TRAVEL SERIES || An Afternoon in Kensington Market, Toronto

TRAVEL SERIES || An Afternoon in Kensington Market, Toronto
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Our vision is to take you on day trips to cities around the world. Featuring the best local hangouts so you can experience life like a local on your adventures. Join us for A Day in Kensington Market in Toronto, where murals cover the walls, trees grow out of cars, and lattes come in 20+ different flavors.

While on a business trip to Toronto, I managed to find one afternoon where I could leisurely explore the University of Toronto campus en route to Kensington Market. My friends describe it as lined with unique eateries and a place for characteristic local finds. Kensington Market is right by Chinatown, so you will notice the scenery change as you walk through the neighborhood; when you come upon streets with wall murals and hip storefronts, that’s when you know you have arrived.

This majestic red brick building I saw while strolling through the University of Toronto campus.

Love how the old meets new with the University of Toronto building design. A glass bridge connects the modern taller building into a brick building.

SNACK || Little Pebbles Cafe

160 Baldwin St #8, Toronto

Who can say no to freshly-roasted artisan coffee and french-inspired Japanese desserts? Wandering by the cafe, I was drawn to its cozy interior, a lovely display of tasty cakes, and photos of their lovely lattes. The interior features small wooden tables and a wooden bar at the back of the cafe, where I saw several university students stop by to grab iced lattes or settle in for a catchup session. I tried the Earl Grey Peach Shortcake, where the cake was light and fluffy, and the cream infused with a light earl grey scent and flavor. The small diced bites of peach added a taste of tanginess to each bite, making the cake a refreshing and light choice for a midday snack.

Earl grey peach shortcake.

Simple decorative elements such a Mount Fuji poster add colour to the white walls and light wooden millwork. A dainty glass case showcases tasty flavours like the Strawberry shortcake, green tea shortcake and matcha tiramisu. All delightful choices to instantly pick up your mood.

BRUNCH || Egg Bae

189 Augusta Ave, Toronto

It’s called Egg Bae because you will like it as much as you like your bae after you try it. A small shop with brightly-painted walls in yellow and a mural featuring cartoon chicklets, the interiors are already a mood booster. The menu is simple, with a selection of egg-based burgers. I went for the classic option to try the original recipe. The scrambled eggs are still fluffy and juicy, the bacon nice and crispy, and the buns soft and not greasy. If you are feeling hungry you can add hashbrowns on the side, otherwise, the sandwich is the perfect size to allow you to wander around Kensington Market to consume additional snacks and desserts!

MURAL ART || Various Storefronts and Buildings

The Kensington Market community showcases a myriad of wall murals that gives eateries and cafes a characteristic look. As I mentioned, here, trees grow out of cars covered in painted strawberries and blueberries and wall murals stretch up and beyond covering entire sides of buildings.

The cafes lining the streets are a bright contrasting, and at times clashing, palette of colors, from a bright yellow storefront sandwiched between a graffiti wall on the left and a bold, black storefront on the right, the unplanned visual feast is at once exciting and overwhelming.

Ryan Dineen and Alex Bacon mural.

There is so much colour and art within the stretch of the few blocks that make up Kensington Market that you will want to walk through again and again to ensure you caught all the illustrations and murals. As you wander through the streets you will notice that even the lamp posts sport unique, colourful posters. Once you have canvassed the streets, make sure to venture through the alleyways as well, where you will find captivating mural art you will want to document with your phone. We recommend bringing a device or camera with a wide angle option so you can capture entire murals quickly and easily to document all that you discover; after all, with so many murals it’s great to have a visual reference after your visit!

A high traffic intersection that was much quieter on Tuesday afternoon.

Wall murals discovered in the alleys.

Hot air balloon wall art paired with multi-coloured street posts. Do you spot the puppy hanging out in this photo?

Impactful white on black illustration on the exterior walls of this cafe.

DINNER || Eative Restaurant

230 Augusta Ave, Toronto

When you first walk past Eative Restaurant, you will be captivated by a poster they have outside their entrance, which boasts a soft-serve wrapped entirely in gold foil (an Instagram-moment waiting to happen). At first, I was opposed to creations that so blatantly cater to ‘foodie influencers’ who would order the soft-serve ‘for the gram’, but after walking past another two times, I decided I would at least check out their menu. In the glass case, there were a variety of tempting pastries, from pies to cakes and pastries; on the drinks menu, there were twenty-plus different mouth-watering tea latte flavors.

I decided to give this Japanese eatery a try and ordered their signature Chicken Karaage Don. The rice donburi comes with four pieces of crispy, fried chicken, a side of vegetables drizzled with a mix of sauces and topped with ginger and diced green onion, and surprisingly, red rice, which is more firm and chewy compared to white rice. After a satisfying late lunch, I also got a Salted Almond Chai Latte to go. The flavor was rich, sweet and spicy, my only complaint was it could have been served at a higher temperature.

Wall art outside Eative.

Signature Chicken Karaage Don.

BRING IT HOME || Dipped Donuts

161 Baldwin St #1, Toronto

We know by now you have probably exhausted your eating quota, but there’s always room for more food…tonight or tomorrow. Once you come across the shop window of Dipped Donuts, you will regret not leaving with one of their delicious and creative donuts.

There are more classic flavors like Cookies N’ Cream, and a more refreshing (yet still indulgent) flavor like Pitschacio Rosewater(!) We recommend buying four, six or twelve of them to share amongst friends at a dinner gathering so you can sample all the flavors. Better yet, you can have four, six, or twelve of them by yourself, we won’t judge.

TOMORROW’S BREAKFAST || Blackbird Baking

172 Baldwin St, Toronto

Who wouldn’t want to have tasty bread for breakfast? We were attracted by the simple, bold exterior design and signage of Blackbird Baking Co., which is sharply contrasted by the cozy, red-brick walls and crisp white shelving within. Freshly baked baguettes, bread loaves, cakes, tarts, and buns are neatly stacked on the shelves and shown within the display case. There are few things more satisfying than cutting into a loaf of freshly-baked bread, so make sure you buy some bread to take home with you.

What’s good with bread without a tasty jam or spread?

To give you an idea of how eclectic this neighborhood is, I managed to encounter a ‘friendly neighborhood Spiderman’ as I was leaving the area. Kensington Market is hip, artistic, and unexpected, making for a fun afternoon outing on a weekday. If you are visiting during the weekend, be prepared for bustling streets, plenty of (additional) tourists, and lineups at eateries and cafes, but in such a vibrant community, the more the merrier, right?

Say cheese!