The ultimate neighbourhood guide to Little India

A guide to what to see, do and eat in this small but mighty east end area

Little India can be found in Toronto’s east end, starting on Gerrard Street East, between Coxwell Avenue and Greenwood Avenue. The neighbourhood is easily accessible by taking the Bloor-Danforth subway line and exiting at Coxwell Station, and then walking roughly 15 minutes south along Coxwell Avenue.

Little India is affectionately known as the Gerrard India Bazaar, and for good reason. Although it represents a relatively small stretch, with Greektown beginning just a few blocks away, this eclectic neighbourhood is home to more than 125 small businesses, including boutiques, art shops and studios, and of course, restaurants selling mouth-watering South Asian specialties.

Celebrate

Little India is also home to two major street festivals, which each run annually. The TD Festival of South Asia, launched in 2002, packs literary arts, visual arts, special performances, open-air Bollywood film screenings, live music and delicious food into one weekend. Last year, for the first time ever, the TD Festival was held virtually for one week starting October 4. During Diwali festivities (November 2-6), Little India comes ablaze in colours and lights. Prior to COVID-19, every year, Little India’s Diwali street festival attracted street performers and dancers, all dressed in traditional attire, celebrating with music, fireworks and food.

Eat

If you plan on exploring Little India, come hungry! From slow-cooked Northern Pakistani delicacies to deep-fried Indian fast food, there’s no shortage of hearty curries, flavourful tikka masalas, warm naan breads and more to enjoy.

Of the many restaurants that make up the neighbourhood, a great deal of them are also known for their vegetarian and vegan options. Udupi Palace is one such place. This simple yet humble joint offers traditional Indian fare at a reasonable price, with the majority of complete meals priced for under $10. The vegetarian samosas are the perfect starting appetizer for those who have never sampled Indian cuisine, while the restaurant’s South India Thali plate is perfect for those with a more experienced palate.

For a quick bite, head on over to the Bombay Chowpatty, which specializes in street food. Bombay Chowpatty honours the traditional flavours of the city of Bombay and specializes in chaat delicacies, an addictive fried potato street food snack (essentially the Indian version of Canada’s beloved poutine). Other tasty street snacks from Bombay Chowpatty include the crispy vegetarian pakura (a mixture of onions, potatoes and spices served with sweet and spicy chutneys for dipping) and, when the days are hot, grab a kulfi to go—a light frozen dairy dessert made with khoya (condensed milk), that resembles a popsicle.

For more of a fine dining experience, venture over to Lahore Tikka House. The Little India neighbourhood briefly intertwines with Little Pakistan, and this restaurant offers the best flavours of both cultures. The grilled lamb, beef, or chicken kebabs and the house specialty biryani (a combination of spices, basmati rice, meat or vegetable) are not to be missed.

Explore

Tucked away amongst the restaurants are also a wide range of clothing, homewares and textile shops. Neelam Silk, located right on Gerrard Street, showcases hand-woven silk clothing and goods, like brightly-coloured embroidered sarees and wedding attire.

Housed in a turquoise and magenta building that’s impossible to miss, Chandan Fashion is another clothing boutique waiting to be explored that boasts an incredible selection of sarees, bridal accessories and dresses, bridal couture for men, party wear and jewellery.

If it’s decor you’re hoping to find, Rang Home Decor sells a wide range of furnishings, including colourful silk, embroidered and beaded pillows, beaded and printed fabrics, beddings, and even delicately woven footstools and carved wooden ottomans. Lastly, a trip to BJ Supermarket is sure to make any visitor to Little India feel as though they’ve been transported to Asia, where brightly coloured spices, sweets, canned products and produce imported straight from India await.

Article exclusive to TRNTO