greek. Officially named “GreekTown on the Danforth,” GreekTown, The Danforth, and the Danforth Village are used by locals to describe one of the largest Greek neighbourhoods in North America. Enter into a world of restaurants, cafés, and specialty shops where gyros, souvlaki, and a wealth of authentic Greek fare is readily available — culinary specialties celebrated yearly at the Taste of the Danforth, a weekend festival attracting over a million people amidst lively music and fun activities for the whole family. For dining, shopping, strolling, lounging, or people watching, GreekTown on the Danforth is a warm, inviting community with reasonably-priced homes, great schools, and fantastic parks. Take a walking tour through this neighbourhood, watch the movie if you haven’t yet, and you will understand why My Big Fat Greek Wedding was filmed here.

Once upon a time . . .

Cut off from the ‘city’ by the Don Valley and Don River, GreekTown on the Danforth was not very Greek or very anything much at all, no more than a sleepy country road amidst farmland; however, the Don River’s water-power potential and the Valley’s rich clay deposits drew brick manufacturers contributing to the growth of the area. The completion of the main thoroughfare — named after Asa Danforth, who built Kingston Road — culminated in the growth and gradual annexation of the Danforth neighbourhood. By 1888, the Broadview Avenue Streetcar was up and running; yet it was the completion of the Prince Edward Viaduct Bridge in 1919, connecting Bloor Street to Danforth Avenue, that shook the dust out of this once quiet stretch of the city, making way for a host of new residents. Early inhabitants were mainly English, Irish, and Scottish immigrants, but by the 1950s and 60s a wave of Greek immigrants crashed into the neighbourhood beginning the transformation of Danforth Avenue into the Greek Village that it is today. In the early 1980s, a competition for a new neighbourhood logo prompted the winner — inspired by the splendour of ancient Greece — to design a logo of Doric columns and laurel leaves that is still seen along the main street. By the early 1990s, the neighbourhood — defined by its Hellenic roots — was officially renamed: “GreekTown on the Danforth.” While the area has diversified with neighbours from many nations, GreekTown on the Danforth remains the cultural and economic center of the neighbourhood.


Bricks & Mortar

Most homes in Greektown on the Danforth were built in the 1920s and 1930s; the houses to the south vary in size and style from Victorian semi-detached to bungalow and town homes, while semi-detached houses — many with front porches — are found north of Danforth Avenue. More recently, the move of second- and third-generation immigrants to the suburbs introduced a range of urban professionals to the neighbourhood drawn by more reasonable real-estate prices with exciting renovation opportunities close to downtown.

Still, many of the residents of Greek ancestry are truly invested in their community, no doubt contributing to the authenticity of GreekTown on the Danforth. Quite a few restaurant and shop owners not only own the property where their business is located, but also live in the area. Family-run establishments that have been operating for years are common — small “mom-&-pop” operations with four or less staff where neighbours become regulars, and regulars become family, where the dining room becomes an extension of a larger kitchen table, weaving culture and community into the fabric of this very unique neighbourhood.


A Breath of Fresh Air

Parks are a place where Torontonians of all cultures can enjoy life, embracing either rest or physical activity in a space that should be as beneficial as it is beautiful. Monarch Park — south of the Danforth, between Coxwell and Greenwood — is one such oasis of green where you can either sit back under one of many beautiful trees and chat with a neighbour, or work on your triple axel or backstroke depending on the season. Monarch Park features an artificial ice arena; an outdoor pool with diving board, 2-storey slide, and wading area; a fantastic playground, and a leash-free dog area. A little further east at Gerard Street and Main Street, the East Toronto Athletic Field boasts three baseball diamonds, a regulation sports field, and a wading pool to keep the kids cool on those hot summer days. Next door, you’ll discover the Ted Reeve Community Arena, where the ice is cold August to April, so strap on your skates, join a hockey school, sign up for house league, or rent out the arena and try something different for your child’s birthday party. For a more urban affair and funky European-style parkette in the heart of GreekTown, the public square at Logan and Danforth Avenue is perfect to take a moment to pause and reflect. Under the watchful eye of Alexander the Great, who stands tall, bronze, and statuesque, you can take refuge beneath the shade of the trees, pull up a park bench, enjoy the fountain, and breathe in the colour and vitality of this one-of-a-kind neighbourhood.


Taxi!

Greek Town on the Danforth is located on Toronto’s east side and is easily accessible by car thanks to the Prince Edward Viaduct. This bridge — the largest in Toronto — runs over the Don Valley River and Parkway and also hosts the Bloor-Danforth subway. To access GreekTown on the Danforth from the Greater Toronto Area, jump on the Don Valley Parkway (both the QEW from the south or the 401 from the north will connect you). From the DVP, take the Bayview/ Bloor exit, follow the signs for Bloor Street/Danforth Avenue, then head eastbound.

Danforth Avenue can be quite busy during rush hour or during festival season, in which case the Bloor-Danforth subway line will get you where you need to go quickly. With its many stops from Broadview to Victoria Park, you can walk through the village and hop on board knowing you will be downtown in minutes. Regular buses and streetcars also service the neighbourhood, with stops running north and south at most major streets along Bloor Street. For quick access to Union Station and beyond, head over to the GO Train station at Danforth and Main.


Coffee . . . Where art thou?

