Every time I’m in Toronto’s Kensington market, I can’t resist the call of Jumbo Empanadas. Why? Because the empanadas are large pockets of Chilean deliciousness. In my previous post, I took you for a taste of Belgium at the wonderful Wafels & More in Kensington Market. Well this time around I’m bringing you along for a taste of Chile.
Jumbo Empanadas has had a presence in Kensington Market for over 20 years and it has since amassed a steady following in the community. Even on a Tuesday afternoon, the place is buzzing with empanada aficionados. People know where the good Chilean eats are at! Oh and you can even order your food in Spanish if you so please. How’s that for authentic?
I was first drawn in to the place because I read that it makes the best empanadas in the city. Obviously, I had to verify this claim for myself. And if it’s not already obvious, I’m always up for a food mission!
From street level, the restaurant is a bit hidden. In the summer, the patio umbrellas hide the shop front signage that reads “Jumbo Empanadas”, but if you see a patio with green railings and a small set of stairs at the back of it, you’re in the right place.
The restaurant is small and quaint. The walls are adorned with souvenirs from Chile, which are somewhat haphazardly placed on the wall. This adds a humble charisma to the place. Next to the counter where you make your order, there is a chalkboard listing the restaurant’s offerings. Jumbo Empanadas serves a small menu of authentic Chilean food and I think the small menu is a highlight of this eatery. It doesn’t faff around with 20 different meals. Instead, it offers less than 10 options and it does them well.
So what can you feast upon? First of all, there are 4 types of empanadas: beef, chicken, vegetable, and cheese. I’m partial to the beef one. Oh man, it is GOOD! The pastry pocket is heated when ordered so it takes but a few minutes to be served. The pastry is fresh, soft, and slightly crunchy, but the filling steals the show. The beef inside the empanada is juicy, saucy, flavourful, and complemented with chunks of hardboiled egg, black olives, and raisins. After eating one, it’s easy to crave a second! The empanadas are genuine exemplars of Chilean cuisine. As a tip, make sure to get the spicy salsa on the side of your empanada. The empanadas are so good that they technically don’t even need the salsa, but the extra flavour burst is a nice touch.
Other than empanadas, you can get humitas (mashed corn, onion, and basil wrapped and steamed in corn leaves) and Chilean salad (avocado, tomato, onion, and lettuce tossed in a cilantro and olive oil dressing). There’s also the corn pie, which I hear is a beast. I’ve never had it before, but it looks hearty and big enough to share. The corn pie consists of tender beef and chicken layered with onions, egg, olives, and raisins, and finished off with a topping of sweet corn. Clearly, the food is hearty so come with your appetites ready to eat!
The food sounds tempting, right? My recommendation would be to come with a fellow foodie and to share a little bit of everything. When in Chile, eh? And whatever you do, make sure to get an empanada! You can’t come to this place and not get the headlining food!
Cultural gems like Jumbo Empanadas add so much character, charm, and variety to the city. They are part of what makes Toronto great and we should celebrate these businesses more often. I have so much admiration for entrepreneurs who came to this city and aspired to share with locals a taste of their home countries. They are a defining feature of life in Toronto and the city is better for it! Grabbing a bite at Jumbo Empanadas is a win-win really: you’re supporting a local business and eating fantastic food. What more do you need?