Charming heritage buildings, sun-soaked patios and fresh, international cuisine — that’s what you’ll find on the newly restored Market St. What was once a mundane alley nestled beside St. Lawrence Market, is now a street boasting with restaurants and cafes that reflect Toronto’s diverse culinary scene. From Spanish tapas and Italian fare to fresh seafood and modern Indian cuisine, there’s something to satisfy every palate. And for those who get hangry before, during or after a trip to the market (or all three like me), the foodie hub is a godsend. A refuge from the hustle and bustle of the busy market, it’s the perfect place to unwind and fuel up. Here’s a glimpse inside the vibrant establishments that line the street…
Barsa Taberna – Step inside this subterranean gem and you’ll be whisked away to one of my favourite cities in the world. The stonework, wall mosaic (made from over 1400 tinted wine bottles) and bold colours all scream Barcelona. Serving up modern tapas (small plates), executive chef Michael Smith showcases local and international ingredients in his innovative dishes. The menu is divided into hot, cold and fried tapas where you’ll find Spanish staples like Patatas Bravas alongside creative fusion dishes like Grilled Octopus with Channa Masala. Tip: whether you order a few tapas or the Chef’s Tapas Tasting (12 small plates), the best way to enjoy this resto is to share. Be sure to include the Duck Two Ways and Grilled Octopus in your selections. Oh, and they also serve up some of the best sangria in the city — so grab your friends and head to their beautiful patio to sip on a glass or two.
Balzac’s – Named in honour of coffee lover and French novelist Honoré de Balzac, Balzac’s is known for their freshly-brewed Fair Trade Organic coffee (which they micro-roast in 20 lb batches) and beautifully-designed interiors that will transport you straight to Europe. I’ve been a huge fan of Balzac’s since the early 90s when they opened their first café in Stratford so I’m super excited to see that they have a new home on Market Street! Tip: enjoy a Nordic Latte (seasonal) at the café and take home a bag of the Atwood Blend.
Evolution Food Co. – Made with fresh produce, the market-inspired dishes here will leave you feeling satisfied and energized. The food and drinks are not only healthy (owner Ian Paech is a triathlon athlete who has perfected the recipes over years), but the flavour profiles are bang on. Tip: order the Blueberry + Walnut greek yogurt, Energize Me cold-pressed juice (orange, pineapple and grapefruit) and the Market Street bowl (spiced pecan, dried cranberry, fresh apple, sunflower seed, Ontario goat cheese, lemon & honey vinaigrette and balsamic dijon).
Market Street Catch – Owner Tom Antonarakis has been feeding my belly for years: first at Buster’s Sea Cove in St. Lawrence Market, then at Buster’s Sea Cove food truck and – most recently – at Market Street Catch. From Arctic Char to Grilled Calamari, this Greek knows how to cook up some tasty seafood! The fish here is as fresh as it gets. Tip: don’t leave without trying the lobster rolls and halibut tacos.
Bindia – Named after the owner’s daughter, this family-run restaurant serves up delicious Northern Indian cuisine. While the decor is modern, the food pays homage to traditional recipes; the dishes are bright, house-made from scratch and packed with flavour. Tip: order the Tandoori Jumbo Prawns, Tandoori Lamb Chops and Vegetable Samosa. Wash everything down with a Mango Lassi – it is divine.
Pastizza – Greeted by a 30-foot-tall wine chandelier, it quickly becomes clear that this Italian eatery is serious about their wine program (they solely serve varietals from their own winery: Thomas George Estate in Sonoma). Co-owners Paolo Paolini (founder of Splendido and Mistura) and Thomas Baker (proprietor of Thomas George Estate winery) share their love of fine wine and Italian food at this gorgeous restaurant located on the corner of Market Street and The Esplanade. It’s the kind of place you want to head to with a large group (especially during the summer: their patio seats up to 200 people). Tip: order the Bruschetta Bomba (a fun appetizer that deflates when you poke it with your knife) and Uovo pizza. Oh, and do not leave without trying the Ravioli Con Castagne (chestnut & ricotta ravioli with pancetta brown butter, sage and pomegranate) – although small, it’s a beautifully-balanced dish and a rare find in Toronto.
If you haven’t checked out Market Street yet, I highly recommend heading over to Toronto’s newest food destination to get a taste of what the restaurants have to offer. Buen provecho!
Special thanks to the Market Street restaurants listed above for hosting us during this media event. As always, all reviews and opinions are entirely our own.