There’s so much more to Latin American food than tacos. Get set for a feasting fiesta as you explore bites outside your usual guac and chips.
You’ll find an abundance of dishes from Latin America across Toronto (it is one of the best foodie cities, after all!). Try these stellar spots, from cozy food stands serving homegrown dishes to trendy neighbourhood hotspots with craft cocktails blended with southern spirits.
For Peruvian cuisine
Dreaming about that time you went to Cusco? Indulge in Peruvian flavours at Summerhill’s Pisac Peruvian Bistro as you reminisce about your trek on the ancient Inca trail. They’ve got both papa a la Huancaina (the irresistible potato, feta, black olive, hard-boiled egg and aji mirasol sauce appetizer) and tiradito de pulpo (octopus with aji amarillo and tiger’s milk, the citrusy Peruvian marinade of the moment) to feed your wanderlust. A
Meanwhile—on the always buzzy King Street West strip—you’ll find Mira, a chic restaurant serving modern Peruvian takes. The arroz frito is a fusion of cuisines, featuring both tamagoyaki (Japanese omelet) and huitlacoche, the fungus delicacy that grows on ears of corn, and you’ll find classic dishes here, too, such as the pollo a la brassa, which is slow roasted and seasoned with the Peruvian red pepper aji panca.
You’d be remiss if you skipped the craft cocktails. There are three pisco sours to choose from—try the pisco pimienta with ginger and artichoke liqueur, which dances between sweet, smoky and spicy.
For Salvadoran dishes
Las San Sivar in the Stockyards District specializes in pupusas, the country’s trademark cornmeal flour flatbreads stuffed with pork, cheese and beans. Here, they are served with tomato salsa and a “curtido” or slaw. The open kitchen gives you a full view of your pupusas being expertly made fresh to order.
If you’ve got a healthy appetite, turn your stop at the Stockyards District into a food tour: just east of Las San Sivar, you’ll find two Mexican faves. Try chile relleno and costillas de puerco con nopal (aka pork rib in a spicy marinade and stewed cacti) at La Nayarita, then stop into Tita’s Mexican Food for pozole (a flavourful and spicy thickened chicken broth filled with white corn).
For Nicaraguan eats
Nicaraguan joint La Bella Managua on Bloor Street West (just east of Ossington Avenue) specializes in dishes from Managua. Try the shrimp or fish ceviche, a fresh seafood appetizer marinated in lemon and lime juice with bell peppers. Look for the mild hint of sweetness (thanks to a dash of ketchup!) that differentiates Nicaraguan ceviche from others.
For Cuban food
Retro Cuban diner vibes and tasty medianoches make a stop into La Cubana essential. (The local chain has two locations: one on trendy Ossington Avenue and the other in family-oriented Roncesvalles.) Medianoches get their name from being sold by the nightclubs in Cuba after dark.
At La Cubana, you can order them day or night; choose from the Pressed Cubano (pork, ham, gruyere cheese, red onion topped with chipotle mayo and mustard) or try their deep-fried, honey-glazed pork belly version, which is dressed with pineapple salsa.
For Ecuadorian delicacies and more
Get your Ecuadorian faves and other Latin American delicacies at family-run La Morena. This casual takeout spot does swift business, serving tamales, humitas and fritadas. They’ve even got ten versions of empanadas.
Feast on Argentinian-style flour empanadas, Colombian-style corn-based empanadas and Ecuadoran-style rice-flour empanadas. Warning: the signature hot sauce (a blend of carrots and mustard) served with the empanadas is highly addictive!
For Brazilian flavours
Head to Midtown for Rio 40, a Brazilian mainstay renowned for picanha, Aka grilled rump steak. (Trust us and get it with the cassava fries.) If you’re more of a seafood person, dive into their bacalhau assado, a dish of baked salted codfish topped with onions, peppers and olive oil—one bite will make you feel like you’ve escaped to Brazil’s tropical climes.
For Pan-South American cuisine
Baro serves up South American fare, with signature dishes that regulars to this King West hotspot can’t get enough of. Try the OG Duck Chaufa (fried rice loaded with duck confit, edamame, egg, corn, papi kung fu, chillies, tobiko and cilantro served in a piping hot clay pot that continues to deliciously crisp up the edges of the rice dish as you dine).
Enjoy this alongside the featured dish and cocktail from their “Dine Around Latin America” menu series, in which one dish and one bevvie are highlighted from a different country each month. (September celebrated Brazil with Wagyu picanha: a splurge-worthy plate of Wagyu steak topped with black garlic salt and served with fire-roasted salsa verde).
The made-from-scratch Venezuelan and Argentinian dishes are what set female-led, queer-owned Bar Bacan apart. A hotspot for watching the soccer game, Bar Bacan’s teque ñ os with wasa—fried Venezuelan cheese sticks—will tempt you into eating an entire order yourself. But save room for a cachapa (Venezuelan ground corn pancake) and add chorizo or chicken and avocado as your tastebuds dictate.
The stunning Art Deco-style bar that holds court at the heart of Leña is reason enough for a visit to this South American restaurant. Whet your appetite with an elderflower pisco sour (Leña’s version of this Peruvian cocktail is made with pisco, St-Germain, grapefruit, lime and egg white), then dig into some aged-for-24-months serrano ham and squid, plus Argentine shrimp caldoso rice stew, which douses the tasty crustaceans in a delectable, flavour-packed broth.