Most Desireable/Missing Ethnic Cuisine in Kingston

ethnic food, KingstonDid you know that in all of New York City, the only place you can find Cambodian food is at a food cart on the NYU campus? And yet in Kingston we can barely turn a corner without being tempted by its heavenly curry scent.

Since moving to Kingston, I have been impressed by the diversity of ethnic food choices in a relatively small place. After living here for a while, I’ve come to realize that the gastronomic fabric of the city wouldn’t be the same without all of the Indian, Thai, Persian, Mexican, Pakistani (and more) spots that have become staples in the community. What is even more fascinating, is how these diverse culinary traditions can coexist with Kingston’s local food culture. Whenever I see Ali from Curry Original picking up veggies at Market Square, I am reminded that this balance of global and homegrown is one of the reasons that Kingston’s food culture is so wonderful.

Furthermore, I think we owe some of our culinary adventurousness to the diverse flavours available to us. My first trip to Cambodiana was a spicy awakening. Word on the street is that the abundance of Cambodian joints in Kingston are thanks to Pat of Pat’s Restaurant on Division St., who himself opened a number of restaurants of the sort around town (Phnom Penh, Cambodiana, Cambodian Village, Wok-In), and later sold them. So I thank you Pat for introducing me to the wonders of Panang curry.

Despite the excess of Tom Yum Soup in the city, there are many types of ‘ethnic’ foods that haven’t made it onto Kingston’s radar. So my question is, what is Kingston missing? Is there anything that you’ve been craving that can’t be satiated by our many offerings? A particular dish you experienced that you’d love to see on a future Kingston menu?
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Personally, I got a taste of Filipino food while living abroad (delicious BBQ pork, fried plantains, and the life-changing coconut and purple yam drink halo halo) and would love to see more bitter melon in the Limestone City. I could also go for a good Cajun spot, and am dying to try Burmese cuisine (they have a few of those in Ottawa).

I realize that the list is far from detailed or inclusive enough (African? That’s a continent for God’s Sake!), so use the comments to let us know what you’re craving.

Be as specific or vague as you want – name a country, city, or a dish.

Photo credits from left to right, RAWRZ! (African: Ayamashe), elenatitarenko (Cajun/Creol: Crawfish), Fred @ SG (Indonesian: tahu telor) and gastrodamus (Scandinavian: Lutefish).

29 thoughts on “Most Desireable/Missing Ethnic Cuisine in Kingston

  • I always said I'd kill to see Korean BBQ, Dim Sum, Peking Duck, and a really good Thai Fusion spot in Kingston. I'm sure I have answers that aren't Asian food, but those are the ones I miss the most.

  • Not too long ago, Hoppin' Eddies was located just beside the Grizzly Grill, in what is now the Alehouse Canteen. It was a canjun/creole sort of place. Not exactly sure why they closed, although the few times I ate there I wasn't overly impressed.

  • Are there any Cuban restaurants downtown? I used to love this little Cuban place in Wortley Village in London, but since moving to Kingston I haven't been able to find any Cuban food.

  • That's probably why. And thanks for the reminder about Eddie's. Could not for the life of me remember the name. I do second @gojeffcho's wish for a good dim sum place. I will even settle for a good all-around Mexican restaurant before I ask for some Latin/South American, Caribbean, or even Ethiopian.

  • Limestone Kabob House at the corner of Princess and Gardiners. Their kabobs are delicious!! They also have chicken shawarma wrap and fatoush salad. This place is a mixture of afghan, indian, middle eastern flavours.

  • Sol Latino at Princess & Barrie (now Subway) was amazing, I thought. The Lone Star doesn't cut it. I'd vote for more Russian/Polish style places. There's Baltic Deli at Days/Bath, but they only have a tiny lunch menu. I think the Taste Of Russia guy from the Queen's Market should open a restaurant.

    • Sol Latino was decent, but their prices and location did them no favours. Have also heard not so great things about those who managed the place. I think Burrito Amigo fills the gap. My only beef with them is that they aren't open late, and that the space is far too big (costly) than they need. I think Burrito Amigo could do great business after the bars let out. Far better than their unreliable competition a block or so away, El Asador (aka the place that always has a back in 45minutes sign on the window). Great business strategy.

      • I love Burrito Amigo, I really do, but I agree that there is still a Mexican gap to be filled. Burritos are terrific, but I'd like to have a place with a vast menu of Mexican food to choose from. And yeah, El Asador makes me sad. The one time I managed to catch them while they were open, it was great, but they've been closed every time since (and with the "back soon" sign you mentioned, Harvey). Too bad, I've wanted to give them my business many times after a late night gig.

  • Golden Rooster is a actually a Danish style deli – with more or less authentic Danish breads, meats, sandwiches and other treats. It is run by Danish immigrants who keep a lot of the tradition alive. They also have quite a few popular dutch snacks on their shelves.

  • Burrito Amigo is the Subway of Central American cuisine. Perfect for denizens afraid of anything beyond the homogenous. If you think Home Depot is pinnacle of architectural excellence, then that's the spot for you.

    Those speaking ill of El Asador are ill informed. If you've ever set foot in the lands south of Texas and north of Columbia, then you'll appreciate El Asador. Also: the spiciest place in town, Indian or Latin or otherwise.

