Greater Toronto's best ethnic hole-in-the-wall restaurants and strip mall eateries.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The best and worst of Spice City in 2011

I've had a blast exploring all corners of the city in search of great ethnic food in 2011. In addition to enjoying countless great meals, I've had a chance to chat with fascinating people at restaurants and on Twitter and Facebook. Special thanks to Torontoist and AutoShare for their support.

Here's a round up of some of the best, worst and strangest things I've encountered on my food adventures this year.

Best hang out: You can easy end up spending an afternoon chatting with the friendly folks at the Haitian restaurant St. Clair Bakery & La Belle Jacmeliene in Scarborough.

Most memorable dessert: Gourmet Garden serves up a crazy crushed ice dish called ais kacang. The ice is sweetened with syrup and comes with strings of jelly, salted peanuts, creamed corn, red beans and sweet basil seeds.

Worst meal: I was excited to find this little Nigerian restaurant, Planet Nollywood, in the India-Africa mall, but we were served chunks of lukewarm, burned chunks of meat by a sullen waitress. Barely edible.

Best renovation: It's been amazing to see the transformation of El Gordo's empanada shop in Kensington into a full on hub of Latin cuisine, complete with a tranquil back patio.

Craziest burger: Novo Horozonte's Brazilian "sheesh burger" comes with a baggie around it to keep the ridiculous amount of toppings on it: it comes loaded with chicken, bacon, a fried egg, ham, cheese, lettuce, tomato, pieces of corn and thin-cut french fries.

The spiciest food: When I ate the dumplings in chili sauce at Ding Tai Fung in Markham my throat literally constricted and I had trouble breathing for two or three minutes.

Best community effort: I'm constantly impressed by the enthusiasm of the rag-tag bunch of vendors serving food out of old containers at Scadding Court.

Worst service: A staff member at MJ's BBQ & Suya screamed at me and threatened to call the police if I didn't delete my photos, even though I had asked another staff member for permission. I threw my money on the table and left before my meal arrived.

Best restaurant run by a cult: Green Earth serves vegetarian food and follows the teachings of the Supreme Master.

Strangest dish: The charming Motherhome Myanmar Cuisine serves the traditional Burmese dish of fermented tea leaves, an incredibly bitter meal that I think you need to grow up with in order to appreciate.

Most surprising foodie find: I was amazed to discover an excellent ethnic food court inside the flea market by Downsview Airport.

Best part of the GTA for food: This may surprise you downtown dwellers, but Scarborough can't be beat if you love cheap ethnic eats.

Spice City Toronto will be back in the new year. Have a great holiday and keep sending in restaurant tips.


  1. Yay Scarborough! This is a great post! Thank you :)