Taste of The Kingsway Hurts My Feet, Pride and Taste Buds
The annual Taste of the Kingsway Festival took place this weekend on Saturday and Sunday. Bloor Street, between Prince Edward and Montgomery Avenue, was pedestrian-only. The regular traffic made way for a kiddie sized midway, local artisan craft booths, a rather large book sale, and of course many food sample stalls operated by the numerous restaurants on the stretch.
I gleaned from the website that in addition to being a showcase for the Kingsway BIA, it also raises money for local charities The St. Joseph Health Center Foundation, The Gatehouse, and the Dorothy Ley Hospice).
Last year, this festival brought an astonishing 150,000 people to the neighborhood. On Sunday, at mid-day, the crowds were light, so I'm not sure last years numbers are to be believed - but what it may have lacked in people it more than made up for with the copious amounts of SUV strollers that made walking the stretch an adventure in protecting my shins and feet from being bumped or run over by distracted Kingsway parents.
I arrived to find the overcast morning had made way for a blistering hot afternoon, for which I was woefully overdressed in long sleeves. Luckily, I was able to quickly cool down with some fresh squeezed lemonade at one of the many food sample booths lining the street.
Here, dotted amongst the midway rides, and human statues I enjoyed some generously portioned samples, like cashew chicken and pork satay with spring roll, and unfortunately ketchup-y pad thai, for under $5 from the Green Mango. I almost choked on my satay skewer, as I overheard a nearby fire breathing street performer regale the audience with off-colour jokes about his last performance at the Pride Parade, relating to how deeply he could get his fire wand down his throat. Oh, the Kingsway and your Leave it to Beaver sensibilities! Aghast, I moved on.
Further down the stretch, I was tempted by fish and chips from mainstay family restaurant, Kingsway Fish and Chips, while nearby, neighbourhood institution Romi's Pizza doled out gooey slices of their signature thin crust pepperoni pizza. I was disappointed to find pricing for these "samples" to be over and above what I would normally pay for a lunch downtown, at $6 for two tiny pieces of battered fish and a handful of chips, and $3 for a small slice of pizza.
While the website boasts of "over 30 Kingsway Restaurants serving delicious samples of International Cuisines" I couldn't help but notice that the word "International" only seems to apply to New York Italian, Greek, and other similarly abundant North Americanized versions of international food. It was a shame that one of the only restaurants on the stretch with any legit credibility as "international", Casa Barcelona, was one of the very few NOT participating in the festivities.
As it was before my self-imposed Sunday 3pm cut off, I did NOT sample any of the beer and wine gardens, but I did stop to watch some aerobatic martial arts by the National Taekwondo Canada. As I made my way down the street, I was peer pressured into a ride on the (children's sized) ferris wheel, under the pretense of getting a better photo of the street from up high. Tickets for rides were $3 each (!), and while I queue for the ride, thanked my lucky stars to be childless, at the thought of having to spend that much money per ride, per child. The delightfully disinterested carnie strapped us in and I spent the next 10 minutes clinging to the safety bar while being mercilessly mocked by my companion. Luckily, from height, I did happen to spot a mobile Tiny Tom unit, so the experience wasn't a total loss.
Having lived close to this neighborhood for almost 10 years, I had never ventured out to this festival. By proximity only, being a regular on the strip I didn't think I'd see anything new, and I guess in a lot of ways I didn't. The same restaurants serving up overpriced and mass produced versions of their menus, a sea of strollers and homogeneous faces made the Taste of the Kingsway feel a little bit less like a festival and more like a really fancy block party in one of the city's wealthiest neighborhoods.
Writing and photos by Elizabeth Martin
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