It’s been years since I have walked around in Kensington during the day, so I was excited when my friend Mike suggested that we go to the area for coffee. Little did I know it would turn into an impromptu food tour - but honestly, I couldn't think of a better way to spend the afternoon.
As someone who hasn't lived in Toronto for more than a decade, Kensington has changed quite a bit since then, becoming more gentrified, but still maintaining its colourful charm and laid-back feel. The neighbourhood offers an eclectic mix of vintage clothing stores, cafes, fruit markets, small grocery and specialty food shops, as well as casual restaurants serving a range of international fare.
We began at Fika Cafe (28 Kensington Ave.) - Fika is the Swedish verb for ‘to go out for coffee’, and is located in a brightly coloured turquoise house, with simple, but well-thought out decor in the interior. The cafe offers delicious coffee and other hot beverages, delicious pastries (the treat of the day is just $2 after the purchase of your beverage), as well as breakfast and lunch items - all served on antique dishes or using le creuset ceramic plates and mugs. It has a number of small tables in the front room with a large square one available in the back for groups.
After coffee, we went for a wander but did not get very far. We happened upon Seven Lives Tacos y Mariscos (69 Kensington Ave.), a So-Cal and Tiajuana style taco joint that specializes in seafood. We shared the catch of the day, a tilapia filet breaded in corn meal, and dressed with tomatoes, green onions, slaw, with a light dressing - delish! They also offered a number of Mexican sodas and some fresh aguas, including horchata, a popular drink that is made from ground rice.
Thomas Lavers Cannery and Deli
Next we turned onto Baldwin which brought us to Thomas Lavers Cannery and Deli (193 Baldwin Street), a joint venture by Brian Lavers and Tye Thomas. I’ve seen many a deli in my life, but few canneries. I was curious. We entered to see long shelves of mason jars full of beets, chili peppers, pickles, and other fare, adorning one-side of the store, and a long deli and lunch counter on the other.
Thomas Lavers also has a fantastic home-brewed ginger beer on tap. It was perfectly-spiced, and could very well be the best in the city. I couldn’t help but think of how great it would taste in a ‘dark-and-stormy’ (ginger beer and dark rum). A glass sells for $3, and they also sell growlers for take-away. A fan of pickles, I couldn’t help but have one. I mean, who can resist a good pickle on a stick?
Thomas Lavers had been a pit stop enroute to Jumbo Empanadas (245 Augusta Ave.), unanimously agreed to be the best empanada spot in Kengsington. These authentic chilean empanadas, particularly the mini cheese variety, make a great little snack on the go.
These are but just a few of the great little spots in Kensington to wander into. And in a city, where there always appears to be a new 'hot' and generally high-end restaurant to try, I'm happy to see that Kensington is offering delicious and interesting food at affordable prices.
What are some of your favourites? Leave a comment, we would love to hear from you!
Note: All of the photos from this post were taken on the iPhone 4S using the VSCO Cam App. Thank you to Mike Raj for a wonderful afternoon in Kensington.