As we continue on with our series on Toronto neighbourhoods, Kensington Market is the next village we explore.
Eclectic maybe the best way to describe this funky little neighbourhood that is nestled just west of Chinatown bordered by Spadina Avenue to the East, Dundas Street West to the South and College Street to the North. Once you enter Kensington Market all of your senses become aware of the area. Brightly colored murals adorned the stores and restaurants along the narrow streets. The smell of Cuban coffee mixed with Indian food combined with the scent of incense coming from the second-hand hippy clothing stores is all part of the experience that makes you want to venture forth and discover more. Kensington Village is only a few square blocks but you might instantaneously feel like you have been transported back to 70’s.
I hadn’t been there in years, so I biked over there for lunch on a Monday afternoon. What a pleasant surprise. This funky little neighbourhood is another perfect example of a multicultural mix of Portuguese, West Indian, Asian and Spanish, than makes this city so great. It started out with Jewish roots but as become another multicultural haven in Toronto. It’s definitely recommend that you leave the car because the one ways streets are narrow and parking is a challenge at best. Plus you don’t want to miss anything by just driving through the area. In fact this car to the right is a landmark known as the Kensington Market Garden Car. Look for the zucchini growing out of the trunk. It is put into storage during the winter as to not impede the snow plows and each spring it comes back to the neighbourhood. The car has become one the most photographed features in Toronto and the local businesses have an agreement with Toronto city hall that they will not tow the car away as long as the local businesses pay to have it insured.
This area is all about exploring the interesting mix of meat, cheese and fruit markets, dry good vendors, second-hand clothing stores and so much more. This is a bargain hunter’s paradise where vintage clothing stores housed in old Victorian homes just down the street from army surplus stores in garages compete with discount designer clothing store. Don’t miss the Blue Banana Market (250 Augusta Ave) which is a mixture of 150 vendors who lease a tiny nook of space to in this amazing store. Step inside and you will find everything from kitchen stuff, baby clothes and treasures of all kinds. Out on the streets vendors throw open the doors and spill out onto the front lawns and sidewalks here. It’s all part of the Kensington experience.
Be sure to take time to stop at one of the many patios for lunch or coffee and dessert because you won’t be disappointed. We had a delightful lunch at Waterfalls Indian Tapas Bar and Grill (303 Augusta Ave). If you are hankering for a grilled cheese sandwich then you’re in luck at The Grilled Cheese (66 Nassau Street) or Wendy’s Pie in the Sky (287 Augusta Ave) which serves (you guessed it) home baked pies. No matter if it’s Hungarian food Hungary Thai or Asian Liu Liu Hot Pot there’s something for everyone taste pallet. Pictured here the Mexican Big Fat Burrito restarant is open for business while it gets a face-lift with street-art Kensington style.
While Monday afternoon was a quiet delightful way to explore Kensington Market, the action happens on Saturdays and on Pedestrian Sunday (last Sunday of each month) where the village really comes to life with bands playing in the streets and on rooftops (I counted 6 bands playing at the same time but not interfering with each other). Regardless when you visit, guaranteed your visit to Kensington Market in Toronto will be memorable.