SpiceCityTo

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

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The most diverse food court in Toronto is in this airport flea market

Who would have guessed that the food court with the most interesting cuisine in Toronto is located inside the Downsview Park Merchants Market, a flea market next to Downsview Airport?

Located at 40 Carl Hall Road, the market is home to merchants hawking used stereos and $5 T-shirts. But the gem of the market is its International Food Court, which is billed as an "international food festival every weekend."

Two dozen food stalls with tiny kitchens are sprawled throughout the food court and in other corners of the market offering cuisine that is hard to find elsewhere in the city. In fact, you could call this the food court of the future, because due to demographic trends and the growing popularity of international foods, you may see some of these items show up in your local mall at some point.

There are no chains in this food court. The businesses are family owned, and weekend-only hours and cheap rents (around $650 a month) mean that many of the patrons are dabbling in the restaurant business while holding down other jobs during the week.

El Rinconcito Peruano (below) offers ceviche, fried fish, and beef dishes. The owner explains that she hasn't translated the menu signage, as most of her customers speak Spanish. "This place is very, very authentic," offers an enthusiastic Peruvian customer. "This food is something that my mother would have made."




Pupuseria Delicias (below) sells made-to-order pupusas for $2.50. These Salvadoran thick corn tortillas are stuffed with beans, meat, cheese or zucchini and spinach. They also sell tamales with chicken or elote (corn). Wash it down with horchata, a milky sweet drink made with cinnamon.


Comida Ecuadoriana serves Ecuadorian fare such as empanadas and ciccarones, a thick cut of pork that is similar to bacon. When the owner, Catalina (below), isn't at the market, she's working at her Ecuadorian restaurant, Latin Flavour (4040 Steeles Ave. West). "I can't afford to advertise in the newspaper, so this is a good way to advertise my restaurant," says Catalina.
Soon, another enthusiastic customer comes up to offer his praise the restaurant. "Ecuadorian food takes a long time to make but it's quick to eat," he says.

Read the second part of Spice City's visit to Downsview Market.



The International Food Court is open Saturdays and Sundays from 10am to 6pm. Admission is free. There is free parking or you can take bus #101 from Downsview Subway Station.
Thanks to Jennifer Hollett for the photos and to Gilbert for the tip.

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