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Feb 5, 2010 05:53 AM

Looking for food shops in Kensington Market

Hi All,

Am looking for food shops in Kensington Market - not restaurants - but grocers, specialty food shops, bulk stores, etc. I know there are lots of great places out there, I just don't know where to begin. I've got a few spots on my list: Chocolate Addict, Tutti Frutti, etc., but I'm looking for places that are not readily talked about.

Any / all comments appreciated - thanks!

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  1. "Readily talked about" is highly dependent on who you're asking. The places I shop in Kensington are well-known around here. My destinations in the neighborhood are Perola, Emporium Latino, El Gordo, and House of Spice. I also usually take a browse through Good Egg to ogle cookbooks and cute kitcheny things. My only experience with Chocolate Addict is that it is one of the only chocolate shops I've ever walked out of without having been tempted to buy anything.

    6 Replies
    1. re: Wahooty

      thanks for your input, Wahooty...

      1. re: Wahooty

        I second Wahooty's rec's and unfortunately, the comment on Chocolate Addict as well. It has to be the least interesting/tempting chocolate shop I've ever been into - and I LOVE chocolate. Kensington is pretty small, well loved and well traveled - I doubt there's one spot that isn't readily talked about on this board but that shouldn't discourage you from exploring.

        And be sure to grab a latte at Louie's (corner of Augusta and Baldwin) - take in the music, vibe and the urban scenery on what is arguably one of Toronto's best people watching corners.

        1. re: peppermint pate

          thanks so much! will report to all next week! cheers, everyone!

          1. re: peppermint pate

            I know I'll probably find myself in the minority here, but as far as I am concerned the coffee at Louie's is awful. Over-roasted and bitter, nothing to write home about. You'll get a far superior cup at Wanda's Pie in the Sky.

            I work in the market, and there really are no secrets left.

            1. re: andreas

              Hey andreas - I think it's fair to say that for Louie's more than any other spot, my recommendation on the coffee is definitely heavily influenced by the experience and setting - the little corner shack, the take-out window, the great music, the people watching, etc. It's really unique, a very special spot in Toronto. I drink lattes when I'm there, not sure what you're drinking, and I would agree that apples to apples, there are better lattes at Dark Horse and Ezra's (and better americanos at Black Camel). BUT I certainly wouldn't call it awful. Never tried Wanda's.

          2. re: Wahooty

            I agree about Chocolate Addict. What is it with that place?

          3. I'll add to Wahooty's list- check out Segovia meats on Augusta (best sausages Ive ever had), Sanagan's Meat Locker on Baldwin, Global Cheese on Kensington (careful, they will try to sell you expiring brie and cream cheese cut with herbs by calling it a fancy name and offering samples), and something about the chaos of European Meats' peak hours makes it a claustrophobic circus. By that I mean a load of fun. And get an Ideal Coffee (Nassau street) latte to go while you're at it.

            All that said, its a pretty small hood and the best course of action is to go and get right lost in it. Happy hunting!

            5 Replies
            1. re: Everythingtarian

              Thanks so much, Everythingtarian - will definitely go to Ideal Coffee - my favourite drink anyday....

              1. re: Everythingtarian

                El Gordo is the empanada place right next to Segovia - they use various types of Segovia sausages in the pies. Good way to try before you buy. :)

                1. re: Everythingtarian

                  Re: Global.. I find the selling of out-of-date cheese a little hard to take - but, if you keep an eye (and a tastebud) out for that, their selection, service and prices are quite decent.

                  I've taken to buying more and more cheese at Fiesta Farms - as I know the quality will be good - and the prices are often in line with Global.

                  1. re: mikefly

                    I've noticed a vast improvement in the selection of cheeses at Fiesta Farms. And their selection has always been pretty good...

                2. Good selections so far. I would also suggest thinking about the Patty King on Baldwin, for everything from fresh rotis, to doubles, various Caribbean sweets, and, of course, patties. A few doors west there is another Caribbean grocer that has salt cod, most condiments, and most produce that you would want from there.

                  Moonbeam on St. Andrew's roasts their own coffees, and has some nice pastries to go with.

                  On a deeper level with the other suggestions, Perola's is best for its selection of fresh and dried peppers and South American herbs. Both Perola's and Emporium Latinho have small kitchens in the back that make amazing little snacks, such as tacos, pupusas, tamales, etc.

                  Seaway on Baldwin (if it's the one I'm thinking of) has a cabinet to the left that has sushi grade cuts daily, or they are happy to do them on command.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Snarf

                    WOW - thanks so much, Snarf!

                    Am definitely going to Moonbeam Cafe and will certainly try Seaway, as well as Perola - thanks so much!!

                  2. I agree with the other suggestions - Perola, Moonbeam, European Meats, Global Cheese are all good and fun to shop at. House of Spice was mentioned, it is where I buy most of my spices.

