The stretch of Danforth Avenue between Broadview Avenue and Dewhurst Boulevard is called "Greektown" for good reason. It’s not just because the area’s population is 13 per cent Greek-Canadian. It’s because practically every third storefront is a Greek restaurant. Options range from basic mom-and-pop’s greasy spoons to more upscale establishments that offer sophisticated takes on staple Greek cuisine.
Mezes doesn't just fall in the latter category — it tops it.
Located at 456 Danforth Avenue, only a short distance from Chester Subway Station (where it’s been since 1996) is Mezes. When you walk in, you feel like you just stepped onto a patio facing the Aegean Sea. The front of the restaurant is enclosed by green patio benches and steel Greek columns with vines around them, and the walls and tiles are bright and summery. Mezes even went as far installing a blue door and window (with shutters) into the wall, which really adds to the feeling you’re vacationing somewhere in the Greek islands. That’s no accident. Manager Tony Pethakas told us the owner, Sue Zindros, had it built that way to deliberately evoke her childhood home in Greece.
“This is what the front of her house looked like … It had a single door and window that opened up to a large patio … where the family convened and ate and talked and conversed and laughed and cried.”
Needless to say, this is where my lunch companion and I asked to be seated.
Mezes means “appetizer” in Greek, and true to its name, the restaurant’s menu offers a wide range of them. Pethakas explained that’s their chief draw:
“The essence of the restaurant is to create a meal through appetizers [and] through family-style eating … Most of our clientèle tends to gravitate towards the mezes side of the menu and create a meal out of an assortment of appetizers.” The goal is to give customers “a good chance to try different foods all together.”
He also noted that the fried calamari ($13.95), saganaki ($9.95), grilled octopus ($15.95), and spinach pie ($8.95) were their most popular meals.
The entrée list is equally extensive, ranging from higher-quality versions of your Greek standards like souvlaki to more elaborate dishes involving quail, calamari, and lamb. As my companions and I were quite hungry, we chose to try Mezes entrées. I decided on the Kleftiko roast lamb ($19.95), oven-baked and layered in filo with onions, tomatoes, spinach, and three cheeses, served with salad, roast potatoes, and rice. My companion chose the moussaka ($18.95).
The meal came quickly and did not disappoint. Baked filo can sometimes turn out soggy or soft in the wrong hands, but this was a beautiful crispy brown. The lamb was carefully prepared and juicy, accentuating the rest of the filo’s contents and making every bite a savoury combination of flavours. The kleftiko was certainly the highlight of the meal, but the most welcome surprise was the sides. I generally find many restaurants on the Danforth don’t put much effort into their sides — leaving the rice incredibly bland and their roast potatoes drenched in oil. At Mezes, neither was the case. As for my companion, he said that while he wished his moussaka had a little more complicated flavours or more spiced ground beef, it was still a great dish and exactly the kind of comfort food he was looking for.
Mezes is one of the pricier options for Greek food on the Danforth, but it’s also the best I’ve had. Throw in the great atmosphere as well as service, and it’s not hard to recommend that if you’re coming to Greektown to enjoy some of the local cuisine, you head straight here first. You wouldn’t be alone — especially in the summertime, their busiest season. Pethakas told us Mezes has “a lot of people who come from all parts of the city.” I can definitely understand why.