5 Dishes That Celebrate Toronto’s Diversity—and Where to Find Them

Toronto’s street food scene is a testament to the multiculturalism that built it.

Kenginston Market street scene

Those in the know flock to Kenginston Market for Birria Catrina.

Photo by Shawn Goldberg/Shutterstock

You won’t go hungry in Toronto. Canada’s most multicultural city prides itself on welcoming immigrants—and their food traditions—to its neighborhoods. While the city has its own Little Italy and Chinatown, Toronto’s cultural offerings go far beyond those traditional enclaves. The food scene is saturated with international dishes, from Somalian sambusas packed with beef and spices to slow-roasted Mexican birria tacos. We asked several Torontonians to recommend their favorite. These five foods topped the list.

Trinidadian doubles

A popular street food in Trinidad, doubles consists of two pieces of fried dough stuffed with madras curried chickpeas, Trinidad green seasoning, turmeric, and cumin, topped with a choice of fruity chutneys and pepper sauces.

Like Toronto, Trinidad also has a tradition of embracing different cultures, which is mirrored in its cuisine, says food blogger Davindra Ramnarine, who grew up on the island. Doubles pulls on Indian traditions, but Chinese, Africans, and Europeans have all contributed to the island’s culinary variety, Ramnarine says. “The earliest memory I have of doubles is my dad going to the market on a Sunday morning to get them,” he says. “Whenever I eat one, I can see myself opening that greasy bag.”

Where to try it

In Trinidad, most people have a favorite “doubles man” they turn to religiously, Ramnarine says. The same is true in Toronto. For those in the west end of the city, he recommends Leela’s Roti in Mississauga (the family who owns this shop is passionate about sharing Trinidadian culture with locals). Mona’s Roti in Scarborough, popular for its jerk chicken, is great for east enders.

Somalian sambusa

House-made samosas generously stuffed with beef, onions, and in-house spices.

Somalian-born George Brown College culinary professor and chef Bashir Munyes hosts Supper Clubs that explore foods from Africa’s 54 countries. He says Somalian sambusas are a Toronto must-eat. “They’re totally different than any other samosa you might find from Iran to Pakistan or India,” he says. “It’s all beef. There are no potatoes or cauliflower, or any other vegetables or legumes.” The meat is spiced with Xawaash, a specific Somalian spice blend that typically includes aromatics like cumin, cardamom, coriander, and cloves, similar to East African gram masala.

Where to try it

Istar restaurant in Toronto’s West End is Munyes’s go-to spot for Somalian cuisine. The restaurant opened as a coffee shop in the Rexdale neighborhood 24 years ago and is a gathering spot for the local Somali community, many of whom came to Canada fleeing war. “It’s a place that provides a sense of belonging,” he says.


Tibetian dumplings come stuffed with kale or tofu.

Photo by Chef Sonam Pontsang

Tibetan momo

A steamed, pan-fried, or deep-fried dumpling stuffed with a choice of meats or vegetables and served with a dipping sauce.

Private food tour guide Aashim Aggarwal was born in India and enjoyed Tibetan food while growing up. He explains traditional Tibetan momos were a food of subsistence, stuffed with whatever was available locally (think yak meat). But as Tibetans made their way across China, India, and North America, they took the basic dumpling format and adapted it to their new home. That means you can find momos stuffed with tofu or kale, depending on where you are and who is making them. “I almost view momos as a culinary canvas for the community to establish itself and to grow its roots in any place that they move,” Aggarwal says.

Where to try it

Loga’s Corner, owned by Loga and his wife, Dolma Yangchen, has been a fixture in the Parkdale neighborhood since opening in 2012. Aggarwal recommends the steamed beef momo with pickled radish and house-made hot sauce. He also suggests Momo Ghar in Cabbagetown, where you can choose your filling and style of preparation. He likes jhol, steamed and covered in a Nepalese sauce, or kurkure, breaded and fried.


Forget taco Tuesday: Mexican food in Toronto is all about the rich beef or goat stew known as birria.

Photo by Hector Vasquez

Mexican birria

A slow-cooked meat stew from the state of Jalisco, typically made with goat or beef. It can be eaten on its own or used as the filling for tacos, which are then usually dipped in Mexican consommé, a broth made from the birra meat drippings.

Toronto food writer and blogger Andrew Dobson was researching a story on the best tacos in Puerto Vallarta when he happened on birria for the first time. “It is a multi-sensory experience. I always need so many napkins when I eat it,” he says. Once home in Toronto, he began to seek birria out while compiling a list of the city’s best Mexican restaurants. “Long gone are the days where Mexican food in Canada was a sizzling fajita tray or Taco Bell faux burrito,” he says.

Where to try it

Dobson suggests visitors follow the lead of Mexicans in the city who flock to Kensington Market for Birria Catrina, which is co-owned by Lluvia Minton and her boyfriend Abraham Luna, who learned to cook the dish when he was 15 years old. “This cheap and cheerful spot in Kensington is at the back of the food hall. You really need to be in the know to find it,” Dobson says.

East European cevapi

Ground beef, veal, lamb, or pork (or a mix) formed into kebabs and grilled on a barbecue.

In recent years, cevapi has found favor among a new generation of Torontonians from a variety of cultural backgrounds. It’s served with lepina, a traditional pita-like flatbread, with dollops of kajmak (creamed cheese), chopped raw onion, and, on occasion, avjar, a roasted red pepper sauce. You can eat it like a sandwich, but most people break up the bread and use it to dip in the sauce or hold the meat.

Where to try it

For cevapi, go to Mak European Deli. For more than 20 years, this family-owned and operated shop, deli, and restaurant has served Toronto’s Eastern European immigrant community. “My dad imported products from every region in that area and got everybody to come—even if they were divided back home, they’re not going to be here,” says Nadja Makota, current owner and daughter of the shop’s original owners. Dine at one of the small tables in the store or have your order packaged for takeaway.

Heather Greenwood Davis tells stories from places around the world primarily as a contributing writer, keynote speaker, and on-air personality for recognizable brands including National Geographic, The Globe and Mail, Good Morning America, and CTV.
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