Spice City Toronto: Pupusas, Empanadas, and Lomitos, Oh My
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Spice City Toronto: Pupusas, Empanadas, and Lomitos, Oh My

North York's Plaza Latina serves up Latin American specialties in its bustling food court.

A churrasco italiano sandwich from Auténtica.

A bleak stretch of semi-industrial land in North York is home to a bustling Latino mall with an amazing food court. On a Sunday afternoon, it’s almost impossible to get a parking spot at the Plaza Latina.

There are Latin American grocery stores, a barbershop, and a temporary labour office in the plaza, but the main attraction is the food court. It’s packed with young families and an overwhelming selection of Central and South American food.

The Chilean restaurant and bakery Auténtica, specializes in sandwiches, such as the Chilean classic pork sandwich lomito ($5.50). I sampled a tasty churrasco italiano sandwich on freshly made bread with strips of grilled beef and mashed avocado (above).

Auténtica has a wide selection of large empanadas: beef, chicken, chorizo, seafood, cheese, ham and cheese, and spinach and feta. They also serve humitas, a dish made of corn dough and wrapped in corn husk, and pastel del choclo, a casserole made with ground corn. For dessert, they have alfajors (a type of South American cookie), flan, and strudel.

Chilango Tacos is a Mexican food joint that serves some wonderful-looking tacos al pastor, as well as quesadillas and soups. La Costenita Colombiana offers seafood, fried fish, and grilled beef dishes served with rice, beans, egg, and plantain. They also have paella and oxtail soup.

The Plaza Latina food court on a busy Sunday afternoon.

Pupuseria El Buen Sabor is a tiny restaurant that serves the cuisine of El Salvador, including pupusas stuffed with cheese, beans, zucchini, or loroco, a type of flower bud used in Central American cooking, while La Cubanita serves a large range of dishes from Cuba, including soups, chicken stew, shrimp dishes, and pork sandwiches.

There are two Ecuadorian places in the plaza. La Fuente del Puro Sabor is a juice bar where they make fresh juice from papaya, melon, orange, soursop, and other fruits. Comedor Popular Ecuatoriano serves fried beef empanadas and sopas de gallina, or hen soup. This wonderfully salty concoction has big chunks of chicken breast as well as carrot, potato, noodles, and cilantro.

A hearty meal in the food court sells for $5 to $12. Wash it all down with the Peruvian soft drink Inca Cola.

Plaza Latina (9 Milvan Drive, near Finch Avenue West and Weston Road), open 10 a.m. to “8:30 p.m. or 9 p.m.,” seven days a week.

Spice City Toronto explores Toronto’s great hole-in-the-wall restaurants and strip-mall joints serving food from all corners of the world. Find more photos and details about Plaza Latina here.