Gerrard Street in Toronto is the main drag of Little India, a delightfully colourful and atmospherically sublime district that will have you thinking you fell asleep on the street car and woke up in Bombay. Here in the Delhi of downtown, the shops stay open until late, you can buy spiced corn on the street and the smell of chai brewing in the tiny family-owned restaurants combine to make this vibrant street a wonderful adventure of the senses.
Smell: This is my favorite part of the Gerrard Street experience. Aside from the piles of spices, burning incense and chai, you can get all your favorite Indian and Pakistani delights from the various grocery stores on Gerrard. Try Kohinoor Foods or Toronto Cash & Carry for spices, sandalwood soap and other exotic delights.
Taste: There are many really great restaurants in the area, but my favorite is Lahore Tikka House. This broken-down-palace of a place was once a KFC. Swamped by an ever-increasing customer base, owner Alnoor Sayani’s renovations seem to have been going on forever. It only adds to the authenticity and sitting in the sari-draped tent munching on Karahi curries and Afghani chicken tikka, you may well forget that you are not in a Pakistani side street.
Sounds: Bombay Chowpatty is a take-out joint with a difference. Grab a chaat or puri and a Bollywood movie from their vast selection. Jive to the sound of Bollywood superstars while sipping on your royal falooda which is a drink of rose water, cold milk, ice cream and noodles (yes noodles!) sprinkled with crushed pistachios.
Sights: Saree emporiums and fashion outlets abound. Milans Saree Emporium, Neelam Silk and Sonu Saree Palace are among my favorites, although there are a slew of costume jewelry and ready-made garment shops all along the main drag.
Touch: If all the shopping and snacking has you tuckered out, pamper yourself at the Angela Beauty Parlor or on the Apollo Beauty Salon.
Gerrard Street is a vibrant, growing neighborhood that is well worth a visit for a unique shopping and dining experience.
*image via http://www.flickr.com/photos/imuttoo/ *