Greek coffee is probably not our Starbucks-drinking society’s cup of tea (or coffee), and that is probably why stand-alone Greek-style coffee houses, or Kafeneios, are rare. The strong, rich brew is served in small cups, foam on the top and grounds on the bottom. Available in traditional Greek restaurants, this coffee is also the first thing offered to visitors in Greek homes; hospitality extended with warmth, friendship, and fine grinds all served in a tiny cup. Another Greek coffee phenomenon is the φραπές, or frappe. Popular during the summer months, this foam-covered iced coffee is made from instant coffee, water, and sugar; it is blended with and/or poured over ice and served in a tall drinking glass with evaporated milk and a straw. Named after this unique Greek coffee, the coffee shop Café Frappe is a popular neighbourhood hangout as close to an authentic Greek Kafeneio as you will find. Located by Danforth and Pape Avenue, this European style café is open late and has a brilliant patio. Alternatively, Broadview Espresso, La Crema, and Red Rocket are trusted favourites, while The One in the Only is a very cool venue committed to quality coffee.


Date Night

Fresh vegetables, unique flavours; steak, chicken, and lamb, paired with wine and animated conversation that flows with ease into the wee hours: perfect for a date night, family gathering, or night out with friends. Eating and drinking for the Greeks is a way of life, and with countless restaurants, lounges, cafés, and authentic bakeries, GreekTown on the Danforth is the perfect place to immerse yourself in the best of Greek culture. From spanakopita (spinach pie) to traditional humus and melitzanosalata (eggplant) dips, wherever you go, your dining experience should definitely include Saganaki (Greek cheese) flambéed at your table; souvlaki or gyros with tzatziki, kalamata olives, feta cheese, and chopped tomatoes; and any of the custard pastries as a heavenly end to your meal. Greek food is available year round here; however, the Taste of the Danforth — held annually in August — is a great chance to sample the gamut of Greek favourites at reasonable prices. Your children will love the midway’s rides, games, and interactive outdoor play, while multiple stages featuring Greek and international performances will be sure to entertain at one of the world’s largest street festivals featuring food, fun, and festivities for the whole family.

For an interesting twist on Mediterranean cuisine, and reflective of the many non-Hellenic local options, Lolita’s Lust is a dining experience not to be forgotten. Starters include seared Québec fois gras (duck in a carmelised pear and balsamic reduction) and beef carpaccio, but the calamari (covered in pesto, semi-dried tomatoes, capers, and black olives) is grilled to perfection — savoury and simply amazing. For a main course, the lamb shank au jus with feta will melt in your mouth, while the chicken stuffed with apricot and goat’s cheese is coated with a demi cherry au jus that is just divine. Although the meals are a la carte, the sides are unbelievable; one to share is more than enough. The maple-glazed squash is out of this world; with just the right combination of sweet and savoury warmth — not the mashed consistency you would expect — it is cut into thin sections that allow for a full flavour explosion. While the offer of a phyllo-pastry coconut cream pie is hard to resist, this meal in itself is perfectly satisfying. Moreover, the patio is ideal in the early evening sun, and the back room is uber-cool — an intimate candlelit setting in the midst of contemporary urban art. Reasonably priced and worth every penny, Lolita’s Lust — at 513 Danforth Avenue — is a perfect romantic get-away.


Does that come in a size 7?

From home décor to hardware stores, discount and bargain shops, to fashion, jewellery, and bridal boutiques, the shops and services of GreekTown offer residents an in-house shopping experience competitive to downtown while saving you money. Get your nails done, take care of those split ends, and fine tune those eyebrows. Pop into The Big Carrot in Carrot Common for a healthy snack; an institution along the Danforth, their selection of fresh vegetables, bakery goods, and health foods will revitalise your shopping mojo. While you are shopping, stop in at one of the many travel agencies and book a trip to Greece. Yes, Greece! An extension of the homeland, GreekTown on the Danforth will inspire this trip back in time. Experience Hellenic culture in its birthplace, discover ancient Athens, walk where Socrates and Plato once did, and explore the beauty of the islands. For your pre-trip shopping needs, Shoppers World — Toronto’s largest outdoor discount mall at the corner of Victoria Park and Danforth Avenue — will hook you up. The shoe repair shop also comes highly recommended, so go ahead and re-heel those dancing shoes in preparation for the party of a lifetime.


Where to take the kids. . .

“I’m bored”: dreaded words that will stop any parent in their tracks. Reactions may vary to this age-old cry, but opportunities to keep your children active abound in the GreekTown on the Danforth neighbourhood. Take advantage of the many parks and arenas already mentioned, or visit the Earl Beattie Community Centre and sign up for fun for the whole family. Located at 455 Glebeholme Boulevard, the centre features fantastic recreational programs for all ages, including creative arts, swimming, ballet, jazz, gymnastics, kindergym, soccer, touch football, t-ball, and ball hockey. Alternatively, the Danforth/Coxwell Public Library offers fantastic programs and special events ideal for your toddlers, preschoolers, and school-age children.

Greektown on the Danforth also has a wealth of fantastic schools; however, most Toronto schools have definite enrollment boundaries, so it’s always a good idea to contact the school you have in mind to ensure your new home falls within its boundaries. For more information, visit the Toronto District and Toronto Catholic School Boards websites.