Kensington Market is a quirky area in Toronto that makes up part of the larger Kensington neighborhood. Though it only stretches for a few blocks, it is densely packed with local and immigrant stores, and is an excellent representation of the city’s strong multicultural heritage.
Though most Torontonians are familiar with Kensington Market, the neighborhood still has plenty of new places left to discover, and with the help of Tasty Tours, locals and visitors alike can explore the sweet side of this eclectic neighborhood.
Tasty Tours is operated by Audrey Ooi, a 24-year old entrepreneur and food enthusiast who decided to lead food tours in her hometown of Toronto after being inspired by a chocolate tour she took in Philadelphia. With two dessert-oriented offerings, the Kensington Market Sweets Tour and the Trinity Bellwoods Chocolate Tour, she’s off to a great start!
This writer recently had the pleasure of joining Audrey on her Kensington Market Sweets Tour and got to experience the fun firsthand.
The adventure started at the Ding Dong Bakery, which was the first of five stores that we visited during the tour. Here we watched the bakers decorate cakes through the kitchen windows, and sat down to try a plateful of egg tarts that were prepared by Audrey, which were flaky, buttery and absolutely delicious.
Reading Suggestion: Ate by Ate is a cool blog that offers a rundown on the food culture of Kensington Market.
While we ate, Audrey told us about the spirited nature of Kensington Market and relayed stories of how its residents are lovingly protective of its carefully cultivated eccentricities. One example she gave was when Nike tried to open a store in the area and neighborhood activists protested by pouring red paint on running shoes and hanging them up in front of the store! But really, what else would one expect from a place that proudly displays a huge mural of the Mona Lisa holding a banana?
Kensington Market definitely functions as its own eclectic ecosystem bursting with specialty stores selling fresh produce, baked goods, and charming outdoor cafes, which are perfect for people watching during the summertime. There’s also independent art galleries, vintage jewelry and clothing stores (Bungalow is a big draw), and curiously enough, an Army Surplus store for those looking for a little camouflage-wear. And while the community-oriented neighborhood has felt the effects of gentrification (expect to see older ethnic stores sandwiched between newer boutiques), it’s still a street art utopia that has plenty of character.
Reading Suggestion: Learn more about the unique culture of Kensington Market from this blog post.
But, as part of the fun is discovering new places and new treats, we won’t give away too much of the two-hour tour’s itinerary by talking about any more shops, other than to say that all of the shop owners welcomed us warmly and gladly fielded our questions while we sampled their specialty food items.
Just trust that Audrey is charming and poised, as she leads guests around Kensington Market, and offers unique gastronomic commentary that is both fun and informative. At one point during the tour she whipped out her iPad to show the group images that illustrated how various dessert items have transformed over the years.
All in the all, it was a very fun Sunday jaunt with an adventurous vibe and this writer would highly recommend the tour to anyone with a sweet tooth who is interested in learning more about the neighborhood and the history of its desserts.