Journalist Sarah Efron explores strip malls and hole-in-the-wall restaurants in search of the city's best ethnic food

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Falafel frenzy: Dr. Laffa fans flock to the restaurant's new location

Toronto is in love with Dr. Laffa. Converts have been frequenting Dr. Laffa's Magnetic Drive location, buried deep inside a bleak industrial park near the 407, for a few years now to eat amazing Iraqi-Israeli food. The world-class falafels and shawarmas are served inside a stretchy, fresh bread (laffa) baked on site in a clay oven. 

A few months ago word got out that Dr. Laffa was opening up a new location south of the 401 and Toronto's Jewish community—as well as the city's food writers—have been salivating with anticipation. The wait is now over, as Dr. Laffa On The Go opened Wednesday at 3023 Bathurst just south of Lawrence. 

I visited the day after the opening and the place was a mad house. The small shop was crammed with people lining up to place their orders. It was a mosh pit of screaming toddlers, patient teens and religious Jews wearing kippahs and black hats. The location is mostly take-out, although there are a few stools at the edge where you can eat.

A staffer struggled to make his way through the chaos with a giant vat of laffa dough. By 8:30 the cashier announced they were—gasp—out of shawarma. It took a half hour to get to the cash and another 15 minutes or so to get our food, but no one was complaining.

"We're happy there's a Dr. Laffa in the neighbourhood so we don't have to schlep up north anymore," says Miriam Rosenberg, a dentist who lives in the neighbourhood. "The food is fresh and it's interesting, because it's Israeli food with an Iraqi spin. It has a different flavour and I like it better than regular Israeli food."

There is no question the food is worth the wait. The chicken pieces in the shawarma are juicy yet crispy around the edges. Sabich is an addictive, oversized sandwich filled with an impossible amount of goodness: smokey roasted eggplant, a boiled egg, hummus, lettuce and falafel balls. Each giant sandwich is wrapped in the chewy, elastic laffa bread, which isn't quite like any other bread I've tasted. You can buy pieces of this excellent bread on it's own, steaming and fresh from the oven.

Dr. Laffa will be closed next week for Passover. The restaurant is closed Saturdays for the sabbath, although this location will be open after sundown this Saturday, from 9pm til midnight.

Dr. Laffa is located at 3023 Bathurst just south of Lawrence. Tel 647 352 9000 or 647 352 9001. Hours are Sunday to Thursday 11am to 10pm; Fridays 11am to 4pm.

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