Maybe you remember watching the popular 1970s Canadian sitcom, King of Kensington? In which Al Waxman played a shop owner in the ‘hood? If you have kids aged 10+, you can’t come to Toronto and not go to Kensington. The area is lots of fun for the under 10 set as well but it’s the tweens and teens who will love the merch, the vibe, the distance a dollar will stretch, the candy store, the bubbles, the spray paint, the quirky signs, the longboards, the peace signs. The weed. Let’s not forget the weed. You could make a plausible argument that all the rest stems from the weed. Just saying.
We go to Kensington Market every time we go to Toronto. We also go to Chinatown so it’s handy that they are jammed up against one another. One thing is for sure: we always buy a kid’s parasol in Chinatown and we always go to the candy/coffee shop in Kensington.
I’m going to come right out and say it. The coffee here is damn good but not life changing. You know what I mean? Post-cancer SWMBO only drinks life changing coffee: one cup a day. Life is too short for damn good coffee. But I digress…
The Casa Acoreana Cafe (or just Casa Coffee) has been around since the 1960s and no matter how many years between visits, you will see the same faces in the store. EVERYTHING will be the same, from the globes hanging from the ceiling to the availability of Russian Earl Grey tea (my favourite!) to the rows and rows of candy behind the counter. The owner is
infinitely patient effuses genuine pleasure in serving children as does his trusty young side-kick.
You can buy any type of coffee, tea or candy here. But a significant number of people come when they’re in town specifically to buy salted liquorice. You may not be familiar with salted liquorice – a basic food group in Holland, Denmark and Scandinavia. It may sound gross to you. Newsflash – it IS gross. But like Norwegian brown cheese, also strangely addictive. And that is why we now “stock up” on it whenever we find ourselves in Toronto. We’re not Dutch, Danish or Scandinavian so a small bag will last us 6 months easily.
Salted liquorice is for grown-ups – your kids won’t be asking you for any. You won’t be asking you for any either and yet your hand will inexplicably sneak back into the bag. Maybe that’s why it’s so popular in the Nordic countries. Those guys figured out that if they made liquorice black and intense and then doused it in salt of all things, it wouldn’t be pilfered by the kiddies. Maybe those guys also find it pretty gross but they can never get their hands on yummy chocolate before the kids get it.
This trip we discovered a new candy: school chalk. It is black liquorice, lightly salted, dipped in a thin, crunchy mint coating. Mmmmm. My favourite salted liquorice candies are the large coins. They are the least salty and the most dry and leathery. You could probably pop one in your mouth after lunch and keep it going until dinner. If you want something crazy intense, you could try the tiny, double salted buttons. Better you than me is all I can say.
Kensington Market is a hugely photogenic place. Let’s close with some images: