Eating in Toronto: from Chile to Korea, via Hungary

(Toronto, Ontario, Canada)

My October trip to Toronto was only for one night, but I made sure I took advantage of some of the great food that the city has to offer.

Inside Jumbo Empanadas, on Augusta Avenue in Toronto

My first stop was an old favourite:  Jumbo Empanadas in the Kensington Market district.  I go here for pastel de choclo (corn pie) whenever I can…and the translation of “corn pie” really does not do it justice.  I  wrote about its awesomeness in a previous post and I am happy to report that it was just as good this time around.

The corn pie (pastel de choclo) from Jumbo Empanadas in Toronto’s Kensington Market

The setting is not fancy.  The view from the front window is colourful (see photo at the top of the post), although you can see little else but other Latin American shops and restaurants in this part of Kensington Market.  But it’s the food that matters, and the addictive mixture of sweet, savoury and spicy (I went for the special salsa as well this time) proves that the Chileans know a thing or two about complex flavours.

Madison Manor, in The Annex

As the concert hall was at the edge of a neighbourhood called “The Annex”, I stayed at a B&B called Madison Manor located just off Bloor Street West.  I have a special affinity for this part of Toronto, as I lived within walking distance of it in the early 1990s.  I wandered by my old apartment on Avenue Road and was amazed by how much “intensification” had taken place in the area in the past 25 years.  But the building is still there and the location is still excellent.

Hungarian Renaissance in The Annex?

As for the Annex itself, another favourite haunt of mine was the Country Style Hungarian restaurant.  As you can see from the photograph, it’s still there too but I didn’t have a chance to stop in this time.  However, if you’re ever in the mood for a big Hungarian meal after a long day of wandering around the city, this is your place.  It’s still family-run and the only remaining Hungarian restaurant in this part of Toronto:  there used to be about a dozen.  Happily, it appears that a Hungarian pastry shop has sprung up next door…perhaps a renaissance is taking place?

Honest Ed’s: a landmark in The Annex

The evolution of the neighbourhood is ongoing.  I never actually bought anything at the legendary Honest Ed’s bargain emporium…and it is now too late, as it recently closed.  I snapped the above picture to visually capture it before its almost certain redevelopment.  Like the downtown Sam the Record Man, this is a long-standing landmark that people still talk about even though it is no longer open.

This is where I had lunch in Koreatown, Toronto

Immediately west of The Annex is Koreatown.  This was just a bit too far for me to visit on a regular basis when I lived in Toronto, but was perfectly situated for lunch on this trip.  It was difficult to pick one restaurant over another (there are a *lot*), but I eventually settled on the Jin Dal Lae simply because it had recently opened.

My lunch at Jin Dal Lae…not including the soup (and after I started on the spicy side dishes)

I ordered the Bulgogi Bento Box for $8.95 and wasn’t expecting much for that price in a city where eating out can be quite expensive (by Canadian standards).  I was very surprised to receive eight small side dishes, ranging from fried tofu to kimchi, before the box itself arrived.  In addition to gyoza and a heaping helping of tender bulgogi, there was also soup (which didn’t make it into the photo)…and I utterly failed in my attempt to have a light lunch.

While this trip took place about 4 weeks ago, I will find myself in Toronto again soon.  Stay tuned for details!

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