ARGUABLY DOWNTOWN TORONTO’S MOST DIVERSE AND VIBRANT ‘HOOD, KENSINGTON MARKET OVERFLOWS WITH GREAT LITTLE CAFÉS, ETHNIC EATERIES AND ECLECTIC BOUTIQUES. HERE ARE A FEW OF OUR CURRENT FAVOURITES.
1 Julian Finkle has been silkscreening t-shirts since before silk-screening t-shirts became cool. His unique designs are the stock-in-trade of Model Citizen, though the sartorial shop also carries other North American and European labels of quality. 279 Augusta Ave., 416-553-6632; modelcitizentoronto.com
2 Good Egg is Toronto foodies’ go-to boutique for all things culinary, with an expertly curated selection of cookbooks and mouth-watering magazines, plus unique kitchen accessories and food-related art. 267 Augusta Ave., 416-593-4663; goodegg.ca
3 A staple for health-conscious Kensington denizens, airy, family-run Hibiscus Café is well known for its gluten-free buckwheat crepes served with vegetarian or vegan fixings. On the go? The nutrient-packed salad bowl will give you hours of energy. 238 Augusta Ave., 416-364-6183; hibiscuscafe.ca
4 Some of the city’s best bread can be found daily at Blackbird Baking Co. Pick up a Toronto Sourdough baguette to fuel your further Kensington Market adventures. 172 Baldwin St., 416-546-2280; blackbirdbakingco.com
5 Millie Creperie makes Japanese-style crepes, rolls them up like an ice cream cone, and hands them over to salivating patrons with sweet or savoury toppings. The Japanese Special—green tea gelato with whipped cream, strawberries and matcha sauce—is an optimal summer selection. 161 Baldwin St., 416-977-1922; milliecreperie.com
6 Grab a bagful of gastronomic whimsy at the Toronto Popcorn Company, which crafts a number of savoury (like pizza or honey mustard) and sweet (blueberry, vanilla cream) versions of its namesake easy-to-eat treat. Mixing and matching flavours is encouraged! 147 Baldwin St.; torontopopcorncompany.com
7 Fried chicken gets a northern treatment at The Dirty Bird—its signature offerings are all given a subtle bit of maple syrup flavour.
79 Kensington Ave., 647-345-2473; thedirtybird.ca
8 Toronto’s taco craze has lately died down a little, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t expect a lineup at tiny taqueria Seven Lives. Seafood is the specialty, with blackened mahi mahi, spicy shrimp, octopus and Baja fish among the options. The ceviche regularly sells out by early afternoon. 69 Kensington Ave., 416-393-4636.
9 The city’s Jamaican milieu is well represented by Rasta Pasta, which, among other things, serves up some of the city’s absolute best jerk chicken. More adventurous eaters can also look to the goat curry, ackee and saltfish, and more. 61 Kensington Ave., 647-501-4505.
10 Hard to find but easy to love, Cold Tea is a hipster bar (yes, they serve Pabst Blue Ribbon) without any of the pretension that designation might imply. There’s no real menu; rest assured that the bartenders know a thing or two about mixing a mean cocktail. Try to snag a seat on the superlative back patio. 60 Kensington Ave.; Twitter account
11 Looking for something unique to help remember your trip? Pick up a set of designer “Greetings from Toronto” postcards at Kid Icarus, a beloved local screen-printing studio and stationery shop. 205 Augusta Ave., 416-977-7236; kidicarus.ca
12 A Scandinavian oasis at the south end of the market’s bustle, Fika is a sun-drenched, Swedish-inspired spot for lattes—try the cardamom-spiced variation—and just-sweet-enough baked goods. Excellent, always-fresh sandwiches satisfy larger appetites. 28 Kensington Ave., 416-994-7669; fika.ca
GET THERE! Kensington is easily accessed via public transit; the neighbourhood is bordered on three sides by major arteries. Take the 505 Dundas, 506 Carlton or 510 Spadina streetcar, and then spend a leisurely few hours exploring the market on foot. —Craig Moy