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Journalist Sarah Efron explores strip malls and hole-in-the-wall restaurants in search of the city's best ethnic food

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A great new patio in Kensington Market serves up the best in Latin American cuisine

El Gordo restaurant has been an essential stop in Kensington Market for years, thanks to its tasty Chilean-style empanadas. Recently, El Gordo (214 Augusta Ave., see map below) got even better, as it became the site of half a dozen stalls selling food from Venezuela, Mexico, Colombia and El Salvador. But the latest development takes the cake: El Gordo just opened a wonderful patio for customers out back. It's the perfect place to enjoy some great food and relax on a sunny afternoon in Kensington. 

New stalls inside the restaurant meant there was less space for customers to eat their empanadas. Now they can enjoy them on the patio.
The patio was previously a parking lot.

The owner Alfonso (centre) with his wife and son. His wife, who is Korean, created the shop's kimchi empanadas.
El Gordo's owner, the Chilean native Alfonso Segovia, says he and his family (his brother Leo runs Segovia's next door) were waiting to get a better lease before subleasing stalls to other merchants inside the building. "Latin food wasn't emphasized much in the city, except for tacos and burritos and the regular commercial crap," says Alfonso. "We wanted to create something where food was made fresh."

He says the reaction has been amazing. "Our customers are never bored because they can come in every day and try something new from a different country." The patio adds to the mix by giving customers a place to enjoy their food away from the bustle of the city. "It's like another world back here," says Alfonso. "In the summer, I plant roses and sunflowers here."

Agave & Aguacate is a Mexican food stall that's been getting rave reviews from foodies.
Arepas, a corn flour sandwiches popular in Venezuela, are now available. 
The original attraction: empanadas.
Alfonso plans to make the most of the sprawling backyard by expanding the patio, putting a cooking school in the garage and having bands play at the back. In fact, on Pedestrian Sunday (this Sunday, May 29, 2011), a Latin jazz DJ will be playing from 12pm to 7pm. It's a great opportunity to check out what will likely become one of your favourite spots in the market.

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