In praise of the “hole in the wall”

In Canada, Cuisine, Toronto by 1 Comment

I love going out to eat, and I love the thrill of fine dining, with its presentation, rare ingredients, and technically difficult preparations. But fine dining is like theatre: sometimes I’m just not in the mood, sometimes I don’t have the time, and sometimes my wallet is empty except for a few lonely moths. At these times, it is pretty hard to beat the local hole in the wall.

This last Tuesday was one of those days. It was hot, humid, and the traffic on the QEW heading into Toronto crawled for the last 20 kilometers or so. Fortunately, I did my grad work in Toronto, and grad students have a sixth sense when it comes to holes in the wall, so I knew that I wanted to make my way to Gandhi Roti

So what makes a good hole in the wall? I love diners full of dock workers, tiny rooms with menus in strange languages, and street food on out of the way corners. A hole in the wall should turn out good, simple food of extremely high quality, in extremely unpretentious settings. This isn’t a chain restaurant with industrial mediocre food. It is a place that starts as an adventure and then becomes a comfort.

So why is Gandhi my go-to Toronto hole in the wall? Well, the tiny room turns out a stream of amazing Indian roti, and that’s it. No fancy seating, no bathroom even, just a room full of to-die-for food at a low price. Katherine ordered the mixed veg and I grabbed a malai-kafta, and both were, as usual, about two meals worth of food. The spicing was rich and intense, with ample gravy for the soft, hand-made roti. Each roti is made on the spot, wrap and all. The medium spicing was hot enough for me, but Katherine weathered the “hot” spicing.

The best foil container full of goodness you could hope for!

I haven’t quite been in Vancouver long enough to establish a good set of holes in the wall, so it was nice to visit a few of my Toronto favorites.  Holes in the wall represent a quiet or hidden cuisine, one more in line with what the average person eats in contrast to high cuisine and tourist cuisine. We finished our roti off while sitting in a park, and I was so intent on the food I forgot to take a photo. We weren’t too upset that we had to go back the next day.


  1. Lauren

    I love Gandhi roti. Salivating as I write this… Thanks for your words, Lenore!

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