Toronto is Canada’s largest city and is considered one of the most multicultural cities in the world. There are more than 140 different languages and dialects spoken in Toronto and half of its population was born outside of Canada. People from Asia, Latin America, Africa and Europe call this city their home and with so much diversity, it is no surprise that you can see, feel and taste that international vibe everywhere in Toronto.
Kensington Market is like a rainbow of diversity that showcases its yearlong international influence through many facets. The origins of this multicultural neighbourhood date back to the 1880’s, when Victorian style houses were built in the area to accommodate Irish and Scottish immigrants. The start of a long history of immigration. In the 20th century Kensington Market was one of Toronto’s poorest neighbourhoods, but the arrival of Eastern European Jewish immigrants was the start of Kensington Market as they set up a market that sold items from around the world to cater for the immigrant communities. After the the Second World War the Jewish population left the area and settled in the suburbs of the city. Kensington Market was about to get even more diverse. In the following decades the community became home to political refugees and people fleeing trouble spots around the world. The George Brown college was sold in the 1990s causing a lack of student traffic for local businesses which resulted in numerous closures, but like so often when one door closes, another opens, literally! Entrepreneurs from around the world opened businesses in the area and brought street food to Kensington Market.
This multicultural neighbourhood has been named “National Historic Site of Canada” in 2006 and is now a popular spot for locals and tourists alike.
When you walk along the colourful streets of Kensington Market you won’t know what to look at first. So many fascinating details that act like little mosaics making one giant art piece. One of the reasons I decided to visit the area is its great international food.
I’m a huge fan of international flavours and I had found a place online that specialises in Jamaican-Italian fusion cooking. Two of my favourite cousines combined into one tasty dish? Hell yeah, where do I sign up? The place is called Rasta Pasta (the name says it all) and is located right in the heart of the neighbourhood. There are two parts to it, one where you can enjoy casual sit down meals and the other site is a take away. I opted for the street food and got so excited at the great choices the menu had to offer. Their dishes , a selection of Paninis and pasta will set you back around 6$ – 10$. I went for “the Vatican” their famous Jerk Chicken Panini with coleslaw and what a good choice that was. Juicy jerk chicken all wrapped up in a toasted Panini.
If When I make it back there I would love to sample some of the dishes from the sit down menu.
The Dirty Bird
Just a few doors up from Rasta Pasta is another must try for every foodie visiting the area. Dirty Bird is like a happy marriage of chicken and waffles, but don’t be fooled, this place also serves classics but with a twist. If you have a sweet tooth, you will love selection of deserts. My personal favourite was the sweet potato ice cream. I couldn’t resist the temptation of trying their Dirty Fries: handcut fries with their special dirty sauce & seasoning, cheddar, fried onions and to top it all off some dirty mayo as well. This dish is one big bowl of goodness and possibly one of the best fries I have ever eaten! They now serve dirty poutine as well. Poutine is a typical Canadian (seriously tasty) fast food that consists of fries paired with cheese curds and gravy.
Besides being a foodie’s dream, Kensington Market also has some fantastic vintage stores, bars and an abundance of street art. Pretty much every alley and many of the buildings are covered in huge murals and graffiti by local artists.
The street art and international cuisine international cuisine of Kensington Market really tell a story of a diverse neighbourhood that unites cultures from around the world.
Tell me, have you been to this part of Toronto before? What was your favourite thing about it?