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Restaurants

Dr. Laffa

Posted by Robyn Urback / Reviewed on September 15, 2011 / review policy

Dr Laffa TorontoDr. Laffa went from an obscure bakery in an industrial plaza to a bustling spot for some of the best Middle Eastern food around in a matter of mere months. People now stop by the loading-dock restaurant all day long, pining for some shaksuka, sabih or falafel, wrapped in Dr. Laffa's namesake item.

Yoram Gaby is standing by the open loading dock window, arranging the pickles, tomatoes, and onion in the sandwich counter when a woman in a minivan pulls up to the dock. It would give new meaning to "drive-thru," I'm sure, if only she had ordered a falafel with her foot on the break. But she calls out a question instead.

Dr Laffa Toronto"Yoram! When do you close?"

"Eh?" he replies, stretching his neck over the ledge.

"You close? When do you close?"

"Ah, later," he calls back. "Seven."

"OK, I'll be back," she says, and drives off the lot.

Dr Laffa TorontoThis sort of informality is characteristic of Dr. Laffa, where many repeat customers are on a first-name basis with owners Yoram Gaby and Sasi Haba. The Israeli pair launched Dr. Laffa less than a year ago and let the buzz spread organically, holding back from doing any formal advertising. The move (or lack of move) seemed to work, so much so that Dr. Laffa is moving across the street later this month, settling in a more restaurant-friendly environment with much more seating.

Dr Laffa Toronto"What will happen to the mural?" I ask Yoram as he starts preparing me a falafel in a laffa. The wall opposite Dr. Laffa's tabun ovens depict a bespectacled man with magnified eyes, scarfing down a plate of what is presumably laffa. Custom made by a Montreal artist, it adds a great quirky character to the apparent makeshift space.

"It's already there," Yoram replies.

"The same one? Painted again?"

"Yes, the same."

Dr Laffa TorontoI turn my eyes away from the mural and watch Yoram as he prepares the laffa. The dough is waiting under a wooden slab, and Yoram picks up a sticky blob and begins stretching it with his hands. He then props the dough on a pillow-like pad and strikes it on the inside of the tabun.

"We built this ourselves," Yoram says when I ask him about the ovens. "Sasi did it; here, ask Sasi." And he sends me to the back bakery area to question Sasi about the construction.

Dr Laffa Toronto"This is all stainless steel," Sasi says, leading me back to the ovens. "The dough is very sticky, and it says on the side."

As for what goes into their famous dough, Sasi looks at me and grins. "This," he says, "I don't even tell me wife."

Dr Laffa TorontoThe laffa is removed from the oven with a pair of metal tongs. My falafel ($6) is filled with fresh tomatoes, onions, pickles, parsley and homemade hummus, wound tight and handed over still piping hot. It's immediately clear why the laffa is preferable to a regular pita ($4.50). Whereas pita (especially pita that has been sitting around for a bit) can be dry and tough, the laffa is soft and chewy with crisp, crunchy pockets toasted dark from the oven. The falafel is easily twice the size of what I'm used to, so I hungrily devour half and save the rest for later. Easily the best meal I've ever had on a loading dock.

Dr Laffa TorontoPhotos by Jesse Milns

Discussion

29 Comments

GG / September 15, 2011 at 11:39 am
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Most of the people reading this will not venture beyond Queen West/Parkdale....
TT / September 15, 2011 at 11:58 am
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^ stupid.
Roctop / September 15, 2011 at 12:58 pm
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The food looks good and tasty, but that mural is sure as hell STUPID. It that twit in the glasses choking, upchucking, or what?
GG replying to a comment from TT / September 15, 2011 at 01:40 pm
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Stupid is it, TT? Who wants to go to Vaughan for a falafel?
luke replying to a comment from GG / September 15, 2011 at 02:54 pm
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get on your roller blades and start making the trek GG. this place is the best
Moshe Zuchter / September 15, 2011 at 03:16 pm
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I've been to Dr. Laffa. I live on Queen West, but if and when I venture up north this is the place to go to.

Their specialty is Sabih, which is delicious and one of the only places in Toronto that makes this dish to my knowledge (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sabich). Well worth the travel, especially for vegeterians.

As for the mural, it is a famous scene from an Israeli movie. You can watch the clip here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8dlZqz1d-q4 (I don't suspect non-Israelis would get the movie connection).

