Get to know a street: Overlea Boulevard
Overlea Boulevard in East York is a hub of South Asian retail shops, grocery stores, restaurants and, uh, East York Town Centre. While the area is not exactly scenic--mostly low buildings and hydro wires--what Overlea Boulevard lacks in outward aesthetic, it makes up with cultural substance. This street (actually, two streets: Overlea Boulevard and Thorncliffe Park Drive) offer various samples of Indian and Pakistani life, from authentic dishes to Halal groceries, to Bollywood movies and clothing. But of course, this wouldn't be Toronto if there wasn't a Timmies on the corner. Besides that, here are some places to check out on and near Overlea Boulevard.
As long as you're OK with a little spice, you'll love walking into Trupti. This spice and herb shop smells absolutely amazing, yet you wouldn't know unless you walked inside. Trupti manufactures spice blends, stone grinds flour, and snacks and roasted nuts, offering everything from bajri flour ($2.39/2lbs), flax seeds ($0.99/200g) and cinnamon, cumin, chili powder and more.
Bollywood 'N Varieties
Bollywood 'N Varieties has an impressive collection of popular Bollywood flicks, with titles that, unfortunately, I won't be able to relay. I did find the odd "Dan in Real Life" and "Dumb and Dumber" movies in there too. The shop also offers cell phone accessories and audio CDs, the latter of which you can get at five for $9.99.
I wouldn't necessarily call this pizza "authentically Italian," though it is most definitely 100 per cent Halal. Along with pizza deals including two medium pies with three toppings (and yes, Arza offers Halal salami) for $14.99, this pizza place also offers whole Lahori Chargha chickens for $8.99, as well as Lahori fish for $3.99.
Hakka cuisine is often described as a sort of Chinese/Indian fusion, so it's fitting this restaurant would find a home on Overlea Blvd. Though basic in dĂŠcor with a few booths and hanging lamps, Hakka Garden offers a multidimensional, mainly spicy menu of dishes including Tandoori fried rice, Masala fish, and vegetarian Hakka chow mein.
Tandoori Village is a fairly new arrival to this plaza on Overlea, but its owner assures me that, "If you like spicy, this will be very good." All of Tandoor's main dishes are prepared fresh onsite as part of a Pakistani, Indian, and Middle Eastern menu. Think butter chicken, nehari, allu palak, and lamb karhai.
Iqbal Halal Foods (Thorncliffe)
Iqbal Halal Foods is a sprawling grocery store offering fresh fruits and veggies, a meat department with several butchers onsite, and lots of frozen and pantry items. The back of the store is almost like a rice warehouse, with some 40lb bags of basmati rice selling for $22.99. There are also Indian and Pakistani beauty items, including hair colour, shampoo, and lotions. The spice selection at Iqbal is quite impressive as well.
Crossfit Quantum (Thorncliffe)
And just to mix things up a little bit, this is Crossfit Quantum, a fitness centre boasting small sessions or one-on-one personal training. Behind the bright blue front room is the spacious white gym, and behind that is the little alley space where sessions might break out when the weather is nice. Crossfit Quantum's trainers are also its co-owners, and they offer free trial classes for prospective members.
Shirin Mahal (Thorncliffe)
Shirin Mahal is a traditional Pakastani bakery offering treats such as khatais, tikka turnovers, and various types of patties. The Shirin Mahal on Thorncliffee is one of three in Toronto, though this one doesn't have any seating and is just simply grab-and-go. But you can eat that cake rusk on the go, right?
Bikram Yoga East York
Bikram Yoga East York has its own little island space (well, it is attached to a WIND outlet, but that's minor compared to the lengthy Overlea plazas) from which it offers hot yoga classes run by College of India Certified teachers. The space is newly constructed and offers either general or women-only (or both) classes every day of the week.
Bamiyan Kabob on Overlea is one of five in the GTA, serving up Afghani Halal cuisine to bustling lunch and dinner crowds. Bamiyan's meat is marinated for 24 hours and served in wraps, salads, and kabobs alongside rice and naan. Everything is prepared fresh each day on location.
Capital Sweet and Samosa
Right across the parking lot from Bamiyan sits this tiny take-out only spot. Capital Sweet and Samosa may not be the only place on Overlea Boulevard to pick up fresh samosa but it's possibly the cheapest. Three veggie samosas here can be had for $1. They might be sitting under a heat lamp but they still taste fresh - testament to the fact they're made on site, fresh baked each day.
Previously in this series:
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