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

Friday, May 13, 2011

Eat your way across Latin America at North York's Plaza Latina

A bleak stretch of semi-industrial land in North York is home to a bustling Latino mall with an amazing food court. On a Sunday afternoon, it's almost impossible to get a parking spot at the Plaza Latina at 9 Milvan Drive near West Finch (see map below).

There are Latin American grocery stores, a barber shop and a temporary labour office in the plaza, but the main attraction is the food court. It's packed with young families and an overwhelming selection of Central and South American food.

The Chilean restaurant and bakery, Auténica (above), specializes in sandwiches, such as the Chilean classic pork sandwich lomito ($5.50). I sampled a tasty churrasco Italiano sandwich on freshly made bread with strips of grilled beef and mashed avocado. 

Auténica has a wide selection of large empandas: beef, chicken, chorizo, seafood, cheese, ham & cheese, spinach & feta. They also serve humitas, a dish made of corn dough and wrapped in corn husk, and pastel del choclo, a casserole made with ground corn. For dessert, they have alfajors (a type of South American cookie), flan and strudel.

Chilango Tacos is a Mexican food joint that serves some wonderful looking tacos el pastor, as well as quesadillas and soups. La Costenita Colombiana offers seafood, fried fish and grilled beef dishes served with rice, beans, egg and plantain. They also have paella and oxtail soup. 

Pupuseria El Buen Sabor serves the cuisine that has literally shaped the people of El Salvador. (I've been to the country and couldn't help but make a connection between the popularity of the lard-based tortillas and the pear-shaped figures of country's women.) The tiny restaurant serves pupusas stuffed with cheese, beans, zucchini or loroco, a type of flower bud used in Central American cooking.

La Cubanita (below) serves a large range of dishes from Cuba, including soups, chicken stew, shrimp dishes and pork sandwiches.

There are two Ecuadorian places in the plaza. La Fuente del Puro Sabor (above) is a juice bar where they make fresh juice from papaya, melon, orange, soursop and other fruits. Comedor Popular Ecuatoriano (below) serves fried beef empanadas and sopas de gallina, or hen soup. This wonderfully salty concoction has big chunks of chicken breast as well as carrot, potato, noodles and cilantro.

A hearty meal in the food court sells for $5 to $12. Wash it all down with the Peruvian soft drink Inca Cola.

Thanks to Gilbert, Coopspeak and PanCanCooks for the tip.

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  1. Wow! That foodcourt looks amazing!

  2. Variedad excelente de alimento

  3. what are the hours like?

    1. Good question, I neglected to ask when I was there. I was up there recently on a Monday night and a couple of the bigger restaurants were open til I'd say 7 or 8 but the rest of the stalls were closed. If someone knows, please add a comment.

  4. it open till 8 most shop

  5. El lunar e's una mierda me da verguenza ser Latino ese lugar parece un Mercado pobre de Centro America