Favourite Places – Astoria Restaurant
It can be overwhelming trying to explore a city as lively and diverse as Toronto. There is so much to see and do (and eat!) that it’s hard to know where to start.
Lucky for me, I’ve always had friends who lived in the city and could point me in the most delightful, delicious or entertaining directions. And lucky for you, I’ve decided to share some of their recommendations in a little series called Favourite Places.
Long before I moved back to the city as (what apparently passes for) an adult, my very first Toronto guides were my mom and dad, who settled in the city for a few years as newlyweds after galavanting around Europe, building boats in France, camping on the beaches in Italy and just generally making the most of their 20s.
I definitely inherited my appreciation for and adoration of good food and my fairly adventurous palate from these two, and I love taking them to all of the new amazing restaurants I’ve come across in Toronto. Still, we can never go to long without a trip back to their old favourite: Astoria Shish Kebob House on the Danforth.
When did you first discover Astoria?
Mom: We first went there with my roommate Jill when she and I were living in Cabbagetown. She learned about it from her office.
Dad: We first went to Astoria in the late 70s or early 80s when we were introduced to it by our good friend and sometimes roommate Gerry.
Glad we’ve got that straight. You two should be on the Newlywed Game. How did it become a favourite?
Mom: They served a giant plate of souvlaki with tons of garlicky tzatsiki and garlic bread and Greek potatoes and some very drinkable cheap Greek wine. I know they had other good stuff but we always had the same meal. The only difference is that now we get the smaller portions. Usually there were long line ups because the restaurant was about half the size it is now. It was always noisy and fun for big groups of friends and after we had kids, it was still the perfect family restaurant and we lived about 5 minutes away.
After we left the city we used to get take out if we were in Toronto. First we’d get the Greek food and then we’d get a box of our favourite Greek cakes around the corner on Pape. We’d put them in the trunk of the car and bring it all home to savour the food and the memories.
Dad: It became our favourite because the food was great, the prices were good and it was a noisy family place, always busy. Sometimes you had to wait either in the lobby or outside to get in. once we moved into the ‘hood, living on Eastmount and then Garnock ave. it became our first choice for restaurants. we did lots of eating in and lots of taking out. The takeout was always bigger.
What is the best item on the menu?
Dad: The best item on the menu when we first went there was the large souvlaki platter -on a platter not a plate. It was two giant skewers of bbq pork with rice, potatoes, salad and pita bread with killer tatziki.
Mom (listening in on dad’s answers at this point): We never had room for dessert.
What is your favourite memory/story from the restaurant?
Dad: When you guys were older, we were living in Stratford and drove in to go to the zoo, and we wrapped up the the day with dinner on the patio and watched a huge thunderstorm pass by to the north, and we found out later on the news that it washed out some of the roads to the zoo
Mom: Also, the old Greek men who were career waiters and who got to know us over the years, and always remembered us, and just the memory of when Sarah was little and would stand on the seats to peek over the booth and talk to everyone in the restaurant.
Some things never change.