Food and drink is king on the Danforth, a small but vibrant neighbourhood where an Irish pint goes great with a Greek gyro or a roll of sushi.
Anthony Walsh is head chef at the Dora Keogh Irish Pub (141 Danforth Ave.) and says in the 12 years the pub has been open (more than 20 years for the attached Allen’s Restaurant next door) one thing has stayed resolutely true about the Danforth: It is a Mecca for food and beverage outlets, with more than 35 places today to grab a bite or a beer on its main stretch running from Broadview Avenue.
“There’s a restaurant or bar on every corner here. It definitely feels like the restaurant and bar trade in the Danforth is really thriving,” Walsh said.
Dora’s has put on the same Irish music session every Thursday night since opening 12 years ago, and Walsh credits the strong support of local clientele with keeping the pub going through the recent economic downturn.
“The sense of community here is fantastic. Our clientele are all regulars and the local support is great. I think if we were downtown we wouldn’t have survived,” Walsh said.
North of the Danforth strip at clothing store Eleven 11 (1024 Pape Ave.), which Bary Khouri manages for his brother, the key to success has been drawing foot traffic from the Danforth with unique offerings — Eleven 11 specializes in club wear sold in form-fitting European styles and sizes popular among younger shoppers.
“A lot of people lost their jobs here, so of course they aren’t spending as much, but we get the younger crowd from the Danforth coming here. In this business you have to sell current things and we don’t keep a back stock,” Khouri said.
The tough economy hasn’t stopped the store from annexing space next door to expand into a footwear line, proof that their business plan is sound.
“You have to survive the tough times as well as the good times and people have responded well to the product, so we’re happy with the area overall,” Khouri said.
At Messini Authentic Gyros (445 Danforth Ave.), manager Emanouela Osmani says the Danforth has seen an increasing mix of cultures and backgrounds — a good thing for a local Greek favourite like Messini. The yearly Taste of the Danforth festival brings out so many customers that Osmani says her restaurant serves a week’s worth of food tickets in just three days.
“Things are changing a bit here. It’s still Greek but with a much bigger mix now — the overall culture here is becoming richer,” Osmani said.