Spice City Toronto: Meat-Free Indian Beach Snacks
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Spice City Toronto: Meat-Free Indian Beach Snacks

Chow down on some vegetarian snacks that pack a spicy punch and check out the latest Bollywood DVDs at this Little India restaurant and video store.

Bombay Chowpatty's masala fries. Photo by Sarah Efron

While hundreds of Indian restaurants in Toronto serve up the standard butter-chicken-and-dahl buffet, one restaurant in Little India has a different take on food from the subcontinent. Bombay Chowpatty, near Gerrard and Coxwell, serves up vegetarian street food from India.

“Indian restaurants tend to have buffets, but I wanted to do something different,” says co-owner Gurpreet Mann, who hails from the Punjab and opened up the restaurant two years ago.

“In Bombay, and all over India, people make snacks and sell them on the road. We make these snacks and serve them fresh.”

The restaurant gets its name from Chowpatty (Chaupati) beach in Mumbai (formerly Bombay), which is famous for its food stalls. In addition to serving fast food treats, the restaurant doubles as a video store, selling the latest Bollywood DVDs.

The ragda patties ($5.99) are pan-fried potato patties swimming in a chickpea, onion, and tomato sauce. The masala fries (above; $3.99) are a tasty dish of spicy french fries topped with yogurt, green chutney, tamarind chutney, and cilantro. Many of the other dishes on the menu combine similar elements to create punchy treats that pack sweet, salty, and creamy flavours into each bite.

Pav bhaaji ($5.99) is a puree of mashed veggies sauteed with onion and garlic and topped with lime. The bhel puri ($4.99) is a dish of rice crisps with onion, potato, green mango, cilantro, tamarind, and chutney. It tastes a bit like Sugar Crisp breakfast cereal and includes bits of sev, a type of cracker.

The menu also included paneer burgers and a lovely paneer kathi roll ($5.99), which must be an Eastern equivalent of the breakfast burrito. It was made of mashed paneer (unaged Indian cheese) and rolled into a flakey paratha bread.

I finished the meal with a surprisingly good rose lassi, a sweet, milky drink made with rosewater. It was truly a pleasure to discover so many new dishes and to sample a different side of the Indian food in the city.

Bombay Chowpatty (1386 Gerrard Street East), open 1:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. on weekdays, noon to midnight on weekends.

Spice City Toronto explores Toronto’s great hole-in-the-wall restaurants and strip-mall joints serving food from all corners of the world. Find more photos and details about Bombay Chowpatty here.