Kensington Market - Lost in a maze
Whenever we come to TO, we love going to SLM. We do want to branch out and try Kensington Market. We drove to the vicinity. Looked like all houses. Walked a little and gave up since we were wandering aimlessly.
We love Mediterranean, Mexican, South American and middle eastern food and ingredients. Want quality and like street food. Please help. Where can we park? What should we look for and where should we go?
Lots of fun to be had here. In addition to what's been recommended, here are some other things to consider:
Parking: Go south off College 1 street west of Augusta. Three blocks down there is a street level greenP. Fastest way in and out, as you avoid Spadina. In the southeast corner of that lot is a well-lit short alley that leads you onto Augusta. At the end of the alley is the House of Spice, which has a good selection of world spices, chutneys, sambals, etc, and most dried spices.
Also on Augusta:
Perola's - fresh and dried Mexican and south American foods and veg. At the back, on some days, there are fresh tacos being made. They also sell a variety of quesos and their own chorizo.
Segovia Meats - Over a dozen varieties of chorizo (love the Guatemalan), as well as various carne in adobo.
El Gordo Empanadas - part of the Segovia family, over 40 varieties.
Emporio Latinho - small latin grocery store with fresh food at the back. Tacos, pupusas, tamales, churros.
El Trompo - Mexican restaurant with great cheap food, good selection of Mexican beers and drinks, and truly respectable margaritas.
Torito - best tapas in the city, evenings only
La Palette - decent bistro French
Amadeu's - Good Portuguese seafood.
European Meats - Not organic, but the prices will make your jaw drop.
Seafood Place on south side, near head shop - the clean looking one. Sushi grade cuts and freshness.
Cheese shop on north side, somewhat small - these guys are doing small Canadian artisinal producers, much in contrast to the shops on Kensington, which have heavily discounted and occasionally dodgy internationals (always make sure the piece you taste is the one you buy!).
Moonbeam Coffee - premises roasted, fantastic brews, and beans/teas sold. Great choice of pastries, as well.
St. Andrew's Poultry - Many kinds of poultry, many grades, wholesale prices.
Another meal-worthy stop is Big Fat Burrito (285 Augusta Avenue). Their burritos are nicely overstuffed and tasty.
Also My Market Bakery has these awesome flaky bagel-ish pastries stuffed with feta and spinach for around $2.00. Really nice if you want a bite but don't feel like a meal.
Also here's a link to a National Post article on Kensington Market that you may find interesting:
Kensington Market is not a true "market" like the St. Lawrence Market, it's actually just the name of the funky neighbourhood. So the hours of each shop are individually maintained by the owners. But most of the shops are open all weekend, as that is when there is the most foot traffic through the area.
In addition to empanadas, make sure you get some pupusas from the ladies at the back of Emporium Latino, right next door (south) of Jumbo Empanada. Yum!
Much of Kensington is residential so head to Kensington and Augusta Avenues for all the stores and food vendors:
For dessert try Market Bakery. They sell individually portioned baked goods. Too many to list here and always very tasty (I love the carrot cake). Also definitely try Jumbo Empanada. They're very tasty and not too filling so you'll have room for something else.
You're also a stones throw from Little Italy and Chinatown if Kensington gets boring.
Also this Sunday (July 27) is Pedestrian Sunday (no cars allowed). You'll see more vendors selling food outside their establishments plus street performers, etc. It's a lot of fun.
When you're looking for Baldwin Street or St. Andrew off of University, both streets have a high post at each intersection - one of a cat in a chair and the other of a globe, I believe. I can't remember which one is which.
I found more info about these symbols, if anyone is interested:
Kensington Market (Baldwin Street and St. Andrews Street)
Artist team of Shirley Yanover & David Hlynsky
The artist team of Shirley Yanover & David Hlynsky summarizes the market's variety of activities, from its grass roots international trade, represented by the marker at Baldwin Street, to the best of domestic harmony, represented in the icon at St. Andrews Street. The Baldwin Street globe (powder coated aluminum) represents the home we all share, with orbiting images of what we need to survive. The images (powder coated aluminum) circling the globe are inspired by photographs of the Market's windows and signage. The artwork evokes global commerce on an intimate scale, a pictorial language that transcends multilingual chaos by reducing trade to a few essential appetites. The St. Andrews marker, a cat on a kitchen chair, is a poignant representation of the spirit of Kensington. Cats rule supreme in the market. They are its security guards and they keep our laps warm in winter. The artwork is a monument to their simple but essential contribution to human well being.
Depending on where you're coming from, head south on Spadina from College or north from Dundas to St. Andrew (second light heading south, first light heading north). Turn west on St. Andrew — it only goes one way — and park in the Green P parking lot half a block down.
Once parked, walk across St Andrew to Kensington Avenue. Turn right and head one block north to Baldwin. Walk one block west to Augusta, then head north on Augusta to College. Retrace your steps back to the lot.
Most of these answers can be found on other threads: look up Perola's and La Tortilleria for Mexican, Jumbo Emanada beside Perolas. There is another empanada place across the street, but I haven't tried it. Look up La Tortilleria before you go as you won't find it by wandering. Lots of Middle Eastern Places at the intersection of Augusta and Baldwin.
As for parking, there is a large multi-level city run "Green P" lot with entrances on Baldwin and (I think) St. Andrews. I find tis the best place to park as it large and on the edge of the market: no need to slowly wade through the people on the street.
Great advice, bluedog. I agree about the parking--I usually head south on Spadina and turn right on St. Andrews, as you suggested. The market is right there, a little on St. Andrews, but more on the Baldwin St. exit of the parking lot. Walk along Baldwin, check out the stores on Kensington, then continue to Augusta, where you'll find that the market continues both north (mainly) and south (for a block or so).
I like the empenadas at El Gordo (the one bluedog is referring to). There are something like 30 or more varieties, including huge 'family-size' ones. They're about $3.00 each. Great coffee at Ideal Coffee on Nassau St. Cool spot with good lattes etc.
Have fun...I was just there yesterday picking up all sorts of veggies, meats etc. for dinner.