Neighbourhood Review: Kensington Market

Kensington Market is like an entirely different city within Toronto. The best way to describe it is that it’s the kind of place you’d visit on your travels.

It’s one hell of a market. It’s got everything from world class cheese shops and butchers, to specialty popcorn stores and gluten free/vegan bakeshops. There are skateboard shops, rasta pasta huts, and people selling t-shirts and knick knacks. The smell of weed hangs in the air above Bellevue Square. Strange bug transformers made out of metal scraps dot one resident’s lawn and graffiti is everywhere. There is an unmistakable feeling as you enter. I like it. It’s different, and weird, and totally the type of place that I would visit while travelling. It’s the kind of place that you are drawn too. And not just because of its uniqueness, but also because of the incredible shops you can find there.

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Ryan and my Mom’s favourite coffee beans are from Casa Acoreana in Kensington. It has many varieties of beans and a really helpful staff who is always willing to answer questions and help you pick the best coffee to suit your tastes.

Here’s a quick breakdown of some shops that offer gluten free goods!

 

Hibiscus Cafe

A gluten free, vegetarian cafe with a simple menu of sweet and savoury buckwheat crepes, soup and salad. Ryan and I split a savoury and a sweet crepe. The tomato, basil, and goat cheese crepe was amazing – bursting with goat cheese. I have never thought of pairing tomato and basil with goat cheese before, but it sure did work! We also had an apple cinnamon sweet crepe. Just in the nick of time we noticed a sign that said homemade gluten free, soy free, vegan ice cream. Oh boy, count me in! We ordered a scoop of mango coconut on our sweet crepe. Good decision! I will definitely go back to Hibiscus Cafe, especially considering there are no gums and no nonsense in its crepes.

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Hibiscus Cafe

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Tomato, basic, and goat cheese crepe

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Apple cinnamon crepe with mango coconut ice cream

Bunner’s Bake Shop

I’ve always been a fan of Bunner’s Gluten Free Vegan Bake Shop. I’ve been to its Junction location many times and cannot even begin to count how many of its amazing cinnamon buns I have eaten over the past few years. Bunner’s opened a second location in Kensington Market earlier this year – great news for anyone looking for delicious gluten free treats.

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Bunner’s offers new cupcake flavours each month

 

Global Cheese

A long standing family-owned business. It has a very large selection of amazing cheese, truly the smell of cheese hits you when you walk in. My friend Sarah, with a package of thin rye crackers and a jar of red pepper jelly in her hands, asked a staff member what kind of cheese would go best with this combination. The man behind the counter contemplates it for a moment and then grabs a block of cheese from the display case, slices off a piece with his knife and hands it to her. “This one”. Sarah readily agreed.

I was really excited to find fresh burrata cheese and fresh sheep’s milk ricotta here. Most grocery stores only carry ricotta made with guar gum so I can rarely find ricotta that I can eat. Every time I stop by Global Cheese, I have to buy burrata to make a kick ass arugala, fig, and prosciutto salad. It’s so good.

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My favourite arugala, fig, and prosciutto salad with fresh burrata that I make after every trip to Global Cheese.

Kensington Cornerstone

An entirely gluten free restaurant that I’ve wanted to try for many years. Of course the appeal is an entirely gluten free kitchen with no risk of cross contamination. It was lunchtime on a weekday when I went with a friend who was visiting from Whistler. I had a craving for breakfast and the combination of potato and sweet potato hash appealed to me. Unfortunately, we were very disappointed. The service was incredibly slow. It took forever for our food to come, and that’s saying something considering we were chatting non stop, catching up on our lives for the past few months.

My food looked good, but it was one of those look good, taste horrible moments. I’m so disheartened. I wanted to like Kensington Cornerstone so badly, but I just couldn’t eat my food. The broccoli and cheese omelette was stuffed full of way too much cheese and the large chunks of uncooked broccoli inside were too crunchy to be enjoyable. The hashbrowns that I had been looking forward to were such a huge disappointment. I couldn’t tell if they were burnt or just had weird spices on them that contributed to the terrible flavour and black stuff all over them. I hate to say it, especially when it’s an entirely gluten free restaurant which is awesome and I wish there were more of them, but I have to be honest, the food was gross. I ended up leaving most of the food on the plate. My friend ordered the three bean salad and said there was nothing special to it and it was pretty bland. Maybe it was an off day, or maybe dinner items are better…who can say. All I know is that I can make a much mightier breakfast at home, and with Hibiscus Cafe around the corner I don’t think I will be back here again.

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Kensington Cornerstone

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The disappointing broccoli and cheese ommelette, with hashbrowns and sausages.

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