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

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Summer brings new life to Scadding Court market

When the Live Local Marketplace opened up at Scadding Court at Dundas and Bathurst about a year ago, I loved the idea but I worried about the market's future. The market was a project of the adjacent community centre, and it aimed to revitalize this stark intersection by converting old shipping containers to storefronts. An eclectic group of merchants took advantage of the monthly $325 rent, peddling everything from cell phones to Indian street food.


In the past year I've periodically gone back to check on the developments at the market, which never seemed to be very busy. It seemed to be getting into a loop where low customer traffic led to merchants closing up their shops for days on end. I wondered how the market would survive the winter.

But with spring, the market seemed to fill out again, and it adopted a new moniker, Market 707. The merchants who survived were still as keen as ever, and they were joined by newcomers excited about their chance to start on a business on the cheap. The new merchants are almost all restaurant vendors, which gives the market a consistant feel it lacked before. 

Survivors from the original crew include Original One Bubble Tea, which added dim sum to their menu, Monteforte Dairy, and Magic Oven, an Indian street food stall that has greatly expanded its menu. It now offers classics such as butter chicken and samosas, as well as its signature "sloppy bunjo," a tamarind and yellow pea sandwich. 

One of my favourites of the new merchants is the Tunisian stall, Casbah. The chatty owner Dali Chehimi loves to serve up North African dishes, such as merguez, tangine, lamb burgers, and for the adventurous—camel burgers.

Kims a la Carte has sporadic hours, but killer Korean food. You can't go wrong with these dumplings and rice cakes that sell for just a couple bucks a pop. The stall also has an outlet in the amazing Latin food court  in Kensington. 
Last but not least is Kanto, a Filipino restaurant run by Diona Joyce. Diona succeeds in elevating Filipino food—typically the restaurants serving one of our biggest immigrant groups tend to serve overcooked cubes of meat and sauce, served lukewarm from sweaty steamtables. 

Instead, Diona serves fresh ingredients prepared with care: try the palabok, cornstarch noodles peppered with intense shots of pork cracklings and shrimp. The restaurant also has addictive sweet plantain pastries and garlic peanuts made by Diona's mother, Catalina Libunao. "I've been making these peanuts since the '80s when my daughter was in kindergarten," Catalina recalls. 


One nice surprise addition to the market is a bike repair shop Spin Can, run by impossibly young looking Satchel Dille-Boyd and Chase Brokenshire. The cheap rent allowed them to set up shop and offer low prices for tuneups and bike tubes. I look forward to seeing how the market will evolve in the springs to come. 

The hours for each business vary, but they are generally are open Tuesday to Saturday 11am—7pm.

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  1. This market deserves the support of everyone working at Toronto Western. For the same price as junk food across the street, you can get excellent, exotic cuisine.

  2. There's also a small farmers' market there on Wednesday afternoons after 3pm. They set up their stands amongst the food stalls, so you can grab a bite and some farm-fresh produce at the same time.

  3. I am sure to visit.
    I sell the containers here in Toronto

  4. I'll be sure to visit - sloppy bunjo just needs to be tried!

  5. We tried the Colombian place and the roti place (Trini?) today and both were excellent. Lots of nice guacamole on the arepa and tostone. Also tried the Monforte ice cream. I wasn't crazy about the overly creamy texture of the water buffalo and sheep's milk ice creams but it was fun to be able to try them and I'm looking forward to an artisanal grilled cheese next time.

    There were others we wanted to try, but almost half weren't open (approx. 2pm). We'll be back though.