5 Reasons We Love Little India
Sandwiched between Leslieville and The Beach is one of Toronto’s most overlooked and underrated neighbourhoods. Little India’s main artery runs along Gerrard Street from Coxwell to Greenwood Avenue. The neighbourhood serves as a meeting place of the South Asian community, whose influence can be seen in the shops at stores that occupy this area. Little India has its roots in film, as the neighbourhood took shape around the opening of the Naaz Theatre in the early 70s, which screened exclusively Bollywood and Pakistani films. As the theatre attracted large crowds, more than 100 businesses began to set-up shop appealing to the Indo-Canadian audience. What has resulted over the years is a blend of colours and flavours that’s as culturally rich as the food that’s served there. Here’s our top five reasons why we think you should visit Little India right now:
1. The Food
When it comes to food, Little India has become a culinary destination. Whether you’re after something cheap and cheerful, like the combination plates served up at Hakka Wow (1433 Gerrard Street East) or Moti Mahal (1422 Gerrard Street East), or looking for the full dining experience like the one you’ll find at Lahore Tikka House (1365 Gerrard Street East), there’s a whole new palette of flavours to be discovered. Gastronomes exploring this area will find both authentic Indian fare, like tandoori chicken and poppadom served at The Famous Indian Cuisine (1437 Gerrard Street East) as well as American-Indian fusion, like the samosa burgers with masala fries served at Bombay Chowpatty (386 Gerrard Street East).
2. The Shopping
While you may not think of Little India as a fashion destination, it’s time to think again. The neighbourhood is teeming with colourful fabrics, affordable jewelry, and a number of specialty shops. Gerrard India Bazaar, which lines Gerrard Street East, is North America’s largest South Asian market, with textiles, silks, furniture, and jewelry (not to mention food). Unique items can be found at specialty shops, like the Indian Record Shop, which offers—you guessed it—Indian records, and the Islamic Bookstore.
3. The Hangouts
In recent years, entrepreneurs of different ethnicities have set up shop in Little India, adding to the area’s diversity and changing up the offerings. Take Maha’s Fine Egyptian Cuisine (226 Greenwood Avenue) which has quickly become a neighbourhood brunch favourite serving traditional Egyptian fare. Flying Pony (1481 Gerrard Street East) is a colourful cafe that acts as local resident’s extended living room, with a welcoming atmosphere and large communal couches and tables. Grab a drink or take a meeting at Eulalie’s Corner Store, a pub on Ashdale Avenue that serves craft beer and comfort food. In other words, despite its name, Little India is as diverse as the rest of the 6ix.
4. The Festival of South Asia
One of the best reasons to love Little India is for its annual celebration, the Festival of South Asia. Experience the neighbourhood as it comes to life with music and dancing. This weekend-long event (July 16-17) offers attendees a taste of everything, from an Indian-style open market to a South Asian fashion show. Enjoy cultural performances, henna paintings, musical performances and more. Learn more about the upcoming festival here.
5. The Art
Little India might be one of the most colourful neighbourhoods in the city, with large murals paying homage to the area’s rich cultural history. In addition to the street art, there’s also a few galleries tucked away, like Gerrard Art Space, Rebellion Gallery, and Lens Work Gallery. This is not to mention the art on display at some of our favourite hangouts, like Flying Pony Cafe, which regularly showcases independent artist’s works.