If you're in the area, check it out. Otherwise, you're missing out.
eva / September 15, 2011 at 03:50 pm
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Mmmm...the best falafel i've ever eaten was in isreal. Can't wait to check this place out. Thanks!
Joseph replying to a comment from Roctop / September 15, 2011 at 03:57 pm
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mural is from the hugely successful israeli cult film Charlie and a Half from the 70's http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charlie_Ve'hetzi

translated into many languages and saw worldwide acclaim especially in germany, japan, russia and other european countries.
Kevin Luc / September 15, 2011 at 05:36 pm
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I've had their falafel and it's the best I've ever had! Location's odd but it's around the corner from the studio!
Coby / September 15, 2011 at 10:53 pm
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I am addicted to this place. I brought my whole team from work all the way from Mississauga to Dufferin and Steeles and they loved it!!
Sasi the owner is there every day at 6:00a.m to start working. It's rare and beautiful to see such hard working people these days who are also so humble and so generous.
Tim / September 18, 2011 at 07:05 pm
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DR. LAFFA is the best food in Toronto
dan / September 19, 2011 at 10:11 pm
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very edgy use of space for a bakery.

http://www.wesisearch.com/blog/?p=102
Jon / September 20, 2011 at 02:01 pm
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Arab east Jerusalem was the best falafel I've ever had!!!
Can't wait to check this place out...:) :) :)
Joel / September 21, 2011 at 10:39 am
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Anyone know how late they are open?
Miki / September 21, 2011 at 08:26 pm
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10 AM until 10 PM
Shalomit / September 25, 2011 at 05:49 pm
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Everything about this place is so authentically Israeli...no wonder the food is incredible!
silver / December 22, 2011 at 09:54 pm
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I drove from Barrie after reading the review on this place and let me tell you, it did NOT disappoint, this place rocks! And I will for sure go back the next time I'm in the city
Sam Aboumrad / January 11, 2012 at 04:59 pm
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Regular Client for a long time.

The best Sabih and Shakshouka in the world.

Mookie replying to a comment from Roctop / January 12, 2012 at 03:56 pm
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It's the look of "oh my freakin' god, this is amazing." Have you never seen the face of the main guy from the Lonely Island? In his video "Jizz in my Pants?" Yeah, same look.
Foodie replying to a comment from Mookie / February 1, 2012 at 02:41 pm
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If you had Dr.Laffa's you'd know that a foot long shawarma for $10 is orgasmic.
Rob / February 2, 2012 at 03:16 pm
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I was in the area so I stopped by Dr. Laffa today at about 11:00
As soon as I saw the sign I turned in and pulled up to the loading door noticing that the man door was ajar. When I walked in there were a bunch of people working. A lady munching on what I assume was something in a laffa told me to go across the street "they opened a restaurant" Even at the restaurant I couldn't believe how many people this place employs. I calming observed while a big take-out order was being filled. When it was my turn I asked for a falafel and was immediately asked "laffa?" It was huge, and I was offered pretty much every ingredient they had displayed. I was also asked if I wanted it to be cut in half. I'm glad I accepted because I was completely satisfied after the first half. I brought the other half to my mother, who introduced me to shawarmas & falafels when I would accompany her shopping when I was a young boy. It has now been 4 hours since eating half of a falafel laffa and still no sign of hunger. Amazing, and at under seven dollars taxes in, a steal.
Chris Orbz / February 12, 2012 at 08:31 pm
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They won't reveal the ingredients in the dough? Is that legal?
Is it vegan? Parve certification would satisfy me I guess, assuming there isn't fish gelatin thrown in for some reason ;p
D / February 28, 2012 at 06:48 am
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Actually the mural is from the movie,

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hagiga_B'Snuker
Danny / June 27, 2012 at 07:18 am
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Went last night. I walked in and it was packed with 50 people inside the restaurant. There was a bit of culture shock as I was the only gentile :) in the place.I was also surprised to see it so busy considering it is in the middle of nowhere. (Industrial Area) Maybe it's their reputation on the quality (and quantity) of food. I wanted to order both the Falafel and Shawarma, but had to settle with the Laffa Shawarma. (due to size) The ingredients were very good (not the best) but better than most Shawarma places. The Laffa bread was fresh and chewy like Naan but chewier.

Can't wait to go again. I do wish they were open on Saturday but I respect that they don't to observe the Sabbath.


shanerinto replying to a comment from Chris Orbz / February 24, 2013 at 09:21 am
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They were just featured on that Food Network Show "You Gotta Eat Here" and they showed them making the laffa - the ingredients were just flour, water and yeast so that's vegan right?
Refugee / March 21, 2013 at 11:09 am
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This is not Israeli food. This is cultural appropriation of Palestinian/Levant food at its most audacious. Shame.
Big Ted / April 25, 2013 at 06:16 pm
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Stumbled onto this place while visiting from Texas. Amazing food! I ate so much I could barely walk.
Philipp Piskov replying to a comment from Rob / May 24, 2013 at 07:22 am
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Really delicious and authentic food. Good price for the quality. Lovely place in a rather hard to get to location.
DirtyT replying to a comment from GG / July 9, 2013 at 12:48 pm
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Was in this place a couple of weeks ago. The Chicken Shawarma in a Laffa is enormous and absolutely fantastic. By far the best Shawarma in the city.

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