Market Street has been revitalized. Once known as “Muddy York”, we’ve used this road as a short cut, a parking spot and a taxi drop off. Who knew it would become the next hot destination for Toronto restaurants? But why wouldn’t it be? Right below an LCBO and right across from the St. Lawrence Market, this is the Boardwalk on Toronto’s culinary Monopoly board. Uniquely suited for summer patios, its makeover has a European cultural sensibility and reflects the diversity of Toronto’s food scene.
We begin our restaurant crawl at Barsa Taberna. Inspired by tapas in Barcelona, this is something that has been missing in Toronto. Small plates of grilled, tamarind-spiked octopus, green papaya and pineapple-glazed prawns, charcuterie, and light and crisp manchego churros are on today’s chalkboard. We devour with delight and pair with Toronto’s best selection of sangria. In true fashion, pinchos and paella are always changing. Don’t miss Flamenco Thursdays!
Next up we reel in the Market Street Catch. An extension of Buster’s Sea Cove within the market (also known for their food truck), the treasures of the sea are offered in soft corn tortilla tacos, sandwiches, fried or grilled, in pasta or poutine, and we marvel at the selection of fresh fish from halibut, haddock, tilapia, salmon, swordfish, rainbow trout, snapper and arctic char to lobster with grilled gruyer. We pair Peller Estates wines with lobster rolls and shrimp tacos. “Do you get your fish from the market?” I ask. “No.” I am told. “We get our fish daily from the same place the market does.” It’s that fresh.
From the fruits of the sea to a Heavenly Glow of cold-pressed fruit and vegetable juices, we experience Evolution Food Co. Inspired by a lack of healthy options on Bay Street, and the understanding that “food is fuel”, Ian Paech traded in his suit and tie for dairy-free smoothies, a fresh Greek yogurt bar, and gluten free dishes from recipes he developed in his own kitchen for his own family. Our Moroc salad of veggies, Ontario chicken, and lemon honey vinaigrette with tahini and harissa-spiced hummus is an enlivening box that we can enjoy in, or on-the-go. There’s even online ordering and delivery! From the salads to the proteins, this is all the energy boost we need. Paech has traded up.
The sweet taste of India, contemporary and modern, begins with the traditional tandoor. Bindia focuses on Northern Indian cuisine, and boasts the richness of the panoply of ingredients used in each dish like tandoori lobster tail; naan bread stuffed with tandoori chicken; and a tandoori platter of prawns and kababs. We love the crunchy coconut calamari and the lamb chops–succulent and savoury. We pair with flutes of bright mango lassis and refreshing lemongrass cocktails. Named for co-owner Michael Kapil’s daughter, Bindia has a retro décor with walls patterned after the first sari his wife wore when they married. Food reflects history and, at Bindia, the charm of family.
Honore de Balzac once said, “Great love affairs start with champagne and end with tisane.” But in between, there’s got to be a good coffee. It seems that wherever we find Balzac’s, a hip new community develops around it. Market Street is no exception. We enter the Parisian styled café with floor tiles imported from the Dominican Republic and sink into the warmth of a decadent toasted almond latte. French inspired, Balzac’s coffee is renown for its fair trade beans, vast selection of pastries, and the ambience of a European coffee house in which to relax and recharge.
I’ve taken the road less traveled, and the pot of gold at the end of this rainbow is a bomba. It looks like a pillow on which I could rest my head, but instead we cut it open to reveal a light crisp bruschetta that we pair with in-house made oils from spicy bird’s
eye to really spicy habanero. We’ve never tasted pizza so good as here at Pastizza. For added flair, there’s a semi-soft boiled egg on top that emulsifies beautifully over the red pepper and pumpkin-sauced pizza. A crust with a crunch that reflects a kitchen that knows how to let the yeast do its thing as it sits for three to five days for that perfect sweetness in the dough. One last morsel to pair with Pastizza’s own Sonoma wines, from Viognier to Pinot Noir, is the mildly sweet ravioli stuffed with chestnut and ricotta, topped with crisp pancetta and bedazzled with pop-in-your-mouth pomegranate seeds.
My inner GPS has recalibrated coordinates to set Market Street as my new favourite place. I have arrived at my destination.
~ For more info go to: Tastes of Market Street ~