    • My comments regarding El Asador are not ill-informed. They come from first hand experiences with them not being open when they supposedly should be. Hard to support them when they have a back in xx minutes sign on the door.

      • I've never seen that sign, but I've only lived in the area for five years. That said, it must've been a difficult experience. Harvey all hungry for a burrito. But no burrito. So Harvey was sad. But then happy because he can share that experience. But then sad again because he realized if he had waited xxi minutes he would've had a wonderful burrito and his bitterness would've been absolved.

      • No one here said anything bad about El Asador's food. I really liked it when I tried it but it has been difficult to come by since. Waiting 25 minutes for someone to maybe show up at midnight after work isn't desirable. Especially in the winter. It would be nice if they were open when they say they'll be open. That's all.

        • I'd have to agree with all of you. El Asador's food was good. I wouldn't say great, but good. Unfortunately, I've had varying experiences with the service. There has never been a "back in a few" sign, but I ventured in at a time that seemed slow (no one in the restaurant) and I naively told the server I hadn't been in before and was interested in trying their reccomended bruitto/dish. The answer was rude and I was basically wasting their time. I understand it could have been a busy time prepping or such, but the service turned me off. I have taken my business elsewhere.

  • I would kill for decent Mexican or even Texas cuisine. Nice jallopinio poppers, chilli relenos, etc. Never been to el said or (always closed when we go by) but looking for a sit-down experience, not take away. Getting hot is always a problem.

  • I second Jeff that we should get a Korean BBQ place.

    I also think that an HK style restaurant would be a very welcome addition. Super quick, super inexpensive service with killer milk black tea? I would be there all the time.

  • Ethiopian would get my vote! Lots of variety, friendly to vegetarians, and it's a very social / sharing kind of meal. I got out of my way to find Ethiopian restaurants in other cities.

  • I agree w/r/t Mexican, although I've only ever had curry from ElAsador, which was both open and perfectly alright. Burrito Amigo is fine, but it's very much Mexican food for white people.

    • "…but it's very much Mexican food for white people." What an extremely offensive way to say that Kingstonians don't know what good, authentic Mexican food tastes like.

      • Have to say I'm offended when restaurants offer ethnic food and it's been 'North Americanize' – usually I would call it 'white people food' too. I'm not sure how else you would describe food that's been adjusted to suit caucasian's palette. Burrito Amigo offers a food choice that is also offered in Mexico, but it looks and tastes much better in Mexico. Same deal with Chinese food, China has phenomenal food offerings and we get sweet and sour chicken balls??? All supply and demand I suppose.

  • Maybe some delicous Hungarian food… Goulash, Cabbage rolls, Chicken Paprikas!! Amadeus does some Hungarian but mainly German

    • Try the Maple Leaf Restaurant in Gan. A bit of a drive, and I think it's czech more than hungarian, but still pretty tasty.

  • I'd quite like some real Japanese food rather than the ersatz sushi that's everywhere. Proper Mexican would be amazing. Yes to Malay / Indonesian. Szechaun Chinese (indeed any proper Chinese place). A decent Keralan / South Indian place would be wonderful (and ditto on the whole variety of regional Indian styles). Lebanese. I could go on…

    Let's face it, Kingston is not a good place for authentic 'ethnic' cuisines – if we have to use that ridiculously patronizing word 'ethnic' as if there were some kind of non-ethnic people out there. And despite Harvey taking offence above, the comment about 'white people food' was dead right. Most of what we have is a basterdized, over-sweetened, over-salted, reduced heat, and reduced flavour version of whatever cuisine it claims to be. And apparently that's the way Kingstonians like it…

    I am so looking forward to the barrage of thumbs down… ;)

    • If you're comparing Kingston to a large urban center where pockets of immigrants and their families have lived, influenced the culture and shared their food for decades then you're right, Kingston does not measure up. But for a community of 150 000 people (less really, in the more 'downtown' parts) it doesn't do too badly. It is a relatively recent trend for North Americans to be as culturally omnivorous and open to global tastes as we are, and for that reason it is impressive that immigrants running restaurants with diverse cuisines in Kingston have been supported and successful for 20 – 30 years now.

      I would certainly agree that the term 'ethnic' isn't ideal, hence placing it in those tentative single quotation marks. But in this short, simple poll the word is used primarily as a means to ensure understanding for the readers in terms of the topic we are discussing. I would love for this to be a more sociologically driven research piece, where we could delve deeper and avoid these types of generalizations and assumptions. Unfortunately in 500 words, it isn't always possible.

      Lastly, 'authentic' cuisine of any type is not something static or definable. Bringing any sort of cuisine from abroad to another country involves an important give and take between both cultures. It is too simple to say that the changes made to dishes in a new location is 'bastardizing' them. These kinds of changes can be a result of many things – available ingredients, seasonality, regulations, costs, as well as preferred taste (which obviously is learned based on our social and cultural upbringing). For me, it is perhaps more interesting to see the new form a dish takes on in a new, dynamic environment than ensuring that it is an exact replica of what I tried while visiting a small village in the mountains of Northern Laos.

  • Filipino cuisine gets my vote. Never underestimate their roast pigs, adobos, and balut.

  • There is no real Mexican restaurant in Downtown Kingston. If you want real Mexican food without leaving Canada, the best place to go is around the Bloor-Dufferin area of Toronto, or St. Clair West.

    And I agree, Korean BBQ would be an awesome addition.

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