Kensington Pedestrian Sundays 2015
I’ve been putting off a write-up of Kensington Pedestrian Sunday (officially abbreviated PSK)for a few years now, simple reason being each time I attend, I’d rather enjoy the sights/sounds/smells/tastes without a camera weighing me down. This past July, I decided that it wouldn’t be right for me keep this monthly summer event to myself, and finally showcase some of what Kensington Pedestrian Sundays have to offer.
For the unacquainted, Kensington Market consists of the two small roads just behind Chinatown, just west of Spadina, between College & Dundas. Most prominent are several Latin American restaurants and groceries, a pair of cheese stores, and an eclecticly ethnic mix of restaurants. A few cafes, a few bars, a few boutique stores, and several vintage clothiers make up the rest of the neighbourhood.
The Pedestrian Sunday event runs monthly between May to October (inclusive), on the last Sunday of every month. From noon until 7pm, the streets of Kensington Market are closed to vehicular traffic, giving pedestrians and stores full reign of the ashphalt.
The event is very kid-friendly, with buckets of sidewalk chalk for them to draw with.
This was new, a bucket of soap to make huge oversized balloons with.
Oversized classic boardgames litter the streets, from dominos to Scrabble to Jenga!
This maze on Augusta, near the parkette, is repainted every so often, and is fun to navigate.
The crowd density at Kensington always feels “just right”. The mix of young and old, and never any aggressive or frustrating walls of people, and the lines are always reasonable.
Easily my favourite vendor during PSK, Emporio Latino puts their griddle out onto the sidewalk, serving up fresh everythings with a wonderful welcoming warmnth. Crispy flautas, fresh-formed pupusas, and amazing plantain.
The plantain was mildly sweet, but with perfect firmness and flavour. We added the cheese, but it was definitely not necessary.
The Tibet Cafe had momos (dumplings), both meat and vegetarian. Em saw these, and was reminded of the momos she had in Nepal (in flavour, not in shape). I enjoyed that the skin had a good bite to them, very homemade.
Fresco Fish & Chips have a stall on the sidewalk, featuring some snack-sized bites. I do wish they offered their famous Miss Vickies-battered Salt & Vinegar fried fish, in a smaller snack-sized format, but you could just as easily go in the store and order the full thing.
Fresh buck-a-shucks are available from Hooked, with self-serve lemon wedges, horseradish, and hot sauce.
Rasta Pasta has been building a name for themselves, featuring their unlikely pairing of jerk chicken and pasta.
There’s a simple little takoyaki stall on the south end of Augusta, in front of the Fukien Society. I’ve had them in the past, and they’re decent, but nothing rave-worthy.
I normally always grab something fresh off the grill at Emporio Latino’s streetside stall, so I decided it was time to venture from the usual plan. I don’t remember Good Price putting up a grill/griddle during past PSK, so decided to try them out.
They offered grilled porks on skewers, as well as bean & cheese pupusas.
Their beans & cheese pupusa ($5) was reasonably good, a freshly made disc of masa (corn meal), filled with refried beans & cheese, and cooked crispy on the grill. It wasn’t especially spectacular, so with Emporio Latino’s equally good (albeit a little bit smaller) pork & cheese pupusas at ~$3, I think I can skip Good Price’s next time. The staff also seemed stressed and surly, as opposed to everyone else at PSK.
Aloha Shaved Ice is new to PSK, having started selling only this year. They have a stand in front of the Long Board Living surf shop. They were in Hawaii recently, and fell in love with the idea of shaved ice with fruit toppings, and decided to bring this back to Toronto.
On this blazing hot Sunday, all the folks in line had the right idea. Despite the long wait, I think everyone was satisfied, and felt the end product worth the wait.
Each cup of shaved ice was hand-ground — no instant machines here. Seeing how hard they worked, especially in this heat, made the $5 seem trivial.
They did not skimp on the flavouring/toppings, either. They took care to stop the ice-shaving every so often, and add some flavouring in the middle of the ice, so that the entire cup would be tasty, and not isolated to the top.
We ordered the mango, and were very happy with the result. Their other super popular flavour was the pina colada (which we didn’t try), with toasted coconut toppings. Would definitely order the mango again. I don’t think they have any plans to do the food/street festival circuit this year, but I would not be surprised to see them making the rounds next year. They also do parties, so definitely something to consider for those summer outdoor corporate events or weddings.
Right outside Portugese restaurant Amadeu, across from Bellevue Square Park, the sardine grill is an iconic institution of PSK (to me, at any rate). Smoke billows from the barbecue, creating wafts of fishiness that you can whiff a half block away.
The sardines are grilled whole, mostly descaled, and seasoned lightly with salt (and maybe some citrus?). Served with a hunk of bread, you’ll likely make a mess, unless you bring a pair of chopsticks. Bone-in, stomach-in, be prepared to make a delicious mess.
Galbani Cheese Canada (www.galbani.ca) set up a tent, giving out free samples of caprese salads on a stick, featuring their own bocancini, and a light brushing of pesto. The presentation is very cute, using mini italian flag toothpicks.
While food is typically my primary focus, I can’t neglect the amazing performers that play duing PSK. In past years, KC Roberts & The Live Revolution, and Samba Squad have performed here. Another time, a band was jamming on the streets, while a vocalist (who they had just met) was rhyming/singing off Dr.Suess books. There have been rooftop performances a la Beatles as well.
On this particular weekend, two blues bands were rocking out, with the crowd spilling out onto the ashphalt.
One musician was performing in support of Amensty International, looking for signatures on petitions.
Local artists flex their talent during the event as well.
The Chalk Lady is always working on something fantastic for PSK. This weekend, she was drawing a very dynamic Silver Surfer, herald of World Eater Galactus.
This portable typewriter caught my eye — poet Kaile Glick (https://thespontaneousprosestore.wordpress.com/) will compose a poem for you on the spot.
Leo Krukowski (email@example.com) makes rings using nothing more than old silverware, a mallot, and a steel pipe for bending. Each ring can be made to size, and it’s amazing to watch Leo create these beautiful pieces.
Starting in 2014, PSK has also put up a Kensington Art Fair event, with tents set up to showcase pieces from local artists. It’s a slighty detour from the rest of the PSK stretch, but makes for a good break from the eating and the crowds.
On Kensington avenue, a slew of shops showcase vibrant vintage wears/wares. Definitely worth walking down this stretch and taking a look, even if vintage isn’t your thing.
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