Kensington Market is one of Toronto’s most eclectic and culturally diverse neighbourhoods. It’s also a foodie paradise. Here’s what to eat, where.
A big part of my job involves travelling to eat and I absolutely love it! But whenever I get back home, I’m reminded how incredible the food scene is here in Toronto. Kensington Market is the kind of neighbourhood that makes you feel like you took several international trips in a single day: it’s diverse, bohemian and truly iconic.
Here are 10 delicious Kensington Market foods you need to try. Even better, we’ve ranked them in order of how iconically “Kensington Market” they are.
ICONIC EAT #10: Halibut & Chips with Miss Vickie’s Extra Crisp Batter, Fresco’s Fish & Chips
Everyone has an opinion on what style of fish makes for the best fish and chips. Some love halibut, while others swear by haddock or cod. But the one thing we can all agree on is that a great batter is key, no matter the fish.
If you’re ever at Fresco’s Fish & Chips, get your fish with Miss Vickie’s Extra Crisp Batter. The added crunch that comes from this premium batter made with kettle-cooked potato chips is an absolute game-changer.
Iconic Kensington Rating: 5/10 — not peak Kensington… but mmm fish and chips!
201 Augusta Ave.
ICONIC EAT #9: Peach Praline Pie, Wanda’s Pie in the Sky
Of all the restaurants featured on this list, Wanda’s Pie in the Sky was probably the toughest to choose only one iconic item from. Why? Because they make so many delicious varieties of pie, including vegan and gluten-free options. Buuuuut there’s something about the way the brown sugar praline topping and that hit of tanginess from the peaches just seduces your taste buds.
Iconic Kensington Rating: 6/10 — a tasty treat from a must-visit bakeshop/café
287 Augusta Ave.
ICONIC EAT #8: The ODB, The Dirty Bird Chicken & Waffles
How could I not love a meal named after one of the most iconic rappers of all time? Before the city’s fried chicken scene exploded, there was the Dirty Bird Chicken & Waffles in Kensington.
Often credited as the spot that started it all, Dirty Bird’s standout item is the ODB: boneless dark meat, buttered maple syrup and their signature dirty sauce packed on a house-made waffle. So anytime someone asks me if I want to go get this, just like ODB, I respond: “Come on, baby, baby, come on!”
Iconic Kensington Rating: 7/10 — the chicken that hatched its own hashtag (#northernfriedchicken)
79 Kensington Ave.
ICONIC EAT #7: Churro Cheesecake, Pancho’s Bakery
Full disclosure, the first time I saw Pancho’s Bakery’s churro cheesecake, I was casually scrolling through Instagram…and then pretty much lost my mind. Feelings of joy, lust, wonder and jealousy hit me all at once. The image of dulce de leche slathered on top of creamy cheesecake, wrapped in sweet, crispy churros was permanently burnt into my head. Now I suggest that you share this masterpiece with friends and family, but if you want to go at it solo, you will get zero judgment from me.
Iconic Kensington Rating: 7.5/10 — lining up at Pancho’s is a local ritual
214 Augusta Ave.
ICONIC EAT #6: Patty Sandwich, Golden Patty
The Jamaican beef patty sandwich has become somewhat of a staple in Toronto but what makes the one at Golden Patty so special is that this Jamaican and West Indian bakery has been serving the community for over a decade.
Golden Patty’s now-famous Jamaican beef patty sandwich consists of coco bread stuffed with cheese, tomatoes, lettuce and mayo, all hugging a perfectly crisp and warm patty. Now I don’t blame anyone for ordering oxtail, doubles, or something from their massive baked goods display…but please do not leave without a patty sandwich as well.
Iconic Kensington Rating: 8/10 — a classic, reinvented… very Kensington
187 Baldwin St.
ICONIC EAT #5: Mushroom and Cactus Taco, Seven Lives Tacos
The first time I went to Seven Lives Tacos Y Mariscos was the first “nice” day of the year. Everyone was outside and Kensington Market was buzzing. I had wanted to try Seven Lives for months. I remember walking up to be met by the kind of line that looks days long when you are hungry (which I was). Well, I waited, and it was worth it.
I had a mushroom and cactus taco. It combines mushrooms (my favourite meat substitute) and tangy pickled cactus, covered in savoury avo sauce and queso. How often do you see cactus on tacos in Canada? Not often, right?
Iconic Kensington Rating: 8.5/10 — an icon that stays authentic to its roots
72 Kensington Ave.
ICONIC EAT #4: Jumbo Empanada, Jumbo Empanadas
When the name of a restaurant is also its star menu item, it’s usually a good idea to order that item. Especially when said restaurant has been around for over 30 years! Jumbo Empanadas’ namesake — the jumbo empanada — does not disappoint. You’ve got a choice of veggie, chicken, or beef empanada made in an authentic Chilean style. And spoiler alert, the empanada is not small.
Iconic Kensington Rating: 9/10 — a neighbourhood beacon since its circa-1990s hotdog cart days
245 Augusta Ave.
ICONIC EAT #3: Soy Drumsticks, King’s Cafe
Nothing is better than a crowd-pleaser when it comes to food; you know, those bites that everyone can enjoy. And who doesn’t love fried chicken? Well, people who don’t eat chicken, that’s who. But at King’s Café — a vegetarian destination in the market since 1996 — a table of strict carnivores and vegetarians can dine on crispy fried drumsticks in perfect harmony.
Simply order a plate or two of their BBQ-flavoured Soy Drumsticks: these crunchy and flavourful bites are not only iconic, they may even prove to be the great unifier.
Iconic Kensington Rating: 9/10 — Asian vegetarian since way before the trend exploded
192 Augusta Ave.
ICONIC EAT #2: Beef Indian Tacos, Pow Wow Cafe
Restaurants serving up Indigenous fare can, unfortunately, be a little harder to find around the city. This fact already makes Pow Wow Cafe a gem in and of itself. But this small restaurant — owned by Ojibway chef Shawn Adler, who also helms Flesherton, Ontario’s Flying Chestnut Kitchen — is doing more than merely existing.
Pow Wow Cafe is locally loved for serving up one of Kensington’s most iconic foods, Indian Tacos. This unique spin on tacos served on Ojibway-style frybread is a must-have for visitors to the market. I recommend the Pow Wow-style beef tacos, topped with cheddar, lettuce and sour cream.
Iconic Kensington Rating: 9.5/10 — a neighbourhood classic
213 Augusta Ave.
ICONIC EAT #1: Jerk Chicken Lasagna, Rasta Pasta
Nothing says “Toronto” like the meeting and melding of cultures. And no one does this better than Rasta Pasta. The fusion of authentic Jamaican cuisine with Italian-Canadian fare makes for a menu the likes most have never seen before.
Yes, Caribbean favourites like oxtail, curry goat, and ackee and saltfish are served up daily. As are Italian staples like Penne Con Pesto. But for my money, the menu must-have is the Jerk Chicken Lasagna. We are talking about fresh pasta, layers of mozzarella and ricotta, filled with their spicy and flavourful Jerk Chicken.
Iconic Kensington Rating: 10/10 — as quintessentially Toronto as it is iconically Kensington
61 Kensington Ave.
Getting to Kensington Market:
Take the Line 1 Yonge-University subway to Queen’s Park station, then catch the 506 College streetcar westbound to Spadina.
Or take either the Line 1 Yonge-University subway or Line 2 Bloor-Danforth subway to Spadina station, then catch the 510 Spadina streetcar southbound to Dundas Avenue.