                    For no good reason, I tend to buy bulk items (nuts, dried fruit, bulk candy / chocolate, etc.) from the shop next to Louie's (NE corner of Augusta and Baldwin, I think). I'm sure the other places are also fine but that shop has a large selection, most of which is protected from the elements instead of out on the sidewalk.

                    My Market Bakery is OK. I wish I liked their breads more as I prefer to support small independent stores. A couple doors down, Cob's is an international chain and some of their breads are very nice.

                    There is a "health food" store on the west side of Kensington right at the T-junction by St. Andrews? The street that Moonbeam is on - that I like. They have a good selection of organic foods, helpful staff, good prices. I can't remember the name but it is the one right at the T and is a couple steps up.

                    The produce places are pretty similar. I tend to shop at the one on the SE corner of Augusta and I think Bellevue because they have a largish selection that tends to be fresh and decent quality.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: VP of Feeling Groovy

                      I live in the neighbourhood and from experience avoid the fruit/veg place at the SW corner of Baldwin/Kensington. The owner is gruff and his produce is overpriced and often past its due date.

                      1. re: VP of Feeling Groovy

                        Essence of Life is the health food store. Great selection and very helpful and knowledgable staff.

                        And VP, its the SE (not SW) corner of Augusta and Baldwin with the surly folks, and the veggie place that you shop at is at Nassau and Augusta, oddly called Oxford Fruit (odd because Oxford is a block north!)

                        1. re: Everythingtarian

                          Sure about the location of the surly place? From my recollection, the SE corner has a coffee shop.

                          1. re: ziggystardust

                            Oh man, I need to stop reading for time trials. You are correct! (I was thinking about the Augusta/Baldwin corner, where there is also a coffee shop and a surly store owner)

                      2. I really like the three chorizo chili from Segovia's.

                        A shrimp patty from Patty King is good too.

                        One of the best things about the market is figuring it out for yourself. Look, smell, go in, check things out. If it looks interesting, go for it.


                        8 Replies
                        1. re: Davwud

                          Thanks everyone! I went to Kensington over the weekend, and it was not as overwhelming as I thought - very small and very easy to navigate. I loved the House of Spice and Tutti Frutti - walked out of both stores with lots of items for less than $10!!

                          I bought produce in one of the shops, and will definitely go back - so much cheaper than the St. Lawrence Market, which is where I usually go.

                          Had brunch at Bodega, on Baldwin - excellent food with great prices.

                          Tried Chocolate Addict - what a s-hole!!! And a disappointment!!

                          There are great restaurants in Kensington, too (I did a lot of eating this weekend): King's Cafe, Supermarket, Waterfall Indian Tapas, Vegetarian Haven - all very good.

                          1. re: Giulia_F

                            while i like essence of life for their selection of cans and other household or packaged food goods, the bulk bins at tutti frutti are much better priced. just in case you did another round in the health shops.

                            i know some people think it's weird.. but i have an addiction to the "squid" at king's cafe made from yam. it is nothing like squid but the snappy texture is something i really like.

                            i also often find the produce exorbitantly priced and rotting considering a lot of it is very similar to what is in chinatown. unless you're looking specifically for ontario or organic... chinatown is a better option proximity wise.

                            1. re: pinstripeprincess

                              Thanks for the advice, but I try to avoid Chinatown whenever possible. I really, really prefer Ontario grown or organic, or produce from anywhere else except China. Call me a snob, but that's my preference......

                              Yes, the bulk bins at Tutti Frutti are cheap, cheap, cheap!

                              Will definitely try the squid at King's Cafe next time! Thanks for the rec.

                              1. re: Giulia_F

                                my poorly expressed point was more so that i've never found the produce in kensington to be of high quality in general. there's little you will find in those shops that are expressly local unless that is the loudly pronounced business model.

                                also not all produce/products in chinatown comes from china.

                                1. re: pinstripeprincess

                                  I think the only products from China are dry goods.

                                  I can't imagine they ship their produce from china and still sell for like $0.50/lb.

                                  They get their produce from the Ontario Food Terminal, just like all the produce shops in Kensington as well.

                                  1. re: Jamie Eats Burgers

                                    Hi there, I actually have seen lots of vegetables that have the sign, Product of China, even in the Metro..believe it or it is possible....

                            2. re: Giulia_F

                              Glad you had fun. On another occasion, check out Torito on Augusta for tapas - a real gem. We like to arrive early, stroll around the market and then have dins there. Lovely patio out back in the summer as well. Urban Herbivore has a great salad bar lunch, Rice Bar has some good food - lots to choose from, definitely one of the high concentration chow'hoods in the city.

                              1. re: peppermint pate

                                Rice Bar is currently nonexistent - it has been turned into Burger Bar, and the original is supposed to resurface in a new location come springtime.